Extra-Curriculars at Uni: SMU's APECS

Updated: Jun 6, 2021

Marcus Cheu is a third-year SMU Business student majoring in Finance. As the president of APECS, Marcus has had exposure to a valuable network of professionals in the venture capital and private equity worlds. Having discovered his strength and interest lie more with the operational side of a business, he is chartering his own path, helping millennial solopreneurs grow their business on Instagram


In this blog series, we will be looking at some of the most competitive academic co-curricular activities (CCAs) in local universities to develop a better understanding of these 'exclusive' clubs.


Why APECS?


Joining APECS | Application Process


Behind the Scenes


Advice for Juniors


Why APECS?


Having focused primarily on sports co-curriculars (CCAs) prior to attending University, I had never thought about an academic club until I came across APECS in my second year at SMU. I also had a keen interest in startups then and thus wanted to learn more about how it is like to be on the other end of the negotiating table - leading me to the unfamiliar world of Venture Capital and Private Equity.


Joining APECS | Application Process


What is the application process like?

Applications are conducted in two rounds. In the first round, applicants are tasked with creating a slide deck on the valuation of a company - something akin to a financial stock pitch. Since we emphasise on building a great team spirit at APECS, the second round of the application is aimed at assessing an applicant qualitatively to gauge his/her fit at APECS.


Should applicants have any prior knowledge of financial valuations?

We do not expect applicants to display complete knowledge of financial concepts just yet. Instead, we lookout for applicants that showcase profound interest in the subject matter. Since the majority of applicants to APECS are freshmen, it would be unreasonable to expect a polished output. As such, there is guidance within the case study itself for you to rely on while making the deck.


Behind the Scenes


What is a typical week in the life of an APECS member?

The curriculum of the club is divided into two parts, the venture capital arm and the private equity arm. We convene weekly on Fridays from 4 pm to 6 pm to learn about the technical aspects of the curriculum. Each semester, we are also hosting at least three exciting networking sessions. We host a variety of professionals from different backgrounds; they could be alumni or external professionals.


Besides these core events, we have been leveraging the experience of our senior members to form a mentorship program for our juniors members. Here, senior members seek to empower the juniors with essentials such as resume writing amongst general career guidance.


What are some competitions that members can participate in?

Each year, APECS hosts internal case competitions for our members across both the venture capital and private equity arms. At these competitions, members pitch to an internal panel of judges - consolidating their learning throughout the semesters. We also hold at least one nationwide venture capital competition and one regional competition for the private equity arm.


What do you learn from these competitions?

Joining these competitions is a great way to network with the judges who are working professionals at leading firms in the region. The environment of these competitions also provides a huge opportunity for accelerated learning. Particularly because participants are given a short period of time to leverage what they learnt or knew, to put up a detailed showcase of their knowledge. Personally, it was these pressuring conditions that provided the impetus for me to bring all of my knowledge together, which reinforced and consolidated my learning!


How has APECS helped its members professionally?

Despite our relatively recent inception, we have grown tremendously as a club and so has our alumni network. 90% of our latest batch of year one and two members have landed various internships, mostly within the finance industry. Many alumni had also secured full-time roles while doing their internships. Notably, some of our previous EXCOs members had progressed directly into the private equity world - an extraordinary feat for fresh graduates.



Advice for Juniors


What piece of advice would you give to freshmen looking to join an academic CCA during university?

I highly encourage everyone and especially freshmen to join an academic CCA. The upside is invaluable. You may gain a new circle of friends who are going to support your growth journey. The club's environment would also provide you with a better foundation when applying for internships. In the long term, the connections you make throughout the numerous networking sessions and alumni network can prove to be immensely important, especially as you look to break into a specific industry upon graduation.


What should one do to not miss out on the incredible growth opportunity in which APECS presents them?

It’s important to learn from your fellow members and draw upon the strengths of one another. In addition, as the EXCOs, we emphasize the importance of networking with seniors, alumni and working professionals to our juniors. After all, we are here to help you grow. Hence, I think it is important to constantly tap on this network and in time, pay it forward with the upcoming batches. Some may struggle with networking but trust me, it can be as simple as asking some questions like: "How did you break into this company?", "What reason drew you to this space?", "What do you love and hate about your role", etc.


Last but not least, what would you have done differently?

I would have joined APECS in year one instead! This is almost unanimously the consensus of those who joined APECS with me in year two. Beyond the strong foundation that it laid for my professional career and future, I've walked away with a bunch of great friends who have supported me throughout my growth journey.



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