Name: Spencer Hong
Position: Senior Associate, M&A
Company: Palm Tree
Industry: Private Equity / M&A
Chapman MBA, Finance
Chapman BS, Business Administration, Entrepreneurship
Why did you choose this industry/field?
Both sides of my family have an extensive background in banking and finance. For as long as I can remember, I have always been naturally drawn to the business and finance world. I specifically chose to work in the private equity and M&A space because I feel it’s the perfect intersection of understanding both the investment process and how a business operates. Palm Tree has really provided the opportunity to expand upon my background and education and I continue to grow with every new deal we work on.
How did you strategize to get your career to where it is today? How did Chapman play a role?
Chapman has played a big role in my career, both in education and my personal network.
Attending Argyros was really the first step in my career. I took an undergraduate emphasis in entrepreneurship, which allowed me to learn about the full lifecycle of a business from startup to exit. My MBA concentration was in Finance and helped deepen my knowledge of financial analysis and investments. I also interned at an investment and client advisory firm during school.
After school I worked for two Fortune 500 companies in their corporate finance and M&A groups. My next role was with an early-stage apparel company, TravisMathew, where I helped lead our finance and sales team through a period of tremendous growth. TravisMathew was later acquired by Callaway Golf and I was able to assist through the transaction.
One of my closest friends and former classmate from Chapman, Rishi Chellani, helped recruit me over to Palm Tree in my current role. Palm Tree is a private equity M&A consulting and advisory firm focused on transactions, transitions and transformations.
Any career advice for current students entering into the industry in this job market?
Find what truly interests you, be eager and relentless, and don’t be short-sighted.
Identify your career interests and goals. If you don’t know what those are, that’s okay. Try to network with professionals or alumni (feel free to reach out) to learn more. Right now is a great time to do so with many working from home and having some extra time.
Once you’ve done that, be eager and relentless. Our firm often notices candidates who have genuine interest and are doing everything they can to better position themselves. Take relevant coursework or workshops, network with people at the company you’re interested in, and find a way to differentiate yourself.
Lastly, don’t be short-sighted. Make sure to set a few long-term goals and focus on staying on track to where you want to be in the future. Some opportunities may present instant gratification, but make sure you stay true to your career goals and aspirations.
What stood out most throughout your Chapman education and how did it help advance your career and bring value to an employer?
Two things that stand out to me are: 1) Chapman providing students an opportunity to grow as individuals and develop their own brand and identity and 2) having faculty and staff that are either active in or recently transitioned from their professional careers.
Understanding your skill-set and brand as an individual will help you advance your career and provide the most value to your employer (or yourself). Chapman naturally provides an environment that helps you do this, whether its through student life, coursework, or career services. I think faculty also plays a huge role in this. Having professors and leaders with strong experience provides insight into certain career paths and helps kick-start your professional network.
For me, one of those individuals was our former Dean, Reginald Gilyard. His door was always open and he was always available to help – just like the rest of the Chapman network.