20 Most Frequently Asked Questions - London Edition
Currently bored at home due to the current lockdown. Thought I could put my time in between two models to summarize a lot of frequently asked questions.
I will try to answer these questions to the best of my ability, if you disagree with it or got something to add, feel free to leave a comment and I will edit this post. If in the same 'tier' note that firms/school are in no particular order.
1. What are the undergraduate/General masters target schools ?
The list below applies for everyone, as long as you speak the language from the country you study in.
UK (course doesn't matter at this point):
Targets - Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE, UCL, Warwick
Semi-targets - Bristol, Kings, Bath, Nottingham, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Durham, Exeter, Cass
Targets - UCD, Trinity
Target - Bocconi
Semi-targets - Luiss, Politecnico di Milano
Targets - ICADE, ESADE, IE
Tagets - HEC, ESSEC, ESCP, Top3 Eng schools
Semi-targets - Sciences Po, Top5 Business and Eng Schools
Targets - RSM, Erasmus, Solvay
German speaking countries:
Targets - Skt Gallen, WHU, Mannheim
Semi Targets - ESB, WU, FSB, LMU
Targets - CBS, SSE, NTNU Industrial Economics
Semi-targets - Lund, Aalto, NHH, BI, KTH
2. What are the targeted masters in Finance?
The list below only applies to Masters in Finance where you'll be targetted regardless of which languages you study - ie no one is targetted from the SSE masters if they don't speak swedish thus it is not included - a more exhaustive list can be found here
Targets: Oxford, LSE, HEC, LBS
3. How to get hired?
Ideally you do one (or more) Spring week(s) (in April), 2 years before you graduate, ie as a first year of a 3 year degree. To get such an offer you have to apply around October for the April intake. Most spring weeks can convert/fast track you to Final Round interviews for the following summer internship.
This is the best way to get a FT offer - or at least the most structured path. To get a summer internship either you make it through the spring weeks (lucky you), or you apply in late August/September, interview anywhere between October and January. The Summer Internship is a 10 week long internship usually running from mid june to late August.
You didn't get an SA offer, and you are about to graduate but lack IB experience at a good bank to apply straight for FT roles, apply to off-cycles. They tend to recruit at the same time as SA, but you can find off-cycles for any moment of the year. They usually are about 3-6months long and have high conversion rates as you really get to prove yourself.
So SA or OC
My rule of thumb is the following:
- You plan on doing further studies - go SA.
- You don't plan on further studies but don't have good work experience - go SA (unless they are a firm that doesn't take finalists because they have an off cycle designed for that - ie CS and their Autumn Internship).
- You don't plan on studying anymore and have a decent CV - go OC.
You did a Summer Internship or Off cycle, you got an offer and you want to go to a better bank or you simply got no offer (I would usually recommend going again for SA/OC in the latter case), you should NETWORK (yes networking doesn't matter much for london except for full-time). Most interviews for FT (from my experience) are coming from people you've networked with. They need someone in their group they know you, they'll interview you (I was asked to apply, and was told I would get an interview after submitting my interview), if you're luck you'll start interviewing late august and have an offer before your return offer expires. There may be a propper application process but imo networking + applying online is the key way to go.
In most cases you will have between 2-4 rounds interviews (excluding Hireviews). Usually a first telephone interview, maybe a second, an Assessment Center and maybe a follow on round after the AC (usually only for FT roles). In most cases I recommend being ready for all kind of questions, fit, behavioral, brain teaser, technical questions. For technical questions in most cases these will be adjusted to your work experience. But generally I would expect, perfect understanding of accounting, DCF, Comps; good understanding of LBOs, basic understanding of Merger Models. If you understand Rosenbaum and Pearl you should be fine - if you want to prep with a bit of Excel, do Macabus or Multiple Expansion, both are good.
4. What do we look out for on a CV/CL or in a Hirevue?
- Formatting - first thing I look at (no excuse not to use WSO's format - no I wasn't paid for this but WallStreetOasis.com I'll gladly take some of your money if you offer)
- Are you an interesting person (diversity of interests, activities, jobs, sports etc)
- Do you have relevant/applicable work experience (this will obvisoulsy depend on when you are applying ie 1st year UG vs final year master student - yes we consider that when looking at applications)
Most Cover Letters won't be read lets be honest, but here are my tips for them
- Formatting - are they one page? are they well formatted? Is there any typo?
- Content - Why finance? Why the bank&division? Why should we hire you? - 3 simple paragraphs that should be around 10 lines.
Generally regardless of what HR says, I believe that they are reviewed by computers, but if there weren't this would be what I would care about.
1) Can you speak clearly/are well polished - this is an interview, please wear a suit, tie and have a neat background and good lighting
2) Do you display enthousiasm? Do you seem passionate when you answer questions?
3) Content of the answer - if its behavioral do you use the star technique (that's all I'd care about tbh can't give a fuk about your story - I just want to see if you can structure your thoughts), if its news related how well can you talk about it, relate it to finance and how do you justify picking it (ie X deal was interesting to me because of X Y Z).
5. How to pick work experience? What is relevant work experience?
My rule of thumb is that people care about two things when looking at your past work experience.
I would usually focus on the following when deciding between 2 offers:
1) Relevant skills - Valuation, M&A process, FDD, CDD, running work streams, credit analysis, industry research, market sizing, accounting
2) Brand name - Firm and division
I am a firm believer that in IB people are smart enough to assess the combination of division + firm to see how selective the role was (for the Brand name) - say you did retail banking compliance at Barclays, well that's the same as doing operations at Tescos for me. So in most cases I would focus on the relevance of the skills over the brand name of the firm.
I myself did M&A at a no name shop doing deals in the ~£10-50m range and it opened a lot of doors because it was M&A, not sure doing compliance at GS would have had as much weight.
6. Should I network?
I am at a (semi) target
In my experience it is not required the same way it is in the US. Yet you should attend events on campus to gain insights into the firm. Some firms (CS, PJT and maybe more) will give interviews to people attending their events. But there is no point of sending cold emails to analysts to get calls with them.
I am at a non-target
At this point you may network because its not like you've got much to loose, and I am sure that someone that struggled to get an offer from a similar background would be happy to help you.
Implications of networking not being required
The fact that networking doesn't matter adds more randomness for the recruiting process. Some top candidates may not get an interview from top 3 US BBs but may only get UBS/CS and an average candidate may get MS for no apparent reason. I also have friends that applied with the same CV/CL 2 years in a row and the first year would get 0 interviews and a bunch of them the following year. The lack of networking creates information asymmetries between campus recruiting teams and applicants. But headhunters are well aware about that and therefore consider or at least are happy to speak to most people at BBs. I will get into more detail about this in section 16. of this post.
7. How does diversity recruiting work?
If you are a straight white male just skip that, and trust me I would rather not write about this but it comes up frequently.
What is diversity recruiting
Basically if you are anything but a white straight white male, you can be considered for diversity here. Be it for gender, skin colour, or sexual orientation, you fit the bill. Congratulations you are one of the choosen one to have better odds than other candidates and you gain access to highly exclusive events to eat some average snacks and bites in banks offices listening to a while old lady (or gay guy if you're lucky) ranting about how they value you. And yep that's it.
How does it work in practice
Lets take GS for instance, they want 50% of their class of interns in every division to be female, regardless of the proportion of female applicants. So lets say they take 100 candidates, so 50 males, 50 females, if there is 500 females and 5000 males applying, well as a female you have 10x more chances to make it than a random male.
What are the issues with that
Some candidates get offers just on the basis of diversity (ie spring weeks etc) as they may get easier interviews. So what you observe is that diversity candidates are (in most cases) the candidates that do not convert their internship. Furthermore it adds more randomness for the recruiting process. Some top candidates may not get an interview from top 3 US BBs but may only get UBS/CS and an average candidate may get MS for no apparent reason. Headhunters are aware about this so they consider people across BBs usually.
I will get into more detail about this in section 16. of this post.
8. How much should I expect to get paid?
Now that you've got the job or the internship - in most cases for both summer analyst and off-cycle you will be paid on a pro-rata of the Analyst 1 base. As an analyst 1 you get 50k base + a bonus depending on your bank, a rough number can be found here
And if you want to bitch about the fact that salaries are lower in London go on this thread
9. What are the best banks?
- Generally the top 3 BBs are the best (GS/MS/JPM)
- Then comes most EBs (exclusding those below - see the full list in 4.) + BAML/Citi/CS
- Then comes the rest of the BBs (DB/UBS/Barclays) + good MMs (Greenhill, Jefferies) + Macquarie (yes they do very well in PUI)
- Then comes other banks such as HSBC, Nomura, BNPP, RBC, + Solid MM shops such as Gleacher Shacklock, Arma Partners, William Blair, Baird
Most banks/groups above the dotted line will get you interviews for any kind of exits, so pick based on your interests, fit and where they are strong, more on that in section10.
10. What are the banks strengths + type of deals for EBs?
GS - TMT, C&R
MS - M&A, M&T or M&C, HC, Tech
JPM - TMT, RE, DI, LevFin
BOA - M&A, HC, Industrials, NatRes, Sponsors/LevFin
Citi - TMT, FIG, Industrials, HC, UK, P&U
CS - Sponsors, LevFin, M&A, TMT, Industrials
DB - Industrials, LevFin, TMT
UBS - TMT, M&A, FIG
Barclays - UK, P&U
EBs - in no order
Centerview - C&R, HC, focus on large M&A
PJT - HC/Gaming for M&A, Rx - focus on Rx mostly, yet is expanding their M&A platform
PWP - Industrials, TMT, focus on large M&A
Lazard - Pretty balanced - does everything one, of the bigger EBs
Evercore - Pretty balanced - does everything growing aggressively
Rotschild - HC, Industrials, Business services, Rx, mostly does MM
Moelis - RX - little M&A activity in the MM space, but good in Rx
HL - RX - an EB only for RX, MM at best for the rest
Greenhill - C&R, HC - enjoys some long standing relationships to get deals (ie Tescos)
Most EBs/BBs groups will get you interviews, so pick based on your interests and where they are strong, more on why that is the case in section 16.
11. How do I get into the group I want?
Every bank will have that structured differently (and it even changes every year or so, hence I will not put banks in there) but tend to follow one of these structures:
- HR allocation without preferences - yeah that sucks its the worse option, they usually ask teams how many people do they need, which languages, and if they have other requirments and problem solved. In this case you have little control and it sucks - but again, groups here are not as important as in the US.
- HR allocation with preferences - kinda same as above you don't get much say, but in most cases people are OK with their allocation with few unlucky ones. These banks are usually the most open to you changing teams in between SA/OC and FT
- Placement Day/Oriented Networking - you come in the office for a day or they give you phone numbers of people to chat to before you submit preferences. It's a mix of your preferences/teams preferences that will determine where you end up
- Intern pool - you don't get placed into a team, amazing you can work with the team you want, but odds are, other interns will want that team too. It can get competitive, but is the most meritocratic, best performers usually end up in the best teams. Don't be a snake in the internship just to get a team, I have heard and seen people not get a return offer because of such behavior.
Before any of you network to get into one of your desired team I'd check with people you know at the bank (ie past interns, friends, past interviewers) if the bank is ok with you networking with teams. In some cases I know it can backfire and HR will not be happy about it. No point on having a bad rep even before hitting the desk.
12. I am at the Big 4, how do I break in? How to lateral banks?
Let me start by saying that MBA recruiting is much smaller an non-existent at some firms. So to bridge the gap, firms will have to hire laterals and people from the big4. So you the odds are not that bad to make it to a BB/EB for you. Not saying it's easy but it's possible.
I don't know the exact details on how to lateral, but reaching out to people with the same background as you is the way to go. Some firms have jobs listings on their website/linkedin (usually BBs) and others use headhunters (usually EBs).
Sought after backgrounds - this is in that order usually
- BB M&A (moving upstream obviously)
- MM M&A and Regional banks M&A/LevFin (BNPP, ING, UniCredit, Mediobanca and the likes you get the point)
- Big4 M&A
- Big 4 TS/FDD
- Big 4 Audit
- Random M&A shops
- Other Audit
13. Can I move offices?
There is no yes/no answer. The truth is that it depends on your bank, analyst class, headcount and performance. But generally, yes you can. If you want to go to 'cool' offices it will usually be harder - you usually have to be top bucket to go to NYC (at least for my bank). If you want to go to Moldavia (never been it may be great but never heard of anyone that wants to go there) it should be quite easy. You get the point.
Other thing on moving to the US/other countries. Don't see yourself staying there for the long run. In most cases you bank will move you there for a year or two at best on a visa that doens't allow you to change jobs. So no recruiting on the buyside, to an other bank etc. Obviously that doesn't apply if you have the citizenship or permanent residency in that country.
14. What are the exit opps in London
- HF (L/S Equity, L/S HY, SS, Event Driven, Activist)
- Infra Funds
- Private Debt
- MBA/Further studies
- MBB/Other Consulting
- Corporate Development/Strategy/Investor Relations across large firms all the way to startups
15. What are the good Head Hunters?
For PE - KEA, Walker Hamill, Blackwood, PER, Dartmouth (Arkesden, more focused on IB though)
For SS - Hinton Rose, Angove Partners, Melrose Partners
For HF - Got no clue if someone wants to chime in, would be great.
16. How does PE recruiting work?
In London and more broadly Europe, private equity recruiting is structured completely differently than in the US, none of that on-cycle or off-cycle bullshit. Here, funds will recruit through the headhunters listed above when they need to hire someone. It may or may not be urgent, so the duration of processes can vary quite a lot. From what I see though, there are more people leaving banks in Summer or Winter, that is usually due to people banking their bonuses then changing jobs (in summer for IB thus demand to leave, and winter for PE thus creating roles available).
You can typically recruit in between Analyst 1 and Associate 3 for Buyside roles. The point you were all looking for if you jumped on here from my note in my 7th point- yes your group/bank doesn't really matter, most funds (if not all) will interview you regardless of that - what matters here is your deal experience and languages mostly (see Section 20). Funds do not need a pre-filter as a selection bias to hire candidates, as they can wait to hire more mature candidates rather than having to hire people that have been on their desk for less than 2 months as in the US, thus funds in the US need to rely on the strength of groups to assume that there will be a strong correlation with the quality of the candidate.
While GS/MS/JPM generally have better exits, it is due to the fact that people often joined these banks knowing they wanted to exit and that these banks have better dealflow thus a better CV for people in interviews, you will get interviews even if you aren't at these banks. In most cases speaking a language will help, most funds will say I am looking for a Native german speaker wiht 2 deals on their CV - therefore reducing rapidly the pool of candidates to interview. In some cases they even specify an industry group for the candidate (or at least the candidate should have an interest) - so the fund will be looking for someone that speaks german, has closed 2 deals one of which should be M&A, preferably in healthcare or at least with a good understanding of healthcare. As you can imagine you'd run out of candidates fairly quickly if you did this only with GS/MS/JPM - you (as a headhunter) would have something like 5 people to present to the fund looking to hire someone - needless to say that it's not ideal. If you want to read a longer thread on it just click here or here for why PE is more competitve than in the US.
And the cool thing compared to the US, is that only very few funds are 2 and out (H&F and Apollo I believe) and most funds don't care about MBAs.
17. What are the biggest LBO PE Funds?
Your traditional US MFs (BX, KKR, Carlyle, Apollo, TPG, Bain Capital, Warburg Pincus), US UMM(H&F, Advent, Silver Lake, CD&R), EU UMMs (Permira, BC Partners, CVC, Bridgepoint, Ardian, PAI Partners, Cinven, EQT).
18. How do I get into VC?
Before I say anything, there will not be a section on Growth Equity, simply because some funds hire like VC funds (as described below) and others like PE funds (see section 13.). So read both sections and try to figure out how the funds you want to target hire.
Let me explain: in VC, less people will care about your valuation skills, simply put what is the WACC of your start-up? What will be the exit multiple and EBITDA that year? Impossible to forecast that stuff. The core skill in VC is more operational, understanding what makes a business a good business and will allow them to 1) take market share from competitors, 2) create a market for themselves and so on. You get to care about profitability and numbers when you come closer to the exit (usually 5 years into an investment). Ok so how do I as an investment banker that only knows how to masturbate spreadsheets add value? And that still doesn't help me getting an offer at a VC fund.
As a junior in VC, your role will essentially to be able to 1) make your partners life easy (tracking KPIs, deals, multiples) and 2) source investment and 3) screen investments. Whilst 1) is on-going, 3) only happens after 2). So sourcing investment is something at the core of your role as a junior. Now you're asking yourself how do I source investments? Well the best way to do so I to know people and have a solid network. And how do they test your network? Well many funds will only consider you/people that get a warm intro to them. Either you know someone in the fund, or you know some of the founders of a startup they funded or something like this. Point is, your network is the key to success to make it into VC.
So if you did things well, you got introduced to the VC fund by someone and got an interview. Well you just did the easy part. VC funds unlike PE funds don't have a pyramidal shape but rather an hourglass shape - as many juniors as partners as you don't really need people to churn models and other junior tasks, and you really don't need mid-level professionals other than to make them partners in few years. So effectively in most funds you have about as many juniors as seniors. Often funds even have a bunch of partners and they just take few 6 months interns as juniors and that's how they run the show. Anyways back to interviewing, well most funds ask a hell of a lot of different things and it varies a lot, from pitching a sector/firm you would invest in, to which start-up would you fund between X and Y.
19. What are the good VC funds?
Answer is it depends - what are you looking for? More early stage (what I sometime refer to as spray and pay) where you do a lot of small checks, or later more growth stage deals? Is there a sub-vertical you are more keen on - Fintech? Consumer? etc.
20. What are the good languages? How many languages do I need? I only speak english am I stuck in IB?
The more the better. More seriously though don't jump out of the window if you are a full breed brit that has only ever spoken English and barely has left the island. If you only speak English you may have to revise you expectations a bit lower. Some funds only hire people that do speak multiple languages, BUT other funds have dedicated UK coverage teams (Ie Bridgepoint, Montagu) and will happily hire you. Best thing you can do is speak to headhunters listed in section 15. to understand what you can expect.
Below are languages in order from most usefull to least useful - and if you are reading this I assume that you all speak English.
- French, German, Italian, Spanish, Nordics
- Other languages
- German, French, Italian
- Spanish, Nordics
- Other languages
- Italian, Spanish
- German, Portuguese
- Other laguages
As most firms report in English you don't really need languages from what I hear.
P.S.: If you made it this far, thx for reading hope you enjoyed it or learned something. I may go back and edit some of it to impove it!