AMA: Non-Target --> BB BO --> BB ECM

What's going on everybody,

The WSO community has helped me out tremendously over the past few years, so I've decided that it's time to give back. Recently accepted an offer from a non-JPM/MS/GS BB in their ECM group in NYC as a lateral hire coming from the BO of a different BB in a non-NYC satellite office where I've been working since graduation.

It was an extremely difficult journey out of the back office, and I know a decent amount of users on here are stuck in the same situation so I'm happy to help and show that there is hope. Graduated this year from a top 100 non-target on the same tier as Drexel, Rutgers, and Maryland, and passed CFA L1. I also didn't have any connections whatsoever in high finance, so I really had to create my own destiny. It feels extremely liberating to be out of BO, can't stress it enough.

Happy to provide any help that I can with respect to the non-target/BO struggle, networking, CFA during school, or anything else you guys wanna know.

Cheers

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Comments (54)

Dec 8, 2016

congrats man. i'm curious to hear your story. can you just elaborate some more? GPA, how long you did BO work, what were the critical factors that you think gave you the interview, how you networked into NYC outside of the city, etc, would be helpful.

Best Response
Dec 17, 2016

Appreciate it man, I had a 3.5 cumulative GPA so nothing special, did BO work for a little less than six months it was awful. Having passed CFA1 before graduating definitely gave me credibility when reaching out to people and discarded the notion that I was just another BO knucklehead looking to get out. Also had a pretty compelling, well-structured story with regards to being in the BO due to a combination of being wrapped up with CFA senior year and the lack of FO OCR at my school. I'm very Markets-oriented and that really helped me to have casual conversations about the markets without much preparation which is important in ECM. Staying informed is critical for FO roles. You want to convince FO people that you don't belong in the BO, and people will understand that you simply needed a job after graduation. This allowed me to instill confidence in them forwarding my resume to the hiring managers, and I strategically reached out after seeing an opening online on the firm's career site. I never made any networking trip to NYC, only for the super day interview, and it was easy to take off of work for this. On a side note, the CFA is not relevant for anything IB-related, but for entry-level roles it is a differentiator, shows you have a solid foundation of financial knowledge, an ability to learn quickly and self study, and can prioritize your time effectively which are all important skills in investment banking. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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Dec 8, 2016

I worked in BO straight out of college---jumped out of a window. How did you manage to stay sane while you underwent the process to find a role you really wanted?

Dec 17, 2016

It was an absolute struggle man, there were times where I admittedly was getting very discouraged. ~100 cold emails led to ~25 networking calls which led to 3 FO interviews which led to 1 offer. Running out to your car during lunch every day to speak to someone I cold emailed on the phone became the norm for me. You just have to be persistent and relentless while at the same time proving your financial competence. People will respect that kind of tenacity, and you'll never fail if you never give up. However staying sane definitely wasn't easy at some points, especially while doing mind-numbing BO work while trying to get the hell out of there. Luckily had a couple of buddies who were trying to do the same thing, so we were able to vent to each other and facilitate discussion about our progress, networking approaches,etc.

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Dec 9, 2016

Congrats man

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Dec 8, 2016

I've found that I have disappointed myself at multiple points (lots of nuanced "rules" to follow, haha) with the larger/more established banks, that doesn't really happen as much the lower you go on the scale. I guess, I realize that the numbers game aspect is really what it is: you need high numbers of contacts to make mistakes and weed out the ones you would've never had a chance with in the first place. Did you get beyond a place of failure and did it just all happen at once?

Dec 17, 2016

Yeah I mean as time went on I realized what worked and what didn't. People who I reached out to initially gave me some honest but brilliant constructive criticism on all aspects of what I was doing. I continuously refined my networking/job search approach (structure/length of cold emails, seniority of people I was reaching out to, resume tweaks, reaching out to groups after seeing a posting online, becoming more and more articulate on the phone, enhancing my story, etc.) The entire process with this BB all came to fruition pretty quickly, and it was definitely surreal seeing one thing lead to another all working out in my favor after months of grinding away. Each and every person I spoke to gave me additional, valuable insight that I kept in mind, even if they weren't hiring at all. For example, certain bankers I reached out to saw potential enhancements that could be made with regards to my resume, others saw problems with how I was phrasing certain things in my cold emails, others nitpicked at certain aspects of my elevator pitch, others scrutinized my answers to certain questions they asked me during the informational calls, the list goes on and on. All in all, this repetitive stream of feedback allowed me to ultimately build a networking/job search arsenal that was unmatched with respect to what I was working with during the summer. An important lesson learned is to be attentive and extract value out of every person you speak to, regardless of whether or not they forward your resume/get you an interview.

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Dec 12, 2016

I just want to say I'm impressed with your tenacity. Congratulations on the new position, friend. You've certainly earned it.

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Dec 8, 2016

Great post. I never seen someone make BO to FO without internal mobility. Huge congrats.

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Dec 9, 2016

Internal mobility is a load of BS from HR at some firms.

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Dec 9, 2016

Congradulations!!!

I know what it is going from BO to FO, I made the same path,.

It`s not easy, it really is an uphill battle, so congrats again, hope you continue to grow.

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Dec 17, 2016

Appreciate it guys, yea internally it would've been nearly impossible

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Dec 9, 2016

Congratulations man. I too am finishing up a stint in the BO for about 5 months, I moved to NYC and took this job as a means to be around the epicenter and continue my networking efforts. I was able to land an offer for a MM firm in M&A at another major financial center, (Chicago/LA/SF) so I know exactly what you went through. It was definitely hard to keep fighting for it at points, but as mentioned before, if you won't quit, you cannot fail. I feel very liberated, the same as you. Congratulations again, and now the real work begins for both of us!

Dec 17, 2016

Congratulations dude, happy to hear of other BO success stories it is an unprecedented struggle. Best of luck to you that's awesome.

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Dec 9, 2016

BTW how can you afford NYC with a BO job? Manhattan is expensive AF.

Dec 9, 2016

Can't lie, it definitely took a fair amount of austerity in terms of my spending. It wasn't easy for sure, but doable. I just considered everything like that a necessary sacrifice in order to make the FO role happen. It also provided a good amount of motivation to get out ASAP as well.

Dec 17, 2016

delete

Dec 8, 2016

You don't have to live in Manhattan working a BO job, because you'll most likely be out of the office by 6/7pm everyday, which leaves ample time to commute to and from work everyday, living in places outside of Manhattan in Queens or BK or Jersey.

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Dec 9, 2016

if you were again in the same position and graduate soon without FO job, would you take BO and try from there? Or still looking for sth in FO, even if in very small boutiques?

Dec 17, 2016

It depends on all the variables in your situation, however geographically being in NYC (if that's your goal) is something else that should carry weight in your job search. Having a BB brand name on my resume definitely helped out when reaching out to people as opposed to a no name boutique, but obviously FO experience is FO experience regardless of where it is. But if it's approaching March-April and all you have is a BB BO offer and you really need a job after graduation, then take it no questions asked. Networking aggressively is what will get you out.

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Dec 9, 2016

Sincere congratulations! I've heard escaping the BO is a really tough slog.

Your follow up comments give some great advice, particularly with regard to being a well-rounded candidate. Because frankly, if you're non-target or making a lateral move, then that's all you've got!

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Dec 9, 2016

Congrats on the move.

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Dec 9, 2016

Congrats! Great post. +sb

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Dec 9, 2016

Congrats man! Could you talk a little bit more about your experience of juggling schoolwork and studying for the CFA? How much time you put in, any doubts/regrets you had while studying? Other recommendations for someone who is thinking about studying for CFA1 during their senior year.

Dec 17, 2016

Sure yeah it was tough during my senior year especially while also managing a job search for a portion of the second semester. I started beginning of January and I'd say I put in around the golden 300 hours, definitely had to make a lot of sacrifices with respect to other aspects of my life during this time but you gotta do what you gotta do. Kaplan Schweser is the gold standard for CFA prep, and I'd highly recommend the essential package for L1. The Qbank and mocks are imperative to passing the exam, after a certain point gazing at the notes starts to become a futile effort. I don't know much about your situation, however if you go to a non-target and want to differentiate yourself/essentially have a stamp on your resume that guarantees to employers that you possess a solid framework of accounting/finance/econ knowledge, I would definitely take the L1 exam. I would take it regardless if you're seeking to go down the ER/AM route, it is a wide breadth of material that will solidify your financial competence. It demonstrates to employers soft skills about a person that I mentioned in one of my earlier responses. However, think long and hard about your job prospects and current situation, as it is undeniably a huge time commitment that will require you to rearrange your entire life during your senior year especially if you have a full class schedule. There were times where I was getting down on myself, but sites like WSO and analystforum.com kept me sane and kept the notion in my mind that there are countless others enduring this struggle. Just gotta have resilience and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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Dec 9, 2016

Definitely would love to hear how you managed to interview for FO in a different state? Did you take days off?

What part of BO were you in? Do you feel like there's any transferable skill from BO to ECM?

I think internal mobility is tough to do since there is a chance that you burn bridges at both desks and end up fired.

Dec 17, 2016

Yeah took a couple of days off during this entire process, I really didn't use off days unless they were for interviewing. Luckily my office was only ~2 hours from NYC so it could've been much worse in that respect. I was in financial control - other than daily Powerpoint/Excel use, I don't really feel like there was any relatability from what I was doing to ECM. I wasn't doing anything on a regular basis that was very markets-oriented with no exposure to deals or client information. Once again, it was all about convincing them that I genuinely did not belong there, that I would be willing to work extremely hard for them, and that I knew my shit about the markets. I was even asked some questions about options/convertibles since they are covered under ECM as well so luckily I was heavily prepared. Coming from a non-target/BO background with only one lateral spot open it was critical that I knew technicals/about the markets like the back of my hand. Fortunately, I interviewed for this same BB a few months back for a lateral IBD coverage role, and my interviewers spoke very highly of me to the ECM group so that definitely played in my favor as well. Internal mobility wasn't really much of an option for me, I had to wait 12 months before even applying elsewhere within the firm and I was also technically in a 2 year program so that would've apparently caused an HR conflict from what I heard.

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Dec 9, 2016

Congrats dude! Were the 100 cold emails to alumni or just random people at places you would want to work? Think this same strategy would be possible for someone 1 year out of school (like myself)?

Dec 17, 2016

Thanks man - I'd say about 25 were to alumni since that's about how many people I could find from my school who were currently working in FO roles on the street. The rest were mainly people who shared something with me based on their LinkedIn profile (non-target background, BO at some point, CFA progress, played basketball, from Long Island, etc.). This would definitely work for someone in your situation, it was even a little premature for me to be hitting the pavement as hard as I was with only 3-4 months of experience, but that's how much I hated the back office. I felt like I was slowly losing my soul in there day by day. But to put it in perspective, cold emailing and connecting with someone after seeing a job posting for their group somewhere can really put you on the fast track - it helped me beat out ~300 applicants for this ECM role.

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Dec 9, 2016

He was actually surprisingly efficient when you think about it for only sending 100.

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Dec 11, 2016

Congrats! Quite inspirational

Dec 11, 2016

Congrats! What hours do you work as an analyst? And do you find the work interesting? Are you planning to stay in ECM or exit to something else?

Dec 17, 2016

Thanks man I actually start tomorrow lol so I can't answer the first part of your question. But honestly I could see myself being happy in an origination capacity in ECM for a long time, it seems like an interesting and fulfilling career trajectory. I like the idea of being in between the coverage guys and S&T and the offering process. I don't really have a strong desire at the moment to be in coverage/M&A/LevFin like many do on WSO, I'm just fortunate to have gotten where I am now with my background and credentials. But in a few years my mindset may be extremely different, can't know for sure at this point.

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Dec 11, 2016

Nice done, congrats!

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Dec 11, 2016

Congratulations! So cool to see someone with a very similar path as myself to make it to a great position. I'm a senior at a top-50 non-target right now, just took CFA L1, and I'm starting a job in a BO position at a BB after graduation. I appreciate the advice on how to continue moving up. I believe I will try to lateral after a while and if that doesn't work, finish up the CFA and try to use that to switch elsewhere, but lateraling is also a possibility. Best of luck in your new role!

Dec 17, 2016

Of course man anytime, good luck on the CFA and never get too comfortable in BO

Dec 11, 2016

Nice job! Did you have any finance internships before your BO stint? Also, how persistent were you with followups? Often times I get phone calls with a MD and then I am referred to another MD who is in charge of hiring (boutiques and MM mainly). Unfortunately, the person I am referred to usually doesn't respond to emails or phone calls. This has happened multiple times and I am not sure how persistent I need to be or if I should follow up with the original contact and let them know the referral is unresponsive lol....first world problems I suppose.

Dec 17, 2016

Hey yeah I had a BB PWM internship going into senior year and an online financial modeling internship during senior year, other than that nothing. With regards to follow ups, I've never really emailed anyone more than once. However if you were referred it would make sense to reach back out to your original contact if their referral didn't answer. However I would certainly just try to gauge the situation/tone of original MD. If he seemed like he didn't want to be bothered and like he just wanted to just give you a name so that could be the end of it I would just move on. Being too annoying could only hurt. However if it's 6+ months later there wouldn't be much downside to reaching out to them again, especially if u accomplished something in the meantime (new job/city, CFA, etc). Gives u a talking point and something to update them with

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Dec 12, 2016

What was the most difficult part of studying for CFA during your senior year? I heard a lot about it is math.

Dec 12, 2016

I passed the CFA Level 1 in college. The math is really easy. You just need to remember things

Dec 12, 2016

Damn it I was hoping the difficult part is math cuz im a math major lol

dont you have to be hired to be eligible to take CFA though?

Dec 12, 2016

No

Dec 9, 2016

You just have to be a senior to take lv 1. Have to be working to take lv 2 or 3 & then of course the experience to become a charterholder.

Dec 17, 2016

Most difficult part undoubtedly was juggling social life, gf, investment club, school work, gym, and job search at one point along with the CFA. Making the sacrifices during your senior year can be tough, just gotta look on the bright side and continuously remind yourself that you will pass and reap the benefits post graduation. The math was the least of my worries, use that financial calc

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Dec 12, 2016

Hey, I am in a similar situation. I am a junior at a similar non-target to the one you went to. I was doing an international internship over the summer, and when I got back I ended up not having a ton of time to network. I ended up having Supers at some top tier BB's and boutiques, but struck out.

Considering that I am in my junior year, what type of internship should I look for this summer to prep myself for full-time, given that I know I want to do IB?

Thanks, and congrats on your journey - glad to hear all of your hard work paid off.

Dec 17, 2016

Thanks dude - and honestly anything at a bank or valuation/transaction services at a big 4. Cast a wide net and utilize your alumni network, no matter what your school's presence on the street is. After that, go for other non-targets. Even if you land BO/MO at a BB it's not the end of the world, especially if you get a big name on the resume. Let me know if u have any other questions happy to help

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Dec 13, 2016

Nevermind

Dec 9, 2016

Why ECM over ER or AM considering you're doing the CFA?

Dec 17, 2016

Like I said before, I really like the offering process and being a hybrid between coverage and S&T. However, being very markets-oriented I could definitely see myself working in a research/AM/HF capacity down the line. Many will say ECM doesn't provide robust exit opps, but I disregard that stuff because neither does BB BO. Also, I'm in convertibles origination which is a little more quantitative/intuitive then traditional ECM so I could definitely see myself landing at a credit-focused fund down the line if I were to remain in this group for the long haul. As for the CFA, I I may have to put it on a temporary pause considering I have to pass 3 series exams in the next few months and since it's not necessarily relevant in an origination capacity. However I ultimately do plan on finishing the program at some point.

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Dec 14, 2016

Good luck! I spent 3 years in ECM. The convertibles stuff is probably most transferrable and allows you exits (at least at the firm I was at) into S&T / work with a less niche product.

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Dec 18, 2016

Congrats man, very well done.

Passing a level of the CFA in undergrad is impressive considering how much time you spend on classes, networking, OCR / interviewing. You'll have a lot less free time now but do you intend to continue with the CFA program? I agree it is not very useful in IBD or other fields, it does say you are smart and give you another feather in your cap.

I applaud getting out of BO asap and its your story makes sense, coming from non-target and needing a job, obviously you are going to go unemployed to continue networking but wanting to move into a role you want to be at longer-term.

Did you get any push back in regards to how long you've been at your job before looking to lateral during the interview process? I know there are a few people out there who aren't fans of millennials changing jobs every year / less than a year but in this case the story absolutely makes sense.

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Dec 17, 2016
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Dec 20, 2016