International Students breaking into banking - ask and I'll try to help

ZIRH's picture
Rank: Senior Orangutan | 416

Hi all,

I've enjoyed reading the posts on WSO and have personally been helped by numerous forummers, including one that went the bat for me and wrote a lengthy email to his HR because I was dinged the first round of my on campus interview. He never even met me and helped me unconditionally, it touched me deeply and here I am, doing my best to give back.

I'm an international student in a US college, going to graduate in May this year. Did internships in PWM (freshman summer), boutique IB (sophomore fall), boutique PE (sophomore summer), MM IB (junior summer). I have an offer with a product group at a BB and am due to start in Fall.

I'm not your typical top IB candidate. I don't have outstanding grades, nor excellent internship experience. I'm on a F-1 Visa, and the only banks that would hire me are ironically the most competitive ones. I had ZERO on campus interviews for my junior summer stint, and had to cold call/cold email numerous banks before I landed a job at a reputable MM. Did the same for FT recruiting and finally the perseverance paid off.

I'm glad to answer questions on intl students breaking into banking to the best of my knowledge. There may be some questions that I might not provide a good answer to, so if my peers with F1 visas know better, please feel free to contribute.

Best of luck

P.S.: Long belated thanks to WSO for helping me get my offer last fall!

Comments (42)

Feb 28, 2011

For the boutiques where you interned, did you do the paperwork for OPT yourself?

Feb 28, 2011

You always do the paperwork for OPT yourself, the employer is not part of the process.
For H-1, it's the opposite

Feb 28, 2011

just wondering how did you do PWM your freshmen summer then boutique IB sophomore summer and so on? Did you do those internships at other countries or via OPT? Furthermore, when you looked for unpaid internships did majority of the firms require work authorization/paperwork?

Feb 28, 2011

I used my school's career website and mass emailed every single firm that offered finance related internship during my freshman summer. I applied only in early May, so was late in the game. I got the offer by calling the financial advisor 10 days straight, leaving voicemails on weekends.

I always use my school's career resources first, and if that doesn't work out, I just google "investment banking internships" and apply accordingly to what comes up. Sometimes, googling "investment bank + contact us" or "mergers and acquisitions + careers" will turn up something good.

As an international student, I did all my internships unpaid, except for the MM IB junior summer, as it was a big corporation. I applied for CPT as opposed to OPT (some schools do it differently). The MM was eventually unable to offer me full time as it did not sponsor international students, so I had to go through recruiting all over again. For the boutique firms, if it's unpaid, they usually do not care as much.

Feb 28, 2011

"PWM (freshman summer), boutique IB (sophomore fall), boutique PE (sophomore summer), MM IB (junior summer)"

So I'm assuming that you did all those internships unpaid and without paperwork?

Furthermore how is the recruitment process like for boutiques? Is it literally just like an interview, then (assuming you get picked) you just enter their office and start working that's it? (no paperwork?)

Furthermore will you be fine when your BB conducts a background check? I mean they will be contacting all those firms and if you had worked unpaid, then your name wouldn't technically be listed within their corporation database... Or am I wrong?

Mar 1, 2011
warren1:

"PWM (freshman summer), boutique IB (sophomore fall), boutique PE (sophomore summer), MM IB (junior summer)"

So I'm assuming that you did all those internships unpaid and without paperwork?

Furthermore how is the recruitment process like for boutiques? Is it literally just like an interview, then (assuming you get picked) you just enter their office and start working that's it? (no paperwork?)

Furthermore will you be fine when your BB conducts a background check? I mean they will be contacting all those firms and if you had worked unpaid, then your name wouldn't technically be listed within their corporation database... Or am I wrong?

Only the MM IB junior summer internship was paid. The rest were all unpaid. Either college credits or "volunteer" so I would have to "pay to work", because college credits cost quite a lot. The paid internship required paperwork, and like I said, I had to apply for CPT.

For the PWM internship, it was with a BB, so I had to get "printed", meaning they make copies of my fingerprints and keep them on file. It was the same with the MM IB, since both were bigger corporations (public firms) and I guess that was protocol.

If you work unpaid, yes, there is a chance your name is not recorded and totally up to the memory of the boss. Hence, it is your responsibility as an intern to maintain good relations with your co-workers and NETWORK! (yes, it comes with its own exclamation mark). I've never encountered any problems with the background checks, and some of my previous co-workers have left. I usually request for a letter of recommendation as well when I leave the place, since they're not paying me, it's the least they can do. All of my superiors have volunteered their time to write me a recommendation.

Mar 1, 2011

First of all, I really appreciate your responses, there's rarely any information on here for internationals and it's definitely gives me hope to see that you broke in as an international. Okay for some other questions:

  1. Did you use CPT for your BB PWM internship? I heard that for larger corporations, they usually require some sort of work authorization.
  2. Did you pay for housing out of your own pocket during the summers to intern? Approximately how much costs incurred from this?
  3. Could we have some information about your background such as Target/non-target, major?
  4. When you went through recruiting for SA and FT, did you feel like there was some discrimination against international students (ex. they were extra picky and reluctant)? What are your thoughts on this based on your experience?

Thanks

Mar 1, 2011
warren1:

First of all, I really appreciate your responses, there's rarely any information on here for internationals and it's definitely gives me hope to see that you broke in as an international. Okay for some other questions:

  1. Did you use CPT for your BB PWM internship? I heard that for larger corporations, they usually require some sort of work authorization.
  2. Did you pay for housing out of your own pocket during the summers to intern? Approximately how much costs incurred from this?
  3. Could we have some information about your background such as Target/non-target, major?
  4. When you went through recruiting for SA and FT, did you feel like there was some discrimination against international students (ex. they were extra picky and reluctant)? What are your thoughts on this based on your experience?

Thanks

  1. Did you use CPT for your BB PWM internship? I heard that for larger corporations, they usually require some sort of work authorization.

No. My PWM internship was unpaid, so I had to receive college credits. Yes for larger corporations, they require work authorization like CPT or OPT, but ONLY if it's a paid internship. My junior summer internship was paid so I had to apply for CPT (it looks like your I20 but on the last page, it prints the name of your company on it). If you don't have a SSN, you will have to apply for it as well for tax purposes.

  1. Did you pay for housing out of your own pocket during the summers to intern? Approximately how much costs incurred from this?

Yes, I paid for housing out of my own pocket. I shared a room and it was about $800/month. My pay was prorated out of $60k (lower than most banks but they pay $70k for FT)

  1. I'm from a semi-target, doing a dual degree in business admin as well as economics
  2. There were no resistance on my part recruiting at BBs and top MMs and boutiques like Jefferies and Moelis. They have a history of hiring international students and they will take you if you prove to be a worthy candidate. Problem is, these BBs and top MMs and elite boutiques are also the most competitive, so for international students, you have to go all out. You can't have backups at no-name boutiques cos they won't take you. It's really BB-standard or bust.
Mar 1, 2011

First of all, thanks for your offer to help. As a junior without outstanding offer for summer, what's your advice for me? I am keep appyling, keep interviewing, but I am not getting offers. Maybe if you could share some of your cold-calling experience/tips?

Thanks!

Apr 5, 2011

Will mastery of a third language or the fact that you are a native speaker from a BRIC economy be helpful?

Apr 5, 2011
draculallvm:

Will mastery of a third language or the fact that you are a native speaker from a BRIC economy be helpful?

In New York, it's not a big advantage (if any at all). Though Spanish and Portuguese are useful if you are aiming for LatAm desks/coverage groups.

Apr 5, 2011

Do you have any information on a non-US citizen not currently attending a US College applying from Europe? What's the process like and do firms consider such applicants?

Apr 20, 2011

Hi ZIRH, you mind reading my thread regarding my summer intern choices here and cast me some thought? I'm a sophomore international student studying in HK. Thanks in advance for your insights!

http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/summer-inter...

Apr 26, 2011

I apologize for the late replies, been busy for the past month...

@draculallvm: It like giving chicken soup to a victim of a car crash (i.e. it won't help, but it won't hurt too)... put it this way, it's not a deciding factor to an offer, but having language skills might be useful sometime down the road if u decide to relocate back to a BRIC country or are involved with BRIC clients. :)

@Walkio: It's hard. Applying from within is already hard (just ask west coast/mid west students trying to go to NYC or vice versa). Unless u have killer connections/networks, I would say the chances are slim, even if u go to top colleges like Oxbridge... sorry to burst ur bubble, but I would say try applying to European offices and transfer within banks (i.e. internally), that's usually easier...

@saraaras: Do you want to work in the US? If so, like I told Walkio, it's hard for geographic reasons. If you want to work in HK, working at both UBS and boutique in LA will be good to have on your resume, as you can spin it both ways. I would say the boutique would be a great option if money's not a concern, and you get to enjoy LA as part of your own learning experience, and might be a good conversation instrument during interviews :) hope this helps

Apr 26, 2011

I'm a student in a similar situation as I am a sophomore with only a 3.0 [major GPA is 3.6 though] (to be junior after this summer) with a non-paid Private Equity internship lined up for the summer.

How did you go about cold calling/cold email numerous banks to secure your MM IBD internship your junior summer? Any tips and recommendations on how to do this? Did you have connections at these banks?

I hope to network as much as possible at my PE firm but its not investment banking unfortunately. Lastly you mentioned you always asked for a letter of recommendation at your internships > where does this exactly come into play? I thought usually when you apply to BB FT you just submit your resume and hope for the best while networking. When do you actually get to use these?

Jun 16, 2011

Do you have a list/suggestions of banks or funds that are willing to employ international applicants? I asked the career service of my MSF just to get the answer that there isn't such a simple list

Jun 17, 2011

Dracula, which MSF are you in? PM me.

I just finished up mine, and landed a job in banking (though I am not international). I did, however, have a 2.3 undergrad GPA, lol.

Jul 18, 2011
Cries:

Dracula, which MSF are you in? PM me.

I just finished up mine, and landed a job in banking (though I am not international). I did, however, have a 2.3 undergrad GPA, lol.

@Cries: Please check your pm

Jun 17, 2011

Off the top of my head, all BBs hire international students.

The ones that do:
1. Jefferies
2. William Blair
3. Houlihan Lokey
4. Lazard
5. Greenhill
6. Evercore
7. Rothschild
8. Centerview

The ones that don't:
1. Blackstone
2. Piper Jaffray
3. Macquarie (although I've heard friends who received offers, not quite sure on this one)

There are prob a lot more that don't hire international students, but I would focus my efforts on BBs and the better middle markets and boutique banks.

Jun 22, 2011
ZIRH:

Off the top of my head, all BBs hire international students.

The ones that do:
1. Jefferies
2. William Blair
3. Houlihan Lokey
4. Lazard
5. Greenhill
6. Evercore
7. Rothschild
8. Centerview

The ones that don't:
1. Blackstone
2. Piper Jaffray
3. Macquarie (although I've heard friends who received offers, not quite sure on this one)

There are prob a lot more that don't hire international students, but I would focus my efforts on BBs and the better middle markets and boutique banks.

Macquarie hires internationals. I have a friend who is about to start as a first year analyst this Fall.

Jul 18, 2011
c_z:
ZIRH:

Off the top of my head, all BBs hire international students.

The ones that do:
1. Jefferies
2. William Blair
3. Houlihan Lokey
4. Lazard
5. Greenhill
6. Evercore
7. Rothschild
8. Centerview

The ones that don't:
1. Blackstone
2. Piper Jaffray
3. Macquarie (although I've heard friends who received offers, not quite sure on this one)

There are prob a lot more that don't hire international students, but I would focus my efforts on BBs and the better middle markets and boutique banks.

Macquarie hires internationals. I have a friend who is about to start as a first year analyst this Fall.

Apart from ibanking, do these banks also recruit internationals for other divisions? Considering the crazy hours and severe competition to get into ibanking, I may be more interested in corporate finance/restructuring/transactions.

And how different from the recruitment process of BBs is the process of these boutiques and middle markets?

Thanks a lot for your insights, guys.

Jun 20, 2011

First of all Thank You, for this information.

I am an Actuarial Science Major with an expected 3.5 G.P.A. from an African School (* Which obviously is completely and utterly non-target!) I have done a summer internship at a small HF run out of Boston.

Is it beyond the realms of reality to land an offer? How would the process be like if I am out of the country. Only Barclays Cap has presence in my country !!!

Or would it be easier to go to BS first, although I doubt I can afford it?

In short all I am asking is, is there hope for someone like me with all the disadvantages combined?

Jun 22, 2011

Hi ZIRH,
I just want to applaud your willingness to give back to WSO community and congratulations on the BB IB offer!

As a matter of fact, I am also an international who is about to start my training and work in a BB IBD soon. So glad to see this thread and people getting help from you answers. I will try to contribute, too :)

Jun 22, 2011

@c_z: congrats on your offer too! shoot me a PM if you wanna hang out in NYC during training :)

@kenyan: I have a friend in S.Africa who is working at Macquarie, maybe you can try the banks in your country first. The hard truth is it's extremely hard (though not impossible) to recruit in the US when you study overseas, esp at a non target. You would need to network extremely hard, which is tough given that you're physically not here.

I would start with alumni, or any form of network/contacts you have, esp from the HF in Boston. Try and see if you can get an offer, or see if they can provide some contacts in banking. That would be your best shot :)

Since b school is out of question, I would say getting an offer at a global bank in your country might provide a future opportunity for transfers.

Sorry if I'm all over the place.. not exactly in the best state of mind now, lol

Jun 22, 2011

Check your PM.

Jun 22, 2011

@ ZIRH, check your PM

Jun 29, 2011

Terence Tsai?

Jul 22, 2011

Also interested ...

Aug 27, 2011

Hey, guys, I'm wondering if Moelis recruits international students?

Aug 27, 2011

I'm a senior with a 3.45 and no ibanking experience. I've cold emailed around and am quite sure I can get a fall internship during the school year, but of course full time recruiting is coming around.

I'm again cold emailing for anyone to help me for recruiting, but I've gotten much fewer responses than when I asked for fall internships. I guess a lot of people do this and I can't stand out. Do you remember if you had any key phrases you used that helped you stand out for these people that probably receive a bunch of cold emails everyday? And what exactly did you say to HR when people forward your emails to them? I almost feel like HR is a dead end because it means the bankers don't want to speak to me anymore.

Thanks!

Aug 28, 2011

@draculallvm: yes, Moelis takes intl students, i've interviewed there before and spoke with an international hire.

@ballmouse: HR can be really helpful. Be sure to tell them EXACTLY what you want (i.e. TMT, M&A, LevFin). don't tell them you're thinking this or that, cos they will feel you're not focused and driven. Go all out, say I want M&A, can you put me in touch with someone from M&A? i did that and got to speak with an M&A analyst at a BB.

Email them and follow up with a call. That should increase your chances. Like I said, it's a numbers game, you have to keep trying and eventually you'll get something. good luck

Aug 29, 2011

Thanks ZIRH. I will try out your suggestion tomorrow when I give HR a couple more calls.

Cheers!

Aug 30, 2011

Thanks a lot for your answers, ZIRH. I'm looking into some job postings by GCA Savvian Advisors, Cowen, Harris William & Co and Sagent Advisors. I noticed that some banks just specify upfront in their job postings that they don't sponsor visa for international students. However, these banks didn't say anything about visa sponsorship. Should I assume that they may consider international students as well?

Nevertheless, I posted a similar question about Harris William & Co and got the answer that they don't employ foreign students. Is there any way to verify the sponsorship status of potential employers?

Aug 30, 2011

The only way to find out is by applying. PM me and I'll tell you how I got around the sponsorship problem, although it may not be applicable everytime, it worked for me.

Aug 30, 2011

Hey man,

What about international applicants (who don't go to a US College). Do you know of firms that are willing to consider candidates from abroad?

Sep 7, 2011

that's usually very rare, I've never come across it before. Outside of banking, I have a friend who graduated from a top univerisity in Asia and went to work in Google in Mt. View. Haven't seen a precedent for banking yet, maybe others will chime in if they know of such examples.

Jul 30, 2016

I would say it's impossible unless you transfer from an office abroad after 2-3 years, or you aim for a LatAm coverage group and have some ties to that region.

Sep 13, 2014

I know this a long-shot (extremely long) but is there any chance that ZIRH is still around here? I am on the exact same situation as you and would love to hear your input on certain questions I have.

Jul 18, 2016
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