Q&A: From Master's Dropout to BB IB to PE

I have a Bachelor's in Political Science from a target European University. I then started a master's in Marketing which I didn't finish and did the same with a master's in Finance. By that point, I had secured a full-time offer in a BB in London, in their TMT team. After a bit more than 18 months, I moved to a large bank's Merchant Banking Division, where I have worked across the capital structure (LBOs, Mezzanine, Debt) and I am now focused solely on LBOs and a few special situations investing.

I am happy to answer any questions from how to get into IB, lifestyle, TMT exit opps, to how to get a buy-side job, and the difference in investment approach for different types of instruments in the capital structure. 

If you feel uncomfortable asking questions publicly, feel free to PM.

@AndyLouis @WallStreetOasis.com

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Comments (9)

Sep 23, 2020 - 11:24am

I think the most important part of my pitch and of any pitch of why you don't finish something is why. During every intro pitch in any interview I explained why I didn't finish my master's in marketing. In my case, I realised the course I liked the most during my 1st year of master's in Marketing was a finance class and so it made it easy to explain why I was switching to Finance. Overall, I think if you can really explain why you decided to change path and why this is leading you to being in front of the interviewer, this should not be an issue. If you twist it well, it can also give them confidence because you're showing them you are not applying in IB because everyone around you is doing so but really because of a personal reflection.

For the unfinished master's in Finance, it was much easier. I studied in France, where most people take a gap year for internships between their 1st and 2nd year of master's. My first internship (June-December) was at a BB's Paris office and I managed to get a FT offer for their London office starting the following July.

Sep 23, 2020 - 12:19pm

Thanks for the kind reply.

One more question after reading other replies, if I may ask.

How do you network as a student? (I'm from continental Europe too and I'm really struggling to land coffee chats with cold mail and Linkedin messages)

Sep 23, 2020 - 1:15pm

I started with my school's alumni network and would reach out via cold-emails and LinkedIn. You won't have a lot of people replying but the ones who do, you should be prepared to make a very good impression so they will want to introduce you to other people they know. 

I also spoke about my willingness to get into IB to literally everyone I met and knew at that time. Most people won't know anyone useful, but the few contacts you can always be pretty useful. 

Finally, banks throw events. Apply for them and go there. When you're there, try to switch away from the usual finance-related topics as soon as possible to make the people in front of you enjoy the conversation. You should realise these people are taking some time on their workday and will probably finish late because they came, so the last thing they want to be doing is repeating 100x the same answer to "what do you think makes a good investment banker". Most people will go to the most senior people, but I'd say that's a mistake. The chances these guys actually want to help you at some point is pretty low and everyone will be trying to talk to them, so you'll have more competition to get their attention and keep it.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Sep 23, 2020 - 10:11am

Any hope from non-targets? how to make sure one maximizes the number of 1st rounds they get.

Did banks not have a problem with you dropping out so much?

Do you feel better in PE now? ( lifestyle-wise)

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Sep 23, 2020 - 11:39am

If you're coming from a non-target, I think your resume probably needs to show a clearer path for IB (courses, degrees, etc.), but even if that's not the case, I would say it's impossible. Especially if you're able to do an off-cycle internship in a local office (understand continental office). The key is networking. I spent a lot of time networking and had a very processed approach to networking with a master excel file. When networking, I would recommend asking every person who accepts to have a chat with you if they can introduce you to at least 1 other person, in the thank you note. Banks did not have issues with me dropping out so much because I could very clearly explain why I had dropped out (cf. my reply above). But to get the opportunity to explain it, I had to network, and in the end, I believe it gave me some kind of edge over other candidates as it was a trait that made some people remember me (vs. other very similar resumes with a more "traditional" background) - at least that's what they told me when I joined them later on. 

Same for the 1st rounds. I would say the 3 Ns are the key: Network, Network, Network (and of course, be ready as you are networking. You don't want to be called for an interview the next day and not be able to run people through a DCF or what multiples are). And have a story to tell If you have a hobby that's unusual, put it on your resume, it will give people who also want to ask non-technical questions something to dig into and might start a good convo (vs. I am a candidate for the CFA Level 2 and I am the President of the Finance association at my Uni - both are good / interesting but it won't set you apart that much imho). For example, I had lived in Africa for a bit and I am a huge fan of rap music, so I put both on my resume.

To answer your last question: yes! Lifestyle I think is maginally better, but you have more pressure. I am more interested in the job (less commercial and more analytical), but you have much more pressure and less guidance. In the end, on the deal team, everyone is accountable for their workstream and you can't hide behind someone higher in the hierarchy who would be supposed to review your work. I think though that the culture in Merchant Banking is still very similar to IB and probably more similar to IB than to other funds.

  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 27, 2020 - 5:12am

Can you please talk a bit about your experience investing across the capital structure? I understand groups like GS PIA invest across RE (debt/equity), corporate (debt/equity) and infrastructure, but how does the staffing work? It seems you are focused more on LBOs now, what was the transition like? Lastly, what is your working style when approaching very distinct asset classes? Thank you. 

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