Cindy Yen Luu
Making a mark in today's global economy takes grit, determination, and preparation. Cindy Yen Luu was born with the first two. As for the third, at 26 she was one of the youngest people accepted into the Master of Science in Global Finance (MSGF) program jointly conducted by NYU Stern and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). You could call that preparation in spades.
Cindy, who turns 30 in December, was an investment associate at Lehman Brothers when two mentors suggested she gain exposure to Asia, especially considering her Vietnamese and Chinese parentage. Eliminating traditional MBA programs as too broad, she applied to the MSGF program and got "the best of both worlds," as she puts it, between HKUST in Hong Kong and Stern in New York. Currently based in Houston, with a recent promotion to vice president and private client advisor for J.P. Morgan Private Wealth, Cindy's goal is to return to Asia with J.P. Morgan in a capacity that includes oversight of the Vietnamese market. Born in Vietnam and raised in Los Angeles and Houston, she is fluent in Vietnamese and is studying Mandarin.
Because she was based in New York at the time she attended the program, Cindy facilitated the logistics involved by taking a part-time job at an oil and gas company in Houston, where her mom resides and where she had received her undergraduate degree. On alternate weeks she flew to Hong Kong, where the administrators at the school were like family, she says, even babying her when she had her wisdom teeth pulled.
Aside from the program's support network, "Its strength was definitely the faculty," Cindy recalls. "They were all very focused and went straight to the point." In contrast to other graduate programs that include a large proportion of theory, she was happy to find that the curriculum was immediately applicable to her work. "You could use everything right away in the real world," she says.
In her current job as leader of a team of bankers and investment advisors, the confidence she gained, plus the in-depth knowledge about the products she offers and where they fit into the broader economic picture, is helpful every day, she says. For instance, the MSGF module on private equity was "intense," she recalls, but "now when I pitch that to clients, I have the background to really put it in context."
In addition, the MSGF program requires a substantial amount of teamwork, and that has given Cindy the management know-how to handle a team of eight full-time and six satellite bankers charged with profiling and prospecting for clients. "At the program, there were about three dozen classmates, and we became very close, like sisters and brothers," she says. Most were from Asia, and many had attended undergraduate schools in the U.S. The alumni network she is now a part of is a large and influential one, she says. "Being a Sternie is very helpful professionally – there are a lot of Sternies at J.P. Morgan. And HKUST is a heavy hitter in Asia, so you really have the best of both worlds in this sense, too."
Putting all the pieces in place to create a meaningful career takes time and patience, but Cindy is readying herself for the moment when the opportunity arises to achieve her goals. She's put marriage and family aside for now, spending any free time traveling, cooking, teaching finance to children at her church, and working with war veterans through a J.P. Morgan organization. "I want to get all the experience I can in the U.S. and take it to Asia for J.P. Morgan," she says.