Mod Note (Andy) - as the year comes to an end we're reposting the top discussions from 2015, this one ranks #47. This one was originally posted 3/20/2015.
I posted this in a reply to an earlier thread but thought it may be helpful as it's own topic.
I have recently made this jump so maybe this can help. Sorry for the long post but it's all relevant to how I made it to front office. Here's the summary: your back office job doesn't mean shit and they don't give a fuck about your projects or whatever. You have to know the job you want and investments inside and out with relevant ideas they can make money off. In the 4 hours of interviews I had I spent less than 2 mins talking about my back office experience. Do not bring it up first because most front office people will immediately check out mentally when you bring it up and you have no chance, regardless of how good you may actually be.
Firstly I am in Toronto and the front office employment market is not very optimistic at the moment. My story may not be applicable to those outside of Toronto.
I always knew I wanted to get into Equity Research, sell side or buy side. since undergrad I wrote many ER reports myself on stocks and always loved doing it. My stocks also performed relatively well and that fed my determination to keep at it.
I graduated UG in May 2008 from a non target school with mediocre overall grades but one of the highest in my finance classes. My parents just moved to the US at the time and my mom was sick with terminal cancer so to help her I went with them. I took up a job in the accounting department at a paper mill while there. They offered me the controller position before I left but I turned it down knowing my ultimate passion was ER. The salary was good relative to how easy the job is most of the time, let's say 80k base.
Afterwards I came back to Toronto, just wrapped up CFA level 1. With my background I had no success with landing FO interviews. Money was getting tight so I needed something to pay the bills. I took a job at the call centre for a global mutual fund company, less than half the offer I got to stay at the paper company. I kept up with my reports and through this job I was able to meet local PMs that came for presentations. They helped me refine my research and report writing skills by giving tons of feedback.
A job came up in the data management department. I got the opportunity to learn bloomberg and talk with global PMs and traders for support and system project work while finishing the CFA. Did this for 3 years while looking for a job in ER.
I kept at my reports and meeting with local PMs. Last year one of them really liked one of my ideas. We spoke at length about it then he went to meet the management team in Europe. He then bought a block of shares. The same day he made the buy, an analyst position opened on his team. I thought this is it! I interviewed with another junior PM and she didn't seem all that impressed with what I had done. They told me to give another idea so I did. They said they had a bad experience in that industry and will never buy into it again. I tried to explain why it was uniquely different than other industry participants but they didn't agree (that stock is up over 100% when I recommended it a year and a half ago). Then they told me they wanted someone with south east Asian experience, whatever.
Had interviews in sell side ER after, always heard the same response: we like you and you accomplished a lot by yourself but here's this guy from another bank who already covered the same stocks. I kept at it and just landed a job in ER at a boutique in Toronto. applied through my local CFA society, no connections at this shop. I mentioned almost nothing in my application about what I actually did in data management. I just mentioned I worked with senior PMs and traders as well as the reports I wrote for the PMs. This time they wanted some one with a strong background without direct ER experience. I beat out people with top marks at local target schools with MBAs.
The point is you have to know investments, be confident, and pitch profitable ideas. Your school, CFA, and back office job doesn't amount to shit.
Anyway that's my long drawn out story, sorry if it's too long but hope it helps someone who was in my position