Non-target to BB IB SA

herzyherzy's picture
Rank: Baboon | banana points 106

Hi all,

Throwaway account to try and keep identity as anonymous as possible. Going to share my experience as I'm starting my BB SA gig this summer in a top coverage group, doing it coming from a non-target school with an average GPA (~3.5).

School

I came to school to study something arts-related, totally different and very irrelevant to IB. Partied my butt off first semester and had a pretty crappy GPA (~2.9) for my freshman fall. Pledged a fraternity and ultimately changed my major to finance and math. My family has run a small business for decades and decided to explore a sell-side, which was a perfect intro into the world of investment banking. I started reading anything/everything I could get my hands on, subscribed to all the deal emails (Term Sheet, Pro Rata, etc.) and started trading a personal account. Joined the investment club on campus, got my grades up a lot. Started networking my freshman year and used the handful of alumni in banking as well as just any brief connection I could find.

Freshman year IB internship

Found a guy who ran a boutique investment bank near NYC who went to a completely different non-target school and started talking to him, which in turn led to him taking me on for a (paid, somehow) internship for my freshman summer. We meshed very well and honestly I strictly got this for putting myself out there showing I was willing to learn and work hard. He asked me back for the next summer as well.

Sophomore MM IB

Leveraged my prior boss' connections to try and start networking early as the process for SA recruiting is incredibly accelerated - after a few coffee chats with an MD at a solid MM shop, he offered me a spot to intern for two months alongside the SA class (who were all a year above me). I didn't really do much or contribute anything, but it led me to automatically being considered for a superday and I was able to land an offer here for the actual junior summer SA spot. Again, non-target MD who saw I was willing to learn and had some prior experience that I could speak to.

Landing the spot

I had been reaching out to probably 20 bankers at (insert top BB here) across different groups before actually getting thrown into the interview process. Had a HireVue during the summer 2017 and ultimately was flown from school for a superday last September, coincidentally having this superday the day after my other superday from my last internship. I had spoken with MD's, associates, VP's, analysts - all in all probably had cold emailed and gotten calls with ~10 bankers, a handful were in the same group and were able to chat about me and I think helped me out. Came in for the superday, knew all my technicals (IMPORTANT), and just honestly showed my enthusiasm as best I could. An MD interviewing me asked how I'd gotten in there (and I had spoken to several people on his team) and told him just by talking to guys in his group - somehow impressed him there. Eventually got placed after I accepted the offer in one of the best groups across the street.

Tips

If you go across this site you will find MULTIPLE different accounts similar to mine describing story after story for non-targets getting into IB positions. Networking is literally the only reason I was able to get a spot in addition to having relevant experience to back up my story. Anyone can say they "want to do IB" but people like to see that there's a tangible, chronological timeline for why you actually want to do it. Make a spreadsheet, used LinkedIn like crazy, and put yourself out there. Networking is so critical and don't shy away because "they're an MD, they won't respond" or "they're an analyst, they can't push me through." Believe it or not, just about any banker (except for an analyst who's been there for ~3 months) can recommend or shoot your resume to HR.

My cold email strategy

More often times than not, bankers may not even respond to your initial email and a week later you'll somehow have an interview. That in mind, I reached out to ~400 bankers, research analysts, sales and trading people cold with the following methodology: if you went to a non-target school, you were on my list. Why? They'd probably understand the grind of networking more than the banker who was a Wharton UG/Harvard MBA who had 100's of kids knocking on their door. Don't hesitate, what do you have to lose? The worst response I ever got (once) was a "we're not hiring, pls stop emailing." Going off that, don't be insane in these emails. Be casual but straightforward, I sent about a 4/5 sentence long email introducing myself, my major, my prior experience, and then asking to hop on the phone/if they had any free time to chat about their experiences and then wrapping it up with a "attached is my resume." After a week if they hadn't responded, I'd ping them again (obviously no resume again). A week after that, once more. 3 emails total before crossing them off my list - and believe me, there were tons of people who didn't respond.

Cold email success rate

I'd put my hit rate in the 20% range (which is awesome, but it's 1 in 5 people emailing me back, often times not having time). Keep track of when you're emailing, if they respond, make a calendar to track when your calls are. Have it down to a tee because it's super easy to get disorganized with networking and you need every connection you make, cold or not.

Preparation

I probably should've led with this, but start EARLY! High school is insanely early (there's a couple posts on here about high school internships, relax). But if you really want to make a jump into IB it's best to start networking freshman year. Get your name out there, learn some, start familiarizing yourself with technicals. Don't be the guy who worked incredibly hard to get a final round interview just to screw it up because you hadn't spent time studying technicals (it's not as daunting as it sounds). Apparently recruiting is even earlier for 2019, so that means you need to keep yourself ahead of the curve.

Answering technical interview questions

Technicals are so crazy - there were superdays I didn't even get asked one what is WACC or walk me through a DCF question, and there were first round interviews with different banks asking me about PiK interest. Obviously you want to come in over-prepared, the easiest way to ding any candidate is if they aren't technically sound.

The three best resources I used was the guide on this site (which is the only one I paid for), the 400 M&I question guide (which you can Google and it shows up as a pdf), and then a M&A and LevFin heavy guide that an alum sent me (Rosenbaum & Pearl, not sure if it's free otherwise). Again, I interviewed also across other BB's, EB's, MM's, and across divisions (ER, S&T). I had 3 superdays that were all for IB, and probably a dozen other first/second round interviews ranging across levels of finance. I had my story tailored pretty well for each (important), and granted a lot of the questions I got for technicals in IB were the same for ER, difference being ER/S&T asked more markets based questions.

I just studied, everyone has their own methods. I would have my sister ask me questions in a mock interview type setting just so I knew them cold. A huge part of these technicals (especially if you don't know) is just the way you think through them. I got a question in this BB I got an offer from on the superday about leverage and I didn't know the answer, but when I slowed down and worked through it out loud I ended up getting it right. Sometimes that happens, but if you have a clear and logical process then you're better off then mumbling or guessing.

Putting in the time and effort

My parting piece: if you want it, show it. So many people on this forum I've seen complain and whine about "missing the boat on IB" or those "IB or bust" posts. It really isn't the end of the world if you don't get it, but even moreso: put the time and effort in! No one will feel bad for you, no one will do it for you --> I spent 3-4 hours on the phone a day talking to people and another 3-4 sending emails. You HAVE TO pull out all the stops and work for it because no one else will. It's the toughest industry to break into for a reason!

Thanks for reading and happy to answer any questions! This forum's been incredibly helpful and wanted to give back in any way I could.

Comments (28)

May 10, 2018

Cool story, wish I'd had this in college. Lots of good networking advice here.

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May 10, 2018

2.9 GPA, non-target uni yet still got a PAID IB internship your Freshmen year? Was this guy you talked to like a very close family member or was in the frat your pledged to? I don't know this sounds extremely exceptional. I see job postings for all the boutiques and they get 1k+ applicants.

herzyherzy:

My parting piece: if you want it, show it. So many people on this forum I've seen complain and whine about "missing the boat on IB" or those "IB or bust" posts. It really isn't the end of the world if you don't get it, but even moreso: put the time and effort in! No one will feel bad for you, no one will do it for you --> I spent 3-4 hours on the phone a day talking to people and another 3-4 sending emails. You HAVE TO pull out all the stops and work for it because no one else will. It's the toughest industry to break into for a reason!

That's nice and all but Sophomores are being recruited, and it's only getting earlier. So if you end up doing WM or something like that your freshman year (because I don't know how many target students let alone non-targets get paid IB internships their Freshman Summer), how would you still standout in your applications? Bc I'm sure target students are still networking like crazy.

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May 10, 2018

The guy I reached out ran a two-man boutique, no real posting. It was one of those informal internships where he took on two or three undergrads early on mainly to mentor them. I vaguely knew the guy through a family friend, but did the leg work reaching out on my own and what not. It was one of those spots where he wasn't so interested in my resume as much as feeling me out in an interview type context.

I'm lost: "that's nice and all?" I think we're in agreement, you have to start insanely early and yes, it's only getting earlier. I've read in other forums that putting an "incoming" title on your resume for your sophomore summer is a common method to show you're also doing something relevant for that summer.

Look, my point was to not say "oh hey try and land IB your freshman summer - that's the only way." I was trying to stress the importance of trying to move in that direction early on; plenty of students dilly dally until it's too late unfortunately (and it's all too frequent at non-targets because of limited resources). It really ties back into the concept of networking your butt off: if you show you're hungry and willing to learn, people will take you on (paid or unpaid, doesn't totally matter). I got lucky because the shops I interned for happened to pay me, but I'd still have worked there regardless.

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May 10, 2018

How was your group placement process and how were you able to land in a top coverage group coming from a non-target ?

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May 11, 2018

Group placement process is really really interesting - coming from a non-target you wouldn't expect it to be as political (but it is). For the bank I ended up at (if you hadn't gathered where I am already) you preference 4 or 5 of your top choices and are guaranteed one of them. I listed most of the BB's top groups, but I had actually spoken with an MD in each of 2 of my top 4 groups. I'd assume if they liked me that they may have pulled me into their group. Regardless, networking laws and tips still apply even after you land an offer, the only real way to get a specific group is to continuously network into it. I got really lucky that one of the people I connected with got promoted to MD while I was interviewing and then recommended me specifically for his group (think GS TMT/FIG MS M&A JPM M&A/HC/DI).

May 11, 2018

That is awesome, congrats! What do you mean it is political?

May 12, 2018

Meaning that it almost seemed cutthroat to land certain spots among different groups (the top ones). It's only natural, but people were continuously leveraging their alumni and intensely competing to try and land spots in the top coverage groups.

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May 10, 2018

Cool! Congrats!

May 11, 2018

Could you make a similar post about your process in learning technicals? I'm a sophomore transferring into a target/semi-target this fall and am overwhelmed by the breadth of technicals & short amount of time. What did you use and what did you focus on?

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

Best Response
May 11, 2018

I'll try and do my best to outline it in a reply, if you have any extra or specific questions feel free to PM me.

Technicals are so crazy - there were superdays I didn't even get asked one what is WACC or walk me through a DCF question, and there were first round interviews with different banks asking me about PiK interest. Obviously you want to come in over-prepared, the easiest way to ding any candidate is if they aren't technically sound.

The three best resources I used was the guide on this site (which is the only one I paid for), the 400 M&I question guide (which you can Google and it shows up as a pdf), and then a M&A and LevFin heavy guide that an alum sent me (Rosenbaum & Pearl, not sure if it's free otherwise). Again, I interviewed also across other BB's, EB's, MM's, and across divisions (ER, S&T). I had 3 superdays that were all for IB, and probably a dozen other first/second round interviews ranging across levels of finance. I had my story tailored pretty well for each (important), and granted a lot of the questions I got for technicals in IB were the same for ER, difference being ER/S&T asked more markets based questions.

I just studied, everyone has their own methods. I would have my sister ask me questions in a mock interview type setting just so I knew them cold. A huge part of these technicals (especially if you don't know) is just the way you think through them. I got a question in this BB I got an offer from on the superday about leverage and I didn't know the answer, but when I slowed down and worked through it out loud I ended up getting it right. Sometimes that happens, but if you have a clear and logical process then you're better off then mumbling or guessing.

Good luck and PM me if you have any other questions!

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May 11, 2018

Found a guy who ran a boutique investment bank near NYC

Thanks a bunch for your post! I was just wondering, I always hear from you and others how boutiques are a great "way in". How exactly does one find boutique IBs, since most aren't really listed anywhere online? Cheers.

May 12, 2018

https://www.wallstreetprep.com/knowledge/investmen...
I think in addition to this list someone posted a thread with another deep list of NYC boutique's and what not. There ought to be some online resources with lists and lists of banks and their websites, you can go from there or use LinkedIn to find them.

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May 12, 2018

Thank you! NYC boutiques won't be of much use to me, but it'll probably help out other people who skim the thread. This has given me lots of great ideas on where to look, and the website is great.

May 11, 2018

Congrats on the offer, lots of good advice here. Couple of questions: what was your primary way of locating fellow non-target employees, and how did you utilize that connection in your cold emails?

To infinity... and beyond!

    • 1
May 12, 2018

LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn. I paid for the premium LinkedIn site, and just went absolute bananas searching through "investment banking analyst, associate, vice president, managing director" at all the banks. Went one by one and looked at their school listed on LinkedIn to see if it were either near mine geographically, similar caliber, or just non-target in general. Compiled the list into Excel and kept track.

Also, depending on the person several people list out what activities they were involved in at their respective school (i.e. fraternity, investment clubs, varsity/club sports). Find something you have in common and briefly mention it in the email, you'd be surprised how your hit rate rises when the emails become personally tailored.

May 11, 2018

Something that I feel you really understated is how important mentors and alumni contacts are. Based on your story, I'm confident you had a few people guide you through the process. Those people are likely the only reason you have accomplished as much as you have. Emphasize finding people to help you through the process.

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May 14, 2018

thanks for sharing you're story

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My story | My Linkedin

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May 14, 2018

Thanks for sharing the story. I too go to a non target and hopefully one day will land at a BB.

May 14, 2018

....

May 14, 2018

I tried my best to outline briefly what it was I said in those emails, but my advice is to be as genuine and candid as possible. Introduce yourself, outline internship background or experience, find common ground, ask for time, send a resume. How you want to phrase it should be unique to you.

May 15, 2018

What is your gpa now if you don't mind sharing? I am interested in seeing how it improved from 2.9. Great read as I am from a non target as well.

May 18, 2018

Within my major it's above a 3.8/3.9 but my cumulative is around or above a 3.5.

May 18, 2018

"we're not hiring, pls stop emailing."
Still a douchey response

May 19, 2018

Cool story, wish I'd had this information when I was a freshman. Didn't get any help and now i'm starting when it's too late. Thanks for the advice

May 27, 2018

Did you find that a reasonable amount of people responded to your second and third messages? I have been networking and don't send follow ups because my rationale is these people would have replied to my first message if they wanted to speak. If your experience was that follow ups were helpful, I will start following up. Also, how did you respond to questions about why you chose your school and having a low gpa from a non target background in interviews?

May 28, 2018

Really nice story and a great example of grabbing your opportunities and running with them. Appreciate you sharing. But, this post is largely not applicable to just about every non-target student. 2 IB internships before junior year is 2 more than anyone not at a top 25 school can reasonably expect.

There's some good stuff in here about who to reach out to and how to keep track of your network. But, I think this post is most valuable to non-targets as an overview of how tough the process has become and what kind of leg work is needed to succeed even for a kid with two fucking IB internships under his belt.

Good luck this summer OP!

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May 28, 2018

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May 29, 2018