Is back office experience worse than no experience?

ebitdagod's picture
Rank: Monkey | 57

A lot of posts on WSO suggest that having back office experience may work against you when attempting to move to front office. Does this mean that a college student should avoid working in the back office, even if that means having no finance experience whatsoever?

Comments (18)

Feb 1, 2019

Personally found that it can help to have corporate experience on your CV as BO still attracts excellent candidates who want to work in Tech etc. As long as you can sell your story about why FO and not BO when it comes to interviews, I say go for it!

Feb 1, 2019

I made the move from the BO to the FO through stepping-stone internships. If you have good experiences and impressive examples of the work you've done then it's definitely better than no experience. Also, if you're in a trade support type BO role it is quite common for the trading desk to source traders from their BO teams.

Having experience will generally enable you to say that you tried xyz and didn't like it, hence making your story more convincing and evidence based.

That said, there is a lot of stigma around it and the shift certainly isn't easy. It's definitely better to get experience in a much smaller company doing the FO work rather than a BO role at a BB.

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Feb 1, 2019
NYSE FANG:

I made the move from the BO to the FO through stepping-stone internships. If you have good experiences and impressive examples of the work you've done then it's definitely better than no experience. Also, if you're in a trade support type BO role it is quite common for the trading desk to source traders from their BO teams.

Having experience will generally enable you to say that you tried xyz and didn't like it, hence making your story more convincing and evidence based.

That said, there is a lot of stigma around it and the shift certainly isn't easy. It's definitely better to get experience in a much smaller company doing the FO work rather than a BO role at a BB.

Agree with all of this. I also did stepping stone internships, and was able to get my foot in the door full time by working FO at an incredibly small firm, working there for 2 years and then moving to a bigger firm.

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Feb 4, 2019

I'm also gonna follow the trend and agree with these guys.. Making the transition from BO to FO takes a lot of time and effort with incremental steps in between (as mentioned above) but having that over no experience is definitely better. I usually mentioned in my interviews that my BO experience wasn't as stimulating as the position that I interviewed and that I felt like I was in auto-pilot and that showed employers that I was hungry.

Also, the good thing about BO is that you have a ton of time to study for stuff like the CFA exam or the GMAT or any other signal-enhancing programs. The negatives though are that BO doesn't pay as much as FO and working in a place that you know that you have no interest in in the long-run can be demoralizing

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Feb 4, 2019

If you don't have front office experience and want to move to FO, 95% of the game is about what you do outside of work. Prepping for technicals, networking, learning about IB etc. You need to do things that will (i) get you interviews and (ii) cause you to succeed in interviews.

I don't necessarily disagree with earlier posts suggesting that BO can slightly, in some circumstances, help get a foot in the door. But again, 95% vs 5%.

Feb 4, 2019

Well back office full time after school is pretty much a death sentence but I thought he's asking about internships?

Feb 4, 2019

Feel like the same advice applies either way. Whether you're a BO intern looking to do FO full time, or a BO full timer looking to move to FO as a lateral . . I'd say the employer label on your resume is going to be 5% of the game. The 95% is meeting FO people in your network and showing them that you're interview-ready. Which of course also means actually getting interview ready, which is the part most people overlook. Folks looking to get into FO should take whatever job allows them to develop their skills and network. That may or may not be BO.

Feb 12, 2019
PteroGonzalez:

If you don't have front office experience and want to move to FO, 95% of the game is about what you do outside of work. Prepping for technicals, networking, learning about IB etc. You need to do things that will (i) get you interviews and (ii) cause you to succeed in interviews.

I don't necessarily disagree with earlier posts suggesting that BO can slightly, in some circumstances, help get a foot in the door. But again, 95% vs 5%.

It does not help you. I had to take a BO office for family reasons and getting back out was almost impossible. I literally had people turn around and leave conversations when they pressed on what I did and found out.

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Feb 4, 2019

Working a corporate BO job is without a doubt better than nothing. I did a freshmen BO internship at a large finance company (think fidelity/Vanguard/Invesco) and it was shit work but a great name on my resume and introduced me to lots of contacts. It was a perfect stepping stone to moving to FO. Much better than saying you drank all summer or worked at the local golf course.

Feb 12, 2019

That's because you were at an Asset Manager. Pure Asset Managers tend to have much less of a "BO = incompetent" mentality than the large banks do.

Feb 4, 2019

if you are going to do the "stepping stones" approach to get onto a trading desk, than going into a tech role at a bank as an entry level programmer is a much better route vs back office / ops. I've seen a lot of desks take people from their IT group onto the trading desk.

just google it...you're welcome

Most Helpful
Feb 6, 2019

I firmly state no, but I do know of an exception, a close personal friend.

My friend graduated in '16, didn't land a banking job, didn't have an internship, but the dude would not settle for anything less. Fast forward 10 months of unemployment, networking, literally cold emailing BB CEOs (didn't work), and he took on a temp job at a top hedge fund working in payroll, networking throughout the 6 months. At the end, he was offered a full-time position working in a decent role that was semi-market facing, mostly risk and research work supporting the traders. He turned it down to head back into unemployment

Fast forward to fall of 2018, he got exactly what he wanted, and what many people here would call their "dream job" - Investment Banking Analyst at Goldman Sachs.

I don't want to dox him but he had interviewed for a different role (mid-office) with GS, and then when they offered it to him he said he wanted to do IB. They said this was the second job they've offered him, and he is turning it down? He said he wanted to do banking, and he will continue networking and hunting until he gets a chance. They interviewed him the next week and he got the role.

I doubted him and advised him against it every step of the way, he had equity research offers, buy-side lower MM PE offers, but to him it truly was banking or bust.

Persistence does pay, but I'm still not sure if the nearly 3 year quest of his to get the job was worth it.

Yet, the caveat here is, he did take a temp job, in payroll at a hedge fund.

So the idea that BO experience is worse than nothing is simply idiotic.

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Feb 12, 2019

Salt lake?

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Feb 7, 2019

I recently made the jump from MO to FO and can say that if you dont have any other options it's better than nothing. It took me about 30 interviews and 2 levels of the CFA to make the jump though.

Feb 11, 2019

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Feb 11, 2019

You can still spin BO experience to make it to the front office. It can definitely be done in banking, especially if the institution appreciates career advancement, strong loyalty, and low turnover. The latter two are economically beneficial to the employer too. Think of it as a foot in the door or paying your dues. Of course you still have to be reasonably qualified.

Now if there's a huge pay difference between taking a BO job vs non-finance, consider the risks and opportunity costs carefully. Sometimes taking a job within an organization doesn't pay as well as joining a new firm altogether.

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Feb 12, 2019

I absolutely agree with this, especially the "spin the experience" part. There are skills like data analysis, creating reports or other front-facing deliverables that you can directly transfer to a FO role in IB. Just the early experience of learning how to behave in a corporate environment is an asset.

Feb 12, 2019
Comment

Not too high, not too low