I clawed my way to the top: Retail to CIB

Hey everyone,
I know a lot of people are worried and getting anxious about their chances or futures in IB. With that, I thought it would be a great time to share some positivity and encouragement. While I was lucky enough to break in just before all this shit hit the fan, I did successfully broke into a BB CIB group. Just to give a bit of background: Did not graduate from a top undergrad or grad school. They weren't shit schools, just weren't stellar either. The only internship I was able to secure was a tiny M&A shop that wouldn't even pay me for 7 months. After the internship, I was so desperate for cash the only job I could land in banking was RETAIL!
Despite my, oh lets just nicely call it "unusual" IB background, I have accepted an IB offer. For those of you who are worried with all thats going on, I can sympathize and I wish you the best. Not sure any of this advice will resonate with anyone but just in the off chance it can help, here is how I was able to be successful.

  1. Even if you cant be in IB, just try to work in a bank. Retail, WM, MO, Anything. You will hear a lot of disheartening crap on this website that its a death sentence for your career or it will never get you anywhere, but I think it's all about perspective. Being in a bank, with internal email, and a recommendation by a manager that you are a great worker is the next best thing to add to your resume. When you network within that bank, people are much more receptive to that internal email too. Within a year of my start in the retail bank, I was able to network with well over 15 people in the IB side and leveraged that network for an interview.

  2. When I was networking, I found that in the beginning, I was so desperate to find out and exploit how an individual could help, that it was coming off like sharks smelling blood in the water. Frankly, its how 99% of college kids trying to network come off. I had to teach myself to not see networking as only looking for a recommendation or a job offer from people otherwise they weren't useful. By developing a mindset that's not just asking for a "quick HUGE favor for a stranger" approach, you will have much better success and develop a much stronger network. Meet people for coffee and ask them about what they do. If you cant do that, you are clearly not interested enough. Ask them for SMALL favors first. Do they know anyone they recommend you meeting? Anyone they can introduce you too? If you really want to get into your dream job this should come natural.

  3. The best way to move up for the role you want is to crush at what you are doing now. Especially if you are internal, they will call your boss. Its happened to me. If you suck, a mediocre review/recommendation could stop all your progress dead in its tracks.

  4. Be open with your boss and team. You will be surprised by who people know and who they can introduce you to. My boss was a branch manager. Ignorantly i never expected to ask her for a favor because no way she would know anyone in IB being from the ground floor in retail. I was an ignorant asshole for thinking that, and i was wrong. When i told my boss my career goals, i was first shocked by how encouraging she actually was. Even more surprised when she introduced me to a Private Bank managing partner who used to be one of her bankers years ago as well as all the clients she knew who worked for IB firms: HL, Baird, William Blair, etc. I will say it def helps when you do retail in downtown NY, CHI, etc. where the action is. The FA that worked in my branch was also able to introduce me to a Private Bank advisor who worked with IB for clients selling business. Moral of story: great connections can sometimes come in the most unlikely places.

Breaking into IB is one of the most difficult things I have ever achieved. Probably about to be even harder for the next few months, or year even. For any of you who experience difficulty, dont give up easily. Hopefully this gives some half dececnt advice.


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Comments (6)

Mar 20, 2020 - 9:46am

Yes and no - it's just a matter of different nomenclature and structure. Some banks house it's IBD under it's CIB umrella, some banks don't.

"Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent."

Mar 20, 2020 - 10:46am

Congrats, inspiring piece! After getting the interviews, how did you prepare for them? Since you had no IB experience, was it just a matter of going over technicals? Basically, how did you convince them you could do/were right for the job?

Most Helpful
Mar 21, 2020 - 1:36am

Thanks bfd!

To prepare for the interviews, I think the most valueable thing I did to prepare for interviews was learn to relate my experience to the role. Even though retail isnt IB, there are a lot of ways to transfer skills and relate experience. I wont deny, just about anyone you speak with will boil retail down to opening accounts, but that doesnt mean you cant show them otherwise. For me, I focused on my wealth managment and lending involvement. I made sure to highlight that while I may not get as much involvement as I would like in those processes, I tried to take on as much as I can whever those opportunities arise. With that, I also tried to show with that much interest, motivation, and successs around those parts of my role that I was ready and capable of a more analytical challenge.

Other than that, read up on the industy. You have any interviews coming up?

Mar 21, 2020 - 1:21pm

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