Big vs Small firms

jtl1002's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 514

Should someone without any full time experience always go big so they have a well known established firm on resume for future? How hard is it to land Associate positions or even another Analyst position if you are with a small REPE/developer/investor, no one has ever heard of?

Comments (42)

Best Response
Jan 27, 2017

This is all depends on your specific market and what kind of job you are looking for. There are obviously exceptions to this generalization, but I think that most would agree targeting the big brokerage firms (CBRE/JLL/Cushman/NGKF/Eastdil/HFF) is the safest and most well-respected trajectory if you want to get into investment sales, leasing, or debt/equity finance (last two firms especially for debt/equity placements).

If you are talking specifically about acquisitions or development jobs, size does not necessarily matter. Obviously, if you work at Tishman, Related, Lend Lease, Skanska, or some of these other mega-developers you will have instant name recognition. However, a lot of smaller firms within individual markets may be superior to those names within that market and carry a lot of weight. For example, I work for a local developer in a major market that is probably viewed as more active and competitive than the big firms above, except maybe Tishman. But, if you asked someone in San Fran or Seattle about my firm, I doubt they would have ever heard of it.

Focus more on how the individual firm is capitalized (do they have a revolving credit facility and significant equity backing--good, or do they have to find an equity partner on every potential deal--not as good)?

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Jan 27, 2017

As mentioned above it depends on what you want to do. If you want to work for a big MF or a large national firm then you should target larger opportunities, but if you want to find your niche and specialize in a certain region and/or product type then look at smaller firms. Really you can make a great living for yourself following either of those options.

Everyone here likes to suggest starting at one of the big brokerages and that is definitely a great way to break into development or acquisition roles. I would also suggest looking to get your start at a major bank/lender. They provide great training programs and you see a lot of deals of all shapes and sizes. The training and early experience will be directly transferrable to your development and acquisitions positions. You can definitely transition to big or small firms out of different banks/lenders. Again there is a difference between working in the real estate group at First Merit vs. JP Morgan.

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Jan 27, 2017

Mainly talking about small developers/investor shops.

What are some ways you can tell if they run a good shop if you can't find much on them?

Jan 27, 2017

Look at the backgrounds of the senior members of the firms. Where did they come from and where did other members of the firm go to school. If it's a small shop with a group of people who went to top schools and have relevant experience at brand name firms/banks/funds it's probably a good opportunity. If it's a bunch of directional state graduates with experience at Marcus & Millichap odds are it's not a great opportunity.

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Aug 14, 2019
picklemonkey:

Look at the backgrounds of the senior members of the firms. Where did they come from and where did other members of the firm go to school. If it's a small shop with a group of people who went to top schools and have relevant experience at brand name firms/banks/funds it's probably a good opportunity. If it's a bunch of directional state graduates with experience at Marcus & Millichap odds are it's not a great opportunity.

I think this post implies that we should go big, which I 100% agree.

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Jan 27, 2017

What deals did they do? How many over a 3-5 year period? Who cares if they all went to Harvard and graduated at the top of their class....if they can't source a pipeline their operation is useless. All about the deal flow.

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Jan 27, 2017

If they don't have their deals listed on their site and I can't find any on google search, is that basically a red flag?

Jan 27, 2017

So if someone is an analyst at a small shop no one knows of, will they ever get their resume even glanced at? Obviously networking comes into play.

Jan 28, 2017

Real estate is no where near as structured as you are thinking it is. It's a very entrepreneurial gig, brand names are important, but there is a lot more to it than that. There really isn't a set path, just figure out what you like and try to get as close as you can to it.

Jan 28, 2017
williamthesnake:

So I've been interviewing at a very small and recently established (though growing aggressively) financial advisory firm in London for an analyst role. (from a Big Four background myself)
What I'm wondering is how does work at such an organization differ from a larger more established firm? Obviously it'll be less formal and you'd have more responsibility at earlier stages but what other things should I consider?
I would assume that a small firm with a limited P&L would probably pay less salary but then again the bonus pool would also have less people making a claim to it?
Also in terms of exit opportunities (not that I'd be looking to move yet again, just more as an insurance policy to have in the back of my mind) how would my CV look compared to someone from a big name background? On the one hand the firm name might carry less weight but I'd arguably have gotten a wider set of experiences at this small firm?
Any other comments are also very welcome.

no there isnt that much upside

Jan 28, 2017
ColorCoded:

no there isnt that much upside

Can you please expand on that?

Jan 28, 2017

I worked at a small "no-name" boutique before lateraling to the MM that I am now. This "you will get more responsibility/related experience" at a small firm is just an HR lie that they tell you to get you to take the job. What they really mean is that they are not willing to hire anyone else, so you will be doing more work than they really pay you for. Pay, exit opps, overall experience, etc. are all better at top MMs, EBs, and BBs.

And, to answer your question about the bonus pool, sure you may get a larger percentage, but a large percentage of a small number is still a small number.

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Jan 28, 2017

Thanks Sil. Guess that doesn't paint a very rosy picture, however you do seem to have used it as a successful springboard into better things.

I guess that answers my question then.

Jan 28, 2017

quant and front office dont go into same sentence together :D

but i can assume what you were thinking

Jan 28, 2017

quant as in quant trader. So yes front office

Jan 28, 2017

Those kinds of jobs require a high level of technical skill that I would say the 0.01% of people have on this Earth. Prop shops are easier to get into than quant hedge funds, but I would recommend looking at other areas where you can apply your quant skills to finance. Either that, or go get a PhD.

Jan 28, 2017

I was recently speaking with a friend who used to be a PM at one of the HF's you named in #1 (he wasn't a quant but when the fund decided to move away from 100% quant to shift to some l/s equity qualitative strats he was in one of the first groups) and he was saying that the quants were all PhD physics guys, not undergrads, mostly from Russia and that they were quirky as hell and because they were so intelligent and good at what they did that they could do anything weird at the office that they wanted (weird like riding a unicycle around the office). My friend is a very intelligent guy with an advanced science degree and he said he was floored by how intelligent these guys were: he looked at their equations on the white boards and even with a decent amount of advanced math, he said he had no idea what they were about. Good luck getting into one of these but they typically require PhD's.

Jan 28, 2017

At early stage of the career, eventually it's about the platform and people. Choose the one where you can find people to mentor and train you, and meanwhile you enjoy the culture the most. With all being equal, which does not really happen in HF anyway, choose the more prestigious one. Essentially you wanna plan your career in longer terms instead of 2 years - so honing your skillsets (both tech & soft) is very crucial for long run.

You would most likely get better life balance than your friends at BB IBD, so no need to think too much about it.

Jan 28, 2017

Why don't you first do an internship at one of these places and see how you like it? I know D.E. Shaw takes summer interns. One of my good friends interned at D.E. Shaw over the summer. He made a lot of money (30k+ for only two months of work, he actually showed me his bank account balance to prove it), but decided the people at D.E. Shaw were too weird and ended up working full time at a firm called Getco.

Jan 28, 2017
Deo et Patriae:

Why don't you first do an internship at one of these places and see how you like it? I know D.E. Shaw takes summer interns. One of my good friends interned at D.E. Shaw over the summer. He made a lot of money (30k+ for only two months of work, he actually showed me his bank account balance to prove it), but decided the people at D.E. Shaw were too weird and ended up working full time at a firm called Getco.

An interesting tidbit about my friend. He actually knew almost nothing about finance when he walked into the interview with D.E. Shaw

My friend claimed that during the interviews someone asked him the question: "Are you familiar with what a derivative is?"

His response "You mean a derivative like in calculus?"

Interviewer: .....

Apparently, it didn't matter because my friend received an offer anyways. Firms like these do not expect any finance knowledge and in some cases frown upon previous finance experience. The only thing they look for are people who have raw mental horsepower with strong backgrounds in math, science, programming, etc.

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Jan 28, 2017

I hear you man, I am asking myself the same question at the moment.....we need someone who's more experienced to comment on your post though, as I am in the grunt work category ....

Maybe I do not have quotes under my name on google, but I KEEP IT REAL

Jan 28, 2017

i was in this same exact situation earlier this summer (no work to do @ foreign company). i stuck it out since i didnt have other options anyway. eventually i became decent friends with one of the younger guys, and he started giving me more meaningful work to do (usually when he had a lot on his plate already)

i would say stay and see if you can turn it around, unless you really have a great opportunity elsewhere. I feel like it'd look strange on your resume if you left the first internship so quickly (assuming you still want it for the brand name).

edit: to clarify by stay i mean stay a bit longer, since 2 weeks is still a bit early to write it off imo. once you know for sure nothing will come out of it, then you could try another firm and see how that works out. If you learn a lot you can get a great experience, if not you can always say you interned at ABC brand name firm for a month.

Jan 28, 2017

The thing is, while I would stick it out, then I'll have less time to work at another firm/build meaningful experience. I could stay longer, but I feel like even if I did, I wouldn't really be able to put anything on my resume from there anyway. I've become decent friends with my manager, but even he says that they are going through a slow stretch and there really won't be anything that great for me to do. The worst part is that the commute is 1.5-2 hours one way, so going up and down is very taxing on me. I work from 10-5/6, but because of the commute, it ends up being an 8-8 day, and I basically have nothing to look forward to while working there which makes waking up in the morning a bitch to do. I don't want to complain too much though because in banking I'll be working much later than this, although I won't spend as much time commuting.

Btw, there's no way that I'd put working at X firm for 2 or 4 weeks on my resume, so basically I need to decide now whether or not this is worth sticking out for just for the brand name.

Jan 28, 2017

I'd stay put. My internship last summer looked the same, until about 4-5 weeks into it. That's when my responsibilities increased to standard Analyst tasks (on top of the "grunt" work I was doing).

Just rock the shit they have you doing now, and express (but don't be annoying about it) to your superiors the type of work you'd like to do when it becomes available.

One thing I did that helped change my responsibilities was create projects for myself (create a presentation-ready, automated Comparables project, for example). Be proactive.

Jan 28, 2017
ThaVanBurenBoyz:

I'd stay put. My internship last summer looked the same, until about 4-5 weeks into it. That's when my responsibilities increased to standard Analyst tasks (on top of the "grunt" work I was doing).

Just rock the shit they have you doing now, and express (but don't be annoying about it) to your superiors the type of work you'd like to do when it becomes available.

One thing I did that helped change my responsibilities was create projects for myself (create a presentation-ready, automated Comparables project, for example). Be proactive.

Well see, here's the thing. Because we got this very last minute through a connection and I won't spend as much time here as a typical SA at a bank would, he told me upfront that he couldn't really teach me that much about what people in this industry actually do. The most he could place me in is in a research role, and because I had no idea that the "research" I would be doing is just endless googling and copying and pasting, I accepted it. I thought that my research would definitely involve endless googling, but in the end, I'd still get to analyze things, crunch numbers, and come up with a conclusion, but so far, none of that has happened, and I highly doubt that this will change. Plus, as I said, I am unfortunately at a time where work is a bit slow, so this compounded with my short duration (and thus inability to be trainable) is why this is such a problem. Furthermore, most of my work, even if by some miracle they upgrade my responsibilities will be accounting-related, so I'm not sure how much that will help me out either.

My other option is a smaller management consulting firm where I can directly see the strategic processes that take place, analyze M&A models, and I'll even be able to create some financial models at some point. Plus, because the commute is much closer and its more relaxed in terms of expectations, I'll be able to spend time with family (part of the reason why I came abroad in the first place), I can look into other careers if need be, I can study for the GMATs, and most importantly, I can actually enjoy the work I'm doing rather than coming home at 8 praying for the weekend and then spending the weekend dreading the next Monday.

Does that change your opinion at all, or would you still say to stick with the brand name?

Jan 28, 2017

you should 100% percent stick it out. especially if you're a sophomore. guess what -- banking sucks sometimes -- but you're doing it to further your career -- either through experience or resume building. This will be an exercise in building resume. Suck it up and do the best you can -- you have another summer before full time -- you can go to another firm next summer or switch to another industry. But if you take an unknown firm, you may not get your foot in the door next year, and no one cares what experience you have as a summer your junior year, since few people have any relevant experience at that point. That's just my two cents. Sounds like you really want to leave. I think it's a really bad idea -- but you don't want to make yourself crazy -- so you gotta do what you gotta do...

Jan 28, 2017

I think it means the same to future employers, exit opps are identical. Small offices can be good if the partners are good, but it's like a tiny clan... you're with the same 30 people all the time in the smallest MBB offices. Personally I have no experience with big offices but I imagine it's a little easier (bigger associate pool so you don't get screwed over on vacations as much) and more interesting as you won't end up working with the same partner all the time (which tends to mean less variety of projects). Also you'll be coming in with a big associate class which I imagine is more fun than joining the office at the same time as just 2 or 3 other guys.

Jan 28, 2017

bb or bust or op provides more info

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Jan 28, 2017

Hypothetically:

Jan 28, 2017

What group? DCM in Brussels vs M&A in London is a big difference. Also, I don't know how networking is in Europe, but in the States, you can jump relatively easy if you perform well....

Jan 28, 2017

Both are front office, and both are sales and trading, not IB.

Jan 28, 2017

Hey did you interview for the new york office as well ?

Jan 28, 2017
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Jan 28, 2017