Real Humans of J.P. Morgan: Brian Guo, Cornell Johnson MBA’ 19, Investment Banking
Given Cornell Johnson’s strong job placement in the finance industry, Brian Guo, Johnson MBA ’19, found it to be a natural stepping stone from asset management to investment banking at J.P. Morgan. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Brian talks about his experiences at Cornell Johnson, how the MBA prepared him for investment banking and his advice for current MBA students.
Brian Guo, Cornell MBA ’19, Investment Banking Associate at J.P. Morgan
Hometown: Whippany, New Jersey
Undergraduate Institution and Major: The College of New Jersey, Finance
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: Cornell Johnson MBA 2019, Investment Banking Immersion
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Four and half years in Wealth and Asset Management
Post-MBA Work Experience: Three years in Investment Banking
Why did you choose to attend business school?
I was very fortunate to have started my career at Bank of America/U.S. Trust in Wealth and Asset Management because it provided me with a very broad view of both the business landscape and the capital markets. Being on the portfolio management side, I was exposed to different industries, asset classes and roles within finance. During my time at BofA, I found myself gravitating more and more towards the technology sector; however, I knew I ultimately wanted to stay on the finance side.
An MBA was the logical next step to help transition my career, as it would allow me to adequately prepare and give me the time to build the right skill set and knowledge base for a career switch. The time off to make new friends and travel was pretty appealing as well.
Why Cornell Johnson? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Cornell Johnson made a lot of sense for me on many different levels, which ultimately made the decision-making process a fairly straightforward one.
Academically: The Investment Banking Immersion program, Entrepreneurship coursework and Big Red Venture fund were all subjects that I wanted to learn more about. Johnson also had Cornell Tech located on Roosevelt Island in New York City, which allowed me to spend half a semester in Manhattan broadening my knowledge on the FinTech landscape.
Culturally: Johnson has an extremely tight-knit community with a team-oriented approach to everything. This really resonated with me because it fit my personality. Being nestled in the city of Ithaca, Cornellians end up spending a lot of time together, which allows us to solidify a lot of friendships.
Interests: I knew I would spend the majority of my career in major cities, so stepping away from New York City for two years was actually quite appealing to me. I’ve always enjoyed all sorts of outdoor activities, and upstate New York provided a wealth of opportunities that I was looking for.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Two things in particular really helped me prepare for my current career:
- Old Ezra, the professional Finance club, was a key factor in landing my internship. Second years run the organization and work with first years in their preparation and recruitment process. All the second years were beyond helpful and made the recruiting process extremely structured and manageable.
- The Investment Banking Immersion program provided the necessary coursework to prepare me for my internship. Drew Pascarella brought in senior bankers to critique weekly presentations that were modeled after real client deliverables. This level of intensity and repetition allowed me to hit the deck running for my internship.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned with J.P. Morgan’s Technology Investment Banking team, which allowed me to assess if investment banking was a career I wanted to pursue post-MBA. It gave me the proper insight into what the culture was like within the industry and within J.P. Morgan. This was important because you spend a lot of time with your teams in investment banking.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Similar to selecting my MBA program, it was an easy choice to go with J.P. Morgan’s Tech team. After spending the summer interning with the team, a few things became very clear, which made my decision to go back the obvious choice. First, the companies I’d be covering were extremely exciting, and what we were helping them execute was very interesting. Next, I meshed well with the team culturally, which was important given how much time you spend with your teammates in investment banking. Finally, J.P. Morgan had a far-reaching platform that promoted mobility within the bank, across functions and geographies, which was very appealing to me.
How has COVID-19 impacted your industry/career plans?
COVID-19 has further confirmed that my choice to focus on the technology sector was the right one. The last two years have proven the importance of technology to our society and shown me that technology is where the most important and impactful growth is within our society.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
I would absolutely advise students to cast a wide net and have as many conversations as possible, especially during the recruiting process. It was critical to assess the different cultures within each bank and more specifically, within each group. Cornell Johnson’s alumni were critical in that regard, connecting us to all the various groups within our wide network across Wall Street.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would have taken more classes outside of Johnson and my finance focus. Cornell has so many phenomenal programs across its campus, and I always gained a new perspective and my thought process was always challenged when I stepped outside of Sage Hall.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
J.P. Morgan had me speak to far more bankers than any of the other banks during the recruiting process. They were extremely thorough, which allowed me to meet a large majority of the team before I even started. This let me better assess the culture within the group, so I didn’t feel like I was jumping into the unknown.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Time management is important and manage your FOMO! There will not be a dearth of clubs, events, activities, treks and friends to occupy your precious time. You should also make sure you fully understand what you want out of your two years in business school and select activities that align yourself with those goals. These goals could be oriented around career, health, education, hobbies or social. You should try and reserve about 80% of your time towards supporting these goals.
Leave the other 20% (maybe more…) of your time for random activities and allow yourself to be open to new experiences and relationships. It’s important to be focused on your goals, but you should also allow some room for the universe’s randomness, which may delightfully surprise you with things you didn’t know you would love.