James Min, a UCLA alumnus, is the founder of Telos Advisors – a boutique investment bank with offices in Santa Monica and San Francisco. During his undergraduate years at UCLA, James obtained his Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Business Economics and Political Science with the intention of someday going to law school, but instead went on to pursue careers in finance and technology.
As a current guest lecturer for an internet strategy upper division course (Economics 106T), James always finds it odd that he teaches in the very classrooms where he was once a student. As an undergraduate, he was strongly involved with the Undergraduate Business Society and wrote for the Asian American newsletter. Academics aside, he loved the social aspect of UCLA as it enabled him to forge lifelong friendships and memories. Years later, he still has many interesting stories to tell, like sneaking into Pauley Pavilion with his friends late at night to play basketball. He believes that what you get out of college is essentially what you put into it.
After working at different tech startups and investment banks for several years, he started Telos Advisors in 2013. Telos Advisors provides M&A advisory and capital raising services to companies in the Internet, Digital Media and Software industries. The initiative for Telos came from his explicit interest in technology and its ability to revolutionize the world. It was also an opportunity to implement his own work philosophies and to do things differently. This meant picking the right clients that are a good cultural and business fit, limiting administrative obligations and enhancing productivity, a unique advantage for a small firm. It also meant creating a fertile work environment that allows employees to advance the goals of both the company and themselves. As a CEO, he not only finds himself making changes to enhance the retention of employees, but is also emotionally invested in their development. He is especially proud when the junior analysts move onto other careers and beat out candidates that come from much larger, global investment banks. It proves that they learned valuable lessons during their time at Telos.
While James has been successful in his business venture, forming his own investment bank came with its own set of challenges. The biggest challenge is that James is ultimately accountable for all the decisions the firm makes, from selecting which clients to take on, to hiring and firing. Another challenge is trying to anticipate and understand the impact of changing markets on boutique banks like his. But despite the risks and challenges, James has thoroughly enjoyed his entrepreneurial journey.
For students at UCLA aspiring to be investment bankers one day, James has some advice. First and foremost, he insists that students must know their finance and be skilled in communicating this understanding. He also encourages students to do more internships as it shows interest and allows them to develop skills that will be required in a full-time position. He believes that being successful once you get the job is as important as getting the job itself. To James, there are two qualities that distinguish an investment banking analyst from the others: 1) a genuine interest and curiosity in the job and companies you work with; and 2) taking pride in one’s work and work product.
By Aditi Ganesh and Radhika Ahuja