Non-US IB Recruiting: Cakewalk or Lower Expectations?

Change my mind. In the U.S. it seems like you have to become interested in banking during your freshman or sophomore year of college. If you don't have the necessary sequence of internships, you're toast. That's not to say people who are late in the game won't break in to the industry. I feel as though undergraduate students in countries like Brazil, Germany, United Kingdom, etc. have it much easier.

I went to an international boarding school (6-12) and most of my colleagues went to university in Europe and South America. Most had hopes of pursuing investment banking. I talked with plenty of them who said at their schools, you apply for IB "traineeships" a month before you graduate, you do like one fit interview, and then start a month later. No technicals or tough phone screens.

As an American university student, I was like WTF is a trainee position. I heard even more stories from my old boarding school pals and friends about how easy the process was to securing these trainee programs. What do you all think about recruiting in non-US countries?

I do agree that the United States has a huge market for financial services, so I understand there are many hoops for students to jump through networking and interview wise. Most of the international investment banks offer these traineeships and expect nothing from you besides a strong interest in the field, which in my opinion, should be the case. On the other hand, making sure the candidate knows technicals can weed out those who aren't genuinely interested. I went on a tangent here but essentially I want to hear your opinions on non-US IB recruiting and if you think it is genuinely easier to be included. The US system feels so broken to me.

Comments (13)

Most Helpful
Dec 21, 2020 - 3:44pm
Gumball3000, what's your opinion? Comment below:

my opinion in this post was formed based on experiences in Europe

- I broke into EU IBD (BB) without any internships, I applied for internships but never heard back from any employer; this was never an issue for the bank that hired me. It felt like they saw my STEM degree and thought I'd be a good fit based on their assessment and interviews.
- I wouldn't say it is "easier", but a few things play into this: in English speaking countries, everyone and their dog is immigrating. Everybody claims to be "native" in English. In Europe, you are better off if you are native in the local language. Some industries and some employers have English as their working language, but they'd still prefer the local one. This drastically reduces the number of applicants in an employment market. Culture, habitus, et al also play a big role; this is a deterrent for guest workers, immigrants, non-natives and other applicants from the EU. I am not saying this is the right way of doing it, but it helps the applicant. I think London and NYC have more applicants in relation to the number of spots available. It is more of a numbers game. It also seems a bit unfair in places like London; all EU applicants speak English and their own language and can go there; while most UK professionals I have met only speak English. you can still make it work, but it is a disadvantage.
I had both technicals and several interviews at all companies in the EU. It felt less competitive due to fewer applicants and because my resume is fairly strong.
- "Trainee" programs: I believe I know what you mean, but the companies I have worked at didn't have them.
- The application process in each EU country is unique to the work culture, language and overall lifestyle of the market. You'd argue that the way things are handled in the US are also a unique way of doing things; they are just different compared to, say, Switzerland, Sweden or Finland.
- I have met EU professionals in IBD or other finance roles who have never had any finance experience - no internships, no degree in finance, nothing. Yet, they placed in a BB. The type of school and brand seemed to have played a bigger role.

  • 5
  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Dec 22, 2020 - 9:17am

So according to your experience, one can get in IBD after their BSc/MSc with no Finance experience in Europe?

It is difficult to dig the reality about the EU market on WSO, so many opinions and different views about it hard to focus on a strategy!

Dec 22, 2020 - 9:46am
Gumball3000, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It is more difficult than that, because "Europe" has so many different countries, cultures, languages, lifestyles and various employment markets even within each country.
All I can say is, it depends on each individual, each situation and each job/employer. I personally did my B.Sc. and started at a BB with no previous finance experience or internship (as an example, my plan did NOT work in London initially, I was transferred to NYC instead as FTE long after I started and only because I found some super-tiny internal mobility program).
That doesn't mean it would work everywhere in Europe. In more competitive spots like London it would be really beneficial to have the appropriate SA and network a bit to land the right FTE offer. In places like Zürich you might only need to go to the right school and get hired into a FLDP afterwards through the right program.

It all depends on the right time/year and the individual who can sell himself into the right role.

edit: forgot I had a friend with zero finance exposure who works at Handelsbanken (AM) in Stockholm. so yeah, it really depends on what place and what type of role it is.

  • 5
  • Intern in IB - Gen
Dec 21, 2020 - 3:59pm

Also, in Europe, non targets don't have a chance at IB. At least not as much as they do in the US. So it's a lot easier to break in in the EU as long as you're from a top school (less competition)

Dec 21, 2020 - 4:03pm
Gumball3000, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is correct, but depends on the country. There are EU countries with clearer league tables (like the UK), but also more egalitarian school systems like Germany or Austria. If you go to a decent university in Germany, you'd get a shot at a BB job in Frankfurt.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Dec 22, 2020 - 5:04am

That's true, I was mainly referring to France and the UK. You need to be in one of the top ~6-7 schools in the UK or the top ~3 business/engineering schools in France to have a decent shot at IB

Dec 21, 2020 - 9:57pm
throwaway101, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agreed. Canada has on average a much more educated population and the IB Analyst spots per year are proportionally lower than the amount of people applying for them compared to the US

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Dec 22, 2020 - 7:19pm

Canada has around 10% of the population as the US, so you're saying that there's less than 10% of jobs available? If a BB has 80-100 IB interns in the US, it would just have to have 8-10 in Canada to be proportional. For EB, 40 interns in the US would mean maybe just 4 interns in Canada.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Dec 21, 2020 - 11:50pm

In India, its downright impossible to get an IB internship as an undergrad [unless its at some small boutique]. All the banks only hire MBAs (for analyst roles!) and that too the top MBAs from IIMs and maybe ISB, (which themselves have a <0.25% acceptance rate). So, unless you are a top performer in a country full of a billion people, you can kiss your dreams goodbye. 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Dec 23, 2020 - 3:18pm

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