Asatar note - Welcome to part two of the rufiolove interview. In this section we cover advice for people looking to break into investment banking, the timeless discussion of target vs non-target as well as what kind of personality is likely to succeed in finance. Click here for part one
Any college student browsing WSO knows about the importance of networking and preparation for interviews. What other advice would you give a prospective student or lateral hire to break into your field?
Clearly everyone out there knows that networking is critical to open up opportunities in any business, but especially on Wall Street and in order to capitalize on those opportunities you have to be well prepared, but I really think that it's important for the kids out there to understand how to effectively network.
Never underestimate the power of getting a beer or drink with someone and just having a genuine conversation. I can say from personal experience that there is no bigger turn off when I'm out at a bar and a kid starts rattling off questions about life at the office and what the deal flow has been like... also, don't ask me if I "really pop bottles with models" it just comes across as awkward makes you seem like a fanboi. If you are out at a bar and you find out someone is a banker and you think that they could help you out in the future, the last thing you should do is try to make yourself sound like a 1-dimensional finance try hard.
Talk to them about their interests and develop a genuine rapport. I'm a lot more willing to follow up with someone if they don't suck to talk to. After you've established a bit of a common ground and have proven you're normal person I can have a beer with, then you can make a tactful ask about what you are hoping that I can help you out with. Keep things low key and remember that life is so much bigger than finance and ultimately even the MDs that you guys put up on a pedestal have people they likely put on pedestals. Everyone is human, and every person you meet is someone you have the ability to connect with if you go about it the right way.
Did you find that having studied Finance in undergrad gave you an advantage as a 1st year IB analyst? If so, how? If not, why not? Did the advantage (if any) become redundant quickly?
I think that studying finance in school made the learning curve a bit more manageable initially but everyone learns how to do things fairly quickly so I wouldn't say it was a direct advantage. What it did allow me to do was not have to worry about some of the technical stuff as much initially so I could focus on building the trust of my team.
I socialized a lot and went out with them for drinks more frequently because I wasn't worrying as much about minutiae during training / the beginning of my analyst stint. Ultimately, though, the skill set does become redundant fairly quickly and as evidenced by the hiring practices of banks, kids from all backgrounds can do this job and studying finance in undergrad is in no way a prerequisite.
What is your educational background? What do you think helped you break into finance and what advice would you give to those who may not have top grades or go to the best schools?
I didn't go to an Ivy, I went to a large state school. I think having top grades definitely helped me to stay in the mix and eliminated one additional hurdle that could have made it that much harder to break in, but ultimately I think the time I spent getting to know people and building my network was the reason I was able to get interviews / offers.
My advice to people with less than stellar GPAs, non-traditional backgrounds, non-ivy backgrounds is the same as it is to anyone else... network as much as possible. It will be more critical for them than others who went to more heavily recruited schools. I know that a lot of people want some hidden gem of wisdom to give them a competitive advantage, but unfortunately that's not the way it works. The people I have seen get the best opportunities are the ones who go after them wholeheartedly. Have conviction about what you want to accomplish and keep yourself honest. If you know that for whatever reason you won't be happy until you get a banking job, don't stop until you do.
Are there any specific personality traits that separate a successful worker in your industry versus other paths within finance?
I think the trait that makes for a good banker is the ability to deal take a lot of shit from the people above you and just find a way to deal with it so you don't flip out. Banking is a grind, it takes a certain level of intellectual aptitude but as most have said it isn't rocket surgery. Finding a way to have fun and be personable allow people to distinguish themselves.
If you weren't working in your field right now, what would you be doing?
If I weren't in finance right now I would probably be trying to make a career at writing. Always thought it would be awesome to write screenplays or books.
This concludes the rufiolove interview, hope you enjoyed it and many thanks to rufio for taking the time to answer these questions openly as well as to Andy for arranging the interview! -Asatar (See my other WSO blog posts here)