Breaking into BB IBD for an Indian.

Hey all, I'm currently in my pre-final year at a top 5 (Non-IIT) engineering college with a very quanty (math + computer science) degree in India with above average grades and good extracurrics (national sports, NGO stuff e tc.).
I'm aspiring for a BB IBD gig (and later to a PE, ah, the dream).
Not sure how many know about the condition in India for IB so i'll elaborate a bit. Almost all of the BB IBD analyst recruiting takes place at IIM(Indian Institute of Management) (A/B/C) (which are insanely hard to get into btw )after an MBA degree that too with 20 spots (in a good year) for 1400 ultra competitive grads(IBD teams are very small in India). Undergrads rarely (read never) get in at-least at a BB IBD. Remaining aspirants land a domestic/ MM bank gig and try to lateral which I've from my seniors is very long and uncertain (depends on openings and connections etc.)
The options i have at this point are:
1) Try for IIM ABC and hope for a miracle. ( I have calls for interview from all 3)
2) Try for MFE and use that to network into a IBD gig (not sure if Financial engineering will allow me to do that or not) (I have admits from Columbia, Cornell and NYU)
3) Work at middle office gigs and diversify my profile enough to land a M7 MBA (least preferrable since that is even more uncertain and postpones my plans by atleast 5 years.)
4) Any other avenues?
Which of the above would you advice?
Thanks in advance.

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Comments (44)

Mar 2, 2019 - 5:10pm

I think 3 will be tough; as an Indian mid office person, you will have a very tough uphill battle to get admitted to a M7 MBA. Standing out in that pool is very, very tough.

I think 2 is definitely feasible - can't speak to Columbia vs. NYU, but I would take either over Cornell given advantage of being in the city for networking.

I'm going to ignore 1 as it seems very India-specific and I can't comment on it, but it seems a) tough to get into one of the IIMs and b) tough to get a spot in BB IDB even for an IIM grad. And are you saying this involves doing an MBA right after undergrad, that then yields an analyst role? That seems odd to me.

Mar 2, 2019 - 11:45pm

First off, thank you for your response. Yes, I'm leaning towards Columbia and will network my ass off should I chose that option. (Probably would have to answer "why M&A?" if I'm pursuing financial engineering which would be an overkill skillset wise as far as IBD is concerned).
Regarding the first point, yes, IIMs offer MBA degree to people who generally have 0(right after undergrad) to 3 years of work-ex and all these guys (irrespective of prior work experience) are hired as an analyst (IBD tends to hire people with 0-1 years of experience). And yes, it is odd but that's how it is in India, people are dying for these jobs (since they pay crazy amounts once you factor in the purchasing power parity) and the pool of applicants is so neck to neck that companies can put outrageous filters to filter candidates and get away with it (the extremely small number of vacancies also has an effect). Since we are on the topics, I have seen people work at a domestic or MM bank in IB (these take guys as Associates )and when they lateral to BBs, they are hired as Analysts again and take 2-3 years to get promoted to an Associate at the BB they lateral to. Odd doesn't begin to describe it :P

Mar 3, 2019 - 7:17am

Yes, I do have that opportunity as I mentioned. I have acceptances for the Masters in Financial Engineering course from Columbia, NYU and Cornell. I hope I can leverage that. However, their placements stats do not show anyone going to M&A (which is understandable since it is a quant intensive course). I do not know if that is because none tried to get into BB IBD or because no one got an opportunity to interview. Any info regarding the same will be appreciated. Thank you for your response.

Mar 3, 2019 - 12:39pm
Ain'tGettingAny:

I do not know if that is because none tried to get into BB IBD or because no one got an opportunity to interview. Any info regarding the same will be appreciated. Thank you for your response.

I am a 2nd year MBA student and I've spoken to a couple of MS students that tried to break into banking. They couldn't get any interviews. They said a handful of people tried and they couldn't get any traction.
FWIW, there was not a single MS/MFE student in my IBD summer associate class (top 3 BB). Strats team had many though.

Overall, I think path #3 is your best bet.

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Mar 3, 2019 - 4:51pm

If you go to Colombia and network a lot (while not seeming fobby) I feel like you'll have a good shot. As an Indian (tho I was born the us) I felt like I had to prove my normalness to everyone rather than my intelligence. I think with your education you might be better off in S and t but you should still be able to land a BB offer.

Mar 3, 2019 - 3:28am

International here - just make sure you confirm that the program gives you 3 years of OPT. That's a huge boost and basically essential to landing a BB/EB IB gig in the states.

Fit is a huge factor - you communicate pretty well but there are a lot of preconceived notions about "fobby" indians so try your best to fit in with Americans. You don't have to be an SAE fratstar, just be able to hold conversations and be somewhat interesting.

Indian IBD doesn't have much exits I honestly have heard that more consultants get into PE. I would try getting a degree in the US and I'm sure a Columbia/NYU degree holds incredible value back in India.

Mar 3, 2019 - 7:28am

Yes, all three have 36 months of OPT. I completely agree, I'll have to hone my soft skills etc. to fit in. And you are right about Indian IBD. Due to lack of M&A professionals from BBs, MBB have a lot of people exiting into PE but that is slowing down gradually. The weird thing is, the apart from HSW, the other colleges are considered inferior to IIM (LMAO). I have heard this first hand from M7 (non-HSW) guys. Do you know if MFE international students from Columbia/NYU get to interview for BB/EB M&A if they choose to for the bank's New York HQ or not? (They get BB S&T gigs for sure but not sure about M&A) .That is the primary concern of mine. Thank you so much for your response.

Mar 3, 2019 - 3:26pm

The placement reports do not report anyone getting into M&A. LinkedIn stalking revealed the only people getting into M&A were those from Hong Kong and getting into M&A of Hong Kong branches of banks which is not relevant/possible for me. MIT MFin dinged me, they haven't really taken any fresh undergrads (unless they were already from MIT) from India since their inception. And yes, that was probably the only program with IBD placements that I came across(not too many though, if I might add, and definitely not at top 3 BB/EB). Thank you for your response.

Mar 3, 2019 - 3:28pm

I asked around about it from my seniors there. They talk highly about the program but not so much about the job opportunities for Indians especially in M&A where there is no dearth of applicants. Thank you for your response.

Mar 4, 2019 - 10:23am

I think a lot of it has already been said here but just want to confirm: as I understand it MFE is usually a way to get an analyst job, NOT an associate. If that's what your willing to do, it may be a good question to ask the schools if you can recruit with the undergrads. You should also figure out if you can join the respective banking clubs at either the UG or MBA level in order to get networking access.

I think Columbia or NYU is the move here. Once there - and especially if you are in the banking club so you know when all events are - you can network network network and try to get an interview.

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Mar 4, 2019 - 2:17pm

Thank you for your response. I have mailed them inquiring about the same. Yet to hear back from them. In principle, it shouldn't be a problem allowing Masters students to join UG clubs but the thing that bothers me is that if it was a viable option, why hasn't anyone managed to get even an internship in NYC. Both programs have been around long enough to allow such an event to be attempted by at-least someone with success.

Mar 4, 2019 - 4:01pm

Well, MFin is a 1 year program right? So it would be tough to plan out an internship. Anyway, I think they mean MFin getting/competing for an Associate internship with MBA students, you'd be gunning for an analyst position

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Mar 5, 2019 - 7:15am

IIM ABC will set you up to go into IBD in India. However, the problem is there are very few FO IBD roles in India since most of them are MO or BO jobs.

Do not go into MO and then try to break into M7 MBA.

Going abroad seems like the best option however I have on idea about the programs you've gotten into.

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Mar 5, 2019 - 9:40am

Working in Europe is definitely not a problem for me. However, I've heard (both online and from seniors) that getting into M&A is really tough there since non-Europeans have to pass a Labour Market Test etc. and banks prefer someone who does not come with such complications which is easy to find owing to large demand from European students who do not come with such baggage. I have heard this from seniors in Oxford and HEC. Please correct me if I'm wrong or misinformed. Thank you for your response.

Mar 5, 2019 - 9:39am

Had a friend in a similar predicament. He came to the states for college, landed at a BB IBD FO for an internship. They did not want to sponsor him and offered a spot for FO IBD in London as he had citizenship there as well.

Not sure if you're a dual citizen with the UK, but since a decent amount of Indians do have dual citizenship I would look into that if it applies to you.

Other than that can't offer much help. Good Luck and keep us updated on how things go.

Mar 5, 2019 - 9:46am

I do not have dual citizenship :/ . I have heard people get into S&T in the states after MFE. I have no clue why it is not the same with M&A. And thank you, I'll definitely keep you posted. Thank you for your response.

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Mar 30, 2019 - 1:38pm

Hi,
Its nice to see somebody from India. Let me give you a brief background about myself. I have a total of six years of work experience (all of it in Mumbai, India); 1 year in an Indian domestic boutique IB, 2 years in a domestic BB IB (more on this later), 2 years with a global mega-fund as an Analyst and now recently started as an Associate at another global mega-fund. I have worked across the Indian banking space and know a few things. I have also never attended an IIT, IIM or an M7 school. I don't even have an MBA.

The road to a position at a global/domestic PE fund in India is not straight-forward. While your approach is somewhat correct, the real picture is a lot different. For now, let's keep your target as landing a PE job (I will shed light on this in the following paragraphs)

Firstly, you need to understand how PE firms recruit in India. An Analyst is the starting point, generally. Is BB IB the only place PE firms hire from? DEFINITELY NO! If that were true, you would have a constant churn of employees at these BB firms because the team sizes are ridiculously small (6-7 people). The Analyst mainly needs two things: (a) a good skill set which includes financial modeling, understanding the due diligence process, valuation analysis and pitchbook creation and (b) the ability to work really long hours and be ready to slog at any point of time during the day or night. Unsurprisingly, the latter is the most required ability.

There are five main avenues through which PE firms hire (because candidates from these fields have the above mentioned skills):
a) BB IBs and domestic BB IBs: The usual BB suspects along with Kotak, ICICI and Axis IB teams
b) MM and Boutique IBs: Moelis, Jefferies, Rothschild, Avendus, Arpwood, JM Financial, O3, etc.
c) Big 4: Surpirising, but yes, PE firms in India hire quite frequently from Big 4s. Relationships with Indian promoters take precedence when landing a mandate and not many firms have the network that the Big 4s have.
d) MBB firms
e) Corporate Finance roles from any big conglomerates (regular acquisitions are a must so companies like Cipla, Piramals, HUL, Tata (the best one among them), Reliance (to some extent)), etc.)

If you land a job at any of these places, you have a legitimate shot at landing a PE interview. So your focus on just BB firms is not correct. Plus, BB firms in India are so small that they usually select people who intend to stay. (that's why your focus should be on landing a PE role; ppl at BB firms are trained to identify people)

Coming to your education background, I am sure that you will be able to land a job in one of these above mentioned fields. I would also suggest you to keep networking with people. As Indians, we are not trained to ask people for a coffee meeting. I would suggest you to start networking with the professionals in these fields. Hiring takes place mostly through references or through two HR firms (Vito, Michael Page as well as Linkedin and iimjobs.com). Keep meeting these people and make sure you know what to speak. A general hodgepodge of ideas and I will make sure to never recommend you to anyone. Be sure of what you will speak about when you ask for a meeting. When you send a CV, send along a sample case study ('which stock will you invest in and why' kind of case) and be ready to speak why you want to join a BB IB or a MBB or any of the above.

MFE is useless; rather get a CFA. Focus on networking and grow a tough skin. You will get rejected a lot but perseverance never failed anyone. Build a network of people at these firms; nothing works as effectively as networking.

IIMs, IITs, M7 or any other school will NOT guarantee you a PE job. And for the record, M7s are not considered inferior to IIMs. It is the reverse that is true (because M7 candidates have prior work-ex while IIM students are mostly freshers). M7 and IIM students both find it just as tough to land a PE job as anyone else. I have several friends in M7 (having been accepted to a few) and IIMs and this is from my personal experience. Pls don't stress yourself out on this. Focus on building a skill-set and a strong network.

Hope I was of some help!

Apr 1, 2019 - 2:23am

I'm honestly amazed. Thank you so so much! Such a definitive and elaborate answer was exactly what I needed and more than what I expected. I'll keep all the points mentioned by you in mind and start applying the same.

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