Insane Competition

Having wrapped up (personally) recruiting for SA 2024 in London, it seems to me that competition is as fierce as it's ever been, if not MORE than before.


I saw an old post saying that competitive for their MM firm was 800+ applications for 4 spots - multiple MM firms I know have had 3000-3500+ applications for around 10-15 spots! Not to mention the inevitable BB competition.


Obviously everyone knows IB is competitive - but my point is that, far from Gen Z being more turned off from the industry, people are flocking to it in greater numbers than ever.

 

Oh, you're absolutely right! The competition in the banking industry is indeed getting fiercer. It's like a jungle out there, and I'm not monkeying around!

The reason for this could be manifold. One, the allure of the finance industry, especially investment banking, is still very strong. It offers a fast-paced environment, the opportunity to work on high-stakes deals, and of course, the potential for a hefty paycheck.

Secondly, the industry has been pushing recruiting earlier and earlier to snap up top talent before they've had the chance to consider other options. This has led to an increase in the number of applications.

Lastly, despite the rise of startups and the tech industry, many top students still see banking as a tried-and-true path to success. It's seen as a stepping stone to other lucrative opportunities, such as private equity or hedge funds.

So, while the number of seats may remain the same, the number of folks wanting to sit in them is increasing. It's like a game of musical chairs, but the music's getting faster and there are fewer chairs each time.

But don't let this discourage you. Remember, it's not just about being the smartest in the room, it's also about being the most prepared. So keep honing those skills, keep networking, and keep your eyes on the prize!

Sources: Is there any part of the financial industry that is growing?, Why is banking becoming more competitive?

I'm an AI bot trained on the most helpful WSO content across 17+ years.
 

I wonder has the availability of groupchats/trackers such as the ones made by Bristol/LSE increased awareness and therefore applications for roles? These whatsapp groupchats have thousands of members

 

I think they probably did, but I also think a large portion of those applicants aren't competitive at all. Maybe it did make those at target unis more aware, though

Commented below on the same topic but thought to add it here: definitely has resulted in an uptick at targets in terms of awareness. 

The quality of applications due to the uptick are still shite though - when it comes to motivational questions and general knowledge of markets at my target (after I helped organise events with BBs and screening candidates, my god were there some cringe and flat out rejections handed out). 

 

Competition is equally stiff in APAC. Friend of mine applied for a boutique IB role, had over 200 applicants solely for 1 seat

 

If you aren't better than the people who apply to IB roles because they saw a TikToker or some YouTuber shitter, you weren't going to make it anyway.

 

And the fact that referrals from Assoc/VPs also have not weight in this piece of shit city blows my mind… Instead incompetent dickheads with BA’s in Psychology from Brighton deciding on where you place ffs

 

Not totally true. I've screened stacks off roughly 100 resumes for my firm multiple times a year. Usually HR just asks for VPs and asssociates to help screen resumes. I do believe there is a basic filiter that is used before we get them, even said that, about half the ones I review aren't too competitive, generally not awful but definetly below the rest. Usually about 20% are significantly better than the rest. Winnowing down the remaining ones takes the most time. We're usually asked to advance 30-35%, often with some demographic criteria, which makes it even harder since you lose any sort of objectivity at that point.

 

You are right about the tracker being a factor. Every time I open it I see at least 80 people viewing the document. 

 

I got an offer buddy, I'm just saying I noticed that competition was particularly fierce this year

 

No one is blaming it, we are only saying it is a factor on the increase on the number of applicants. Why were you pissed? Are you part of those teams that update them or something lol?

 

Yup. The seoncd route is very much the way that's how i broke in and from the sample size at my uni - (semi target) thats a viable (albeit alternative and less trodden) route in.

 

Agreed - the year was brutal. I got a final-round rejection from a firm, and when I got feedback, I was told that in a typical year, they received 600 applications, but this year, they received 2500 for the same number of spots. So much of this year's process depended on luck, especially in the earlier stages of getting the HireVues or whatever. 

The trackers definitely made applications a lot more accessible for many people who wouldn't have otherwise applied, but in general, with finance being so degree-agnostic, it makes sense that it's a top choice for so many students. 
 

 

Yeah definitely agree this year was probably the most competitive ever considering how informed students are about IB recruiting these days (trackers, social media, sites like this) coupled with terrible hiring market. 

The trackers made it so MMs were just as competitive as BBs/EBs as before trackers only the driven students would know about them to apply whereas these days any kid can load up a tracker and apply to them.

Also anecdotally think diversity hiring played a massive part this year. From my personal experience, I had quite a few processes ranging from EBs, MMs and PE firms but got absolutely zero traction from any BB (who obviously focus the most on diversity).

 

 Agreed; had a decent amount of interest from MM, LMM and EB but absolutely nothing from BBs and have friends who had the same. Weird cycle this year. 

 

It’s been said a few times but it’s because of the trackers. It’s making it very easily accesible. It randomizes the process to a certain extent too because of the volume. I know a bunch of people that have gotten through to ACs with BBs and other shops without them even knowing what they’re applying for while folks with solid CVs get dinged.

 

start practicing job test prep early summer

have CV polished august 1st

get on good terms with dartmouth partners

 

all these people applying for summers have now gone on to apply for springs instead, claiming they are taking a year abroad, planning to do a masters etc. Its all getting out of hand 

 

Sure, it is definitely competitive from a numbers perspective, but don't let that freak you out. Out of those 2,500 applications, 80% are candidates that never had a shot, so you're really competing with the remaining 20%. If you're able to network your way into an interview, the field is leveled and it's all about your performance at that point. School, GPA, etc goes out the window at that stage and it's on you to perform and deliver.

 

While some zoomers have gone full commie and given up on capitalism, have no ambition etc., another segment of our generation has doubled down and is obsessed with money. There is so much more information available now to high schoolers about front office finance roles compared to just ten years ago. Plus I think our generation saw our parents struggling a bit in 2008 and thought “damn I better try to become rich as hell.”

This all leads to more applicants for every finance role, but I think it’s largely the same number of kids who are qualified. Every application posted immediately gets a ton of applications from people living overseas who will probably never set foot in the US.

 
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I'm a VP in a London based BB (FICC sales & trading) and from what I've observed, the quality of interns we had this summer was significantly higher than what we had over the past 2 summers (covid period). Given how poor FICC revenues have been this year, return offers were well below prior years which means that superior candidates (much better than the covid interns who are now grads) have missed out on jobs. Add onto this the desire/need to hire more women (100% white and private school educated which is ironic) and it's just really tough out there right now.

The one thing I will say is that this industry is in decline and the comp in London isn't nearly as good as what you see in NYC. Since I joined the business we've lost Lehman, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch and now CS...just fewer seats going around. I think the problem is house prices are so decoupled from average earnings in the UK that, regardless of degree choice, it makes sense to try for banking just to have any shot at a salary that allows you to get on the housing ladder.    

 

That's interesting, someone I know whose brother works in S&T at a London-based BB said that they noticed a decline in the quality of interns, which is something I've heard elsewhere, too. But what you say totally makes sense imo. For most people, myself included, the interest in high finance began as a way simply to be able to afford a house / a nice life, but then snowballed into a genuine interest. 

 

That's interesting, someone I know whose brother works in S&T at a London-based BB said that they noticed a decline in the quality of interns, which is something I've heard elsewhere, too. But what you say totally makes sense imo. For most people, myself included, the interest in high finance began as a way simply to be able to afford a house / a nice life, but then snowballed into a genuine interest. 

I heard the same, I heard quality of interns declined due to diversity schemes and lack of meritocracy to screen CVs (this was from a SA at a top 3 BB as well in S&T). Could very well be wrong, though. 

 

How does London comp compare to nyc at your level?

 

How does London comp compare to nyc at your level?

Following the change in law in New York State (where salary ranges need to be published along side job adverts) you can see how big the differential is. As a desk analyst on a credit trading desk, comp in London tops out at around £300k. A similar job in NYC would pay around $600k. Pre-GFC, traders on a credit desk would make 3-4 bucks with a good desk analyst making 800k to a buck. Today, in a great year, a trader might make a buck with a desk analyst making 300-400k. In that same time period, housing costs in London have exploded and taxes keep rising (despite having a "so called" Tory government.  

 

To add to everything mentioned here, I think the greater awareness of these types of careers at targets is going to push out non-targets significantly unless they are representative of a specific diversity demographic. 

I have seen, however, people applying to BB events at my University (top 3 target) as I was asked to help organise one (JPM/GS/MS/BoA) and the shit that some of these guys would say in their application was atrocious hahahaha I remember they asked in the form "why this firm" and around 50% of the responses (~ 300+) were like "first of all I love your firm i think it's the best firm in the world my dad banks with XX there and I have an account etc etc" honestly it was so weird. Assuming this continues to the actual internship application (which it probably does 99% of the time), the quality of applicants is pretty shit regardless from my target. 

One thing that I think might differentiate applications is to actually mention when, where and how you spoke with a recruiter internally. I was at an AC and they mentioned that this point was definitely what separated my responses from everyone else they had in their candidate pool because the others were pretty vague and just took recent news of the firm from the internet to regurgitate. Also, joining a club / society that is significantly related to the finance theme is a big push provided you did meaningful work like e.g. "analyst in biotech sector, pitched Strand Life Genetics with 12% upside" as opposed to "formatted powerpoints and learnt about DCFs". The latter is NOT going to get you anywhere whereas the former definitely will.