Buy Side: An unorthodox route

I work in London and an analyst and myself had to travel to Canary Wharf to discuss financing options with one of the banks based there. Whilst getting our stuff ready, there was a power outage across the whole area (similar scenario to if there was an outage on Wall Street). We were stuck with no electricity and so got talking. I've been working with the guy for about 5 months now but had never really asked how he got to where he is today. I was expecting the tried and tested formula of target, IB, mba but his response surprised me somewhat (permission granted to re-lay).

He grew up in Russia and went to university there. His family were relatively affluent and so could secure him a finance position (apparently most jobs in finance over there are secured this way). However he did not want to rely on them.

So when he was 24 he came to London with about £1000 and enrolled in language school whilst working a part time job (his Visa only allowed part time work).
His first job was at Subway which only lasted 2 weeks. Then he moved to a travel agency, where he worked Monday to Friday, a car wash, where he worked Saturday and Sunday and as a hotel receptionist, where he worked the night shift on Friday and Saturday nights. All the while he was living in a hostel in Earls Court, sharing a room with one other. He was there for 18 months.

He then heard of a migrant program with effectively gave you a score based on factors such as previous work, age e.t.c to judge whether you could receive a two year full time Visa. He applied three times and on the third time, he got it.

Following this he applied to a large research/journalism/computer terminal company (...) and managed to land a job. He had been there for four years when the crisis hit and was made redundant. Haven't spent so long in back office with little progress, he wanted to move to the front of house preferably Private Equity. Whilst searching for jobs, he stumbled across Mergers and Inquisitions. It was here he learnt how hard it is to land a job on the buy side and the pre-requisites involved. According to Brian at M&I there were three ways.
1. Following a graduate program at a target. Nope
2. Through networking. Had it been in Russia, maybe, but in London, nope.
3. By getting an MBA.

So he spent the next year on his application to London Business School. When this didn't work out he looked towards getting a masters in Real Estate Finance. There are a few good schools in London for this but arguably bar LSE the best is Cass Business School. So he applied to Cass and somehow managed to get in.
The schools' fees are roughly £17,000 a year and of course he didn't have that lying around. Normally one would finance this through a loan, but this was 2011 and debt was pretty hard to come by. But again somehow he managed to secure one albeit not on the best terms. So he spent a year at Cass and came out with his masters. He was searching for a job for around two months afterwards and eventually managed to secure an internship (at the age of 31). After four months, he moved up to analyst and is coming up to the end of his first year

I love WSO and believe it to be a truly useful tool. However I think someone coming on researching the possibility of landing their first job in PE/HF might be put off by the "track" that's preached so much. Admittedly I followed that path, but I just though that a story such as this might be an encouraging reminder to those looking to the buy side that there is no one route to get in.

Comments (10)

 
Jul 7, 2014 - 12:20pm

Cool story. The IB ---> PE/HF path is touted so often on WSO (often by people in college who haven't worked a day in IB or on the buy-side) that people who come here end up thinking it's that way or bust. Although it's definitely the path of least resistance, careers aren't always linear and there are definitely other ways to get what you want. As an example, I'm heading into FT IB and I know a number of prominent fund managers who think the IB ---> HF path is ridiculous.

 
Jul 7, 2014 - 12:49pm

notthehospitalER:

Cool story. The IB ---> PE/HF path is touted so often on WSO (often by people in college who haven't worked a day in IB or on the buy-side) that people who come here end up thinking it's that way or bust. Although it's definitely the path of least resistance, careers aren't always linear and there are definitely other ways to get what you want. As an example, I'm heading into FT IB and I know a number of prominent fund managers who think the IB ---> HF path is ridiculous.

Exactly, I think IB teaches you the effort required to make the salaries which get touted in the papers and some aspects of the technical side of things, but it's by no means the only way to learn or for that matter get a job in those particular fields.

 
Jul 7, 2014 - 3:08pm

Well, we'd like to hear from the subject of the story as well -if possible-.

There is demand for Russian-speaking specialists in London in particular, and coming from Cass your friend was able to break in.

Winners bring a bigger bag than you do. I have a degree in meritocracy.
 
Jul 9, 2014 - 3:12am

agreed. Life is not linear, and neither are many careers.

I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.
  • 1
 
Jul 12, 2014 - 11:12pm

The real hustlers are always super inspirational. Great story, especially since he could've easily taken the sure thing back in Russia.

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have. Socrates
 
Jul 14, 2014 - 11:22pm

Man, that's some real dedication. Can you tell us more about how he got that internship without much connection, being much older than other analysts and at the same time having a RE finance degree (unless your firm focuses on real estate of course)?

“He never chooses an opinion, he just wears whatever happens to be in style” (Leo Tolstoy - War and Peace)
 
Jul 15, 2014 - 11:03am

To get the internship he had three interviews over the space of two weeks. The first was in our office, the next was in a coffee shop around the corner. After the second they gave him an lbo model to work on for a week then called him in for a third.
His age doesn't seem to be much of an issue. From my experience (which isn't vast) age causes problems when someone has worked in IB/consulting and moved up the ranks then upon making the switch to PE feel they're "too experienced" for the role if it's a step down. However because he hadn't really worked in finance before, this wasn't an issue. We occasionally give him a bit of grief over how there are people younger than him in more senior positions but to be honest I just think he's happy to be where he is.

 
Jul 15, 2014 - 10:44am
"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers
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