AMA: Big Four to BB IB

Hey monkeys - I have received a lot of PMs on how to network your way into IB from Big 4 so I thought I would share my path. Here's the high level of my path to IB without disclosing too many details: Non-target - Big 4 audit - BB IB. I was lucky enough to receive multiple IB offers and 100% were a result of networking. The basic keys to breaking in include:
1. Networking like it's your full-time job
2. Having the technicals down - no room for error here
3. Having a story that makes sense
4. Knowing the industry so well that you already sound like you're a banker
5. Perfectly formatted resume with strong experience bullets

If you think you can land a job in IB by applying to a post online - good luck monkeys. I can't stress enough the importance of networking. You have to network with IB professionals by any means necessary. My biggest tool during the process was LinkedIn and referrals from friends and coworkers. When sending cold emails, it's true that you won't get a high response rate, but the few responses you do get are all that you need. Leverage every single connection you make in the industry and don't stop until you break in.

That's a high level summary but feel free to ask away.

Comments (34)

Mar 22, 2014

should you have your technicals down solid before you start networking/reaching out?

Mar 22, 2014
MissMoneyPenny:

should you have your technicals down solid before you start networking/reaching out?

Uh, yeah...any other brain busters for the guy?

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Mar 22, 2014

sorry for the dumb question. i thought it was common sense to have technicals down before reaching out to anyone too. the sloots in career services and my profs at school have been telling me otherwise. hence, i'm asking on this site to clarify instead of further frustrating myself. appreciate the answer though.

Best Response
Mar 25, 2014
Flake:
MissMoneyPenny:

should you have your technicals down solid before you start networking/reaching out?

Uh, yeah...any other brain busters for the guy?

I have to disagree wholeheartedly.

If you wait until you are 100% ready then you may have waited too long. Networking needs to start immediately; it is far more important than technicals. I was trying to get into IB from Big 4 too, and had I waited until I was 100% confident with technicals, I'd still be working for a Big 4 today.

Instead, I started networking right away. I also hit the technicals hard right away. By the time I had my first ib interview, I wasn't even close with techincals, but I was close enough to learn about the process and I got better with each interview. Fast forward 1.5 months; I landed an analyst job on the buy side at a respected PE firm. By that time I still wasn't 100% technically proficient.

My advice is to NEVER wait for something. You have to jump headlong into whatever you are passionate about because you can always find something to prevent you from going for it.

Sorry for the threadjack.

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Mar 22, 2014

1) Can you take us step-by-step through your networking mindset -- how did you find people, what did you talk about, and how did you stay in touch?
2) How did you learn your technicals -- did you a course or something else, and how long did it take you? How did you keep technicals fresh in your memory after the initial interviews?

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Mar 23, 2014

m56:
Question 1 -
First step is to decide which city to live in. Once you have decided that, google every single investment bank that has offices in that city. If the websites have bios try to find common backgrounds or interests (college, big 4 background, fraternity, etc). You should cold email or LinkedIn message these people (regardless of title) introducing yourself, ask for an informational interview, and mention the common background/interest. As I mentioned the reply rate will be very low, but the few people that reply will be gold mines. One person that I cold emailed led to two superdays at two IBs within a week of my initial email. The best people to contact are those with Big 4 backgrounds or non-traditional paths that understand how hard breaking in can be.

Question 2 -
I learned technicals by memorizing the Vault technical finance guide and reading ibankingfaq.com. It should take about a week to learn the basic technicals and then you need to practice with mock interviews. You will get asked curve-ball questions that you won't know, but I wouldn't worry about those as long as you can answer in a logical and professional manner. If you are constantly networking you will get asked the basic technicals very often, so I had no problem keeping the answers fresh. Have your answers down cold (ex: walk me through a DCF)... If you mumble at any point during those answers you won't get any traction.

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Mar 22, 2014

Thanks. Is it true that when networking, only focus on VPs because analysts and associates have no influence and MDs have no time?

Mar 23, 2014

This is not true at all. I would say 90% of my networking efforts were with analysts and associates. Although they don't have the power to make the hiring decision, they can identify with you and get your resume to the right people. I would focus on associates and VPs if possible, and try to get mock interviews with analysts.

Mar 24, 2014

Appreciate you doing this.

Q: What was your 'story' - wanting to go into IB from audit, how did you sell that?

Thanks very much!

Mar 24, 2014

GTR:

I requested the financial services group within audit, so I was exposed from the beginning to the finance world and focused on it during interviews. My story was:

"I have worked on the audits of (insert financial service firms) and interacted with members of the deal teams. Although I like accounting from an academic prospective, I find the finance world much more interesting on a professional/day-to-day level. I want to leverage my background and expertise in accounting to become a member of a deal team and gain financial modeling skills. I want to be involved in all aspects of a transaction.. From pitching and doing due diligence all the way through closing.. Rather than just auditing the numbers behind the scenes. Also, I have heard from numerous friends in the industry that the IB experience offers a much more challenging and dynamic environment with the constant opportunity to learn. I want to be challenged, learn as much as possible, and put in whatever hours necessary now while I am still young to better my career and get the best experiences possible."

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Mar 24, 2014

any networking advice to people living in smaller cities, who can't really go out for a coffee or sth.?

Mar 24, 2014

For those in smaller cities, you need to take networking trips to bigger cities if you aren't getting traction through just LinkedIn and phone calls. I never did this personally, but I have heard multiple success stories and have also interviewed people who have done it. Once you have networked and talked with a few people in the city over the phone, you let them know you're planning a trip to the city to meet with people. Once you have 4/5 connections, you suck it up and pay out of pocket for a trip to NYC (for example) and try to stay with friends/family. You email every single person you know in that city to let them know you're making the trip and would greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet up for coffee and meet them in person. It is also helpful to name drop other firms you are meeting with so that people know you're serious about it and not just in town for an excuse to party. If you can meet with a decent number of people during the trip, you should be able to land a few interviews or at least have those people refer you to other firms.

Mar 24, 2014

How long were you in audit before you jumped ship? Any other credentials (ie. rockin' a 4.0 out of that non-target, or crush your GMAT). A little more background helps give people a bit of perspective if you don't mind sharing.

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Mar 25, 2014

I was in audit for about a year before I jumped and about 5 or 6 months before I started networking like crazy. As far as other credentials.. I basically had a 4.0 and had accounting internships every single summer of college. Also, by the time I had started networking I had passed all 4 parts of the CPA which was a good talking point (but also led to more advanced technical questions).

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Mar 25, 2014

Sounds like you had a pretty good shot as you started looking. Funny that you have gotten increasingly difficult technical questions; I have had the opposite experience (after ~18 months of work). Most people have assumed I know the technicals because I have finished my CPA. Granted, I am looking at middle market and boutiques which tend to focus more on fit anyway.

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Mar 24, 2014

@"CPAturnedIB" Thank you for taking the time to field some questions.

I currently am in a valuation group at a regional CPA firm, I have networked quite extensively and seem to continue running into roadblocks and I was wondering if you had similar experiences with any of these obstacles. "You have the technical experience but we are looking for a more traditional IB background" or the informational sessions seem to never develop into anything more than just that even after continued correspondence and genuine interest in the group.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Mar 25, 2014

Some firms will have strict requirements that off-cycle hires are laterals with direct IB experience - I would do one of two things if you hit this road block:
1. Move on to the next firm. If you aren't gaining traction you are most likely dealing with HR exclusively and they will not help you land an offer. There are plenty of IBs out there so don't focus on any one firm

2. You can say that you are determined to do IB and would appreciate consideration for the entry-level 1st year analyst positions for the following summer. I did this with one firm and landed a superday competing with a bunch of college kids. If you can't dominate an interview in that situation then I don't know what to tell you monkeys.

Overall, you will hit road blocks often throughout this process, but you have to keep trying until you get what you want. Go for the gold

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Mar 25, 2014

Thanks for the insightful information and congratulations!

Mar 30, 2014

Hey thanks very much for doing this! And congratulations for successfully making the move!

1) how often did you call/email a banker?

2) do you prefere cold-calling or -emailing and why?

3) do you recommend to ask specific questions everytime you call/email?

4) how and when did you figure out what IB group (M&A, industry coverage, financing etc.) you want to work in?

5) I assume you had to apply online dispite all the networking - what is the optimal timing for submitting the online application?

6) how many hours did you spend everyday on networking?

Much appreciated!

Mar 30, 2014

SpaceMarine:

1. I actually never called any bankers and would only send one cold email. If they never replied to my email I would just cross them off my networking list.

2. As I mentioned, I am not a fan of cold-calling people. I personally find it a little awkward initially and prefer to have my thoughts written in an email. It's also more efficient to email because most people don't have publicly available office numbers. Once you have a solid email template, you can alter a few things and quickly send out a ton of emails.

3. Always ask specific questions about the bank, the banker's experience, and any recent deals they can legally discuss.

4. I was just trying to break in, so I didn't focus on groups. If you get in straight from undergrad, you should do your diligence on groups (each bank has strong and weak groups). In general, I would say M&A/Lev Fin/Fin Sponsors will give you the best positioning for PE jobs. Industry coverage will position you well for PE jobs specific to the industry group you are in.

5. I didn't apply online to get interviews - it's not efficient and it will be very hard to land interviews that way unless your resume is ridiculous.

6. I probably spent 2/3 hours a day networking - this includes prospecting and browsing bios on websites and searching LinkedIn. Most initial informational interviews last about 30 minutes.

Mar 31, 2014

Hey, thanks for your time!

Apr 1, 2014

I know you touched on this briefly, but I was just curious if you felt as though the CPA was a distinguishing factor for you versus others? You already said that it as a good talking point and led to harder technical questions, but do you feel at all as though the bankers hiring you valued that knowledge or has that knowledge helped you at all on the job?

May 11, 2014

Big 4 taxer myself...lots of good info here.

May 11, 2014

I couldn't find this anywhere on the thread but are you doing your IB in a big city or a regional metro? Thank you.

Jul 9, 2014

I am in the exact same situation as you Big 4 audit... I am helping the advisory team in the summer but its for audit related tasks... Financial Services practice. I really want to head into Management Consulting outside of the Big 4 world. How long were you in audit (what level) before you could get out to IB?

Jul 9, 2014

I understand you went to IB but just curious how long you waited before you started making moves to get into IB

Oct 17, 2014

Can you share your templates for cold emailing?

Nov 14, 2014
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Jan 3, 2015