Non Target Freshman to Boutique, How I Did It

Hi guys, Long time reader of this forum, WSO has been very helpful so first I want to thank all those posters who have contributed valuable advice across the board in terms of progressing through the realms of high finance.

To start with, I'm pretty young (rising sophomore now), and I currently attend a non-target school in their business program. I landed a boutique IB SA position for this summer and I wanted to 1) talk about it because I know there is a very young readership here and 2) internships are very hard to come by post-freshman year ESPECIALLY from a lesser known school.

Some background

Like I said, double majoring in Econ and Finance at a top-50 non target school in the South (think around VA/NC areas). I learned about banking far after I decided on what school to go to; had I known it was so competitive I might've decided to go about the college application process differently but nonetheless I am here w/ some fantastic experience under my belt. Keep in mind my school has about 20-30 alums in ibanking and other areas of finance (PE/HF/consulting), so it isn't entirely in the dark. With that being said, by no means is it a target and it isn't as well known as some other semi-targets near it.

How I got it

The second I realized that investment banking was for me, I quickly turned to my parents and tried to see who they knew (and I knew) in the industry. Living close to NYC, the area I'm in is a hotbed for banks and hedge funds, so I was fortunate enough to have certain contacts through my family I could reach out to as early as my senior year of high school to get a better grasp on the industry. After emailing and calling (mainly emailing) with a SIMPLE template: (Hi X, Going to be/currently a freshman at X double majoring in XYZ, wondering if you had any time to discuss your current role and what you do) and then turning this call into a meeting, I leveraged my way into an internship role through the CEO of a small boutique investment bank in my hometown. He brought up that his firm had an internship program and often brought on 2 or 3 interns for the summer for paid opportunities to learn and work alongside him on his deals and whatnot. Being a rising sophomore, I'm currently working with 2 other interns who are both rising juniors (one from a top target school, one from a semi-target) this summer gaining tangible experience.

What I'm doing

To be blunt, it's not like I'm building extravagant models across multi-billion dollar deals. For any freshmen and sophomores reading this looking to understand what they're going to be doing for any banking internships BEFORE landing that big BB SA stint after junior year, get this: YOU WON'T BE MODELING IN THIS INTERNSHIP. From what I hear, if you do a PE summer internship you get even less experience.

Moving on, I DO get to:
- Sit in on meetings with PE funds and potential investors as well as our clients and learn about each deal we are working on (about 3/4 live deals this summer)
- Create presentations and pitch books for these potential PE funds and help present our clients to those PE funds
- Work on due diligence files for future audits on our deals (this really took up the bulk of my time), which really tested my attention to detail
- Presented ideas for an entry into a new sector to the executive committee of the firm, and got to travel to San Francisco to meet w/ potential clients interested in our advisory services
- Last but not least, learned an INCREDIBLE amount about how the industry of banking works and all the details that go into it

My advice to you

Stay hungry, but be humble. Regardless of whether you went to Wharton or your local community college, chances are that the people interviewing you come junior year aren't going to hire you if you walk in acting entitled like your hot sh*t. I'm sure there are plenty of posts that talk about that, but the piece of advice I've received most frequently so far is to stay humble and show how much you want it. The ability and desire to learn far surpasses some cocky 20 year old who thinks he's the end all be all. I'm only a sophomore and I could guess that no one analyst is going to make or break a bank at the end of the day.

I just want to thank the WSO community again for all their help in terms of helping me develop a better understanding of banking; as well as encouraging me to follow my dream and pursue my goals. Regardless of where you come from, banking is an uphill battle to get into and while I'm still far from getting there I wanted to share my experience. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask! Keep grinding!

Comments (9)

Jul 18, 2016 - 5:54pm

Congrats! Makes me wonder how many of us went to school for something completely unrelated before deciding finance/business/econ was the path. I know I wanted to pursue music production going into freshman year of undergrad.

You'll have to give us a follow up post on what your thoughts are after x months on the job.

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