Ask an ex-IB MD anything.........

Mod Note (Andy): Don't miss his webinar coming up this Sunday! "Hedge Fund Investment Pitch"

You can ask me anything. I know there are probably a lot of questions you wish you could ask your boss, but can't. I was at bulge bracket IBs in IB, quant and sales roles. Retired after a few years of making MD. I'd like to help you know what its really like. Feel free to ask anything.

Comments (171)

Oct 18, 2015 - 3:59pm

If you have made it to the superday, then I wouldn't worry about 1 or 2. They don't matter anymore. You have made the cut to be at the superday, so now they will just compare you to the other people there.

The objective is to come out top 10-20% of the people going to the superday. In my experience superday interviews are like final round interview questions. They are going to test your analytical knowledge, financial market knowledge and fit with the teams.

The bottom line you have to impress these people with the fact that not only are you smart enough to be there, but also interesting enough for them to want to work with you 12-13 hours a day.

My preparation for this would be:
a) make sure you have adequate technical knowledge down - know what a DCF is, know what PE ratio means, know how bond price vs yield works. You know Finance 101. Read the FT and WSJ for a few days, make sure you know the terms. If you don't, ask your TA or Professor or roomates.
b) know what's been happening at the firm you are going to speak to - people in finance live inside their firms. There is little they are more proud of. The firm is their identity, so make sure you know all the great things about the firm.
c) figure out how you are going to sell yourself. The goal of the superday is to convince these people that you are worth hiring. So you have to sell yourself. I'd write down a few interesting stories about what you did in the past, problems you solved, people you helped. The more interpersonal the better.
d) figure out to be positively memorable. Each person you meet at the superday will meet 15-20 other people that day. Sometime over the week then they will have to fill out a form or submit a review of you on the intranet. You want to be memorable, so when your name comes up they can clearly remember all your positives and put them down. Most likely the people that you meet will not be the final ones making the hiring decisions, that's likely HR. But you have to make sure the HR team reads a great review of you.

Thats it, good luck.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Oct 19, 2015 - 4:30am

Sure, it is do able.
You have to present your self as an expert in some technical skill acquired at the accounting firm.
Just solve for something the IBs are looking for, could be: forensic accounting, could be corporate finance knowledge. Its easier to move into an IB seat, than a S&T seat from an accounting firm.

Also you could think about a MBA or a CFA.

Bigger question would be, why you would want to do the move ?
That's going to be obvious question people will ask, and you will need a credible answer.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Best Response
Oct 19, 2015 - 4:52am

Good question.
I would say its a few factors, and they change based on the specific role, but I'll focus on the broad ideas.
a) desire to learn / curiosity - finance changes so quickly that the most important characteristic is the desire to learn, solve puzzles, keep at problems. As long as someone is curious, they will solve problems and tackle issues they encounter. If they aren't really curious or interested in what they do, they will likely lack energy to accomplish what's needed. As Einstein said: "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer". This also means asking questions. I want someone who will do the work, but will ask questions. I don't expect you to know everything, so when I don't get 10 questions every day I start to wonder that either i) you don't like what you are doing or ii) you aren't actually bothering to learn or iii) you are too arrogant to learn

b) work ethic - you want someone who comes in early, works hard, helps others, doesn't complain at each step and is there till late happily. Look finance isn't rocket science. It really isn't that hard. Anyone who can apply themselves to the problems at hand will succeed. I just want someone willing to put in the hours. I want to see where you showed work ethic or dedication to a task in the past.

c) humble - being humble doesn't mean you think you less of yourself. By humble I mean someone who understands that in finance you are never finished, you never know everything. There is always something else to do, there is always something new to learn. Simple ways to check and show if you are humble: a) do you take a notepad to every meeting, are you taking notes or doodling b) when your assigned project is done, are you asking for more, reading up on the next thing or surfing the web c) Are you trying to help others learn, for example teaching interns, or are you self satisfied with who you are.

d) trust worthy - analysts are some of the most important people inside a bank. Why ? They do a lot of the work, sometimes most of the mission critical work. If the presentation or analysis is wrong, the whole thing falls apart. I need to be able to trust my analyst implicitly. This is critical to your career because the analyst that is trusted gets the most critical projects and is involved in more high value things. The analyst trusted the least, gets the easy, low value stuff, cause he can't be trusted with the rest. Trust needs to be built over time, but you can show yourself to be trust worthy by doing one simple thing: Always do what you said you were going to do.

Hope that helps

What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Oct 20, 2015 - 3:42am

Lateraling externally after one year is hard and I don't recommend it. You are better off trying to make a move internally. Is there nothing else you can do inside where you are at the moment ? The grass seems greener elsewhere, but it isn't.

In your shoes, I would:
a) connect with alumni in general, not just the ones who made the move. In situations like this its the weak links that matter more. So just connect with, get referrals to everyone at various BB or EBs, even if its not in NYC.
b) connect with some head hunters. You don't need to ask them for a job, just swap information. Tell them the various interesting people at your current shop and on the street and ask them for the opportunities out there.
c) Figure out how you would position yourself infront of someone hiring you. Why should the pick you versus someone else. I'd deal with this in two ways: (i) figure out the sorts of things people do there, how would your job be different there versus currently (ii) go get those skills and new skills.

You are going to get hired for your attitude, work ethic and skills. So if you can go and develop (c), then you have a strong product you can monetize through (a) and (b).

What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Oct 27, 2015 - 11:16am

I'd actually disagree that lateraling externally after one year is difficult in this market and hiring environment. M&A and banking teams are hiring more analysts than they have in the past few years and at the same time, are losing more analysts than usual due to perceived notions that the finance is not as prestigious or lucrative as it was in the past.

The move is considerably easier if you are currently in investment banking and in the same city but if not, I'm sure hitting the pavement and networking (the steps given by wilowallstreet are fantastic) will get you where you need to go.

I made a similar move and while the grass was greener for me, I concur with wilowallstreet that that isn't always the case

Oct 20, 2015 - 3:45am

It is possible, I have seen it done. But its not easy.
Its a couple of steps, but think of it as what are the needs of the IBD group you want to move to, and therefore what skills you need to have and what things do you need to be able to accomplish for you to be a good fit for them.
Its all about positioning yourself as someone who can add value to them, and be more valuable to them inside IB then where you are now.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 20, 2015 - 3:55am

that's a good question, since we are getting to that time of year. Firstly at analyst level you usually have three buckets, sometimes four. A, B, C, D. Depending on the year it is, that means A=+20-25%, B=+10-15%, C=flat, D=down or zero. The goal is to get put into the 1st bucket. For the most part, it doesnt come down to the end of the year. You should already have some what an idea how you have done, and what people think of you. Banks are small places, so everyone usually knows how you are doing. Having said that your question is more tactical in terms of what would make a VP/MD fight to put his analyst in 'A' to make sure they got paid.
i) flight risk = is this person likely to leave to another bank. The extra money is worth it if it means not losing your analyst. Especially since at most banks, analyst / associates are paid from a global pool, not out of the business P&L
ii) beyond the call of duty = has this person delivered for me beyond the call of duty. Have they worked harder, smarter, better. Do they have a great work ethic.
iii) quality of work = has this person always produced high quality work, and when it hasn't been, have they fixed it immediately.
iv) future at the firm = does this person have a long future at the firm. Is it important to retain them and make sure they move forward and grow
v) team player = does this person make things happen, and bring people together, or are they a negative force. Do they cause more agitation in the team than the value they add.
vi) compliance = have they stayed clean around compliance and regulatory issues.

Those are about the main things. But I want to highlight that you earn your bonus throughout the year, not at the end. People aren't impressed by last minute theatrics.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Oct 19, 2015 - 5:39pm

Your comp (split into base and bonus) for each year from VP through to MD?

Those who can, do. Those who can't, post threads about how to do it on WSO.
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Oct 20, 2015 - 1:40pm

That's a good one.
They were good numbers.
When we know each other better, I can tell you ;-)

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 19, 2015 - 7:16pm

I graduated from a non target (finance&biology) and am currently doing a one year masters program at Harvard/Yale/Princeton- in something non-finance related. I have the technical knowledge down and had some previous finance internships. Do you think i will be able to secure a BB Investment Banking job and will this re-branding help during recruiting?

Oct 20, 2015 - 1:44pm

Its possible, but you have to be targeted about it.
My first question would be you seem torn between finance and biology, so are you sure you want to do IBD ?
If so, then you should probably add a CFA too.
The hardest part is getting your resume infront of people.
Recruiters wont come to this program I think to hire for IBD. So you will have to go to them.
So how best to do that. I don't know if you have contact there, or can get in through your finance internships.
Bottom line you have the qualifications for it, but whether you can convince someone & differentiate yourself will be the key.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 20, 2015 - 1:49pm

Honestly I don't remember them. I don't think that many college students actually reached out. But look if this is about how to have a good coffee chat, then the only way to be good is to fail a few times. That's sort of the trick to life in general. As the saying goes: fail early and fail often. You are going to be much better off taking risks and failing now then in 5 or 10yrs time.

As for how to have a good coffee chat:
a) ask good questions - not something you could read on a website or book
b) be professional
c) help them in some way. give something back. If nothing else buy them the coffee and send a thank you car
d) have high energy, don't spend the time talking about yourself, and don't complain about anything

that's it

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 20, 2015 - 12:37pm
  1. Programming skills. Would you invest slightly (understanding but can't program well), moderately (can program OK) or heavily (could contribute to/get hired as a developer at a start-up) if you were an undergraduate student today set on going into IBD?

  2. Energy (Oil & Gas) industry is drastically smaller in 2050 in favor of renewable energy or nuclear (no nuclear waste). Likely in your opinion or no?

  3. Is biotech: stabilizing or just a minor setback for a major comeback (long term).

  4. Vinod Khosla (Venture Capitalist) is very bearish on the future of IBD/MBB/S&T. If you're familiar with his stance, what do you think about it? If not, feel free to ignore.

You speak in in varying levels of verbosity.You often adopt the typing quirks of others as you find it boring to settle on styles.
Oct 20, 2015 - 1:53pm
  1. slightly. just know excel VBA
  2. likely, though does it matter. You will be over 60. I might be dead.
  3. what the stock market does is different from the real economy. biotech wont die, just like the internet didn't die in 2000
  4. not familiar with his stance, but people said the same thing about VCs in 2000-2002. sometimes people just talk their own book.
What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Oct 20, 2015 - 1:55pm

sure. that's what MBAs are for.
IBs recruit from MBA schools all the time.
best to do it as you are graduating, since on campus works recruiting works well.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 20, 2015 - 12:44pm

From what I understand, many BB analysts have their sights set on exit opps from the very beginning. How did you as a Managing Director feel about this? Were you supportive of it or did you wish the analysts were more invested in your firm for the long haul? Or was it a non-issue?

In addition, I noticed in your last response that one of your criteria was an analyst's long-term commitment to the firm. How would that apply to the many analysts who compete for the top bucket for exit opps? Do they try to seem as though they want to stay to become associates or are they genuine?

Do Managing Directors ever take pride in the private equity placement of their analysts?

Oct 21, 2015 - 4:26am

Look I think as an IB firm we invest in our people, and the last thing you want is to have someone leave. You have to then re-invest bringing someone else upto speed. So the incentive is to keep someone as long as possible. Plus at a human level its just about loyalty and trust. This takes time to build up internally and with clients, so the longer someone stays the higher their value generally.

Most associates playing the game aren't genuine. They get the high rankings to get good reviews, client exposure and bonuses and then decide they want to leave.

I think when associates leave, its all about how they were before they announced their departure and how they handle themselves from then on. I take pride in the ones that had good relationships, manage the exit like a professional and maintain close ties. If you show no concern for the firm and team, then we don't really care.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 20, 2015 - 12:57pm

wilowallstreet Thank You for your time in answering questions.

I am currently working within the O&G industry in a Business Development role with dual responsibilities in supporting sales and sourcing for M&A opportunities. I want to make the switch to investment banking in order to be a part of M&A transactions and to apply my industry knowledge in an advisory setting.

I'm having a difficult time "breaking in" and coming from a local, non-target have been told either to get an MBA or try another BB.

As an MD what advice would you give someone in my situation (I do have a Finance degree with a concentration in the Energy industry and have transferable skills for IB).

Do I accept my situation and get an MBA to break in?

Oct 21, 2015 - 4:38am

I think sending a resume in directly isn't the best strategy.
The initial people looking at your resume may not have the vision to understand the fit, so you have to be more targeted, because you are going for a very specific niche.

The way to break in from where you are is to figure out how you can impress the O&G industry banker at the IBs that you are a good choice for the team. That's where the bar is lowest to hire you, so you should attack there.

here's my approach:
A) Find your target
1) make a list of the firms you want to go to
2) find the people inside your firm who deal with banks / IBs, use those connections
3) find the specific teams and people you would be working with
4) see if you can get their contact details or find them on LinkedIn

B) Figure out your approach
1) we have to hook the people we identified in (A), so understand their needs and how you can fulfil them
2) Put together that solution for these people
I think you have a perfect role to fit in IBD because you think like the banker's clients.
These guys would love to be in the heads of their clients and you know what that looks like.

Hope that helps

What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Oct 21, 2015 - 9:07am

wilowallstreet that is solid advice and thank you for the feedback. I agree with your "think like your client" approach as I believe this will set me apart from a newly minted graduated coming out of undergrad business school given my experiences in the industry.

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Oct 20, 2015 - 1:32pm

When analysts leave early, what is the right way and wrong way to do so (if there even is a right way)? I've been getting a bunch of headhunter/recruiter emails already, and while I know analyst stints are supposed to be for 2 years, it's pretty tempting to think about leaving early when you're in the shit and it's 3am.

Might be banker/group specific for sure, but perhaps if you could elaborate on your experiences as a senior banker on how to best have an amicable departure before 2 years.

Thanks in advance.

Oct 23, 2015 - 4:29am

Look firstly the grass will always look greener - no matter where you are and what you are doing. check out this article:…

so firstly if you are thinking about moving do your due diligence. I have seen too many people 'tricked' into moving by a head hunter painting a rosy picture of a new place that didn't materialize. So before you move do your own diligence. Find people doing the job you want to do at the firm you want to move to. Figure out how their life is better / worse then yours. What are their career prospects vs yours.

If after doing this, it really looks like you should leave, then PM and we can figure out a solution. But remember this, the first few years are meant to be bad. It is a test, you are meant to survive it. It is not meant to be easy and will not be any better at other places.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 20, 2015 - 2:13pm

Do you think that a lot of guys who made it in banking would be richer if they had taken that work ethic and all that talent and applied them to, I don't know, something less glamorous like taking out a loan and buying and managing a junkyard?

Oct 23, 2015 - 4:12am

I think that's a fair question and I have often wondered that myself.
I think finance probably attracts people who like numbers, money, but aren't maybe as entrepreneurial.
I think finance used to be a reasonably decent way of making good money, it is probably past that point in the short/medium term.
So yes I think more people should be taking that loan and buying the junkyard.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 20, 2015 - 2:38pm

Thanks a lot for doing this, much appr ciated from someone at your level.

My questions:
1) Do you have a family? Would you like to have spent more time with them?
2) Are you proud of what you've done so far?
3) What's your opinion about B4s partners, professionally speaking?
4) What would you do differently if you had the chance to go back and start again?

Again, thanks a lot.

Oct 23, 2015 - 4:17am

1) yes - I see them quite a bit, and look most jobs these days are 830-630 anyway. So for the maybe 3-4 hr extra hours you put in a day - say 30-40% more, you can get paid 100-400% more. The math makes sense, but it depends on how you value family time.
2) I am proud of what I have done. I didn't cure world hunger and bring about world peace, but most jobs don't do that either. Do I believe that bankers are evil, bad ? no, I think bankers are regular people doing their jobs and reacting to the incentives that are out there
3) What's a B4s partner ?
4) Differently: think bigger, talk to more people, learn more faster, be more entrepreneurial early on, rather than reactive. You know big picture stuff. There is some tactical stuff too, I'll put a post on that shortly.


What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Oct 23, 2015 - 4:19am

good question, finance is pretty boring bud.
No violence.
Plenty of politics - but all normal and to be expected.
Backstabbing - nothing out of the ordinary

thanks for the question, sorry I don't have anything more exciting for you

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 26, 2015 - 11:23am

More specifically, the allocations area. Part of the budgeting and strategy area, but mainly responsible or making sure the costs are properly allocated and looking for variances in them from month to month.

Oct 25, 2015 - 1:07pm

The BB's should be coming soon to recruit for summer interns. Just go to all the sessions and you will be fine. For junior internships most people don't have any prior experience.
You can probably help yourself by going to the local branch of an asset manager, wealth manager or bank and asking to work during the school year, even if its for free, its a great way to get finance experience on your resume.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 23, 2015 - 2:35pm

wilowallstreet Thanks for doing this.

Do you see receiving a JD MBA as being worthwhile if you are going to either:

A) Go back to banking
B) Switch into PE post-grad school

All this assuming I will have completed 2 year analyst stint, & then either jumped to buy-side or move to associate?

Oct 25, 2015 - 1:17pm

I think it can be worthwhile, but I am generally a proponent of less structured education and more on the job training.
Signing up for a JD or MBA guarantees 250-500k in opportunity cost and another 150k in college costs - hard to quantify whether its worth that 400-650k cost. Why not just continue and apply for all the same jobs you would have with the JD ?

What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Oct 23, 2015 - 3:19pm

I have applied to close to 100 positions across IB, Asset Management, sales & trading, accounting, retail banking, etc. but have yet to receive even a phone interview.

I graduated from a non-target 7 years ago, have three years accounting experience, and served as an officer in the US military.

Do you have any recommendations for how I can market myself better? Have you worked with anyone from similar backgrounds? Do you have a minute to give my resume a one over look if I PM it to you?


Oct 25, 2015 - 1:24pm

Sure send it over.
I would say sending a resume in for a job is a waste of time.
I have never heard of that working in recent years outside of target school recruiting.
I would suggest the following things:
a) does the military offer support ? I know the US Wall St firm I was with had a formal military recruitment process - we wanted guys / girls from there.
b) have done any networking, informational interviews. There must be a lot of ex-US military people in finance, who want to help. You need to find these people.
c) look for firms offering programs for veterans, should be able to google this
d) find the universities / colleges near you, figure out when they have banks visiting for recruiting. They usually hold information sessions / finance fairs - you should just show up for those.

Sounds to me that you need more exposure, just get out there and meet people. Stop throwing your resumes into the abyss.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 23, 2015 - 2:57pm


I'm writing from the UK, I've just finished college and I'm taking a gap year due to unforeseen circumstances. If all goes well I'll be studying at LSE come September.

I hope to work in finance after university, perhaps in IB, perhaps in Asset Management. I've been trying to find some kind of a work placement for the remainder of my gap year - so until September. However I haven't had much success as I don't qualify for internships. I left college with good grades 2 A*s and an A.

What do you recommend I do until September? Do you think there's any opportunities for me in the financial sector before I begin studying?

Many thanks,


Oct 27, 2015 - 7:39am

Good question. So the question is what to do as a 18-19 yr old to prepare for a career in finance. I'd say at your age, it will be hard to get into a BB full time or even as intern.

If you haven't had any work experience yet, you should get some of any kind. Preferably something in finance, but any people oriented service profession will do. At that age you just want to get used to helping people and understanding them outside of a school setting. Literally walk into any place that seems interesting to you and you could learn from, and ask them whether they will hear an intern. Make it non-paying if need be. The point is to get something on the resume, and get some learning experience. Make a list of things that interest you and cross-check those with businesses around you.

In your spare time read 3-4 books a month on finance, investing, banking. Make it a mix of old and new, fiction and fact. There is a lot of ground to cover here, and will help you in university.

Find people that you can be introduced to in your neighbourhood / town that have worked in finance. Go interview them. Just try to understand their perspectives.

Spend some time exploring what you want from life, why you think finance is interesting. Read up on all the different parts of finance, don't get stuck on just doing banking. Its a big world.

Hope that helps

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 23, 2015 - 7:07pm


I have a 3.1 gpa, come from a non target, and have no relevant finance internships as a junior. Is it possible to network my way into a SA position at a BB, MM, or boutique?

Yes, it is possible, but it will most definitely be very difficult. I was in a similar position (if not worse) and made it to a front office IBD position and am now on the buyside within two years of starting in banking. Hasn't been an easy battle but if you work hard and are persistent and know your stuff, opportunities will present themselves.

Also, Wilowallstreet, thank you for taking the time to create this thread and answer everyone's questions.

Oct 27, 2015 - 7:45am

Look its not going to happen right away. It will take 1-3 yrs, but it can be done.
Let me throw some ideas at you:
a) can you transfer to a target school for your last year ?
b) what are you majoring in ?
c) can you be more noticeable by starting a finance society / investing club ?
d) can you intern at the local bank, the local Charles Schwab, Merrill Lynch office ? anything to start ?
e) do any of your professors have finance contacts ?
f) have you worked the alumni network from your school yet ?

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 23, 2015 - 5:09pm

This one might be a bit personal. Also, I ask it with the assumption that you have reached a point in your life where you are married and/or have children.

Based on your experience as an MD and everything it took to reach that point, would you do it again? I have heard countless times over that life as an MD, especially in IB, is in many ways more stressful than that of an analyst. I don't question this at all -- after regular working directly with my group's most senior bankers, I can see how this may be very true. That being said, do you personally think that the perks, sense of accomplishment, and compensation of reaching that point in IB was worth all of the hard work required to get there and the stress that never disappeared?

Nov 1, 2015 - 5:09am

Thanks, that's a hard and good question.
Was it worth it, I would say yes. But i didn't do it for the perks, the compensation and sense of accomplishment were important.
I'll tell you what kept me going:

  1. I learnt something new everyday. There is so much to know and learn, so if you are a curious person you are excited to come in every morning. For me it was like solving a very large multi dimensional puzzle where I was discovering new pieces daily.

  2. Competition. You get to compete against yourself, against some of the smartest people at your firm and at firm's across the street. If you are a competitive person this is perfect.

  3. People. It's fun to be surrounded by other smart, hard working people. Working with them, helping them and pushing them to succeed was a great experience.

We all do it for different reasons, my advice is to do it for the reasons that make sense for you.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
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Mar 31, 2016 - 2:36pm

I'm just seeing this thread now, I appreciate you taking the time to help everyone out and I've enjoyed reading through your answers.

I just want to say that it's refreshing to hear something like this from someone in your position. I think all too often people are motivated by other things (be it money or bragging rights) and while there are greater evils our there, I don't think it brings out the best in people.

Oct 23, 2015 - 5:10pm

wilowallstreet - Appreciate you taking the time to do this.

I'm a CPA from a non-target school who spent 2 years at a Big 4 with audit experience, and I'm currently at one of the Big 3 credit agencies within their financial institutions group covering banks/non-bank issuers. My end goal is to get to PE/VC.

  1. Would a BB take me on as an analyst?
  2. You mention taking the CFA in earlier comments, but wouldn't an MBA from a top school help exponentially more? I was under the assumption that the CFA was more geared towards investment research and carried nominal weight in IB.
  3. Upon pursuing my MBA and getting into a BB as an associate, is it possible to make the switch from IB to PE/VC then? How about as a VP to either PE/VC?
  4. Which IB groups are the best feeders into either PE/VC?
  5. What are you currently doing now that you're retired?
Nov 1, 2015 - 5:33am

You are obviously a smart forward thinking person and I applaud you thinking so strategically about your career. This is very different from what I did / saw.

  1. You can apply for an associate role now
  2. A CFA is focused on investment management and research, so would make sense. CFA has zero opportunity cost and very low real costs. An MBA has large amounts of both, so I don't see the amount unless you want to make a large career change and / or need significant re-branding.
  3. IB to PE is an easy switch. VC I haven't seen at all, so I can't comment.
  4. PE is a big world, so I would worry less about the right group, at your age focus on the right skills.
  5. I work at a hedge fund and manage my own assets.
What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 23, 2015 - 6:01pm

I started to work at a Private Equity recently. I have learned DCF and multiples in the university and I thought that close assumptions determine intrinsic value. However, I become more and more skeptical about financial modelling. I keep asking myself how I can find out the true value or even get close to the true value. How do I adjust the value given due diligence results? Thus, I am wondering if you could share your insights into value and valuation process.

Oct 23, 2015 - 8:10pm

Thanks for doing this. Going to work for a Big4 transaction advisory group (business valuation) and was wondering possibility/likelihood of lateraling into a BB after a year or so of experience. Have you seen this happen during your time as MD, and if so, what have the successful candidates done? Thank you for your time.

Nov 1, 2015 - 5:51am

I think it is do able. Importantly I would encourage everyone to let go of this idea of whether it has happened before or not. Why can't you be the first person to do it. Just changing your mindset to anything is possible will free you to achieve much more.
That's the only that separates the people who become super successful and those that don't. Believe you can.

As for what successful candidates have done, rather than re-hash what I have written before, please check some of my other posts on that subject on this site.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Nov 2, 2015 - 2:27am

Thanks, I try not to have regrets. What's the point ? I have seen it make people bitter and unhappy. Better approach is to look at your past actions, identify what you think were real mistakes of judgement, rather than actions you took to the best of your judgement.

I think I had a smile on my face everyday, and there is still plenty of time for all the things you mentioned.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 24, 2015 - 2:46pm

Hi, i'm currently an undergrad and thinking about setting myself up for IB. Which kind of classes should i look into? (finance and economics is obvious, but which kind more specifically)?

Nov 2, 2015 - 2:31am

I would focus on the core finance, economics classes but I would focus more on the other stuff: work experience - just understand how businesses work, finance or investing club - a place to grow your social skills, sports / place to highlight your leadership skills.

No class prepares you for IB life so I wouldn't sweat that stuff. You can't take a class to prepare for it.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 25, 2015 - 3:30pm

Hi, thanks for doing this.

I'm not looking to get into IB -- don't have the pedigree or the desire to do it. I'm interested in starting a technology consulting company in the future, and I want to target various financial services firms as clients.

My goal is to work in the technology division of a bank right out of school, then leverage the connections and pedigree to do highly paid consulting work. Then, expand from there by winning more contracts and hiring new people.

Few things:
(1) Do you see any obvious flaws in this plan?
(2) What GPA should I be looking at in college in order to make the cut for technology analyst at firms like JPM, Citi, etc.? My college is 5-10 minutes from NYC and is a huge feeder into the technology divisions of various banks. Non-target for IB though.
(3) I started a small business when I was young (14) and it became a success and is still bringing in money -- more than ever before. It's virtual goods related, and I've made approximately $250K from it. I was extremely lucky to find the niche, but a lot of hard work was required to make the business work. There were other people who got luckier and found the niche earlier, but still failed. How can I leverage this to stand out when I'm applying for internships and jobs? How can I talk about it? I'm scared of my resume getting thrown out because the reader will be like "no way in hell this is true." I have verifiable statistics (I can generate a report through my payment processor that'll show thousands of transactions with time stamps, IP addresses, locations, names, etc. for each customer) and I can explain how everything works. Also, how much of an advantage would this be in the selection process if I can leverage it in the right way?


Nov 2, 2015 - 2:38am

Personally I think you are being too specific in your plan. Look if you want to start a tech consulting firm, you should do it. Why go about this convoluted route to limit your clients to just financial services firms ?

Just go straight to your goal. Join a tech consulting firm, learn the skills, start your own. Tech at an IB will not prepare you for what you want to do.

I think the company you created is great! That's amazing for someone your age, it should pretty much be at the top of your resume. To me that's more impressive than any GPA. The tech companies you will apply to will value that more than any IB ever will.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
  • 1
Nov 2, 2015 - 2:40am

I wouldn't count on it at the larger banks, all sorts of compliance issues with that. At the smaller banks it may work.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
  • 1
Nov 2, 2015 - 2:52am

Good one. I had to deal with this one a lot over the years, cause it happens at all ages/ levels. The steps i used to deal with it:
A) confront the other person. Have an open conversation about what you are seeing and feeling. Ask them to explain what they are trying to accomplish. In most cases, people either don't realise what they are doing or stop once you shine a light on it.

B) if that doesn't work, then unfortunately you will have to get more direct / painful. Figure out a way to throw them under the bus, poke them in the back. Once they see you can fight too, it will usually stop.

The stuff does not usually go away unless you do something about it.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
  • 2
Oct 25, 2015 - 7:46pm

Hi man, thanks for doing this

Could you talk a bit more about how you lateraled within the industry over the years, e.g IBD to quant (which seems like a big jump)

You hear alot about being pigeonholed very early in (as seen by all the questions people are asking you if they can do x or y or z move) so I would be really interested to hear the details of how such moves happen, what prompted them from your part etc

Nov 2, 2015 - 3:09pm

Ok the details are all case specific,but I'll give you some detailed pointers on how to approach it;
A. Be curious and interested in new ideas. To be able to lateral you have to see the opportunity and know something about it. Best way to do this is to be curious and broadly interested in all parts of finance. It's hard to lateral from something you have been doing into something you have never done, which is why it's essential to know more than a little bit about where you want to lateral to.

B. Have a broad network and be likeable. It's impossible to move if you have to send your resume in for the role. That's not how lateraling works. You have to well in advance let people know what you are thinking, what you are looking for and why you would be good at it. Then be patient, if you are likeable and good to work with and have a reputation of getting things done people will seek you out. I know this sounds naive, but I have done 6 jobs in 15 years, i didn't get any except the first by filling out a job application.

C. Develop new skills. Look at where you are and who you are, and then where you are and who you want to be. Notice what's missing, what do you need to add to become a successful person in that other role. Go fill in the blanks in your resume, skills, knowledge and abilities. Too many people get pigeon holed because they stop growing and learning, and expect that whatever got them to where they are now will somehow take them to where they want to be.

Hope that helps, PM me if you want more.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 25, 2015 - 8:51pm

Thanks a lot for doing this! Could you please help with the following:

1) suppose you were to review the résumé of an auditor with no relevant experience, what could possibility catch your attention?

2) I am meeting up with an MD for coffee soon. Any advice on what to talk about to differentiate myself?

Oct 25, 2015 - 8:56pm

wilowallstreet I'm a first year Acoounting and Finance student at LSE. I want to trade at a circa top 10 bank but my formal maths education is not strong. i take a maths module and stats module to bring me up to a level (18 year old optional maths level) which will allow me to complete the course. I then take econ and A&F. I have a B in gcse (16 yr old) maths. what are my chances if becoming a trader (in something like equities) if i get good grades?

Nov 2, 2015 - 3:16pm

Honestly you are too young to a) be worried about this and b) to be so sure that you want to be an equities trader.
Take the next few years to do some internships, read some finance books, meet some interesting people and then re-evaluate.

Learn what trading means at big banks - I guarantee you its not what it seems at the moment to you.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 25, 2015 - 9:33pm

Thank you so much for doing this. If you have time to get to this, a few q's I had were:

1) When making it to the superday (sell/buy side) and meeting the MDs, etc, how much weight do you place on "genuineness" vs. the typical cookie cutter candidate? (ie. Ultra-polished, noticeably typical for lack of a better description but exceptionally smart). There seems to be a trade-off between being polished and being yourself, at least from what I've noticed. I am more inclined to the latter (while being professional of course, but a lot more down to earth). Any thoughts?

2) What made you want to stay in IB for as long as you have? I'm sure someone with your caliber would have had options to make the jump to the buy side (if that was an interest), pursue other career paths, or even wind down. What kept you going? (If you don't mind me asking!)

Nov 7, 2015 - 6:19am

Sorry for the delay in replying. Markets were choppy.

1) I think a combination of someone who is genuinely good, smart and hardworking is the best combination.
2) Sure, I kept going cause the work remained challenging, and kept finding new things to do. New countries, new roles, new divisions. When it finally got too much, I left.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 25, 2015 - 9:35pm

As another senior guy I'm curious as to why you left (if you're actually leaving the business) and what your future plans are?

Did you have a pre-set magic number of savings/net worth that you hit and just said that's it? Take your NYC dollars and move to a low cost of living area and write the proverbial novel you've had in your head. Or did you just get burnt out/lose the passion for it and figure you have enough money in the bank and say screw it? Or was it family and kids, are you joining a client/operating company, hitting the startup scene or whatever else?

And what's next? I'm 40, I've been doing this for 18 years and it crosses my mind somewhat often (and I've made some changes over the past couple of years, have explored other things in depth and could honestly never have to work another day in my life) but I have no idea what I'd do with myself for the next 1 to 50 years and keep getting sucked into finance.

Oct 27, 2015 - 7:24am

Hi everyone, I appreciate all the time you are spending reading comments and asking questions. The answers do take a fair amount of time for me, and I don't want to keep people waiting too long for a reply. So I will try to focus on answering those questions that I think will be broadly relevant to people.
If you can re-purpose your questions to be more open ended so they are more relevant to the larger population I can answer them earlier / faster.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
  • 1
Oct 27, 2015 - 6:29pm

how much GPA and coverletter is weighted? I have cold called several alumni in the firm, but I did not get the interview. My roommate who has never networked ends up getting one, why?

Oct 27, 2015 - 10:03pm

Are there any groups within the overarching Investment Banking industry that allow for somewhat (loose term) better work life balance? I am 23 and married right out of college working in the commercial bank for a top 4 bank by assets. I would like to switch over to IB, but am concerned about hours. I have a strong work ethic, and am okay with working long hours, but are there any lines that are less demanding than others or don't usually require too much weekend time?

Oct 29, 2015 - 3:29am

Look you are young, so I would approach this differently. Take some time to think about your priorities, what you enjoy doing, things that make you happy. Most things in the IB lead to 10-14 hour days. That's the range. I'd like you to think about what you enjoy doing, what's fun for you. Because if you are enjoying it and it's work you would do in your spare time anyway, then it won't matter what the hours look like. You are young and therefore have time and optionality, so I'd use those assets wisely.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 27, 2015 - 10:20pm


First off thanks for the AMA, appreciate it.

I'm a sophomore at a non-target that wants to break into IBD. I can't find any IBD internships for me right now, but I'm applying for a BB finance role for a summer internship. Is this a good step forward if I want to eventually break into IBD? A lot of the threads I read are saying getting into MO is just putting yourself at a deadend.

Oct 29, 2015 - 3:24am

You are a sophomore, just the fact that you worked that summer will help and even better if it's an industry you want to join eventually. Anything is good. Focus on the people you'll meet, and what you can learn.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Oct 29, 2015 - 3:15pm

Great response, thank you. Just have a small follow up.

If I do end up getting the internship, I plan on doing some heavy internal networking. When I reach out to some people in the FO (via e-mail), how should I approach them to express my interest? And when I do meet them, should I be asking the typical questions about banking and then ask them about their own personal interests, or should I stray away from that kind of thing?

Oct 27, 2015 - 10:36pm

How often do you hear people lie about compensation?

“Elections are a futures market for stolen property”
Oct 30, 2015 - 3:10pm

I am already 22 years old. Dont have any expierence in finance internships. Have a low GPA in Economics of 3.3 from a random European university, hopefully get to 3.5+ when I graduate. During my studies I had health issues, which made me more focused on the short term as I was really scared about what the long term would be for me, as I was not sure if I would even be alive/mobile in 5-10 years+ time. This made me lose focus and direction. Also because of this I decided to focus my time on playing poker profesionally as I wanted to earn big bucks in a short period of time without thinking about the long term too much, which I managed to do so (winning over $300,000).

Few questions:
Would you advertise my poker expierence on my CV if you were me?
Would you mention health issues, which after a diagnosis which, took over 3 years, are finally resolved?
Would you try to get into a good finance program? I ask the last question because to be honest I am not confident wether or not it would make a difference... And wether or not I should try to focus on something else...

Thanks a lot and I wish you well.

Nov 2, 2015 - 2:58pm

Congrats on recovering from your health issues and on doing well at poker.
I would highlight the poker on the resume and definitely discuss the health issues in the interview.

Step back for a few hours, think about what you want to do in the next few hours and where you are right now. Shoot me an email when you have decided what you want to get done and ill give you some ideas.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Nov 2, 2015 - 7:08pm

Thanks for doing this. I am Big 4 Management Consultant with 4.5 years of work experience (no finance) and a bachelor's degree in finance from a non-target. Obviously, the only way I can secure an interview is through networking. If I were to have an informal coffee chat with you, what should I do to impress you to a point where you help me obtain an interview.

Nov 3, 2015 - 2:48am

This is a all about networking properly, and deserving of its own long post. Let me come back with one on that.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Nov 3, 2015 - 12:39am

What is the biggest failure in your life? It seems to me senior professionals here don't experience a lot of failures. They get their dream job right out of college which gives them a great start, and they might experience hardships here and there but overall they manage to work their way up pretty smoothly. How do you manage to success without failures?

Nov 3, 2015 - 2:37am

Great question, I'll write a longer post on that this weekend, since I think understanding and managing failure is critical to 'success'.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Nov 7, 2015 - 6:29am

Exit opportunities: I have seen people leave banks to set up bakeries, start tech companies or become ski instructors. Having spent all of this time around successful people and meeting a more than fair share of billionaires I would say the thing that differentiates the mere mortals versus 'successful' people is that they do the things that make them happy, they work for themselves, and they focus on one thing above all others.

As for things you could specifically do, look spend time thinking about what you like doing, what you would do in your spare time, what you wanted to do when you were thirteen. Is there a reason why you gave up on your dreams ?

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Nov 5, 2015 - 1:33pm

I was able to land myself a S&T, non rotational, internship at a BB. My first option was IBD at the same firm, however I was cut after the first round interviews.

I am a Junior and would like to do an IBD internship, and then IBD full time. However, I am assuming that if I were to accept S&T for this summer, it would be very difficult to get an IBD offer full time.

I love the BB I have an offer from, I just want to tell them, "I love this BB, but I want to do IBD"

What do you think I should do? Please let me know if I can clarify some things.


  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Nov 6, 2015 - 5:21am

My new MD is a senior ibanker for 20 years and he recently joined the firm. I am actually a new analyst in the bank, too. The team is quite lean and new in my region, it is just him and me now, though we have a whole bunch of ibankers worldwide.

My question is, as there are no VPs or associates in my office, what would MDs typically expect from a junior banker like me? Any suggestions for me to stand out or how to initiatives but not being presumptuous (as he is quite senior and I am a first year analyst)?Thanks.

Nov 7, 2015 - 6:32am

Read these:………

Simple stuff:
1. go beyond the call of duty
2. anticipate what he will want and need
3. make clients happy
4. add value to him daily
5. find what drives him and what his goals are

Good luck

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Nov 8, 2015 - 1:47pm

Hi, I am currently a sophomore at a non-target majoring in both finance and math (my school doesn't offer an undergraduate quantitative finance degree) with a 3.9/4.0 GPA. What are some things I can do to diversify myself as a candidate when junior year comes around and I am looking to push myself into an interview. I am looking to work in either IBD or at a Quant trading desk.

Nov 8, 2015 - 3:40pm

Hey guys I am closing this thread now, I am sorry if I didn't answer your questions directly.
Please PM anything you would like to cover, given this was a long / large thread I wanted for the sake of others only focus on things broadly applicable.
I'd love to keep discussing, and will have a post on failure and networking soon.
For those who follow my blog, you will have already seen it.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Nov 9, 2015 - 1:52pm

From an MD's perspective, what do you think are the major differences in capability between a year-1 associate and year-3 analyst?

I have 1.5 years experience in project finance and have recently received an offer from a top IB in infrastructure. Following GS's new promotion policy, I am in the process of negotiating the offer from a senior analyst position (year-3 analyst) to a year-1 associate, and would appreciate any suggestions on the best way to persuade the MDs.

Dec 8, 2015 - 5:06pm

very little difference there buddy. Its just a nuance.
Just highlight the ways you add value, and what you can do.
associates basically are more independent and financially able. Thats about it.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Nov 12, 2015 - 5:00am

Why exactly do MDs devote effort to scheduling meetings and preparing materials for clients when you know the client will always go to a different bank when it comes to leading a financing/advising on an M&A transaction/etc. If the company has always used X in the past for all their transactions - why bother meeting and spreading yourself thin when you could focus on the clients that will actually transact and generate revenue?

Nov 12, 2015 - 5:21pm

I am a non-target senior and I have had 3 2nd round interviews so far at MM banks in SF but ultimately no offers. I am feeling really down and I am unsure of the next steps. My only prior experience is at a PE search fund. Since recruiting season is pretty much over what would you recommend doing? Should I just cold-call boutiques and ask for a job or try to get into a field like valuation and lateral?

Dec 8, 2015 - 5:03pm

A few ideas:
a) try to understand why it hasn't worked out on the interviews - what could be done better
b) I would focus on what you have with certainty and see how you can monetize that - lock in some certainty to protect yourself
c) definitely activate your network and work with people you know
d) I am not a fan of cold calling. Its hard to build credibility that. Rather find people you want to work with / for - figure out how to help them and add value.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Nov 15, 2015 - 10:08pm

Hi! thank you for your thread

you've said in previous comments: "In your spare time read 3-4 books a month on finance, investing, banking. Make it a mix of old and new, fiction and fact. There is a lot of ground to cover here, and will help you in university."

Could you tell me about useful books to reed? i'm also at university and trying to get into an intern, and i'd like to improve knowledge in finance as much as i can.

Nov 27, 2015 - 9:43pm

Hi! My mentor like figure told me that I need to be concrete about what I want to do after my first job. If i do not now what i want to do after my first internship, it will be difficult for people to give me the necessary advice and hence I am trying to find out the possible pathways that I could take after my first internship in an IB. (I am actually thinking about building a road map) Could you share with me your personal experience and maybe tell me where I can find more tracks that people in finance take?

Dec 8, 2015 - 5:00pm

Look you are worrying about it too much.
Focus on what you like doing or find something that you like doing.
Keep learning new things.

There are no specific tracks, there just so many things to do in finance that you don't need to stress that.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Dec 5, 2015 - 12:11am

Thank you for doing this. My question is based on your post about Think Big thread. I would like to believe that I think big and cast that to people in my environment . However, deep inside I think I am I have nothing to back the goals and attitude I project outside. My friends think I will be the most successful of the group. But, I think I am one of those persons who fakes it till he makes it. I am just worried about the day when my cover will come out. How do I deal with that?

Dec 8, 2015 - 4:57pm

Every successful person believes this, the fact that you are thinking this makes you more likely to succeed.
I'd focus on what you want to do, and then take steps towards that goal. As long as you are getting better everyday you will succeed.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Dec 7, 2015 - 8:35pm

Hello mr wilowallstreet!

I would like to thank you for this thread.I was actually just searching for one and this couldn't be more ideal due to your experience in IBD as well as HF.I will try to make my questions simple:

1) What type of hedge funds can someone transition to after working in M&A.I read it is mostly long short equity,distressed and event driven.Is this true?

2) What sort of mathematics are useful in M&A or the hedge funds that you can transition to afterwards.Would a "mathematics of finance/financial maths etc" course be useful to take before graduating?Or are such courses JUST for quant HF

3) Would a separate accounting course in uni help you with the interview and/or job in M&A afterwards?

Thank you very much!

Dec 8, 2015 - 4:55pm

1) yes thats right
2) all finance related math courses are good - just building comfort with numbers helps
3) definitely good to take a few accounting classes

What I Learnt on Wall Street
Dec 13, 2015 - 5:49am

Hello and thank you for your ama and all the interesting answers.
I'm a sales trader intern, working on commodities and I would like to move to IB. According to you what is the best way to do it ? Should I directly move to IB or maybe trying to get into PE boutique, HF ... ?
I read legendary books finance, I prepared some interesting story to tell during interview. But are there any extracurricular activities that can make the difference ?

Jan 10, 2016 - 1:40pm

I am applying for a position as Corporate Broker in Equity Markets (UK market). Which are the advantages vs. the disadvantages of this position compared to the rest of IBD?

Jan 11, 2016 - 4:49pm

hey everyone, if I you have any questions please either drop me a DM on WSO or email me at [email protected].
I don't follow all my old threads, but I do want to hear from you.


What I Learnt on Wall Street
Jan 14, 2016 - 8:19am

For someone who just started interning on the sell-side as an equity research associate (all I could get from non-target) what would you say is the best way besides the obvious networking to get onto the buy side. Also, is it true that if you stay too long on the sell side that you may get pigeon holed to staying in the field? Is it as simple as becoming a star analyst or making the move early? Thanks.

Jan 15, 2016 - 7:42am

good questions.
For now I would:
1. Get a permanent role there
2. learn everything you can about investing - meet people, read books
3. start meeting people on the buyside, being in research its a perfect move to research and also allows you full & easy access to people, and the ability to make an impact on them
4. explore in your mind what you really want to do. just because you think you want to move to the buyside now, doesn't mean you actually want to do that. So get exposed to as much as possible, as soon as possible.

keep me updated on progress.

What I Learnt on Wall Street
  • 1
Jan 31, 2016 - 4:52am

What are your views on international students?
I'm an international student from a non-target school (Indiana University---although students in the investment banking workshop do very well) looking to get into the financial industry.
Currently, i'm in the Korean army serving my 2 years, but am looking for ways to improve my resume/competitiveness. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you very much

Feb 1, 2016 - 10:34pm

Thanks for taking the time to give us hopefuls some insight.
I'm currently a junior with a 3.2 at a semi-target (UBS, DB, BAML, Citi, Jefferies, JPM all do OCR but GS does not). The early jump in recruiting this year really caught me off guard, and long story short I wasn't prepared and didn't really go after an IB internship. My question is, if I get an internship at a reputable WM, AM, or Commercial banking division and work my ass off this summer, is it possible to move into IBD at a BB or MM my senior summer? If not, is it possible to work my way into HF or PE without IB experience, and what do you think is a sensible path to take in that respect?

Thanks in advance.

Feb 17, 2016 - 10:35am

at the moment I am a student and I am goingt to have an internship as a credit research analyst in europe. I dont really know what to expect. Any advice on preparation would be good. Maybe some general thoughts on the job.
Thanks in advance.

Feb 19, 2016 - 9:49pm

i was a junior rates trader at a top tier ibank for 2 years, but got let go, because at the time i was not profitable (i was still learning and in reflection, it was insane to think that anything else would have happened), and since this was after 2008, the banks did not seem to have the desire to take the years to train a new trader. If i'm being honest, at the time, i had no idea what i was was sink or swim, and i was just treading water.

I've spent the past few years trading on my own, doing research, learning more technical analysis and risk management....things that i wish i had known back when i was trading at the ibank. I now feel that i'm really ready to sit in the seat that i was already in a few years ago. Back then, it was a mistake for me to be in that seat (a market maker on a rates desk, also trading rates prop). However, now i'm really ready to crush it. My timing sucks, because rates trading has taken a hit recently, balance sheet is scarce, and there are fewer rates traders at each firm.

How do i get back in?

Feb 19, 2016 - 10:06pm

At the highest echelon of Wall Street what are some non-traditional or less exposed ways that people flaunt wealth? Similar to how the super super rich have those Olympic dancing horses. What's the equivalent for MD's or the next tier up. That $1MM a year range?

"It is better to have a friendship based on business, than a business based on friendship." - Rockefeller. "Live fast, die hard. Leave a good looking body." - Navy SEAL
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