Advice for Masters and IB

Hi guys, I wrote a similar post in the past, but I have managed to change a few things and was just looking for some advice. I'm from South Africa and recently completed a 4 year degree majoring in Finance (End of 2021). I became interested in IB quite late and getting any form of work experience was quite challenging, especially at the last minute. However, since graduation I spent my time studying for CFA Level 1 and passed the exam. Additionally, I managed to get a job as a corporate finance analyst (5 month contract) at a small startup company where im working directly with the founder. I recently sent in my CV to LBS as I am interested in joining the MFA program so that I can hopefully join a BB/EB after completion.

From reading around the forum I have seen that most people tend to apply for SA after their masters programme and then convert this into a FT offer. My main question is whether my corporate finance analyst job as well as the LBS MFA stamp will be enough to get a SA offer, especially since I will need visa sponsorship. My main concern is that I have no big name on my CV and will be competing with people who do and people who have much more internship or work experience than me.

Would you guys recommend I try my best to get into LBS starting in 2023 and network my ass off in london or should I stay in my home country and plan to get into one of the local banks or international banks here instead.
Thank you in advance!

Comments (10)

Most Helpful
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 14, 2022 - 7:12am

If you're really decided on IB, I would recommend to take a gap year or two before reading you master's. If you decide to read a 1-year master, you are taking a VERY high risk. Your master's will begin in September, while applications for SA open in August/September. With that said, you will likely be applying for SA positions before you have even started your master's. If you fail recruiting for SA, you are screwed as FT recruiting is open at the same time as SA. I would also keep in mind that most people who go to LBS master's already have really strong resumes and some even have full-time offers secured. Even if you have LBS master on your resume, you have no internship experience in IB

What I would do instead is take a gap year or two. During this time, you should put A LOT of effort into networking and recruiting for internships. Most internships are 8-12 weeks so you could easily manage to get 3-4 internships in during a gap year. Once you have your first internship, getting interviews is much easier. Apply for everything and don't be disappointed if you get to do your first internship in big 4 M&A or IB at a small regional boutique. By doing this, you will not have to bet everything on applying for SA positions that you honestly are not very likely to get given your limited internship experience. I'm talking about BBs and EBs now, it is much easier to get into MM shops and so on. 

Aug 14, 2022 - 7:28am
ForeignHope, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for the detailed response, I really appreciate it. In my home country internships are not as common as they are in Europe/UK/North America. Many of the internships last less than a month and the only companies that may offer the traditional 3 month or longer internships are the international banks, which have extremely small office sizes and sometimes don't even have any applications open for these. This is one of the reasons that I took a job as a corporate finance analyst, as it allowed me to gain exposure to m&a deals. Even many of the small investment banking boutiques here don't really offer internships and there are only a limited amount. However, in this country, fresh graduates normally enter what is referred to here as 'graduate programmes' and these normally last between 12 months - 3 years (local banks + big 4).

With the above info, my only realistic options for IB seem to be staying in my home country and joining one of these graduate programmes, which is essentially equivalent to the whole 2 year IB stint or completing my 5 months as a corporate finance analyst and trying to extend my contract for another 7 months which would essentially give me 1 years worth of work experience before my masters in 2023 begins.

One of my concerns is that, I don't want to spend 2-3 years grinding out the analyst years in my home country and then moving to london and having to do the exact same there as an analyst. I feel like if im going to get worked to the bone, I might as well do it in London where I'll atleast be earning better and get the 'proper' experience than experience the grind years twice. Please let me know, whether any of the above information changes your advice or whether it remains the same. Thank you in advance!

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 14, 2022 - 8:02am

I understand. The problem is that the banks in London will not be aware of your situation. All they will see is someone with one internship in corporate finance and compare that to the regular applicant who often has 2-3 internships in an IB/markets role. I come from a small country (about 10m ppl) where banks have small regional offices. While that means less internship positions, it also means that networking becomes more important. Most BBs have teams of about 10-30 people in my country. If I just network with 2-3 people, I already know a pretty large percentage of the employees. That helps a lot in recruiting. I would also do cold emails. Email companies for positions in Corporate M&A, IB, Asset Management, Equity Research etc. Tell them you're interested in an internship and send them your resume. I cold emailed about 80 firms in my country and ended up with 5-6 interviews at places that do not even offer internships normally. 

Also realize that you will probably have to work hard in your home country before moving to London if you want to be certain. I would recommend you to look at Linkedin. Look at the people from LBS at banks that you are interested in and see what their backgrounds are. Did they complete 7 internships before they ended up at the bank after their master's or did they have 0 experience? 

Aug 14, 2022 - 12:12pm
ForeignHope, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sorry, I just had one more question if you don't mind. I noticed that you said MM shops are much easier to get into. I know I originally mentioned BB/EB, but if I am not too concerned about prestige, is there any downside to joining an MM. I'm assuming the exit opps are much worse and that moving into PE for example after would become much more difficult, but with regards to salary and wlb, would it be somewhat similar to a BB/EB and is it possible to lateral out of a MM into an EB down the line or is that extremely difficult?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 14, 2022 - 1:08pm

I don't have a lot of experience with MMs, but the general input I get from friends is that MMs have a better WLB, slightly worse pay and often a better culture. Obviously, your odds of ending up at Jefferies Houlihan Lokey after LBS MFA with little experience are much better than ending up at Goldman Sachs. In terms of exit opps, you're correct. Moving from an MM to larger PE funds will be very difficult. Moving to very small PE funds might be possible. Moving to other industries will also be more difficult as the brand name is worse. Everyone knows about JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs even if they don't work in finance, but no one outside of finance will know about MMs. In terms of moving to an EB/BB, I'd say that it is very possible. I know someone that started out in big 4 M&A, moved to a large regional bank and then to a top BB (GS/MS/JPM). It is especially possible in times when the deal flow is very high and the demand for lateral hires is high. During 2021, you could have easily have made a move like that. It will be even easier if you target a lower-tier BB. If I wanted to be in banking in the long-term, I would probably go to a low-tier BB or MM bank as the hours and culture are often much better, while the pay cut is not that big. 

  • Intern in CorpStrat
Aug 15, 2022 - 10:37pm

Regarding a lack of work xp, what is your suggestion if post-grad (UG) internships aren't a thing? They really are not in Canada, and unfortunately our masters programs do not lead to much - typically B4. In my case the only thing I have going for me is a 4.0 and 760 gmat. 

That being said I'm not obsessed over IB, my goal would probably be playing the fintech angle (spent lots of time with highly profitable e-comm sites), plus have some analyst roles in a similar realm (analytics, telecom). Is it as much of a shot in the dark? MIM is also definitely in contention if its a better fit...probably is. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 16, 2022 - 4:22am

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