AMA First Year CBS MBA Class of 2017

I'm a current first-year MBA student at Columbia Business School. OCR recruiting week is finally over (at least for banking). Now I know where I'm going for summer, so I finally have time to create this AMA thread for prospective students interested in banking/investing/consulting/tech (I have good exposure to all of them) or those who just want to know more about social/academic life at CBS.

Background

International student (not native English speaker so please forgive my grammatical errors)
Prior non-business Masters degree in U.S.
Five years financial industry working experience in New York
28 yrs old male
GMAT 750/GPA 3.1

Social Life

Social life is awesome, especially for people that never had "frat" college experience. I know many people here think CBS doesn't have a community feeling since it is situated in NYC, but I can guarantee you that it is absolutely not true. I used to live in midtown and I know the feeling of living in NYC. However, living in Morningside Height is very different from living in the "city". It is almost like a university town that as restaurants are filled with Columbia students.

Yes, there are some local students spending more time with their old friends but many more people choose to fully embrace business school life (basically they tell friends that they are dead for two years). Also in the end, local students only account a small fraction of CBS' population.

Every Wednesday we have rugby happy hour. Bi-weekly we have CBS Socials (free food/drink) and after-party at the hottest clubs on Thursday night. After-party is awesome because it is cheap and sometimes private (e.g. $20 cover for Marquee, 1hr open bar, free table/champagne and 2hr exclusively for CBS students).

Academic Life

Due to Grade Non-Disclosure policy, people don't worry too much about class. At least for your first-semester core classes, attendance matters if you want to get a good grade. I wouldn't say that the core classes are too impressive due to my background, but some are more solid than I thought.

The best/most popular classes at CBS are definitely those optional value investing classes or hardcore finance classes. I will talk about that in the career section below.

Career

I will only leave some basic details in this AMA section since it is difficult to summarize all aspects of career planning at CBS. Feel free to post your questions below.

Banking:

Banking is more popular than in previous years due to a bump in base salary and "improved" work-life balance. Most Americans get the bank they want while this is more challenging for international students. The first semester is extremely important since you need to do a lot of informational interviews in order to get the real interview in January. Most people do at least 20-30 informational interviews but I know the record is around 70ish. Literally every bank comes on campus and each BB/EB gives out roughly 5-10 offers to CBS students.

Investing:

Investing is one of the most popular career paths at CBS due to its strong value investing program. Almost every mutual fund and some well-known hedge funds (like Appaloosa) will do their OCR here. Most smaller hedge funds will just do off-campus recruiting. I would say CBS is probably the best school for people who want to do investing without any relevant prior experience.

1. There are more than a dozen classes about how to invest and most of them are taught by current portfolio managers instead of professors. If you are exempted from some core classes, you can enroll for decent investing classes in the first semester.

2. The best thing about being in NYC is the school year internship opportunities. I can literally see new school year hedge fund internship posts every day. It is true that many are unpaid or some small no-name funds but that's the best chance to prepare a solid resume and pitch for summer internship recruiting in the late second semester.

Comments (52)

Jan 16, 2016

A few questions:

How many people do you think recruited for banking? Did you find people to be aggressive/unhelpful when it came to preparing for recruiting or at events? Did most people have multiple offers? Do you know anyone who struck our altogether and, if so, was it internationals or domestic students? How many are gunning for BB vs EB? What's the chatter around which banks/groups most people are going for?

Jan 16, 2016
AllDay_028:

How many people do you think recruited for banking?

120 show interest and around 80 are seriously looking.

AllDay_028:

Did you find people to be aggressive/unhelpful when it came to preparing for recruiting or at events?

From my experience, CBS students are the nicest during the recruiting process. Probably because we are required/have the chance to network every week, nobody wants to show off or impress bankers. We always let people in our circle (not every school does that) when talk to bankers.

AllDay_028:

Did most people have multiple offers? Do you know anyone who struck our altogether and, if so, was it internationals or domestic students?

Many people have more than one offer. It is pretty common to have 6-12 first round interviews and maybe 3-6 final round interviews. I know a small number of people who tried really hard but didn't get anything in the end. They are usually non-native English speakers.

AllDay_028:

How many are gunning for BB vs EB? What's the chatter around which banks/groups most people are going for?

EBs are extremely popular right now, mostly due to their higher pay and giving more responsibilities to junior bankers. But very few people only target EB or BB. Most people will network with and apply for as many banks as they can. I know people with more than 5 or 6 offers in the end.

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Jan 17, 2016
TechBanking2016:

AllDay_028:How many people do you think recruited for banking?

120 show interest and around 80 are seriously looking.

AllDay_028:Did you find people to be aggressive/unhelpful when it came to preparing for recruiting or at events?

From my experience, CBS students are the nicest during the recruiting process. Probably because we are required/have the chance to network every week, nobody wants to show off or impress bankers. We always let people in our circle (not every school does that) when talk to bankers.

AllDay_028: Did most people have multiple offers? Do you know anyone who struck our altogether and, if so, was it internationals or domestic students?

Many people have more than one offer. It is pretty common to have 6-12 first round interviews and maybe 3-6 final round interviews. I know a small number of people who tried really hard but didn't get anything in the end. They are usually non-native English speakers.

AllDay_028:How many are gunning for BB vs EB? What's the chatter around which banks/groups most people are going for?

EBs are extremely popular right now, mostly due to their higher pay and giving more responsibilities to junior bankers. But very few people only target EB or BB. Most people will network with and apply for as many banks as they can. I know people with more than 5 or 6 offers in the end.

Thanks for the detailed answers. I'm probably starting at CBS in the fall (deciding between there and one of the other M7s but leaning towards CBS). I am really planning to target the EBs hard (obviously I'll network across banks, though).

Any advice for what someone can do between now and starting school to get ahead of the curve/prepare for recruiting season? Also, does CBS have resources to help you hit the ground running when you start your internship (modeling workshops, etc)? And those people you know who struck out, what is their backup plan?

Thanks for doing this.

Jan 16, 2016

I went to a non target in NYC for undergrad as a finance major and I am joining Bloomberg Analytics. With a 3.7+ UG GPA, would I be competitive with my Bloomberg background and 700+ GMAT.

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Jan 16, 2016

I'm not application consultant but I don't see any big plus or minus in your background. It is too early to make any useful judgements.

Jan 17, 2016

How is PE recruiting for those with pre-MBA experience?

Jan 18, 2016
Boats and LBHoes:

How is PE recruiting for those with pre-MBA experience?

^ this. Can you please try to detail (as much as possible): which firms recruit? On-campus vs off-campus, names of shops, size of funds (LMM/MM/MF), range of people gunning for PE slots (#), popular classes for people interested in PE, how helpful career management center is, etc?

Jan 18, 2016
Boats and LBHoes:

How is PE recruiting for those with pre-MBA experience?

I am a 2014 cbs grad working in PE. I don't mean to hijack the thread, but I went through the PE program and I want to share that perspective.

PE recruiting at CBS is generally informal and most opportunities are found through networks. Most students have or develop contacts at the best firms, and the PE program has several professionals who work hard to put you in touch with people in your target firm. Through the PE program, we meet with professionals at KKR and other firms and have a chance to discuss deals they've worked on, strategies,etc. There are also opportunities to work with firms while writing cases on PE deals; classmates worked with 3G on the Burger King deal.

Friends got offers from megafunds as well as strong MM firms, and some people went to smaller MM firms. A ton of pre-MBA PE guys go into HFs from CBS, so that lowers the number of people going for PE jobs and our PE network is not as strong as HSW's networks. I don't know which funds recruit at CBS because I work in a niche area and never looked at the official on campus recruiting. I can think of around 8 classmates who broke into PE without pre-MBA experience, but we have a big class so I know there are more. I'd say maybe 20-30 people were going for PE? Maybe more?

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Jan 18, 2016
eja456:

Boats and LBHoes:How is PE recruiting for those with pre-MBA experience?

I am a 2014 cbs grad working in PE. I don't mean to hijack the thread, but I went through the PE program and I want to share that perspective.

PE recruiting at CBS is generally informal and most opportunities are found through networks. Most students have or develop contacts at the best firms, and the PE program has several professionals who work hard to put you in touch with people in your target firm. Through the PE program, we meet with professionals at KKR and other firms and have a chance to discuss deals they've worked on, strategies,etc. There are also opportunities to work with firms while writing cases on PE deals; classmates worked with 3G on the Burger King deal.

Friends got offers from megafunds as well as strong MM firms, and some people went to smaller MM firms. A ton of pre-MBA PE guys go into HFs from CBS, so that lowers the number of people going for PE jobs and our PE network is not as strong as HSW's networks. I don't know which funds recruit at CBS because I work in a niche area and never looked at the official on campus recruiting. I can think of around 8 classmates who broke into PE without pre-MBA experience, but we have a big class so I know there are more. I'd say maybe 20-30 people were going for PE? Maybe more?

I'm assuming the PE hires without pre MBA PE experience were at least bankers, though, right?

Jan 19, 2016

Thanks for this. I have limited knowledge regarding PE recruiting so appreciate your "hijack".

Jan 18, 2016

thanks for taking the time to answer questions, just added to the frontpage + will add it up top again later this week

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Jan 18, 2016

I am also an international student looking to break into investment banking. Have you ever had an instance when you got immediately told that the bank does not sponsor H1B Visa and therefore is not interested in hiring you. Thanks.

Jan 18, 2016

Most BBs and EBs do sponsor. Some EB (like GHL) and smaller boutiques (like Rothchild/BMO) don't sponsor. They will tell you whether sponsor or not before the first event.

Jan 18, 2016

Why did you pick CBS over NBC ?

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Jan 18, 2016

Colbert did it, why not him?

Jan 18, 2016

Hello,

Thank you for your informative post, I was wondering if you could shed some light on how you were able to over come a 3.1 Gpa. I definitely know the 750 GMAT helped tremendously and the work experience helps to. And what was your 5yrs of work experience in? IBD?

Thank you again.

Jan 18, 2016

Firstly, 3.1 GPA is pretty low but not that low. I believe it is roughly 20% percentile of incoming CBS students' range.

Secondly, I did have a master degree with much higher GPA.

Thirdly, I've worked in a very competitive environment last 5 years. I can't explain further since it is sort of unique.

Jan 18, 2016

For those looking for an investing role, with no prior investing experience, would the best path be: internship in investing -> FT recruiting, or internship in banking (to get modelling experience) -> FT recruiting in investing?

Jan 18, 2016

OP, thanks for doing this. Related to this, how difficult is it to get an investing internship at CBS, assuming you do not have any prior finance experience but have completed the CFA? Also, Columbia had Fall and Spring intakes, can you get two internships if you enter in Spring? Thank you OP.

Jan 19, 2016

I know several consultants got school year intern during the first semester. It should be feasible although you probably need to work on your stock pitch/research before school starts.

Usually one internship takes most of your spare time, so I rarely hear people doing two internships at the same time. The quality not quantity matter more I believe.

Jan 19, 2016

If you want to do investing as a career, you should pursue it at school. The modeling you learned at banking is not required for investment role. Believe or not, many hedge funds/mutual funds don't use DCF or advance modeling at all.

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Jan 18, 2016

What was your primary method of reaching out to alumni for informational interviews (LinkedIn, email, alumni association events, etc.)?

Jan 19, 2016

informational interview at MBA level is well structured. So you will usually get assigned to a banker by the recruiting team and start from there (ask for more informational after first one).

Jan 18, 2016

Random question, do you happen to know if Bill Ackman is still participating in the class that involves working in teams and pitching ideas to him? Also, do prospective students apply to the Value Investing Program before or after being accepted at CBS? So essentially, is there an additional layer of screening to enter this program or would someone directly apply to be in this program when they apply to CBS?

"Successful investing is anticipating the anticipation of others". - John Maynard Keynes

Jan 19, 2016

Yes, Pershing Square Challenge is still happening this year but I don't know about future based on his fund's performance :)

For VI, you need to apply for it in the end of the second semester. Therefore there is an additional layer. You need to show passion and effort throughout first year to be considered.

Jan 18, 2016

Sorry, I forgot to add this. You mentioned that local students are only a small portion of the CBS population. Do a lot of people travel in for weekend classes or maybe more specifically what are you referring to? I'm interested in the option of doing a part-time (maybe the more accurate term is Executive) MBA at Columbia since I'd prefer to continue living where I am currently.

"Successful investing is anticipating the anticipation of others". - John Maynard Keynes

Jan 18, 2016
SvenS:

Sorry, I forgot to add this. You mentioned that local students are only a small portion of the CBS population. Do a lot of people travel in for weekend classes or maybe more specifically what are you referring to? I'm interested in the option of doing a part-time (maybe the more accurate term is Executive) MBA at Columbia since I'd prefer to continue living where I am currently.

He means most people at CBS didn't live in NYC prior to starting their MBA. You often see people on here say CBS is a commuter school where there are a ton of NYers who already have established social lives in the city prior to their MBA. He's refuting that with his point.

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Jan 18, 2016

Thanks for the clarification.

"Successful investing is anticipating the anticipation of others". - John Maynard Keynes

Jan 19, 2016

OP, thanks for doing this. Related to this, how difficult is it to get an investing internship at CBS, assuming you do not have any prior finance experience but have completed the CFA? Also, Columbia had Fall and Spring intakes, can you get two internships if you enter in Spring? Thank you OP.

Jan 20, 2016

Incoming CBS student here. Thanks a lot for doing this.

  • You briefly mentioned that some MBA students without any pre-MBA experience in investing end up at (small / midsized?) hedge funds. How common is this if you do an internship throughout the year. In other words, do these funds often make return offers, or is this merely for experience?
  • You mentioned the interest in IBD increased this year as a result of an 'improved' work/life balance. Is your impression that there has been a significant improvement in the work/life balance in banking?
Jan 22, 2016
LiamNeeson:

Incoming CBS student here. Thanks a lot for doing this.

- You briefly mentioned that some MBA students without any pre-MBA experience in investing end up at (small / midsized?) hedge funds. How common is this if you do an internship throughout the year. In other words, do these funds often make return offers, or is this merely for experience?

It is not very common that you get a full-time offer from the fund you intern at, especially if you don't have relevant background (so the fund is probably small/no headcount). You just need to lever that experience to get interview from other shop. Also, if you are from some very specialized industrial background (TMT, healthcare, O&G), you should definitely take advantage of that.

LiamNeeson:

- You mentioned the interest in IBD increased this year as a result of an 'improved' work/life balance. Is your impression that there has been a significant improvement in the work/life balance in banking?

My impression is that banks start to care about work/life balance (due to the competition from buy-side and tech industry).

Some banks (GS, BAML and more) now have protected Saturday policy (7pm Friday to Sunday morning). At least what I heard is banks actually enforce it. Of course shit still needs to get done but the only time you need to work on Saturday is when there is last-minute request by client and MD needs to get approval from head of group.

I heard in the old days junior bankers work over weekend mostly because MD didn't plan well instead of last-minute client request. The new policy forces MD to plan in advance since nobody wants to ask head of group for exception due to their own scheduling issue.

The protected Saturday is a huge improvement to work/life balance because people are not complaining the hour but the unpredictability of schedule. Now you can finally plan something every week with your family and friends.

In the end, banking is still banking and work/life balance is a joke compared to most other industries. But at least the mindset is changing and work/life balance is not a taboo topic at recruiting event.

Jan 20, 2016

For the Value Investing Program, what percentage of people who are actually interested in it would you say make it in? How many people who truly wanted it didn't get in? Being that it's capped, its quite a commitment if you were to go to Columbia in hopes of making it into the program only to be let down.

Jan 21, 2016

i would estimate 3/4 of applicants get into the value investing program based on what I saw my year. The people applying are qualified (asset manager/research/PE/HF experience is common). My perception is that those without equity experience (macro hf/traders/etc.) had the hardest time getting in.

You need to clearly demonstrate fit with the program. You could try reaching out the value investing program heads and discussing your background to get a sense of your fit. Even if you don't get in, you can take 5-6 value investing classes with phenomenal professors and hf managers, so I don't think it's black and white/in vs out issue. I did not do the program, but I took some amazing classes that were the highlight of my MBA experience.

Also, a bunch of my friends with PE experience did not do the program and are working for solid HFs now. They just took a few classes like I did. CBS recruits incredibly well into HFs if you have relevant experience.

Jan 22, 2016

I echo what @eja456 said but want to point out that the application to VI program in the end of second semester is not the deciding factor. The process already starts when first semester begins. It is more like a self-selection process that only people with dedication would get in (instead of resume screening at application). It just so happens that people with enough dedication to investing are usually those with relevant background.

There are many "click-box" events you need to do to get considered by VI program. Some are very time-consuming so you would not have time to do any other things. However, many people get HF/MF jobs without getting into VI program (many by choice). The investing resource at CBS is not only open to VI people but also to every MBA students.

Jan 20, 2016

@TechBanking2016 - Can you comment further on the "improved" work-life balance in banking - with regards to post-MBA Associates?

Jan 21, 2016
worklogin:

@TechBanking2016 - Can you comment further on the "improved" work-life balance in banking - with regards to post-MBA Associates?

Not just associate-specific, but a number of banks have instituted some sort of protected weekend policy. From bankers that I've spoken to, some banks are serious about enforcing these policies and some are not, however, the work still needs to get done so it does oftentimes means longer weeks resulting from these shorter weekends. This could be interpreted as a slightly better work-life balance (read: very slightly) by virtue of junior employees having a bit of control and regularity in their schedule as opposed to absolutely none. The total number of working hours is more or less unchanged.

Jan 22, 2016

So I know basically "all" BBs/EBs are on campus. But do you actually have a full comprehensive list of all the banks that do OCR at CBS? I know it's the vast majority, but I'd love to see it listed out.

Best Response
Jan 23, 2016
AllDay_028:

So I know basically "all" BBs/EBs are on campus. But do you actually have a full comprehensive list of all the banks that do OCR at CBS? I know it's the vast majority, but I'd love to see it listed out.

That is a lot to ask but I will try (the weather outside doesn't allow me to do anything else)

GS/MS/JPM/CS/BAML/Barclays/DB/Citi/UBS
Evercore/Moelis/Lazard/Greenhill/Guggenheim/PJT
Houlihan Lokey/Piper Jaffray/Jefferies/Rothchild/Perella Weinberg/Baird
RBC/Macquarie/BMO/Wells Fargo/HSBC
PJ Soloman/Foros/MTS/Cain Brothers/Lincoln International/Raine

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Jan 23, 2016
TechBanking2016:

AllDay_028:So I know basically "all" BBs/EBs are on campus. But do you actually have a full comprehensive list of all the banks that do OCR at CBS? I know it's the vast majority, but I'd love to see it listed out.

That is a lot to ask but I will try (the weather outside doesn't allow me to do anything else)

GS/MS/JPM/CS/BAML/Barclays/DB/Citi/UBSEvercore/Moelis/Lazard/Greenhill/Guggenheim/PJTHoulihan Lokey/Piper Jaffray/Jefferies/Rothchild/Perella Weinberg/BairdRBC/Macquarie/BMO/Wells Fargo/HSBCPJ Soloman/Foros/MTS/Cain Brothers/Lincoln International/Raine

Thanks so much. This is really helpful. SBed.

Feb 4, 2016

Hi, thanks for doing this AMA. Can you share more details on the opportunities for international students breaking into IB? Mainly, what are the expectations for the non-native English speakers when it comes to having an accent and an overall level of grammar/spoken English? I work in tech where my level of English is not a problem, however I am concerned that IBs have different requirements.

Feb 4, 2016
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Feb 4, 2016