Investment banking in London / Europe is a complete waste of time

Illusionary's picture
Rank: Monkey | 36

Hi guys,

I just wanted to let you know how s*** the situation here in Europe is. M&A bankers here (unless you are a top analyst at a bulge bracket) have NO EXIT OPTIONS. Or very limited ones. Its so crap honestly. I left my MM bank in London after completing two full years in M&A, with closed deals under my belt, expecting to find something decent outside banking. A couple of months later? Nothing.

I have nothing. My only real option is to go back and do M&A at another bank, which I really don't want to do. My whole reason for doing banking was to only do it for two years and then find something less painful afterwards. Mid market PE funds here for some reason seem to prefer consultants / ACAs. That's right. My two years slaving away in IBD were a complete waste of time. I may as well have become a bloody consultant / accountant at KPMG, and enjoyed a life outside work and not have to deal with abusive colleagues for two whole years. I just wasted to two years of my life doing something I didn't particularly enjoy / putting up with needless abuse from colleagues and shitty work for nothing.

I have tried to break into consulting. No luck. Equity research. Again no luck. Corporate development? Absolutely nothing apart from internal finance (audit) type jobs. Start ups? They'd rather hire bloody consultants. Its so crap. Lesson from my experience: Do not go into banking here in Europe for the exit options. Its not worth it because the exit options are very limited.

Region: 
All Europe
United Kingdom

Comments (39)

May 24, 2013

Sorry to hear that - when I was in London it seemed like equity L/S hedge funds and credit based funds were quite active, has that dried up? I didn't have the privilege of a UK work permit.

if you like it then you shoulda put a banana on it

May 24, 2013

Good analysts have plenty of exit opps in London. If you're not getting interviews, then you're in no different position to the similarly placed/ranked analyst in NY. Also, waiting till the end of your 2 yr programme to find another job was probably not the smartest idea.

May 24, 2013

interested to hear more...

btw why not try to move to a bb/elite boutique M&A role for 1-2 years more and then look for exit opps
not planning that carefully looks silly to me? how come you are now unemployed and searching? i dont understand why would someone quit without having something in their pocket 1st

May 24, 2013

What Mr. said. I know plenty of people who made the move. You seem to be delusional though, thinking that just because you were in M&A it would be easy to move on to the buyside. Look at the rates of analysts moving to HFs/PE please.

The HBS guys have MAD SWAGGER. They frequently wear their class jackets to boston bars, strutting and acting like they own the joint. They just ooze success, confidence, swagger, basically attributes of alpha males.

May 24, 2013

OP is prob discouraged - don't give up though it'll work out !

Best Response
May 24, 2013

Mate - there are exit op; most of my friends have left their analyst gigs in the last couple of years to work in PE or other stuff; but they HAD an offer before leaving! I have a few friends still in M&A, but they like it or are not really looking for opportunities to leave. It's tough everywhere.

Also why are you looking at equity research?! Know your audience! There are plenty of good unemployed research analysts, so they will be hired first, also we would rather hire some grad, cheaper and at the same level given the skill set is very different. I know maybe 1 or 2 analysts who have an M&A background in my old bank (BB) and now my current bank... Same with hedge funds they would rather pick in markets. I know a few ex M&A on the buy side, but the vast majority do NOT have an M&A background (not saying it's not possible).

PE is struggling beyond reason, too much cash, not enough investments so no need to hire people; SAME IN THE US. You need to target the right audience. Start ups? Please... They all need someone with a good finance background, if you really looked into that field you would find a job within a week, but something tells me that's not what you are looking after.

Take a deep breath, look at this forum, and start figuring out what you really want to do and why you would be good at it. A two year M&A stint is great experience, and as someone said, you can always go back and crack down on some spreadsheets for a few more years, and this time look for a job before quitting.

Sorry if the whole post seems a bit harsh, as your situation is shit and I understand your frustration. But, pull yourself together and start hitting the pavement, you WILL find something. Your have great experience, and are at a position 100x better than most young grads on this forum.

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May 26, 2013
Disjoint:

Mate - there are exit op; most of my friends have left their analyst gigs in the last couple of years to work in PE or other stuff; but they HAD an offer before leaving! I have a few friends still in M&A, but they like it or are not really looking for opportunities to leave. It's tough everywhere.

Also why are you looking at equity research?! Know your audience! There are plenty of good unemployed research analysts, so they will be hired first, also we would rather hire some grad, cheaper and at the same level given the skill set is very different. I know maybe 1 or 2 analysts who have an M&A background in my old bank (BB) and now my current bank... Same with hedge funds they would rather pick in markets. I know a few ex M&A on the buy side, but the vast majority do NOT have an M&A background (not saying it's not possible).

PE is struggling beyond reason, too much cash, not enough investments so no need to hire people; SAME IN THE US. You need to target the right audience. Start ups? Please... They all need someone with a good finance background, if you really looked into that field you would find a job within a week, but something tells me that's not what you are looking after.

Take a deep breath, look at this forum, and start figuring out what you really want to do and why you would be good at it. A two year M&A stint is great experience, and as someone said, you can always go back and crack down on some spreadsheets for a few more years, and this time look for a job before quitting.

Sorry if the whole post seems a bit harsh, as your situation is shit and I understand your frustration. But, pull yourself together and start hitting the pavement, you WILL find something. Your have great experience, and are at a position 100x better than most young grads on this forum.

I am sure your friends probably worked at top BBs. I do have two interviews with one small specialist PE fund and a specialist VC fund (both in my sector) lined up so its not so bad, but definitely think its a lot harder coming from a MM bank. Although to be honest, I would rather work for a much smaller place, as the bigger PE places have the same life style and culture as the banks.

You have a good point regarding equity research. I think the the IBD to HF transition is much more common the the States than in the UK.

I am really surprised by your point regarding start ups. I have only had one interview with a tech start up. Recruiters hardly ever come to me with start up opportunities. Where would I even look (beyond recruiters)? Would certainly not say no to a good start up role. The lack of opportunities might be because of my sector which was very specialised (think along the lines of real estate, infrastructure, FIG).

I would rather not go back into M&A. I hated my job and really wouldn't want to do it again. The non stop stress, ridiculous, unnecessary deadlines, long hours, tedious work, abusive colleagues etc. Am willing to take a bit more time and put in a bit more effort to look for something more interesting. My situation is not ideal, but as you say, things could be worse.

May 27, 2013
Disjoint:

Mate - there are exit op; most of my friends have left their analyst gigs in the last couple of years to work in PE or other stuff; but they HAD an offer before leaving! I have a few friends still in M&A, but they like it or are not really looking for opportunities to leave. It's tough everywhere.

Also why are you looking at equity research?! Know your audience! There are plenty of good unemployed research analysts, so they will be hired first, also we would rather hire some grad, cheaper and at the same level given the skill set is very different. I know maybe 1 or 2 analysts who have an M&A background in my old bank (BB) and now my current bank... Same with hedge funds they would rather pick in markets. I know a few ex M&A on the buy side, but the vast majority do NOT have an M&A background (not saying it's not possible).

PE is struggling beyond reason, too much cash, not enough investments so no need to hire people; SAME IN THE US. You need to target the right audience. Start ups? Please... They all need someone with a good finance background, if you really looked into that field you would find a job within a week, but something tells me that's not what you are looking after.

Take a deep breath, look at this forum, and start figuring out what you really want to do and why you would be good at it. A two year M&A stint is great experience, and as someone said, you can always go back and crack down on some spreadsheets for a few more years, and this time look for a job before quitting.

Sorry if the whole post seems a bit harsh, as your situation is shit and I understand your frustration. But, pull yourself together and start hitting the pavement, you WILL find something. Your have great experience, and are at a position 100x better than most young grads on this forum.

Disjoint, thanks for writing an elaborate reply. I don't mean to steal the spotlight off OP's original post, but had a question and would greatly appreciate your response.

As per your understanding, could you please elaborate on what exit opportunities are there for third bucket analysts at the mid tier BBs in London (DB/BAML/Citi)? Only 25% of analysts rank in the 2nd bucket or above, and most analysts are ranked in the 3rd bucket. Plus from what I have gathered, rankings are very political and in some cases are just unfair to analysts. I would be very curious to know what exit opps are there for such analysts.

To give background of my ownself, I am an analyst at a mid tier BB (DB/BAML/Citi) in London and am looking to move by the end of my 2nd year in banking. I am currently completing my 1st year.

Many thanks! Thought I'd reply to your post here instead of sending a PM, so that other people could potentially benefit as well.

May 24, 2013

Actually know some guys who have made nice transfers the past year, can't really say I agree with you.

May 24, 2013

Agree that (strategy!) consultants and sometimes even accountants get looked at, but M&A is still THE feeder for PE and HF. You need to have a job to find one, though. Also helps a lot to be at MS/GS vs. other banks.

May 24, 2013
m2:

Agree that (strategy!) consultants and sometimes even accountants get looked at, but M&A is still THE feeder for PE and HF. You need to have a job to find one, though. Also helps a lot to be at MS/GS vs. other banks.

Agree, in London there is fewer PE/HF positions than in NY so it's even harder for bankers to get into PE/HF and most of the time only very top analysts at top BB will hav a shot.

May 26, 2013
m2:

Agree that (strategy!) consultants and sometimes even accountants get looked at, but M&A is still THE feeder for PE and HF. You need to have a job to find one, though. Also helps a lot to be at MS/GS vs. other banks.

^^^ This.

We're assuming you are British (by the frequency of "bloody"), have you tried any headhunters in the City ? Headhunters in the UK are much more useful than in the U.S. Also, believe it or not, competition is heavier in the US.

May 24, 2013

wouldn't agree that there's no exit opps but i can confirm that it'd be hard to move to PE/HF without being a top analyst from BBs. Went to a big distressed investment headhunter presentation in london and top M&A and RX analysts from BBs still get plenty of interviews from great funds, but they also mentioned that if you are not at a BB, it'd be very hard to break into the big funds.

May 26, 2013
Xaipe:

wouldn't agree that there's no exit opps but i can confirm that it'd be hard to move to PE/HF without being a top analyst from BBs. Went to a big distressed investment headhunter presentation in london and top M&A and RX analysts from BBs still get plenty of interviews from great funds, but they also mentioned that if you are not at a BB, it'd be very hard to break into the big funds.

Assuming the big funds are the best way to go. Spoken to quite a few people whilst recruiting this year and I got the impression that HFs tend to make the most money during their first few years when their AUM isn't as large. If not check out Hari Hariharan's NWI Management for example, he's been killing it.

The HBS guys have MAD SWAGGER. They frequently wear their class jackets to boston bars, strutting and acting like they own the joint. They just ooze success, confidence, swagger, basically attributes of alpha males.

May 26, 2013
SonnyZH:
Xaipe:

wouldn't agree that there's no exit opps but i can confirm that it'd be hard to move to PE/HF without being a top analyst from BBs. Went to a big distressed investment headhunter presentation in london and top M&A and RX analysts from BBs still get plenty of interviews from great funds, but they also mentioned that if you are not at a BB, it'd be very hard to break into the big funds.

Assuming the big funds are the best way to go. Spoken to quite a few people whilst recruiting this year and I got the impression that HFs tend to make the most money during their first few years when their AUM isn't as large. If not check out Hari Hariharan's NWI Management for example, he's been killing it.

I believe it's the same in PE. MM shops have been doing better than megafunds for investors in the recent past years. But I also notice a lot of young hf just collapsed as well. (Edoma Partners / benros capital)

Dec 28, 2014

You say it helps massively to go to a BB. How about if you are at an EBin London such as Lazard?

Jan 10, 2015

Lazard is gold. No need to worry about that. But not all elite boutique are as good as they are in the US here. For distressed funds, HL, BX, Lazard, Rothschild, Moelis are all good. For PE, they should be as good too (plus PWP).

I would say in London buy side recruiting (PE/HF) is more relationship driven, in a sense that if you know someone, or referred by friends, it's relatively very easy to get at least an interview.

May 24, 2013

I think your attitude towards banking is more important and more decisive for your situation than the exit climate for M&A bankers in Europe. Think about what you want to work with in life and what you're good at instead of taking a job because the job afterwards might be "less painful".

May 29, 2013

.

May 26, 2013

Did you have the option of staying for a third year/potentially moving to an associate role? Seems like it could have been a temporary option as you continued your search.

Also, were you going through headhunters or personally approaching firms?

Regardless, good luck with your search.

May 26, 2013

i dont agree with you, op

How big is yours?

May 26, 2013

It's tough but it can be done, an older friend of mine made the jump from UBS to a PE last year.
You seem to have expected people to be beating down your door - bankers are a dime a dozen in London, that was never going to happen. It's both brave and unfortunate that you quit your job before finding another one, but keep sending around CVs and stay positive/open-minded.

May 26, 2013

Found the exact same situation, did two plus years in London with one of Gleacher/Houlihan/Lazard/Moelis could not find away into any of the HF's despite doing tonnes of work for them. Through in the towel and moved to Australia.

I believe we are just in the wrong point in the cycle to move to HF/PE. PE is flat/dead unless your in special situations/restructuring and the HF's have too much choice... Best to ride it out, build the CV and network like a mofo. Recommend OneSearch if you want to go the recruitment consultant course in London, great guys and without the usual used car sales man lexicon.

If your are at your wits end and want to mix it up, Australia has plenty of real deal flow (most banks are hiring and the PE funds have been some of the best performers gloablly), is easy visa wise, the weather and beaches are bad arse, and the woman scrub up better than the usual mob at Reflex. Although the beer is rubbish, and the cost of living crazy, oh and make sure you know resources inside/out

Good luck!

May 27, 2013
WildColonialBoy:

Found the exact same situation, did two plus years in London with one of Gleacher/Houlihan/Lazard/Moelis could not find away into any of the HF's despite doing tonnes of work for them. Through in the towel and moved to Australia.

I believe we are just in the wrong point in the cycle to move to HF/PE. PE is flat/dead unless your in special situations/restructuring and the HF's have too much choice... Best to ride it out, build the CV and network like a mofo. Recommend OneSearch if you want to go the recruitment consultant course in London, great guys and without the usual used car sales man lexicon.

If your are at your wits end and want to mix it up, Australia has plenty of real deal flow (most banks are hiring and the PE funds have been some of the best performers gloablly), is easy visa wise, the weather and beaches are bad arse, and the woman scrub up better than the usual mob at Reflex. Although the beer is rubbish, and the cost of living crazy, oh and make sure you know resources inside/out

Good luck!

Thanks for the response. Yeah I have been to Australia and really liked it there. How did you go about applying for jobs in Australia while in the UK? Did you contact Australia based recruiters? Or did you move there first and then began looking?

May 27, 2013

Another thing to consider: assuming you're half decent looking and can scrub up nicely, your accent should put you in good stead with Aussie women..

May 27, 2013

Began looking before leaving and made a few direct calls, however no one would commit until your on the ground and they have had a face-to-face. Recruiters want a product that is easy for them to sell, get a commission and move on, so they won't be too interested until your down under, unless your at a VP and above level. Otherwise, if you have not already quit, you could move laterally. I know guys at Deutsche (although you don't want to be there right now), Macquarie (keen drinking to kool-aid) & Rothschild who moved laterally.

While I can lay the boot in - Morgan Stanley Australia are truly hopeless and absolute tyre kickers.

I'm with a top tier global independent, we are actually hiring at the Snr Analyst/Jnr Associate level. PM me and lets see if my MD likes your CV?

Dec 28, 2014

Are the exit opps in Lazard London not as good as the BBs?

May 27, 2013

Have you tried options in PE / growth capital funds that are gaining traction in SE Asia e.g. Singapore / Hong Kong. Also Australia is a good option, even deal flow in places like Malaysia is improving.

Also - did you quit your job before actually landing an offer with another firm?

May 27, 2013

In the Netherlands a lot of investment bankers are let go, the market is drying up. 20% of staff is already fired since 2009. A lot of those people are corporate bankers and operational people, but still a lot of investment bankers are let go. So I guess a lot of people flooding the markets here.

May 28, 2013

I'm finishing my 2nd year at a mid-tier BB in London, and honestly, it is not that bad.

There are definitely some decent exit ops out there, a fair few of my friends in the year above have gone to MM PE and distressed funds, and those spaces are still hiring. Megafund PEs in London are also achievable, there are many of them and they hire regularly, although competition from top tier BBs and elite boutiques is intense, and the brand of your bank matters to an extent (in part because the mega PEs are now so institutionalised).

HF in London however, is a next level of pain. There simply aren't as many compared to NY, they tend to be smaller, and thus, fewer roles come on to the market. Also, as a few have pointed out above, the M&A to HF route is not as established in London, and a significant number of hires come from PE and ER. (So obviously, this is the route I am pursuing).

Regarding recruiters in London - I get the impression that most (all?) recruiters in the US are rather useless scumbags. Obviously, we have our fair share (Pinpoint Partners?), but when it comes to buyside recruiting in London, they can be extremely decent. More importantly, they are often the gatekeepers to top buyside processes. All the people I know who switched into top buyside roles built and maintained relationships with 2 or 3 top recruiting firms, which kept them involved in a good amount of recruiting processes. Ultimately, it's a numbers game.

In terms of getting contacted by recruiters in the first place, it's all about LinkedIn - fill out your profile, elaborate on your experience, state what roles you're interested in, add all of your 'skills' (which are really just keywords like 'Investment Banking', 'M&A', and 'Valuation' so that you screen well on searches). You really do need to impress with the top recruiters though (especially if you're not at a top brand e.g. GS / MS / JP) - they will dump you and never contact you again if you don't make a good first impression, or if you perform poorly in processes.

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May 30, 2013

Regarding recruiters in London - I get the impression that most (all?) recruiters in the US are rather useless scumbags. Obviously, we have our fair share (Pinpoint Partners?), but when it comes to buyside recruiting in London, they can be extremely decent

^^^^
This is 100% true.

+1 Bonus point.

Jun 1, 2013

Sorry to hear that. In my opinion, doing M&A in another bank at London is not that bad, you may start networking in the fields outside banking within the industries you will deal with and know more about these areas during these two years. Good luck!

Jun 4, 2013

Have you tried this? It popped up today...

http://jobs.efinancialcareers.co.uk/job-4000000001...

Jun 4, 2013

OP,

Do you speak any languages besides English at a business level? From my experience, if you have something like that to offer a firm, you can find some need. As a non-European, I had an offer for a German boutique IBD/Lev Fin. because I could speak French. Also, have you looked into Switzerland at all?

Dec 19, 2013

Hi guys, sorry for resurrecting an old thread, but as the OP I thought I would update everyone on my situation. I have just recently accepted an offer from a big 4 firm and will study towards the ACA qualification. I believe that having the ACA qualification will hold me in good stead for the future. Also in the UK the ACA is highly regarded, and you get ACAs (usually with corporate finance experience) in all sorts of interesting roles (including M&A, PE, ER and corporate finance roles at companies in addition to CFO / FD type roles). It also gives you job stability and career flexibility, which banking does not seem to give you (see below). After doing a lot of thinking, in the long term I wish to go down the corporate finance in industry path, working my way up to CFO level, and I believe that the ACA coupled with Big 4 experience would be great for getting me there. The pay may not be as stellar as front office investment banking, but at least I will have job stability, career flexibility (can work in any industry anywhere around the world) and humane working hours coupled with low stress (relative to front office banking). I could also stay in practice and work my way up to Director / Partner level where the pay is almost comparable to front office banking.

I also still believe that the argument in my original thread holds true. In London it would be a bad idea to do M&A or other areas of front office banking (by which I mean other areas of IBD e.g. ECM, DCM, leveraged finance etc.) primarily for the exit options. Your main exit option would be private equity . However, competition for private equity roles is intense, and once there, from what I have read / been told, your day to day job / hours would not be too different from working in M&A at a bank anyway (in some cases the hours may actually be worse, especially when busy on a deal). Therefore it would not make sense to do M&A purely for the exit options. This is the mistake I made...the hours and stress are just not worth it unless you are committed to a banking career in the long haul. What surprised me though in my job search was that my M&A experience did not open up any decent doors in the corporate world (large companies or start ups) or in other areas of front office finance (excluding private equity). I got one corporate development (internal M&A at a company) interview (made it to final two...) and a few ER interviews (for which there was probably insane competition). Otherwise my main options were to continue in M&A or private equity.

I could have continued working in M&A and waited for more opportunities to come up, but I do not believe in doing a job you don't fundamentally like, for the off chance that you may be able to jump to something better in the future. That is not a recipe for long term happiness.

  • Associate 2 in CorpFin
Dec 28, 2014

Are you going to be doing audit or CF? Funny, the most ambitious of us want to go to m&a once we get our aca. What will you be looking to enter once you're done? I thought you didn't like internal finance type roles?

Btw know of a person who did aca then 6 month cf secondment then joined an upper mm boutique for 1 year and then hedge fund after that

Jan 11, 2015

Hey moneytrail, I'm in big 4 transaction advisory services. What I would really love to do is corporate development for a fast growing / acquisitive company. However, after having done research and chatting to a few contacts, I get the feeling that good opportunities in corporate development are easier to find the US. I'm thinking i might get an M7 MBA in the States and then try find a good corp dev role there. It should hopefully not be too hard to find a good role with my background. I really struggled to find much in this space in London (in corp dev) after my M&A stint. Also, frustratingly, most of the time they preferred strategy consultants for a lot of corporate roles.

And I still believe the exit options are better / broader in the States then here in Europe. In London if you work for a BB, and are lucky with recruiting, you can go to a big PE fund or maybe hedge fund (where you continue working M&A hours in most cases). But anything outside that is really hard. What do you do if you want a better work life balance for example? Things like VC / start ups and corporate roles are much more difficult to achieve here. And it's much more common to stay in banking post 2 years. To give you an example of the kinds of things my friends in the states are doing - one guy went no name undergrad uni, did 2 years at an MM (not BB), and now works for a VC fund working 9 to 5, playing golf with executives. This is with zero entrepreneurial experience or anything whatsoever. Another friend 1 year in M&A (again at an MM), now has a top strategy role at a big FMCG company. Roles that I would kill for and would have probably got had I lived in NY / SF rather than London.

Dec 19, 2013
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