Path to success in Europe?

Hey Monkeys -- hope that you all are similarly recovering from that intense US Open final. 

Like many of you, the WFH era has given me time to reflect and question what the next 3-5-10+ years of my life look like -- so my apologies in advance for the soppy post and will try to keep it short.

For background, I'm a Sr. Associate at a MM PE fund in NYC, and prior to that did my banking years at an EB. The PE experience has been great so far, and I've been lucky enough to stay on board without an MBA. Looking forward, I'm faced with the predictable set of exit options for junior PE investors. The obvious road of staying in high finance (PE / HF) is appealing, but I think it's the default choice and in my heart of hearts don't think that's where I want to be 20 years from now.

Since I was in high school, I've wanted to pursue an international career, and Europe feels most aligned with my long term goals. I'm completely ok with the reality that this likely means no $5-10M paychecks like senior buyside folks in NYC. But being an ambitious fucker like the rest of you, I do still have higher hopes than being a mid-level executive at some multinational. Which brings me to the real question...

What do you believe are the top possibilities for a US citizen to achieve reasonable wealth in the EU? (I'm thinking along the lines of MBB consultant, public CFO, European PE, etc.) And given the EU bias toward masters degrees, do you think an MBA from a top EU business school would be necessary in achieving this?

Thanks to those of you who read this far, and happy to answer any questions. 

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Comments (22)

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Sep 14, 2020 - 6:22am

A few thoughts from my side 

  • Definitely possible to achieve reasonable wealth in Europe with all these jobs you have mentioned. Though salary is lower than in the US you tend to have better public services and state pension systems meaning that you may not end up with that much less accounting for these costs 
  • Regarding Masters/MBA: really depends on the country, in UK it does not particularly matter if you have a masters or MBA (though a good school for undergrad / or MBA definitely helps; in France and Germany employers prefer a Masters or MBA more strongly, though I think it matters less the more senior you get I would argue
  • More important will be speaking the local language (even in London finance employers prefer candidate with an additional language) 
  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Sep 14, 2020 - 10:49am

OP here -- thanks for the reply. I agree that these are all pretty well-established paths to success for people with a finance / PE background. My two follow up questions are 1) as a brainstorming exercise, what are some of the other career paths you view in a similar light (meaning decent work / life balance and path to 7 figure salary) and 2) what's the best way for a US-based PE professional to make inroads (either in the UK or on the continent)? 

I know there are a handful of European headhunters, but wonder if they would really understand my background / skill set. Alternatively the one year MBAs (LBS, INSEAD, etc.) seem like they are massive feeders into consulting firms, prestigious management programs on the corporate side, and some finance roles (though I have zero desire to go back into IB).

  • VP in VC
Sep 14, 2020 - 11:37am

I did not have success with European headhunters. I laid out my story in what I thought was a compelling sell of professional capabilities, but many hand-waived around the visa issue. It comes down to de-risking a candidate with no legitimate European connections. 

If I were to have those conversations over again, I would highlight my European language fluency, maybe tell a half-truth about relevant relations, and discuss more about what compels me to Europe, rather than my last pitch of "Look how qualified I am". They don't care how qualified you are if you are not in, what is in their mind, a "European bucket".

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  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Sep 14, 2020 - 3:59pm

Better work / life balance (probably higher $ / hour and lower stress in the EU), more progressive, more multicultural and multilingual, less religious, think it's a better place to raise kids, list goes on. Same reasons that EU / Aus / NZ top all quality of life lists. 

Most Helpful
Sep 14, 2020 - 4:36pm

To add to some of the points mentioned, as someone who's worked in several European countries:

1. There's generally more opportunities to achieve the "reasonable wealth" you mention in London, Germany or Switzerland.

2. If you don't care as much about prestige, you can achieve similar earnings in the long term as a MBB/Tier 2 consulting or a Big4 partner (ie. 7 figures annually). CFO of a business unit or a smaller listed company might actually pay less. PE partners would make more than than the other positions.

3. Language is very important in continental Europe. That being said, when I finished my MBA I had offers in London and two other countries where I didn't speak the language. So it's definitely doable with only English, especially in the Nordics, Netherlands and maybe Germany. That applied for most jobs you mentioned apart from PE, because you need the local language to buy and sell companies there.

4. A previous poster mentioned the need for a masters outside the UK. The reason you would see it in job ads it that most people get a master degree after university in Continental Europe, but I haven't seen that enforced when people are applying for countries where this is more uncommon, such as the UK or US.

5. The MBA might be a good idea to show a connection with Europe, but it takes a while and costs some money (LBS is still about a year and a half or 2 years by way). You may need it however if you want to go to a European corporate (such as a CFO/CEO leadership programme) or MBB. An MBA is also useful if you need a bit of time to figure out what you want. 

6.  If you're happy with PE, a first step in my view would be to just contact some PE headhunters in London (such as PER, Walker Hamill or Darmouth Partners) and get some advice on whether a move is possible. They should take your call given you have very relevant experience. A lot of their interest will depend on how well your current firm is known in Europe (EB and presumably a target/semi-target in the US will also help) and what your visa situation is (a lot is up in the air now with Brexit). 

Sep 14, 2020 - 7:14pm


"Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes." -U.S. Navy General Farragut
Sep 14, 2020 - 10:29pm

Seems legit.

"Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes." -U.S. Navy General Farragut
Dec 20, 2020 - 5:51am

HEC MiF, Bocconi MiF, St Gallen MBF. As an earlier comment mentioned, most if not all students in continental Europe undertake a masters degree upon completion of their undergrad.
If you're studying in the UK it's the usual suspects, Oxbrdige, LSE etc. Here a masters isn't as essential

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Apr 27, 2021 - 7:12pm

For the MBA, depending on your age you could consider doing some of the combined MBAs that give you a US and a European diploma. That way you'd be mitigating risks.

I know there is an IE-Brown EMBA and an LBS- Columbia one.

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