Breaking into buy-side without big names on resume

ZetaMale's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 626

At ~30 years of age, I've had the following experience (all firms Manhattan based);

  • BA from a respectable non-target liberal arts (think Bucknell, Leigh, etc.)
  • Mid/late 2000s; ST Fixed-Income middle off at two top 5s, one of which isn't around anymore (think Lehman, Bear, etc.)
  • Late 2008/09 Certificate from an Ivy (was going to lever it into a true degree program, but life just got too expensive to not work)
  • 2009-2013; was an analyst (then promote to associate) at a non-elite boutique in New York working on anything from middle market M&A to private placements to carving out a seat on syndicate. You name it, if our broker/dealer and/or advisory side could sweep revenue and the deal wasn't a total scam, we'd probably get in it. Went there because of a colleague who I respect (well respected after some serious misjudgment with an investor that almost got FINRA/SEC involved) and received a lot of teaching on modeling, decks, CIMs, engagements, definitive agreements, etc.
  • 2013-2015; went to a better respected boutique (former Goldman/McKinsey guys) and became VP. During this time, did my MBA at a well known University (would bucket classes on the weekend as I didn't want to go into heavy debt and receiving a paycheck is great)
    -2016 - now; in Management Consulting. Reason; met a partner that blew my hair back that consults with all the majors (on sell and buy-side). Was a chance to perform front office strategy (but in actuality, its more like loan staff and occasionally we get regulatory work which is beyond awful), but being a senior member and not working late nights/weekends is actually a nice change of pace. I do, however, miss deals and... lets not kid ourselves... the comp--while good--isn't great

Licenses: 7, 24, 63, 79. 2017 CFA L3 candidate

With that said, my path isn't just 'non-traditional', it is completely non-linear and off the rails. I'm gunning for PE or Merchant Banking.

No major recruiter will show me anything buy-side. Most give me the, 'well, they're looking for a candidate that was MS/GS/etc. for 2-3 years, then PE for 2-3 and--if invited back--stay on or go to B-School at a top 5 then come back' and I've tried to work Associate and VP/Principal roles. I've looked outside of NYC/Fairfield county and its the same song. If I cold some funds--humbling to say the least--I always have good conversations, but for whatever reason, nothing is sticking. Main feedback I get after connecting is 'we don't have any seats, but I'll keep you in mind'

Major firms Merchant Banking (whatever that really means these days)
Larger financial services firms don't take into account my boutique experience at all. If I get lucky and land an interview, I normally kill at the technical, can discuss managing a deal from origination to execution, and show a deal sheet--if asked--that shows originated transactions and earned revenue streams. But it always comes back to the 'too senior for an associate, not enough bulge bracket experience for VP'

I haven't tried VC/HF/Real Estate/etc., but I'm guessing I'll hear more of the same. I have about zero experience related to any of those except maybe VC.

So, I'm looking at all avenues for help. Tapping my network, schools, friends/family, and whatever I can. I don't go into interviews/conversations with negativity, nor do I act like I can do the job better than the person interviewing me, but there has to be something that's a miss here.

Any words of wisdom are welcome

United States - Northeast

Comments (4)

Mar 6, 2017

It's going to be tough to break into traditional buy-side with your lack of buy-side experience. Your competition will likely have 5+ years of direct buy-side experience by your age. You can tell firms you are willing to be an associate for 2 years and you might get some bites. You will sacrifice comp + lifestyle compared to your current gig but could open up some opportunities. At this point you are going to have to be very creative or very lucky.

    • 2
Mar 6, 2017

Thanks for the feedback.

I'm eyeing Associate roles. I don't mind taking a step back in title to break-in.

What are your thoughts in going to a tier 2 or 3 or otherwise, working 2-3 years, then trying to lateral to a tier 1?

Best Response
Mar 7, 2017

The plan is fine, the biggest issue is getting in in the first place. Don't just eye associate roles, you will need to apply for hundreds and be open to any location.

    • 2
Mar 7, 2017