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MSAF Student Stanley Li Shares How the Bryant Stibal Internship Program Deepened His Understanding of Investment Strategy.

MSAF Student Stanley Li presenting
Are you considering a career in corporate finance, banking, or investment management? A master’s degree in finance can be your ticket to high-level positions, equipping you with specialized knowledge and skills essential for success in a competitive marketplace. To further bolster your employability, gaining internship experience through avenues like Pepperdine University's Bryant Stibel internship program can significantly enhance your chances of securing employment post-graduation.

Join MSAF student Stanley Li on his journey through the Bryant Stibel internship program as he shares firsthand insights into how it deepened his understanding of investment strategy. This immersive program offers students like Stanley a dynamic learning environment, meticulously crafted to develop practical skills to synthesize classroom learning. From interactive classes to compelling presentations before Bryant Stibel's team, participants dive into invaluable hands-on experiences, honing their expertise in finance.

Read Stanley’s Interview:

1. How did your participation in the Bryant Stibel Internship program enhance your understanding of investment strategy?

Before my master's degree, I had no prior experience in the finance industry, nor did I study finance as an undergrad. Here at Graziadio, I am currently enrolled in the Master of Applied Finance program. Although it covers traditional financial instruments such as equities and fixed income effectively, it only touches upon alternative investment instruments briefly. The Bryant Stibel internship program has complemented my master's degree and provides a more detailed look at real-world alternative investment strategies. 

In the first seven weeks, our internship class covered various financial products, from basics such as asset allocation, performance measurement, more complex derivatives, hedge funds, venture capital, and other real assets. Our learning was enhanced by our ability to leverage the experience of our knowledgeable professors, Professors Davide Accomazzo, and Clemens E Kownatzki, who have extensive real-world experience in the finance sector. We had meaningful conversations and frequently connected contemporary events to help us better understand some concepts and strategies. It was also a unique opportunity to hear the professors weigh in on their perspectives on investment instruments, such as Professor Accomazzo’s great disdain for SPACs. 

The class also consisted of the most driven students selected from different programs and their diverse experiences and knowledge further enriched our time together. Many students contributed their work experience, which provided a practical context for theoretical concepts. It was the perfect environment to learn new strategies and deconstruct theories. 

2. Can you describe a specific project or task that you worked on during the project that contributed to your learning experience?

I learned much about the commercial real estate market while preparing for our investment presentation to Bryant Stibel. We initially selected this topic because our group was fairly confident about the subject, having previously learned about it at the beginning of our internship. Additionally, the commercial real estate market was at a low point, leaving it open for actionable strategies.

However, it did not go as planned, and we soon found out how multi-faceted, and complicated commercial real estate was, with its various classifications, including multifamily, office, and retail properties. To make matters worse, after processing all the research, we concluded that all signs for the market showed that it would not recover soon. We also could not find an applicable financial instrument to enact our strategy and eventually decided to switch to a topic more appropriate for our time constraints. 

Despite our failure, we learned a lot about the commercial real estate market through our research, despite only scratching the surface of the topic. We learned to run regression on price and various attributes of multi-family units while pursuing strategies. Additionally, we examined the close relationship between interest rates and building prices and the macroeconomic factors that are plaguing the industry today. Moreover, we were introduced to farmland and storage real estate as investment opportunities, which were new areas for us. Overall, this project expanded my understanding of commercial real estate and greatly broadened my perspective on real estate in general. 

3. In what ways did the hands-on experience in the internship program differ from theoretical learning in the classroom, and how did this difference benefit your educational journey?

The biggest difference was having industry professionals come into our class and give feedback on our ideas. Throughout the internship, various guest speakers from all aspects of the finance industry shared their experiences and insights.

The most memorable event happened in the second half of our internship when guest speakers and industry specialists attended our presentation rehearsals for the Bryant Stibel firm. I remember coming into class with an airtight presentation on our project company: Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, which had a unique business model that avoided the issues that plagued generic pharmaceutical companies. I did a ton of research into competitors and analyzed patent wording, patent cases, and risk mitigation, only to be shot down by a guest judicator who had a medical background, and who had worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years. My points made sense and were factually correct but many investors strongly believe that pharmaceutical company price movements were symmetrical to their pipeline of drugs, and government approval. The other boons that made my company attractive were correct but mostly irrelevant from an investor perspective. 

My presentation showed the potential gap between theory and practice. My research was correct, but investors can have a strong sentiment toward an industry that defies expectations. This experience reaffirmed my belief in the importance of firsthand experience in finance, and I look forward to learning more in my actual career. 

4. What skills or knowledge did you gain that you believe will be most valuable as you transition into the real world of investment and finance? 

I had two main takeaways from the internship program. First, I had the opportunity to prepare an investment idea from scratch, from screening to the final presentation for industry professionals. I had a lot of ideas going into the project but had to balk at a lot of them because they either did not pan out, or it got so complex that we could not pick an investment instrument to enact the strategy. This experience taught me how difficult it is to prepare an investment idea, despite initially appearing straightforward – insights that will be invaluable in the real world.

Secondly, the best lesson for me was one in introspection. Continuing from the last question, and following the dismantling of our arguments during our presentation rehearsal, I was surprised to feel disappointed not getting the catalysts correct. Embracing the feedback, we made the best of the situation and adapted our presentation to include that industry expert's view. Additionally, we encountered some other issues during the preparation process and did our best to improve the situation. I’m pretty happy about our final presentation and if anything I think I grew in resilience and will approach adversity more open-mindedly in the future. 

5. How did interactions with professionals and mentors within the program shape your perspective on the industry and prepare you for future career opportunities in investment strategy? 

It seems basic but the perspective I got was that finance was still a people-oriented business. We were lucky to hear from quite a few venture capital speakers and they all stressed the importance of a good presentation, and knowing what you are talking about. They told us they prioritized the team and the leadership behind a pitch, or deck above everything else. To work with someone, these professionals have to know they can trust them. 

Finance is very relationship-focused, and despite disruptions with AI and technology, importance will still be placed on interpersonal skills. This is an area I still have to work on. Despite learning the technical requirements, I understand that with technological improvements various processes will be simplified. To create a moat for myself, and to grow with the industry, I need to improve my people skills to succeed in the future. 

About the Master of Science in Applied Finance at Pepperdine University 

Pepperdine University's Master of Science in Applied Finance program is a premier choice for professionals seeking finance and investment management expertise. Pepperdine equips students to excel in their careers while upholding integrity through rigorous academic training, practical application, and a strong ethical foundation.

Designed for those dedicated to mastering finance, Pepperdine Graziadio Business School offers unparalleled preparation for leadership roles across finance.