CPA Audit -> M7 -> Top Hedge Funds ?

CPAtoMBA's picture
Rank: Orangutan | banana points 328

I posted here few years back as a CPA who was hoping to get admitted by an M7 b-school. Fortunately, I was admitted this year to 3 out of 4 schools that I applied to. (Admitted at: Wharton, Columbia, Booth l Rejected by: HBS), thus definitely possible for accountants to do well in the admission process. If you have any general questions on the process, don't hesitate to ask.

I chose Wharton as it was the only school out of the 4 where I felt like at home when I visited, and developed strong connections with current and admitted students. My initial target careers out of MBA were Management Consulting or I-Banking. However, I grew stronger interest for hedge funds or asset management companies recently and thinking to go that route instead.

I had a few questions that I was hoping someone would be able to assist me with in order to make myself prepared before the August 2019 MBA entry:

  1. What majors will prepare me best for the career in HF or AM? I am thinking about Finance and Statistics, but let me know if the majors even matter at top schools.
  2. What is a typical Post-MBA title at a Hedge Fund or AM for someone who is able to sneak in without prior experience, for the career track to eventually become a PM? I know it is hard to get without prior exp., but still doable.
  3. How much value do HF and AM place on networking with them outside of b-school (i.e., emails, calls, visits, coffee chats close to their office)?
  4. What are some top firms that might be more open to hiring people without prior HF or AM backgrounds?

Thank you.

Comments (11)

Feb 18, 2019

I guess why do you feel there is a general perception that accountants aren't looked upon well by adcoms? Is it the way they present themselves?

Feb 18, 2019

Honestly, I also always questioned this general perception that I read in this forum and others (p&q, gmatclub, etc). Some people said that accountants may not bring as much value to the classroom, so everyone suggested me to apply to top 15-20 instead as that's where most of Big 4 folks end up.

From my department, for example, the best school someone has gotten to in the last 10 years was Darden. So perhaps the general perception is true and Big 4 folks have to go all out in the application to be considered at more competitive schools.

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Feb 19, 2019
  1. Majors aren't a big deal in my view on the resume. Sure, finance and stats work. Would probably say Accounting would be better than Stats for investing. What matters is the knowledge from relevant classes you take that helps you answer questions in the interview process matters the most.
  2. Title could be: Analyst, Investment Analyst, Associate, Investment Associate.
  3. My sense is a lot of HFs, outside of the big ones with HR resources, don't have a structured on-campus process.

Oh and as you can see, the general perception may not necessarily apply to you. You see that you can go far with a Big 4 background despite what people say. Same applies here.

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Feb 18, 2019

Thanks a ton for the response. I was also thinking about it and another reason for Big 4 having hard time is the prestige of our undergrad colleges. Most kids at Big 4 Audit & Tax (myself included), went to large state schools or unknown colleges.

By the way, can see how Accounting major could be better than Stats. But the fact that I have a CPA, I think I can skip all accounting courses and still be perceived as one of the better applicants in terms of Accounting knowledge (if I study by myself on any relevant topics that may come up during interview). Any thoughts?

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Feb 19, 2019

If you're confident about your accounting knowledge, sure. Best is to take courses that you're actually interested in.

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Feb 19, 2019

2 of my friends at HFs (one had prior experience, other was a MC) took a heavy concentration of investment related courses as electives, so to the extent that these courses interest you I'd do that. Not because you need a "major" but because they help you think through analytical tools to discuss during your investment pitches and make you appear somewhat knowledgeable.

One also had an in with a well known professor who got him plenty of facetime and access to some industry events. At the b-school level professors tend to be an underutilized resource so try to develop relationships with those who've got industry connections. I'd say the most important thing for them both was networking. Turn that into a job in itself.

The hiring is mostly done JIT so try to keep an eye out and develop some relationships w/ any firms of interest. Just what I observed from 2 successful candidates; I witnessed plenty more fail so take the usual grain of salt.

Feb 18, 2019

Thank you for your response. If I am interested in investments, am I crazy not to pursue Columbia over Wharton? I know Value Investing program is a big deal but hard to get to; do you think Columbia VI program has a better reputation than Wharton?

Why I am asking this is because I will be taking slightly more loans for Wharton than Columbia to cover 2 years of living expenses. For Columbia, I could live with the family in CT and commute for an hour to campus. But I loved Wharton and the fact that everyone lives within few blocks from one another, so would have a better two years of experience.

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Feb 19, 2019

Would agree it's a deeply personal decision. Columbia in the heart of NYC and lots of practitioners come to campus and teach there. Same happens at Wharton but just being RIGHT there in NYC helps a lot for networking.

W has a stronger brand but how much does that matter, how much would someone have to pay you to take Columbia?

Feb 19, 2019

How much more in loans are we talking when you say "slightly"? And do you really want to spend the B-school experience living with relatives in a different state? The networking is really the point of being there.

I wouldn't think you're CRAZY for pursuing Columbia but getting into the VIP is far from a walk (they only accept ~ a quarter of applicants). But I'm one of those people who thinks fit (within reason) and your overall experience are super important for devoting 2 years of your life to something assuming no huge cost disparity between choices. So it's really a deeply personal decision. For me, the idea of commuting from CT and living w/ relatives when I have to worry about group projects, parties, events, etc. just leaves me with a bad taste. And since your career goals are rather hard to reach anyway, I'd insist on taking Wharton.

But objectively you'll be fine either way, if you happen to be leaning Columbia. At this level, and for the type of job you specifically want, YOU are the x-factor. I don't know how lucky you are, how hard you'll hustle to network, how debt averse you are, how much smarter and more driven than your competition you are, how well you connect w/ interviewers, how adept you are at creating your own opportunities if you don't get handed every resource, and how happy you'd be with Plan B if things don't work out. Only you'll have that answer!

Feb 18, 2019

"Slightly more" may not have been the best way to state the loans at Wharton. I didn't get scholarships so it's between $220k (Wharton) vs. $150k (Columbia). I think with my target high earning careers (management consulting as a backup), loan difference will not have much impact on my life after mba. Thus leaning strongly towards Wharton as that's where I felt a strong fit and will probably have the best 2 years.

Agree with you that there are many other things in play to determine the level of success I will have to recruit in such a tough industry. I will make sure to do my best to make the most out of the program, since it's such a huge investment to take it lightly.

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Feb 23, 2019
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