Finance Scene in Washington DC

Hi all

I was wondering if how good (maybe how bad?) DC is as a place to begin one's finance career. I'm not expecting it to be on the same level as NYC, SF, Chicago or even Houston/LA, but relative to other cities, is it that bad of a choice? I don't think I'd be a good fit in a megacity like NYC right off the bat, so that's why I was thinking DC might be a good option as it still offers an urban lifestyle on a smaller scale. I'm wondering, however, if the political/public sector scene is overpowering though and finance jobs might be harder to find.

Unlike a lot on here, I'm not necessarily looking at the same exits. I'm either looking to be a financial/corporate development executive of a company, do something entrepreneurial, or even do something finance-related for the public sector (i.e. evaluating whether infrastructure or other public investments make sense financially and how to structure these projects to maximize financial return), so for me, would DC be a decent fit if I like everything else about the city, or would I be crazy to not apply to NYC firms while I have the chance?

By the way, even though I have an interest in working in finance within the public sector, I would not want to start my career in a gov agency. I'd rather gain private sector experience first and then transition to the public side of things later on.

Thanks!

Comments (18)

Jul 6, 2013

I'm very familiar with the DC area, and can tell you that the scene is dominated by law, politics, and some engineering/technology/defense contractors here and there. If NYC is not for you, that doesn't mean you can't have a successful finance career in the DC area. If you're a banker in the DC area, you might not get the oohs and ahhs as you might from the average worker in NYC. But really, who cares?

If finance is where your passion lies, and you think you might want to look at places other than NYC, DC could be a good option. Some big names in the DC area for banking include: Lazard (ADG), Houlihan Lokey (ADG), FBR, RW Baird (FIG), Rothschild, some real estate and FIG boutiques, and so on... That said, your exit opportunities could be somewhat limited in a general sense.

Also, this is just my opinion, but the DC area is more for those settling in and wanting to have a family - if you're young and in your early 20s you'll want to be somewhere more dynamic - but that's a personal preference.

Float like a butterfly, sting like the bee.

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Jul 6, 2013

I agree with the above except for the last part. DC is a pretty awesome place to be if you're in your early 20s. That is, assuming you're making good money and are decently well-educated. Does it stand up to NYC? Probably not, but how many cities really do?

Jul 6, 2013

You mention public sector a few times... look at public finance banking, advising or muni buy-side? Or, PPP structures are gaining favor in the US, perhaps you find an infrastructure firm that invests equity in PPP projects? A simple Google search will return plenty of firms in the DC area...

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Jul 6, 2013
ChiTown82:

You mention public sector a few times... look at public finance banking, advising or muni buy-side? Or, PPP structures are gaining favor in the US, perhaps you find an infrastructure firm that invests equity in PPP projects? A simple Google search will return plenty of firms in the DC area...

Thank you for bringing this up, this is actually something I'm very confused about. My dream job off late would be something where I analyze the financial impacts of various policy proposals or infrastructure projects. So for example, taking a look at an education policy and seeing whether or not it would be financially feasible, the social impacts, etc. or a proposal to expand public transit and what the economics of that decision would be. There's also infrastructure projects, such as building a new bridge, toll roads, etc. that I would enjoy evaluating and I'd like to help whoever does that work (whether it's gov agency, a financial institution, consulting firm, etc.) evaluate the financial impacts of going through with those decisions potentially as a career.

I'm not sure which firms would do something like that or what career path that would be, so would any of the fields you mentioned involve doing work like that (particularly modeling cash flows, but I could also see myself on the diligence side initially...eventually I want to be modeling or evaluating the decision of whether or not to invest in bonds issued for these projects though)? I'm very interested in debt as a security, actually, so even something that would give me exposure to lending for high risk infrastructure projects as a creditor would be very cool IMO. I looked into corp banking, but that didn't seem to involve the higher risk public projects I was looking for, so I never really followed up on it.

Now back on topic with DC, thank you to the poster who mentioned big names such as Rothschild, etc. that are in DC. I'm actually looking smaller, however. If I were to do private equity, I would do something in the MM or small caps (but not venture level) space and am not as interested in megadeals/megabuyouts. Is the MM space fairly robust in DC? Also, I candidly care less about how "prestigious" my job is in the eyes of others haha. I just want to do something interesting really and I think the areas I've mentioned would satisfy that desire.

Jul 7, 2013

1. Epic name from an epic character on an epic show!
2. Really interested in this as well. Public finance is a great way to start your career if you're into getting a public office. You will make numerous contacts, and I've seen tons of people move into a lead financial role at many different gov't offices.
3. Pub fin is more than simply issuing GO and Revenue bonds. Privatization is getting pretty big, and that's also another subset that provides really keen skills.

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Jul 7, 2013

While DC is not a huge banking city. Its surprisingly has a strong PE presence. Keep in mind, Carlyle has their HQ there. There are tons of PE and VC firms there and my guess is simply because of the political scene. Believe it or not, PE is tied heavily to the political scene, didn't really understand why, but politicians and PE partners are known to rub shoulders quite often.

Jul 8, 2013

Makes total sense. First, the partners at a PE firm are scouring the globe for deals for good investments. Given that regulations can have a huge impact on businesses, it's good to keep politicians close by in order to get the inside scoop. Second, PE partners want to make sure that politicians keep their carry taxed at the capital gains rate, NOT the regular income rate.

Jul 10, 2013

PPP structures have advisors on the public sector side modeling the Value for Money Analysis, the construction/infrastructure consortium that designs/builds/finances/operates (or similar combination) that evaluates the project/investment, the commercial banks that lend, the investment banks that structure/underwrite the bonds, and the investors that buy those bonds (whether private 144a securities or publicly-offered private activity bonds). Look for the primer entitled, "Financial Structuring and Assessment for PPP" on the following site: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ipd/p3/index.htm

Should give you a decent start on the players involved in infrastructure projects. It's definitely a growing field.

Jul 11, 2013

Lockheed Martin and Capital One are based out of DC and have FLDP programs

Jul 11, 2013

George Washington sucks dude..... absurdly expensive school that isn't very respected by anybody.

Jul 11, 2013

amen, stop trying to justify it, you're digging yourself into a bigger hole

Jul 11, 2013

Your thesis on DC is fine but you might want to look at Georgetown. There seems to be more and more jobs popping up out of DC and Northern VA.

I wonder if Darden does well in the area.

Jul 11, 2013

GWU is a pretty good school, very diverse and right smack middle of DC... although as you guys mentioned, somewhat expensive. The city I feel has been sheltered against the financial downturn far more than other cities, and didn't seem like it skipped a beat from what I've seen and read. There are plenty of jobs for well qualified people, although a lot will be working with the gov't.

Jul 11, 2013

Do not come to DC if you're looking for finance roles. Most shops here have high average employee ages and they are looking to get rich, not hire new people.

Jul 11, 2013

I recently interviewed with a firm in the DC area - EDG Partners - they are healthcare focused. I will be looking to see what other groups are in the area and will post if I find any others.

Jul 11, 2013
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