Below is the first installment of an interview with WSOand 2nd year banking analyst 'duffmt6'. Interview conducted by Asatar.
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 mya 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 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 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 topand 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 , and 3) I wasn't necessarily enthralled with the public markets.
I spent the next six months getting my resume in order, schedulingand 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.