2/6/13

Below is the first installment of an interview with WSO Certified User and 2nd year banking analyst 'duffmt6'. Interview conducted by Asatar.

SEE PART 2

1) What is your background and how did you get into investment banking?

I graduated from a top 25-30ish school in 2010 in a quantitative business major (the quantitative portion hurt my GPA a bit - I finished with a 3.65). I had literally no career focus throughout my college career. I was focused on school work, partying and rugby, and not in that order. I lucked into a back office finance internship in my junior year with a well known fin services company through a connection (my cousin) and got a verbal return offer. My senior year I basically missed the boat on full time recruiting, not that I would have landed anything anyways. I interviewed for one consulting position and got destroyed (didn't even know what a case interview was). At that point I had very little concept of what investment banking was - only a couple of my close friends were going into finance and no one in my family was even remotely connected to the industry. I ended up accepting a position in financial control with the company I interned at.

Within a few weeks of starting full time work it kinda hit me that I wasn't in college anymore and that I would be working for the rest of my life. I have always been a competitive person, but generally channeled that into sports or school, neither of which were really an option anymore (although I do still get out on the rugby pitch occasionally). The work I was doing was pretty mind numbing and I started to panic that I would end up doing it forever. I didn't know what else to do so I studied for and passed the first level of the CFA the December after I graduated. I discovered WSO and started learning a bit about the different finance professions. My roommate was in banking at a top BB and seemed to be relatively fulfilled by his work so I started looking into it more. I ultimately decided on the IB route because 1) it was the safest, most tried and true route for someone with no discernible real world skills, 2) I had already killed too many brain cells to do trading, and 3) I wasn't necessarily enthralled with the public markets.

I spent the next six months getting my resume in order, scheduling informational interviews and prepping for CFA L2 in June. As soon as I passed the test I "went to market" on my job search. I think I landed 3 interviews over the course of 8 months - 2 were through online job postings, including the job I ultimately took, and the other was through an alum from my school (the bank was a bit out of my league but the interview experience was great).

I was a little under 2 years out of school when I started at a boutique bank focused on lower middle market companies, primarily doing capital raises (PIPEs, private placements, etc.). I was told later on that the only reason I was given a shot to interview was the L2 CFA on my resume and that without nailing the interview there was no chance I would have landed the job on my qualifications alone (which were admittedly minimal). I was the only analyst and straddled both banking and "advisory", which was really just a consulting type service where we helped companies market themselves to institutional investors and/or get their shit together for a capital raise. I loved the guys I worked with and learned a lot while I was there, but we simply weren't closing any transactions (2 total in the 10 months I was there, neither of substantial size) and there was constantly turmoil within the company. I finished the 3rd CFA in June and started to put feelers out for a lateral.

Recruiting for banking is infinitely easier when you have banking experience on your resume, particularly when you are targeting boutiques, who generally are looking for lower risk hires that don't need extensive training. Within a month or two I had two interviews and an offer at a boutique just from online applications (both were eFinancial if I remember correctly). I decided to turn down the offer in hand because it wasn't a significant enough improvement over my situation to warrant a job change. I took about a month off from the search and then started up again in September. I had a phone interview through the WSO job board and then got a response on a cold email to a boutique in another city (which happened to be my hometown). I ended getting an offer at the latter and packed my bags and moved home. Started at my current shop just after Thanksgiving.

Been here a little over two months now and I'm loving it. Mostly doing sell side M&A, which we weren't doing much of at my previous shop, for private, middle market clients. We have a B-D under our corporate umbrella but don't do many capital raises. I'm also staffed on a buyside engagement at the moment, which is way less fun than I expected. Only about 12 people at my office and I'm one of 3 analysts. People and culture are awesome and deal flow is pretty exceptional.



2) What made you decide to go for investment banking rather than say corporate finance or consulting?

I kinda covered this in #1 but really my decision came down to risk aversion (IB is kinda the standard path), the fact that I didn't have any skills, and how much I despised the work I was doing at my first job (heavy accounting, some FP&A). I wouldn't advise using this answer in an interview.

Comments (29)

2/6/13

Wow I talked to Duff a lot on the chat and didn't know his story. Awesome stuff

2/6/13

great story

Sometimes lies are more dependable than the truth.

2/6/13
2/6/13

Awesome read, SB'ed.

Duff, would you mind sharing your "informational interview" and networking experiences. It doesn't seemed like they really paid off that much as you mentioned you had 2 resume drop interviews and an interview through an alum. Do you feel like the passing of CFA Level 2 made all the difference? Didn't know IBs cared so much about it.

In reply to Brouhaha
2/6/13

Brouhaha:
Awesome read, SB'ed.

Duff, would you mind sharing your "informational interview" and networking experiences. It doesn't seemed like they really paid off that much as you mentioned you had 2 resume drop interviews and an interview through an alum. Do you feel like the passing of CFA Level 2 made all the difference? Didn't know IBs cared so much about it.

Informational interviews were pretty integral to my job search, despite the fact they didn't necessarily convert into interviews (though I got several warm leads). Talking to bankers helped me understand what I was getting into and how to go about my search. I also was able to start some relationships that can hopefully be beneficial in the long run.

I think I am the exception rather than the norm for the CFA. It was indeed integral for me getting that particular interview, but only because the person screening held the designation in particularly high regard. The job search really is a numbers game when you don't have the strongest qualifications. Eventually something on your resume will strike a cord someone screening, you just need to maximize the things on your resume with that potential.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

2/6/13

Wow, really cool post. Honestly, your story is extremely similar to mine. Like scary similar. But I'm currently on the part where I'm studying for Level 2 CFA. Glad to know someone has already paved the path I hope to follow and gives me a light at the end of the tunnel for CFA and an IB gig!

Blue horseshoe loves Anacott Steel

2/6/13

Thanks for the story. It was very informative

2/6/13
2/6/13

Would you recommand someone just out of school to focus on CFA or more networking/informal interviews/resume? Basically my question is...if the CFA really that useful to land a job in banking?

In reply to Peeather
2/6/13

Peeather:
Would you recommand someone just out of school to focus on CFA or more networking/informal interviews/resume? Basically my question is...if the CFA really that useful to land a job in banking?

why cant you do both?

"After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

In reply to oreos
2/6/13

Oreos:
Peeather:
Would you recommand someone just out of school to focus on CFA or more networking/informal interviews/resume? Basically my question is...if the CFA really that useful to land a job in banking?

why cant you do both?

I would not mind trying to do both. But I know it is very time consuming with full time work and all. And from what I read a lot of people suggest to focus more on networking etc. I would like your take on that

In reply to Peeather
2/6/13

Peeather:
Oreos:
Peeather:
Would you recommand someone just out of school to focus on CFA or more networking/informal interviews/resume? Basically my question is...if the CFA really that useful to land a job in banking?

why cant you do both?

I would not mind trying to do both. But I know it is very time consuming with full time work and all. And from what I read a lot of people suggest to focus more on networking etc. I would like your take on that


how long do you think it takes to search linkedin, email someone, meet them for coffee, stay in contact? i don't know, but it for sure doesn't take 300 hours like the CFA. do both and stop being lazy.

"After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

2/6/13
In reply to oreos
2/6/13

Oreos:
Peeather:
Oreos:
Peeather:
Would you recommand someone just out of school to focus on CFA or more networking/informal interviews/resume? Basically my question is...if the CFA really that useful to land a job in banking?

why cant you do both?

I would not mind trying to do both. But I know it is very time consuming with full time work and all. And from what I read a lot of people suggest to focus more on networking etc. I would like your take on that


how long do you think it takes to search linkedin, email someone, meet them for coffee, stay in contact? i don't know, but it for sure doesn't take 300 hours like the CFA. do both and stop being lazy.

thanks!

In reply to Peeather
2/6/13

Peeather:
Would you recommand someone just out of school to focus on CFA or more networking/informal interviews/resume? Basically my question is...if the CFA really that useful to land a job in banking?

Networking and preparing for interviews will be the more useful endeavor, unless your resume has a huge finance hole in it. I was working a job that rarely exceeded 50 hours so it wasn't super difficult to balance the two. Also, if you ever do plan on doing the CFA, right after school is the time to do it (I can't imagine having a family and trying to do it).

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

In reply to oreos
2/6/13

Oreos:
Peeather:
Oreos:
Peeather:
Would you recommand someone just out of school to focus on CFA or more networking/informal interviews/resume? Basically my question is...if the CFA really that useful to land a job in banking?

why cant you do both?

I would not mind trying to do both. But I know it is very time consuming with full time work and all. And from what I read a lot of people suggest to focus more on networking etc. I would like your take on that


how long do you think it takes to search linkedin, email someone, meet them for coffee, stay in contact? i don't know, but it for sure doesn't take 300 hours like the CFA. do both and stop being lazy.

Just to add - you can line up 5 or 6 emails during the weekend and just send them out throughout the week, depending on your response rate and availability.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

2/7/13

In a similar position at a boutique and pondering a lateral....did you attempt to contact MM/BB's? If so, what kind of response did you receive and what kind of challenges should someone looking to move from boutique to middle market anticipate? I'm concerned about exit ops coming from a boutique w/o a long track record of analyst placement but that has been excellent experience overall

In reply to Goodguy119
2/7/13

Goodguy119:
In a similar position at a boutique and pondering a lateral....did you attempt to contact MM/BB's? If so, what kind of response did you receive and what kind of challenges should someone looking to move from boutique to middle market anticipate? I'm concerned about exit ops coming from a boutique w/o a long track record of analyst placement but that has been excellent experience overall

When you say you have gotten excellent experience but don't have a long record of analyst placement, that sounds a lot more like my current shop. I didn't get great experience in my first gig due to limited deal flow and turmoil within management.

I did reach out to a fair number of MM shops, but the only one where I really got a response was the phone interview through WSO. My focus was primarily on boutiques though.

Ironically, about a month after I started my current job I got an email for an interview at a lower tier BB (which I turned down). They would have been looking at my old resume which didn't show any significant transaction experience.

I will caution that changing firms in the middle of your analyst stint is far from ideal. You need to relearn processes and get used to a new environment/culture. You should really think about what the marginal benefits would be from moving to a larger bank. Absolutely crushing your full 2-3 years at your current boutique might be worth your MD pulling some strings for you when you decide to exit. This could prove more valuable than just having the larger bank name on your resume and you won't have to go through the process of starting a new job.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

2/7/13

ghandi:
Where do you see yourself down the road?

I get into this a bit in part 2. I'm really a "play it by ear" type of person and don't have any specific long term career goals, though there are a few things I could see myself doing. There are too many factors to really plan your life much more than 6 months in advance.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

2/7/13

ghandi:
duffmt6:
ghandi:
Where do you see yourself down the road?

I get into this a bit in part 2. I'm really a "play it by ear" type of person and don't have any specific long term career goals, though there are a few things I could see myself doing. There are too many factors to really plan your life much more than 6 months in advance.

thx for nothing


I never thought I would get to tell Ghandi to go fuck himself....well, here we go: Ghandi, go fuck yourself.

adapt or die:
What would P.T. Barnum say about you?

MY BLOG

2/8/13

ghandi:
SirTradesaLot:
ghandi:
duffmt6:
ghandi:
Where do you see yourself down the road?

I get into this a bit in part 2. I'm really a "play it by ear" type of person and don't have any specific long term career goals, though there are a few things I could see myself doing. There are too many factors to really plan your life much more than 6 months in advance.

thx for nothing


I never thought I would get to tell Ghandi to go fuck himself....well, here we go: Ghandi, go fuck yourself.

I never thought I would get to tell SirTradesaLot to go fuck herself...well but who the fuck is sirtradeslot?

Bro, you spelled Gandhi wrong.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

In reply to duffmt6
2/10/13

Duff, maybe I missed this in your responses but were there further considerations in deciding to target boutiques (vs. bulge brackets) during your lateral search? A 3.65 GPA, CFA Level 3, and banking experience I have to believe that you would have been a strong candidate for lateral positions at a number of bulge brackets.

I agree that changing firms mid analyst stint is not ideal, however it does make a lot of sense for many individuals. The way I thought about it as I was going through the lateral search, I was disappointed with the deal experience I was getting, was unhappy with the culture of my team, and with mediocre educational background I felt that I could really benefit from moving up to a more 'brand name' firm in terms of exit-opps. If these apply to you as well, than a lateral is something that I would certainly consider.

In reply to islandbanker
2/10/13

islandbanker:
Duff, maybe I missed this in your responses but were there further considerations in deciding to target boutiques (vs. bulge brackets) during your lateral search? A 3.65 GPA, CFA Level 3, and banking experience I have to believe that you would have been a strong candidate for lateral positions at a number of bulge brackets.

I agree that changing firms mid analyst stint is not ideal, however it does make a lot of sense for many individuals. The way I thought about it as I was going through the lateral search, I was disappointed with the deal experience I was getting, was unhappy with the culture of my team, and with mediocre educational background I felt that I could really benefit from moving up to a more 'brand name' firm in terms of exit-opps. If these apply to you as well, than a lateral is something that I would certainly consider.

If you were disappointed with deal experience and not super happy with the firm, I would say 100% it makes sense to go out and look for a lateral. In my earlier post I was trying to differentiate between lateraling solely for a better brand name vs. lateraling for better work experience. There's no point in staying at a place that won't help you become a better banker and/or set you up for exit opportunities.

I think the reason I wasn't getting looked at for BB banks is more to do with how non traditional of a candidate I was rather than the accomplishments (or lack thereof) on my resume. The way I look at it, why would a BB take me over a candidate who went straight into banking out of undergrad and had a year of experience at a lower tier, but reputable bank (there are plenty of those candidates out there)? It also didn't help that as I was searching while banks were announcing massive layoffs. Competition for lateral jobs was high and my focus was on making a move quickly and ending up somewhere that I felt comfortable. I was casting a pretty wide net, but my expectations were that another boutique would be the best fit.

I should add that I do like the boutique-ey atmosphere and I think I have less of a hard on for the BB's than most.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

In reply to duffmt6
2/10/13

duffmt6:

When you say you have gotten excellent experience but don't have a long record of analyst placement, that sounds a lot more like my current shop. I didn't get great experience in my first gig due to limited deal flow and turmoil within management.

This may be a broader question, but can you expand on the bad experience at your first gig? How many deals were you working on in a year? I am asking because I am talking to a boutique that does 3-4 deals a year (deal size varies but sub-$200M). It's a small shop. How do you figure out the culture of a boutique. They don't tell you much in the interview and google isn't really helpful. I am from non-IB background looking to make a decision about moving into IB. I have worked at places with turmoil/cultural issues before. My worst nightmare. Don't want to end up in a crappy place again like your old job. Thanks for your help.

In reply to kingsize123
2/11/13

kingsize123:
duffmt6:

When you say you have gotten excellent experience but don't have a long record of analyst placement, that sounds a lot more like my current shop. I didn't get great experience in my first gig due to limited deal flow and turmoil within management.

This may be a broader question, but can you expand on the bad experience at your first gig? How many deals were you working on in a year? I am asking because I am talking to a boutique that does 3-4 deals a year (deal size varies but sub-$200M). It's a small shop. How do you figure out the culture of a boutique. They don't tell you much in the interview and google isn't really helpful. I am from non-IB background looking to make a decision about moving into IB. I have worked at places with turmoil/cultural issues before. My worst nightmare. Don't want to end up in a crappy place again like your old job. Thanks for your help.

My first gig was bad from a deal experience perspective, but less so from a cultural perspective (I really liked the guys I worked with and was somewhat removed from turmoil at the upper ranks). I think I mentioned before that we only closed 2 deals while I was there (between 6 months and a year). The deals we were working on weren't necessarily the most interesting deals either (crummy clients doing desperation capital raises is a bad combo).

A few things that you might want to consider doing/investigating:

1. Obviously, read up on any transactions they have closed in the past few years. Usually will be posted on the website or you can search for press releases. Deal size isn't necessarily the most important thing - make sure the types of transactions are something you are interested in (e.g. if you want to be doing M&A, make aren't just doing private placements or secondary offerings). Looking at a tombstone page can be pretty deceptive, so do some additional digging. Quality is far more important than quantity here.
2. Research the senior bankers and make sure they have a good track record. This should involve everything from checking for marks on their FINRA record to doing some due diligence on their previous firms. Make sure the majority of the senior guys are career bankers and have followed a logical career progression.
3. Try to gauge the qualifications of the Analysts, Associates and VPs. Hopefully they have bios listed on the website but if not, do some LinkedIn stalking. Research their previous firms and roles to get an idea of the pedigree for the junior people at the bank.
4. Reach out to people who used to work at the firm, preferably someone with the same or similar title as you are considering. People tend to be extremely responsive with this type of outreach - either they want to help out their old firm where they had a great experience or they will tell you to keep away. Again, LinkedIn stalking is the way to go.
5. It's probably too late for this but you should really get some indication of culture from your interviews. If you are really desperate you could consider picking up the phone and talking to someone at the firm to address whatever your concerns might have before accepting an offer.
6. Look at the structure of the hierarchy. Are you replacing a recently departed analyst who was supporting 2-3 senior guys on their own? Are there other analysts that will be there to share the workload? Will you be getting a lot of hands on experience with the MD's (i.e. minimal Associates/VPs)? Top heavy structures have their upsides and downsides and are pretty common at smaller boutiques.

Not sure if any of this helps. Feel free to PM me if you want me to take a closer look at the firm.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

In reply to duffmt6
2/11/13

duffmt6:
Not sure if any of this helps. Feel free to PM me if you want me to take a closer look at the firm.

Just sent you a PM. Your response would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

2/12/13

great story

We can't rely on anyone these days, we just have to do things ourselves don't we?

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