The best European city to start your career in IB/PE.

I'll finish my bachelor's degree next year in one of the top universities in the EU (RSM). I completed two internships - one in IB at the largest Dutch bank in Amsterdam and the other in IB BB in Frankfurt. I am aiming to secure a full-time IB position upon graduation. However, I am unsure of where to pursue my career.

I'm mainly thinking about Frankfurt (I speak German well), but I'm also considering Paris, Amsterdam, London and even Zurich. Which of those cities do you think will be the best choice in terms of salary, exit ops and the presence of IB/PE/HF firms? I anticipate that securing an IB position in London might be challenging as an EU citizen. Additionally, which European city holds the most promising prospects for the IB/PE/HF industry in the next decade? I believe London's prominence may gradually diminish post-Brexit.

After accumulating 2-3 years of experience, I plan to pursue a master's degree at a target school (LSE/LBS/Oxbridge/Bocconi) and try to get a job in PE/HF.

What are your thoughts? Appreciate your insights and guidance.

Most Helpful

London is the only relevant city at the European level. If you're French yes there's Paris and if you're German there's Frankfurt, but they don't compare to London.


European product trading desks maybe but for PE they’re in different leagues



Paris is almost on the level of LDN, only FRA is below. 

La france est un enfer socialiste surtaxé, il n’y a que les français pour croire que leur merde de pays est au niveau du Royaume-Uni


Paris is almost on the level of LDN, only FRA is below. 

Incorrect. Totally inaccurate. 

Paris or Frankfurt are nowhere near the level of London. London is the major financial centre for Banking in Europe.

Europeans will get angry at this no doubt but it's the truth.

London Sponsors M&A - EB

London is the best. However, a crucial consideration arises: are you in need of a visa or sponsorship? If so, you might want to try your luck in Amsterdam, Geneva, Zurich, or Frankfurt. Paris, while a great option, tends to favor French-speakers or those with French education backgrounds.


Thanks for the answer! As a citizen of the European Union, I would need a visa/sponsorship. Which European Union city do you think is the best when it comes to compensation and exit ops? In which of them does the IB/PE/HF industry have the best prospects in the coming years?


Quite happy with Frankfurt - good amount of options (definitely less compared to LDN but still plenty with less competition). Very good pay - on a junior level mostly in line with e.g. Paris, London and cost of living is significantly lower. Ultimately you need to decide whether you are fine with living in Frankfurt (imho better than its image yet still not comparable). If you are, it can be an attractive opportunity.


Thanks for the answer! Since your profile says you work in PE, do you know if carry is comparable to London? Is the salary in higher positions (e.g. VP) 20-30% lower than in London, or rather 50%-60%. How do you see the prospects for Frankfurt's financial sector - will it grow and become the financial capital of the EU (and will be at the level of London), or will it rather remain the financial capital at the level of Germany? Thanks in advance for your advice!


Stop right there prospect lmfao, Frankfurt will NEVER become a relevant financial center at the European scale like London.


Can't really comment on VP carry figures, but we also have a LDN office and it seems like neither pay nor carry is signficantly different between the offices. On Analyst level, I actually get more than my London/Paris peers while paying probably 2/3 of their rent for a nice appartment. At the end it boils down to whether you can a) be fine with living in Frankfurt (admittingly easier as a German) and b) whether your ego can handle that you don't work it the biggest financial hub in the region - frankly, I don't care if there are 100 or 1,000 PE firms in my city as long as I have still plenty of options, good pay and like my work.


Big thing to argue is diff. recruiting culture particularly between Germany on one hand and France and UK on the other hand. 

France and UK are super elitist and a lot of their hiring criteria is correlated with how wealthy your parents are. Frankfurt does appreciate more "workhorse" profiles, i.e. non-target Bachelor with loads of internships under his/her belt. 

You'd never see the top target -> spring week -> SA -> FT in a Frankfurt front office. It is more like: 

undergrad (a lot of non target) -> random finance/accounting internship -> big4 deal advisory/transaction advisory internship -> lower MM internship -> gap year with more internships  (i.e. lower BB or EB) -> masters in finance/account from target -> summer internship at top bb -> FT BB

Got to respect the grind, lmao.


Thanks for the very valuable information! So I suspect that recruiting in Frankfurt might be easier than in London. Do you think I will lose a lot by choosing Frankfurt instead of London (comp, exit ops, lifestyle) in the long term (I would probably settle in Frankfurt for a long time). Is comp and carry significantly lower in Frankfurt than in London (especially at higher career levels)?


This is ultimately a very personal decision. Some comments: 

- comp: in short term you will be wealthier in Frankfurt (drastically lower COL) long term there are of course much more high finance opportunities that can make you very rich in LDN. Compared to your surrounding cohort, however, you will relatively be much richer in Frankfurt than in London. There is just an insane amount of wealth floating around in LDN. 

- lifestlye: LDN is a world city and probably in the top 5 of most exciting cities in the world. I live in Frankfurt but you can't really compare those cities with one another hands down

If I were a few years younger I'd def. start in LDN. Just overall more exciting and more opportunities. For me it was never a big decision, however, because I've recruited for MBB and for that Germany is in my opinion a much more attractive market to be settled in as compared to the UK. 


I would also add that there is a massive difference between France and UK. Everything said above is true but masters are less common (and only 1 year in the UK). Loads of kids getting into IB from a BSc target with essentially no prior internship experience before their summer at the bank.

In France you can be the best from the best school, your chances are very slim to secure a seat with a Bsc and limited experience. It’s more or less a requirement to do a master (seen quite a few people doing 2 actually) at a top French uni and also to have some relevant internships under your belt already. 


That is because in France you do something called Classe Prépa (2/3 years of intense preparation) and then you get a school where you do Bachelors + masters (3 years in total + gap year "césure") so in the end, it is normal that no internships nor internship opportunities exist below Masters.

The way the system works also defines a clear Target-Uni list and Ranking (HEC,ESSEC,ESCP,EDHEC,EM Lyon, anything below is shit) and if you're in a school worse than EM Lyon, unless your dad is MD you can't break into good banking (small cap is always possible). 


in France the elitism exists because there is a clearly defined ranking, as the classe prépa system makes it so the 400 best pupils go to HEC, then ESSEC, then ESCP etc. So a non target uni doesn't mean you are intelligent but you didn't care, it means you ranked behind all the target people. 

The classe prépa system, in opposition to LDN is actually very meritocratic, as in the end what matters is that you perform the day of the "concours", and no matter how rich your parents are, if you fail you fail and will be at a shitty school. 

However the hyperrepresentation of rich parents in those schools is due to the difference in view to education (poor parents aren't gonna encourage their kids to learn in school, while rich parents are likely to do, with exceptions being teacher kids) , which is the same in most western countries, although on paper the French system is one of the best imo. 


France and UK are super elitist and a lot of their hiring criteria is correlated with how wealthy your parents are. Frankfurt does appreciate more "workhorse"

This is complete nonsense in regards to the UK


Career/Prestige: London > > > > Frankfurt (given you speak German) = Paris (if you speak French > Zurich (given you speak German) > everything else

Obviously London is the main target if you look at prestige and exit opps but given you speak German, Frankfurt can work too. Loads of PEs on Germany/Switzerland.

Money / Quality of Life: Zurich >>>> Frankfurt > London =  Paris and pretty much everything else


Thanks! Do you think that in higher positions (e.g. VP, Principal) in PE, the money (comp and carry) will not be much less in Frankfurt/Zurich than in London? How do working hours compare? From what I heard, the PE in Frankfurt has the worst hours of the above-mentioned cities. Will my career progression be much slower in Frankfurt than in London? Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge.


I guess you know that all MF PE have the usual policy "up and out", right? So there is always, depending on the grade, 50% of class that will not make through the cut. If you get as associate in Cinven, or Silverlake, it does not mean you will be there till your Director days, but rather you have 50-60% to get pushed out after 2 years. Where is a reward, there is a risk.


Frankfurt above London quality of like bro literally nobody is choosing to live in Frankfurt over London unless you're German


As a German, I can say that's a fair statement. However, he mixed money and quality of life (which is definitely interlinked). London has absurdly rich people and housing is incredibly expensive, so imho (did two internships there) you are living in a super nice city but cannot fully enjoy it. Frankfurt is significantly cheaper and nice places exists everywhere if you have sufficient money. So this closes the gap a bit. 


OG literally said they speak German (assuming has German/Swiss/Austrian roots). Most people don’t want to go to Frankfurt because it can be miserable socially if you do not speak German (and the career aspect). Otherwise, you are far better off financially and actually have a chance to have a decent flat, a car (that you can use on a daily basis) and even do things outside of the city without boarding a plane.

Of course nighlife and some other things are better in London but I would be very interested how many people would go for Frankfurt if they spoke English there too.


If you study at RSM, London should be definitely be achievable, albeit you being German the largest portion of Dutch alumni came from Erasmus. Also, you make it sound it’s impossible after Brexit, all the BBs are willing to sponsor visas. 


All roles are available to you if you fit the criteria. Visas will be given to any role in London as long all the coverage teams are there they will need continental Europeans for their language.


If your long-term goal is PE, you can pretty much forget Frankfurt. There are some funds there - for example Blackstone just opened an office, CVC has quite a local presence, also Cinven, and a few others, plus some local LMM/MM funds. But offices tend to be really, really small, with only a handful of juniors, if that. Most firms disclose their teams on their websites by location, you can easily look it up to get a feel.

London is just 100x bigger. And despite Brexit, nothing much has changed.


Would partially disagree. Basically every single LC fund is here in Frankfurt: KKR, Permira, Advent, Blackstone, CVC, Cinven, you name it - some others are in Munich as Bain or EQT. There are definitely fewer seats, but also significantly less competition (you need to speak at least decent German). I don't think your odds to get into a nice PE fund are worse compared to LDN given that you basically compete against half the world. But what is especially strong in Germany is the midcap segment - at the end, Germany / DACH has probably by far the strongest industry (especially if you exclude the financial industry) which makes it attractive for Midcap PEs


Italian here, with basically the same trajectory. Why do you think Milan is not mentioned at all in these kinds of conversations? I was thinking of going to BB/EB here after a master at bocconi and then maybe transfer internally to London. Do you think it is doable?


Personally, I don't know, but I think it's absolutely possible in BB/EB. Although Milan is the financial capital of Italy, according to a report I recently saw, it is not even one of the top 5 European cities in terms of job offers in IB/PE. I also heard stories of people working at MBB in Milan who earned €2.5k per month, which is close to the salary in some eastern European cities (e.g. Warsaw, Prague). However, BB IB pays money comparable to Paris, but Paris has a much richer IB/PE scene and is more prestigious and global.


I heard that pay in Italy is just dreadful even in IB (and as someone mentioned MBB too) with also very few spots available. I am also guessing most people have concerns regarding the country especially where the economy has been heading


Hey thanks for your opinion. Yeah i guess you're probably right, the salary problem is something that has not been fixed since we started using euros and well, the economy has never fully recovered after 2011.
I'll try and avoid Milan as much as possible but London is very competitive and I'm not that confident in my profile.


Italian here as well. Milan is not mentioned because, as others said, it is much smaller and not really open to international applicants, almost only Italians have a chance of making it there in BB/EB (with some exceptions, eg GS has international ppl in their Milan office). However, the route is always the same: you have to get an offer for an off-cycle first (close to inexistant summer internships), slots are few and competition is high. BB in Milan is almost impossible: they take very few interns throughout the year (as low as 1) and they usually come referred. Easier in some EB as they have more slots. It's a slow game: unless you have connections, you'll probably have to start from a regional corp fin/advisory boutique and then move up the ladder. Not impossible, just takes patience and dedication. 

Still, as an Italian enrolled in a master at Bocconi (Fin or AFC) you have good chances of getting a summer in London and plenty of time to focus on applications. 

Internal transfer, as far as I know, VERY hard, especially since they're trying to move ppl from London to regional offices. 


How is this such a heated debate?

Exit: London

Long-term outlook: Paris, Frankfurt

Total Pay: Zurich

Pay / COL: Frankfurt

Personally, I'd choose Paris for career S&T, Frankfurt for career IB, and London for PE/HF exit. Maybe Zurich for IB if I had some sort of connection to Switzerland.

P.S. London won't be what it used to be. But there is no way that the entire ecosystem will move within the next one or two decades.


Frankfurt has better pay and options than Paris and more options than Zurich. The PE offer is also pretty good in Frankfurt. However, a lot of BB bankers from Frankfurt go to Munich after a few years as the main PE scene is found there.

I think this is a personal choice, whether London or Frankfurt.


I partially agree.

Indeed, Frankfurt has better options than Paris and Zurich and pays better than Paris (while being comparably cheap). The PE scene is ok. Nevertheless, the number and diversity of exit opportunities don't compare to London. No MM or SM HF, barely any SS investors, and PD investors exist but their teams are very small.


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