European Master in Finance programmes (pre-experience)

Hello everyone,
I'm currently a second year undergraduate student at Bocconi University, interested in starting my professional path in the European Investment Banking environment.
As most on this forum will know, differently from the US, where the majority of undergrads joins the workforce straight out of college, in Europe (at least continental) it is almost mandatory to pursue a graduate degree in order to be attractive to top employers, especially in finance.
I'm currently looking for some advice regarding the choice of a MSc Finance, since obviously every top programme in Europe still has its pros and its cons. To give a little bit of background about me:

  • Italian, 21 yrs old, Bocconi BSc in International Economics and Finance (Finance Major)

  • GPA: 3.8 , likely will graduate cum laude (28.5/30)

  • Incoming exchange student at top State School in the US (think Ross, McIntire, Illinois Urbana)

  • Decent extracurriculars, volunteering during high-school and board member of fin. society at university

  • Two summer internships, one at a financial advisory firm during my first year, another one incoming at an Italian Private Equity shop. Looking to do an off-cycle during my third year

  • GMAT simulation: 690-720

The Masters I'm considering are the following:

  • Bocconi MSc Finance: the "low risk" choice, since I'm Italian and already live in Milan; 60% of places in the programme are reserved to Bocconi undergrads. Very competitive/quantitative 2 years programme (two shots at a summer internship). Cost of around EUR25K, places very well in London but from what I heard it gives students an edge if you're interested in S&T, not so much if you're into M&A/Restructuring. My main doubts around Bocconi are: a) there's cut-throat competition between students (all grades are curved with a Gaussian distribution, so fellow students have an incentive to make you perform badly at exams) b) it is in Italy, and I have absolutely no intention of working there in the near future. Plus, opportunity cost of one year spent studying instead of working.

  • London Business School Master in Financial Analysis (MFA): recent programme, very career focused and hands-on. Incredible campus and perfect location for recruiters (I mean, it's London). Less academically rigorous, 9 months duration with the chance of extending it for a 4th term. Very expensive, PS36K (around EUR40K, + living expenses in London). Way more relaxed environment, less "nerdy" than Bocconi.

  • HEC Master in International Finance: I do not have much information about HEC, but it consistently ranks among the top 3 schools in Europe according to FT (for what it is worth). Campus is 30 min from Paris, and kind of ugly. 1 year programme, cost is EUR32K. My main concern is that I do not speak French, so I might be at a disadvantage during recruitment/less able to build a network with respect to Bocconi or LBS. Academically speaking, I have no clue.

  • ESADE/IE/ESCP: second tier choices, have no insight into any of those but would be interesting to hear something about them

Given my profile, and considering that cost is important but an overall secondary issue, which of these programmes would provide the best foundations (hard and soft skills/network) and the best shot at recruiting for an entry level position at an investment bank or (maybe) at a junior role in PE?

Forgive the long post, and thanks in advance!

 

Yea, I'm European and I'm one of those who are supposed to help you on that one in that respect ;) Difficult to answer given that I did not graduate from any of these programmes. And my profile is different from yours considering that I come from a non-target undergrad and I didn't do much during my studies.

I'm pretty sure that Bocconi, HEC and LBS will open a lot of doors. That is good news. Bocconi you're in a better position to judge than myself. HEC, given that I'm French… I don't know the stats but I think that a large part of the cohort is French, hence most likely to interact in French and not necessarily mixing that much with international students (well, I might be wrong). I also think it's more financial markets focused than corporate finance. So if you want to end up in PE, not sure it's ideal. It won't prevent you from making the move but it's good to know. Basically the MSc in Finance of HEC & ESSEC are traditionnally more financial markets/instruments oriented while the ones of ESCP/EM Lyon are more focused on corporate finance. I think EDHEC's programme is quite balanced too. Can't talk about the LBS programme. But I am surprised you don't mention LSE. I thought it was common knowledge that the best way to work at the City was to graduate from LSE? The Master in financial analysis there and i think the one in Financial Economics are probably the target gatekeepers to an entry-level job in IB in London. Plus LSE feels like "undergrad" and it will be quite natural to transition into IB. LBS feels like graduate school and it might look weird to apply for junior roles with such brand name already on your CV. And if you want to apply to an MBA or a post-experience master later in your career it might raise some eyebrows if people see you are already LBS-branded. Just my feeling.

In any case HEC/Bocconi/LBS/LSE will land you many interviews and none will be a show-stopper, quite the contrary. It more depends on affinity with the city, programme content, business school culture..

 

Thanks for your insight into the French uni's! I have the impression that HEC MiF is great reputation-wise, but as you said, I fear it will not be so easy to create a network there due to the fact that I don't speak any French. I excluded LSE (although I would consider MSc Finance, MSc Finance + PE and A&F, rather than the one you cited) since I have the feeling (and I also spoke to a couple of former alumni) than it is all about the brand, rather than the actual learning/university experience: teachers seems not to care so much (even if they surely have impressive qualifications), most of the class is Asian and again, they tend to stick together so not many opportunities for creating/joining a relevant network post-degree. However, I'd love to hear the opinion of LSE students/alumni since there are pro's for sure when studying at the London School of Economics. I will also include LBS' MiM into my original question, which seems to have a longer track-record (and a wider network) with respect to the more recent MFA, and has placed consistently into top BB/EBs in the past. Should I consider it as an alternative to a Master in Finance when aiming for a FO analyst position in London?

 
Most Helpful

All your "tier 1" options place fairly well in London, with a slight advantage to London-based universities. Since you do not speak French, I would rank HEC (and others) a bit lower due to the tougher mingling/ networking opportunities. Overall, I'd say moving out of Italy gives you a signaling advantage with additional international exposure.

MiMs are a bit different but can place into IB/ PE. You will have to pick electives to match your interest and will benefit less from the core curriculum. I would consider a couple (e.g. LBS, St. Gallen, HEC, etc. - granted you are allowed to apply to two programmes at the same university) as tier 2 options.

In the end, it will be a question of what you are willing to pay for marginal increases in exposure/ network/ fun during your studies. In all cases, it will move the needle much less than doing a US-based graduate programme. I would recommend applying to 4-5 of them and seeing where you get accepted.

 

Good point. I actually think he would benefit more from HEC/ESSEC if he would join their MiM rather than MSc in Finance. Why? That's because it's more the traditional model of the French business school and he would fully benefit from the gunpowder these schools can offer: alumni, exchange programmes, internships, broad & open curriculum… Additionally the French angle would be less of a problem because he would be part of much bigger (and international?) cohorts. Also perhaps possibility to study 6 months in London and land a summer internship there. All in all it's an option to consider.

 

Agreed that the traditional Grande Ecole performs better on some metrics (that you mention). The larger cohorts tend to create more international opportunities, and as far as I know they allow for enough flexibility to tailor the curriculum towards e.g. finance.

 

Thank you for your useful reply. I think your point on the "signalling advantage" is spot one and I have to admit is one of the major points in favour of going abroad. I'm also quite doubtful about MiMs; I feel that I should focus on building the hard skills early on in my career (a Master in Finance is most likely more academically/intellectually rigorous than a Master in Management), while the managerial/big-picture approach (which I kind of already have, my father tried to raise me with that kind of attitude) is best developed later on, maybe while attending an MBA, something I'm definitely interested in pursuing in the future. Any take on the distinction between MiMs and MFin? P.S. LBS MiM has a wide range of electives that basically fill the gap with the MFA in terms of financial subjects, don't know about HEC but probably the same applies.

 

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