23 year old Actuary breaking into IB advice (London)

cheekymonkey101's picture
Rank: Chimp | 11

I have just turned 23 and graduated last year from a Russell Group university in the UK with a 1st class honours in actuarial science, having also previously done a 12 month placement as an Actuary.

I only decided in my final year that I wanted to break into IB, applying to FT positions in pretty much every BB and MM, but failed pretty badly due to not having any internships. I gave up on the idea and pursued the actuarial career path - I am now working in London as an Actuary since September. However, I've realised now that my heart is 100% set on IB as a career and desperately want to break in. Could anyone give me any advice on what my next move should be. My potential options are:

1) Apply for a masters in finance at a target in the UK - (LSE, Imperial, Oxbridge, cass) and apply for an internship for this summer, then hope to break in as FT analyst after the Msc
2) Work for a 3/4 years and fully qualify as an Actuary (I am half way through the exams due to university exemptions), then apply for an MBA at a top business school, then enter as an associate.
3) Cold call and try networking whilst working in my current job now, and apply to FT positions without any internship.

My aim would be to work in a London IB role.

If anybody has any advice on the above options, or any better ideas, then please let me know. The clock is ticking for the Msc Finance courses applications, as well as any SA and FT positions for next year.

Cheers

Comments (10)

Best Response
Nov 28, 2017

I was actually in a fairly similar position to you. I graduated from a UK target and only really became interested in IB towards the end of my degree. I initially worked at a Big 4 in London (in a team that I quickly realised I had no interest in), before moving to a tiny, no-name M&A shop. I'm now scheduled to join an EB's graduate scheme in July. I'll be 25 when I start, so will definitely be at the older end of my analyst class, but for what it's worth my thoughts are below:

1) If you can get into one of the universities you mentioned, this is a good way of getting yourself back into the graduate "milk round" again. The main concern here is that you'll be competing against graduates who will likely have at least one IB internship, so unless you secure some IB work experience before starting your masters, you may find full time recruiting very tough.

2) Personally I'd steer clear of this option. The actuarial exams are notoriously difficult and time consuming, particularly the later ones, so do you really want to spend 100's (if not 1000's) of hours studying for a qualification that's irrelevant to what you really want to do in the future? I think your time would be better spent elsewhere to be honest. On your MBA idea, I haven't researched UK MBA programs enough to give a fully informed response, although my impression is that they're a much more common method of breaking into the industry in the US rather than the UK (happy to be corrected by people who are more knowledgable on this though).

3) This is an excellent idea, and this is what I did when I was trying to leave my Big 4 role. I reached out to lots of recruiters and set up phone calls and chats with them. I also looked on efinancial careers every day for new IB roles that came up. Be prepared for a lot of rejection though - many recruiters won't make time for you if you've got a slightly different background. However, as long as you've got a convincing story then at least a few will speak with you and will hopefully start to reach out to you with ideas. Is your actuarial job in the insurance industry? If so, you could argue that this makes you a good fit for FIG positions (if FIG is your thing that is...)

If I was in your shoes right now, I'd do both options 1) and 3) concurrently and see how it goes. If you secure a full time job through option 3) then great, otherwise completing a masters and getting an internship under your belt is a good backup option. It certainly won't be easy, and you may have to move to a less reputable firm to begin with (just to get some tangible IB experience on your CV) before moving again to somewhere more established, but it's definitely possible.

Hope that helps!

    • 2
Nov 28, 2017
5etrith:

I was actually in a fairly similar position to you. I graduated from a UK target and only really became interested in IB towards the end of my degree. I initially worked at a Big 4 in London (in a team that I quickly realised I had no interest in), before moving to a tiny, no-name M&A shop. I'm now scheduled to join an EB's graduate scheme in July. I'll be 25 when I start, so will definitely be at the older end of my analyst class, but for what it's worth my thoughts are below:

1) If you can get into one of the universities you mentioned, this is a good way of getting yourself back into the graduate "milk round" again. The main concern here is that you'll be competing against graduates who will likely have at least one IB internship, so unless you secure some IB work experience before starting your masters, you may find full time recruiting very tough.

2) Personally I'd steer clear of this option. The actuarial exams are notoriously difficult and time consuming, particularly the later ones, so do you really want to spend 100's (if not 1000's) of hours studying for a qualification that's irrelevant to what you really want to do in the future? I think your time would be better spent elsewhere to be honest. On your MBA idea, I haven't researched UK MBA programs enough to give a fully informed response, although my impression is that they're a much more common method of breaking into the industry in the US rather than the UK (happy to be corrected by people who are more knowledgable on this though).

3) This is an excellent idea, and this is what I did when I was trying to leave my Big 4 role. I reached out to lots of recruiters and set up phone calls and chats with them. I also looked on efinancial careers every day for new IB roles that came up. Be prepared for a lot of rejection though - many recruiters won't make time for you if you've got a slightly different background. However, as long as you've got a convincing story then at least a few will speak with you and will hopefully start to reach out to you with ideas. Is your actuarial job in the insurance industry? If so, you could argue that this makes you a good fit for FIG positions (if FIG is your thing that is...)

If I was in your shoes right now, I'd do both options 1) and 3) concurrently and see how it goes. If you secure a full time job through option 3) then great, otherwise completing a masters and getting an internship under your belt is a good backup option. It certainly won't be easy, and you may have to move to a less reputable firm to begin with (just to get some tangible IB experience on your CV) before moving again to somewhere more established, but it's definitely possible.

Hope that helps!

Thanks very much for your lengthy and informative reply!

One small concern is that I am part of a graduate scheme. I have a decent gig at the minute, I do enjoy it - just feel that I should be doing something I believe I'm even more interested in. If I do choose to leave, pursue a masters, but somehow end up without a role in IB, I will really have crushed my actuarial career, if that is to be my backup option.

With my second option of qualifying and pursuing an MBA, at least I retain this backup option (which is a fairly decent option to have). So really it comes down to a huge opportunity cost, especially considering I am halfway through actuarial exams.

So did you get your role in the small M&A shop without any prior internships and just from cold calling/networking? That would be my preferred route if I knew it was even slightly possible. In an ideal world, I would continue to work at my current gig, whilst networking and building the foundations to move into an M&A role straight after.

With regards to working in FIG, yes if it was in an M&A role. However, I've heard that it can be quite difficult to move out of FIG if you don't like it as it's based on dividend discount models rather than DCFs? And yes, I'm working in insurance so that could give me some sort of an edge I suppose.

Sorry for the heap of questions - taking all of the help and advice I can get at this stage.

Much appreciated.

Nov 29, 2017

If you genuinely enjoy your current role, then I agree that taking time out and paying in the region of PS30k for a top masters in finance is a huge risk. It's probably best to stay in your current position, but be very active in looking for a new IB role.

I had no prior M&A experience, and my current role in the small M&A shop came after many, many conversations with recruiters. I also looked at jobs online pretty much every day (e.g. in the 15 minutes before going to sleep in the evenings). I did some networking and getting to know people in the industry, however not a huge amount due to the amount of hours I was spending in work at the time (this lack of networking was probably a mistake on my part). I'd be lying if I said my move was easy - it took the best part of 6 months and a lot of rejection along the way - but I eventually got there in the end.

FIG is definitely a bit more specialised than other industry groups, however this also depends on which types of FIG companies you're covering. For example, asset managers are fairly "normal" in the sense that the usual valuation metrics typically still apply to the them. Banks and insurers on the other hand tend to be the most niche. Having said that, a guy in my current shop previously worked in FIG and moved to a generalist role afterwards, so it's certainly possible to get out if you find out it's not for you.

Nov 28, 2017

Would you be willing to go into more detail about how you made the transition from no-name M&A shop to EB? I'm wondering if starting at a tiny place is a viable way to get into the more elite sector of the profession (BB/EB).

Nov 29, 2017

I actually applied via the firm's graduate recruitment process and I'll be joining as part of the Summer 2018 Analyst class. I'm an Analyst 1 at my current place, and would be an Analyst 2 by Summer 2018 if I stayed, so I figured that re-starting as an Analyst 1 at the EB was worth it given the enormous difference in reputation, dealflow, pay etc. between the EB and my current boutique.

The difficult part for me was simply securing an interview. Out of all the graduate applications I made, the bank I'm joining was the only first round interview I got(!) and other candidates that I met there had all interned / were currently interning in much more reputable places. However, once you get to the interview stage it's all about you as a person, so I practiced common interview questions over and over again and made sure I nailed all my technicals. My feedback afterwards said that it was clear that I had put a lot of time and effort into my preparation and they were very impressed by this.

I personally think any IB experience is better than none, so if the only option on the table is a tiny boutique then definitely take it. But it won't be easy to lateral to a top BB or EB, and you probably won't land a huge amount of interviews, so make sure that you know your CV, technicals, prior work experience etc. inside out, so that when an interview opportunity does come along (which it will eventually) you'll make the most of it.

Dec 3, 2017

Does anybody else have any insights they would like to share?

Sep 16, 2018

Hi there! It's a year since this post began, can you give us an update on the current situation, if it's not too much to ask? Thanks!

Dec 4, 2017
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