I need help figuring out how to get into Investment Banking

Hello,

I'm a high school Junior in California interested in pursuing Investment Banking for a future career but I don't know where or how to start preparing for this field. I have decent grades, certainly not the best but I plan on attending community college for my GED, then transferring to a UC. I'm aware that attending a non-target school will make my journey more difficult but I'm okay with that. My main concern though is that I won't break into investment banking and instead I'll fall short of my expectations and end up working a job I don't want to work. So a major question I have for all you experienced people is how I can better myself now while I'm still in school to then make it into investment banking in the future. Private Equity is what I'm really aiming for though, and if there's a different way I can get into PE than working as an investment banker for a couple years, I'm all ears. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this, I would greatly appreciate any suggestions.

Sincerely,

Anthony

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Comments (16)

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Gen
Sep 17, 2021 - 2:35am

It's going to be almost impossible to break into a reputable bank from CC because recruiting for summer interns starts spring sophomore year. If you're at CC sophomore year, you won't have the resources (alumni, clubs, etc) to recruit. If you can transfer after freshman year to Berkeley, UCLA, or USC, you'll be in a great spot for west coast IB.

Sep 17, 2021 - 7:25pm

Hi,

Thank you for replying. Would it be possible to work at a west coast Investment Bank, then move to NYC after a couple years and work for a Private Equity? Also, what do you think I should be doing in while in high school? Should I be searching for a business internship to gain experience and exposure? Please let me know, thanks again!

Sincerely,

Anthony

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Gen
Sep 18, 2021 - 2:41pm

I'm still a college student so I don't know about how lateraling is as an analyst. I went through recruiting and got an IB offer so that's why I was able to give some advice regarding that. If you're at a reputable firm I don't think it would be too hard to move locations but I'm not sure. 

Sep 17, 2021 - 11:08pm

Dude enjoy your time in high school / junior years of college, trust me.

I ended up breaking into IB for an SA role and am returning full-time after finding out what IB was in the middle of my sophomore year of college (liberal arts background).

You'll be fine.

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Sep 18, 2021 - 1:35pm

Thank you for responding,

yeah you're right, I've just been hear that its difficult to break into IB and I want to make sure I'm doing everything I can to set myself up for success. How do you feel about Investment Banking? Do you plan on going into PE later on?

Sep 18, 2021 - 7:36pm

It is very difficult to break into IB - regardless I think people should enjoy their years in highschool / first years of freedom without stressing about knowing the 400 question guide.

I liked IB this past summer, but I don't think I'll be heading to PE after my two years. IB hours sound bad when you're reading them and they're even worse when you're actually working them, was kinda a slap in the face for me this summer.

Sep 18, 2021 - 9:29pm

Hello,

I'm not entirely set on going to CC, but I feel that in my case it would make sense, since it would be cheaper and there is a better chance of acceptance as a transfer. But I probably will apply to a UC because there's always a chance I might get accepted. Do you think I should try to get an internship in the field of business next summer, which would be the summer before my senior year starts? It would look good on a resume, right?

Most Helpful
  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 19, 2021 - 9:57pm

I've had hundreds of conversations with bankers, including my uncle who was an MD for a top BB and

they all had one thing in common: they hate their job/balance in life.

It's great you're thinking about your career early but I would really think about why PE interests you. WSO is a great resource to better learn about career paths but it's greatest flaw is the herd mentality for IB and PE.

I don't blame most. In fact, I was one of them and I was from a school with a student org that has incredible IB placement year after year and all of my peers who pursue IB fall into 3 categories:

  1. They choose IB because they don't know what they want to do at all in their careers and do IB from the start to keep as many exit options open
  1. They are international students and would like to make the highest amount of money possible after school to pay off their loans
  1. (Most common) They are high-achieving students in college, work hard, have good extra-curricular involvement, and see that the two types above are applying to IB so they decide to pursue it as well.

I will admit, all three of these reasons may be valid but they're very short-term minded. When you talk to them once they hit the desk, you'll soon find how quickly they're trying to leave the field (not even PE).

Don't believe me? After all, so many smart students go to IB so maybe my insight is just a biased sample? If so, I encourage you to look at the people who do land PE jobs after their IB stint. You'll soon find that the overwhelming majority of them only stay in PE for 2-3 years (much like IB) and then go for something with better WLB like Corp Dev. The reasons for this are:

  1. They realize PE is pretty much just like IB in terms of stress and poor life balance.
  1. PE isn't as interesting as they thought; as the same boring tasks are also done in PE just like IB
  1. They realize that IB and PE is never ending in competition. There's no peace of mind as you're constantly competing with your peers. The hierarchical structure in PE is so slim, you're always trying to out-do your hardworking peers. If you try and take more balance in life, you'll soon fall behind and won't progress to the true rainmaker roles.

All of this to say: PE isn't the promised land. Sure, there are people who love IB and PE (albeit they are the 1% in the industry) but these people absolutely love the grind and put work above everyone and everything else. Trust me, I know these kids so unless you're them, you're like everyone else in the industry. The pay may look great when you're young but it's only enough to keep you to stay for the short term, before you realize there's more to life. There's so many other roles in finance out there with better balance and solid pay. Hope this gave you an authentic perspective

Sep 21, 2021 - 11:37pm

Hello,

I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to write this and educate me. As I previously understood it, PE was the main goal for every IB, but I get what your saying in terms of staying for the short term because of the WLB. Personally, I feel I would love working in PE, and if I understand the industry correctly it entails buying a company then revamping it to make it more profitable then selling it for a profit 5 to 10 years down the road. Obviously I over simplified the process but that sounds like something I would enjoy doing. Also, I believe I would fall into category 1 for people who pursue IB, as I have an interest in finance and overall investing but I don't know what job I want or even if I want a job long term. I was thinking about getting a job such as a financial advisor for the experience, then starting my own FA business after a couple years, utilizing the knowledge I would then have. In the end though, I have no idea what I want to do, but IB does sound like something I would thrive in, as I feel I would be working thoroughly and perfecting my work to be the best version it can be. 

Sep 22, 2021 - 9:55am

Wealth management / financial advisor is a good spot in finance for the WLB and pay potential.

However, you definitely need to have a salesperson personality to succeed in that industry, as well as the patience to understand that you will not be clearing big time money until you're at least 40. The stereotype that I've heard a million times on this site is: nobody wants to give a kid (however smart) their money.

However I'd like to nuance that by saying, you can also bet that no firm wants a "kid" to advise them on a M&A transaction, IPO, Equity Research report, CNBC interview, consulting project, etc. Essentially, in all junior level roles on Wall Street, you're main task is to help the rainmaker. So the only difference between any junior level role is pay and WLB.

In my experience, I've come to find that the market for every finance job is "incredibly efficient" in the sense that you're never going to find a job that pays top dollar where you still have balance in your life (even at the senior level). Everything is about trade offs. If you do IB, yes you'll make the most but what will it cost? You're happiness.

In all honesty, Wealth Management is probably the one exception to the rule of trade offs at the senior level. It's not uncommon for top financial advisors to work 30 hours a week and clear $1 million. Yes, it took them a lot of work to get there by building their client book but they never had to work remotely close to banking their whole lives. Obviously the IB/PE kids at the junior levels are making more than the WM guy but this pay COULD even out in the long-run. Not to mention, WM is a much favorable long-term career in the sense of WLB.

Sep 22, 2021 - 10:05am

Also like to add, you're knowledge of what PE does is relatively accurate.

Keep in mind though, people call PE "Banking 2.0" since the work and hours are incredibly similar to IB.

In PE, you will be formatting PowerPoint slides and excel all day much like IB. It sounds cool to invest into a company and build it up over the course of 5-7 years, but its not as interesting as you think.

Unless you're partner at the PE firm (which you most likely won't be even if you try and climb the ladder at the PE firm - partners stay forever and aren't sharing their wealth for some "tag along" like you), you're not going to use your investor or cerebral part of your brain. It would be cool to consider the types of investments your fund can make but that intellectual work is only reserved for the few at the top. The rest are tasked with doing monkey work to make the partners' decisions happen.

That's not to say you don't learn a lot in PE, it's just that you're role is going to be more robotic than you think investing would be. Plus, like I said before, you will be working ridiculous hours that eat away at your youth and life. Seriously not joking, you will not have time to enjoy a lot of things in life because of the work demand. At the end of the day it's all about the transaction and the partners need tons of due diligence done on it before they invest.

If you really enjoy the task of investing, I'd recommend checking out Equity Research or Corporate Development. The work is more stimulating, pay ceiling is still high, and you're work life balance is fair.

Sep 22, 2021 - 11:47am

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