Q&A - From Non-Target to VP at EB

This forum was instrumental in my development (especially during my analyst years) and figured it was time to give back. Non-target, non-finance undergraduate degree. Currently a VP at an M&A-focused EB in the U.S. Will do my best to jump on here and respond to questions

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Comments (55)

Mar 9, 2020 - 4:14pm

Long overdue!

I came out of undergrad with a general business degree, but decided I wanted to be in finance during my senior year. I didn't know enough to know that I wanted to be in IB, but was fortunate enough to be able to network my way into a commercial banking program. From there, I jumped to a smaller, "boutique" bank where I did my analyst years. I was contacted by a recruiter looking for an Associate at my current shop, and I was able to join as an Associate. After ~ 2 years, I was promoted from Associate to VP.

I haven't gone back for my MBA (and don't plan to at this point), and have witnessed first-hand a push by banks to promote A-A and beyond for high performers.

Most Helpful
Mar 10, 2020 - 10:08am

Hours as a VP are definitely lighter (realistically, I work 60+ hours per week now, compared with 80+ as a junior associate), which is consistent with other groups at our firm.

The biggest change for me has been content creation. As an Associate, it was important to take the first cut at creating materials, but often times that came with significant guidance or input from the Sr. bankers. I have found that, as a VP, I am expected to come up with the content myself and run with it.

FWIW, the hardest part of the transition has been learning how to delegate. Frankly, because the groups I have worked with in the past have been thin at the VP level, there wasn't a great blueprint for me to follow in terms of knowing what I should or shouldn't take the laboring oar on.

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  • Manager in CorpDev
Mar 9, 2020 - 5:08pm

Thanks for doing this. A few questions below:
1. What attributes / skills allowed you to be promoted from Associate to VP in ~2 years?
2. What advice would you have to a lateral associate hire coming from Corp Dev (no MBA)?

Mar 10, 2020 - 10:23am

First and foremost, this is still a meritocracy and it is hard to get promoted if you don't develop the technical skills while you are an analyst/associate. With that said, I am by no means the most technically proficient banker at my shop, but am regarded as a "solid" performer and have consistently been a top bucket associate. Aside from that, I can't emphasize enough the importance of dealflow. At the end of the day, it is hard to get promoted (at least in our group) if you don't get deal reps, and just as importantly, if you aren't able to show your execution ability. I would also add that soft skills play an important role and are often overlooked by junior folks who think banking is all about building the best model or pulling together a clean deck. I was fortunate enough to be staffed on several live deals and had the opportunity to show I could perform.

My advice to you is play to your strengths. You bring a unique perspective having sat on the client side, so emphasize that in interviews. You also need to make sure you have your technicals down cold. I can't tell you how many times we have had promising Corp Dev candidates who look good on paper, but then struggle to walk through basic valuation concepts. Given the number of FREE resources online today, there is no excuse for not knowing your stuff walking into an interview. Bankers want to know you are willing to put in the time necessary to ramp up quickly, and the most tangible way to show that in an interview setting is to know your stuff inside and out.

Mar 10, 2020 - 10:41am

I won't sugarcoat it - the learning curve was really steep for me, and I struggled during my first few months as an analyst. The intensity and pace is very different in IB compared to other finance roles. I leaned heavily on more experienced analysts to get me up to speed and spent a disproportionate amount of time on google and YouTube learning ways to maximize my efficiency so that, while I was still learning the industry side of my job, I could save time by being proficient in excel and powerpoint.

I sit in a sector-focused M&A group now, but worked as a generalist while I was an analyst. The hardest part for me was trying to understand the different nuances across industry groups. I worked on Industrial, FIG, RE, and consumer deals and each of these industries have different drivers, important metrics and buyers. The hardest group was FIG, largely because it is so different from any of the others.

Mar 10, 2020 - 10:44am

I was on track to be an associate at my previous bank, but wanted to move to a more well-known and focused platform.

I think that the industry has experienced a shift away from requiring an MBA to advance. It used to be that, if you wanted to work your way up the ladder, an MBA was a prerequisite. Today, given the number of PE shops, tech firms, and VCs that have popped up, certain banks are eager to retain talent, and that means promoting from within. That is not to say that getting MBA isn't still a great way to break, but it definitely is not as common as it used to be.

Mar 9, 2020 - 11:40pm

Do you see yourself becoming an MD and schmoozing clients?
What jobs could you exit to? Would you have to take a significant pay cut?

Array

Mar 10, 2020 - 11:16am

At this point, I would say I am working towards becoming an MD. That is still a ways off, but the skills I am focused on developing are with that goal in mind.

Exit opps get skinnier as you move up the chain until you hit MD. I think I could jump to Corp Dev or an industry-focused PE shop if I had to, but both of those would almost certainly come with a significant pay cut (and in the case of moving to a buy-side shop, a demotion).

Mar 10, 2020 - 2:43pm

My answer is going to be cliche, but that's because it is what I have seen work - make sure you are actively networking. It can be hard to find time to do this as an analyst, but your best shot at lateraling to a more prominent platform is to make a personal connection with someone who already works there. This site has a wealth of information on this subject, but the low hanging fruit is always your alumni network, former employees from your boutique that may have moved on to bigger shops, and of course, recruiters. Hope this helps

Mar 10, 2020 - 3:00pm

Thanks for your insights! I am currently an analyst at a middle market PE and was wondering if my buy-side experience would be a disadvantage or an advantage for me to break into BB/EB as a 2nd/3rd year analyst. I have covered the whole lifecycle of several buyouts (IB over me? I have only done an internship at a small IB in college but I do have some deal experience advising M&A deals.

Also, in terms of networking, I noticed that there's a huge decline in my cold email reply rate, compared to last year when I was looking for jobs. I wonder if it's a macro phenomenom (people are concerned about CoronaVirus, wfh situation, etc..) or my message needs to be improved.

Would greatly appreciate your thoughts on my two questions! Thanks in advance.

Mar 10, 2020 - 3:55pm

First off - you are definitely the exception to the rule on this forum! I can't say that I have seen a PE analyst make the switch to IB, but that is largely because PE analyst positions still aren't that common. I would say that, depending on your specific roles and responsibilities in your current position, you likely have comparable relevant deal experience as other lateral candidates. With that said, it is still "safer" for banks to hire an experienced A1/A2 over you given they have direct FT IB experience.

To your point on cold emails, PM me, and we can discuss that more. Real-time, the COVID-19 issue is likely going to impact hiring for the next few months as there is still too much uncertainty around both capital raising and M&A going forward.

  • Associate 2 in IB-M&A
Mar 10, 2020 - 3:27pm

Thanks for doing this.

How has your role evolved in terms of deal execution vs. origination/coverage? When are you expected to independently drive idea generation or client coverage?

Mar 10, 2020 - 4:01pm

Great question. This is an area that I have spent a decent amount of time discussing with our group head. At this point, given our group's needs, I am definitely more focused on execution than origination. Our business model traditionally places the burden on Directors/MDs to go out and win business, but it is extremely hard to flip the switch when you make the jump from VP to D without having laid the groundwork. All of that to say, I am actively budgeting time to meet with both strategics and sponsors to expand my own network in preparation for a more meaningful shift, and pushing to attend more BD meetings/trade shows/sponsor events with our Sr. bankers. Truth be told, I wish I would have pushed to start doing this more as an Associate as there is almost no downside (other than you still have to get all of your execution work done), and it would have given me a head start.

Mar 10, 2020 - 4:30pm

Thanks for doing this!

Can you please speak more on your experience at the smaller bank and the transition to your current EB? Such as, do you see any real advantages starting out at a small(er) boutique? Did you notice a higher level of talent or expectations when you moved to your current shop?

Mar 10, 2020 - 5:01pm

I think the training program and structure at larger banks tends to be a better starting point for analysts. All things being equal, I would have much preferred to do my analyst years at a more established bank, both for my personal professional development, but also for the name on my resume. With that said, there are some advantages to working at a smaller shop. You tend to get more exposure to all aspects of the deal process and are forced to learn how to problem solve in a way that isn't necessary when you have a pool of analysts and associates you can ask for help.

I definitely think there is a meaningful talent gap. Each year I am more impressed with the quality of the intern and FT candidates that we bring in. Despite other competitive options for undergraduate students, banking seems to still be attracting very bright and motivated young men and women and our bank has the luxury of being able to select the top few candidates from that pool each year. Similarly, there are higher expectations. Even at the analyst level, the quality of the work product and the level of understanding that incoming analysts are expected to have is extremely high.

  • Prospect in IB - Cov
Mar 11, 2020 - 12:10am

adding on to that, what would u recommend incoming interns (from liberal arts schools) at EBs do to prep for the summer internship? Any advice for securing return offers? thanks so much!

Mar 11, 2020 - 10:24am

You are going to have to play catch-up to some degree and put in time outside of school to brush up on your technical skills and accounting knowledge. Focus on prep courses like those offered on this site which will hep introduce you to the basic concepts you'll be expected to know. Once you start your internship try to keep the internship in perspective. What I mean by this is, you generally have 10 weeks to show why they should hire you. Expect to work everyday during those 10 weeks, and work to maintain a positive, humble attitude. Focus on making tangible improvement. I can't remember who originally said it on this forum, but a best practice I followed when I first started was making a list of all of the mistakes I made and then using that as my checklist before sending anything over to my Associate. Integrate that into your internship and you will see huge improvement. Best of luck!

Mar 10, 2020 - 8:51pm

Interested to know your bank's practices for taking laterals from large MM players. Currently approaching my first year at a top MM looking to make the switch to BB / EB.

" I live by the golden rule: those who have the gold usually make the rules"
Mar 11, 2020 - 10:28am

It honestly depends on the MM shop. My first question to a candidate looking to lateral from a strong MM shop is why? I think there is a misconception out there that somehow MM banking is worse or lower-tier than BB/EB, when in reality, some of the best dealflow and experience can be found in the MM.

Back on topic - we tend to view any analyst with strong execution experience (whether from a BB or MM shop) favorably. I have found that, when we do hire analysts from middle-market banks, they tend to have pretty solid execution skills, but lack some of the broader strategic critical thinking that is an important part of a bankers development. The other thing that makes any lateral analyst move tough is there has to be an opening, and while we have had analysts leave prior to their 2-year stint being up, it is still rare.

Mar 10, 2020 - 9:39pm

TIA. It sounds like you're more focused on execution at the moment but I was curious as to how you (or your directors / MDs) separate or distinguish your firm from your competitors to land new clients, especially if you don't have a balance sheet (on the corporate side we put a lot into those banks who we already have banking relationships with).

Mar 11, 2020 - 10:31am

Another great question. Thankfully our firm has the benefit of having worked on some very high profile transactions over the years and the executive team is very well connected across the sponsor and strategic worlds. With that said, it can be difficult to unseat an incumbent bank, especially when they have a lending relationship, so we tend to focus on our knowledge of the industry, the depth of our strategic relationships, and our track record of generating stronger-than expected outcomes for our clients. So much of banking is who you know, and, to your point, if our MDs are not actively staying in front of both PE funds and strategics, it can be very difficult to win any business.

Mar 11, 2020 - 10:34am

I relied heavily on LinkedIn as my school's alumni network in IB is virtually non-existent. I also proactively reached out to recruiters, which is hit or miss, but wanted to make sure they were aware of my situation and kept me top-of-mind for appropriate roles.

I was actually recruited by an independent recruiter (not the bank's HR group), and had an introductory call where I walked through my deal experience to-date as well as how why i thought I would be a good fit for this particular role. some recruiters can be much more stringent, but in this case, it was a very simple and straight-forward conversation that opened the door.

Mar 11, 2020 - 5:34am

Thanks for the AMA.

I'm a 1st year 24 year old investment banking analyst with a no name boutique currently working in Germany. I have no Masters degree, my bachelors degree is from a non-target Eastern European university, and I am a level 2 CFA candidate.

I would like to lateral to a Tier 1 or Tier 2 bank in London or NYC over the next two years. What would you advise me to focus on now, and how to position myself in the future to be able to lateral to a strong shop with large deals in the near future? Is it even possible to lateral from Europe to US without being a US citizen due to visa constraints?

Thanks a lot for your time.

Mar 11, 2020 - 10:39am

This is a tough one. Unfortunately my knowledge of the visas situation is not very deep, and a lot of that will vary from bank to bank. Assuming it is easier, I would set your sites on lateraling to a global bank in London rather than NYC. From there it will be easier to make the jump over to NYC if you end up wanting to go that route.

In general, I think some of the other responses above apply here. You have to nail your technicals, you need to emphasize any and all relevant deal experience and you have to push to expand your network. given everything that is going on with COVID-19 right now, I imagine that European banks are largely focused on employee safety and figuring out how to weather the current storm, but with processes being put on hold, people will have time for phone calls and emails, so make an effort to try to start setting conversations up with junior bankers at target banks.

Mar 11, 2020 - 4:15pm

Utilize your alumni network and LinkedIn. If your school has placed a number of former students at shops you would like to work at, then make sure to reach out to them to set up informational phone interviews. While you are definitely still early-days, IB recruiting has gotten so aggressive that it can't hurt to reach out sooner rather than later.

Mar 11, 2020 - 12:25pm

Hey, thanks for doing this. My questions are based on the post-MBA associate route. I am coming from an AM/Sov Wealth Fund/Insurance Investment Mgmt background looking to pivot. What are your thoughts on the following:
1. Your EB or other EB/BB's in general views on hiring internationals out of M7/T15 MBA's? I have heard that success rates for internationals this year (summer internships) weren't that high. Is your EB cutting back on recruiting #s in general due to impending downturn in the economy and/or not willing to engage in the immigration risk for internationals?
2. I know that you are in M&A but from interactions with your RX colleagues, do they expect a pick-up in deals in the coming years and as a result a bump in hiring?
3. What do you think is the best thing for a prospective post-MBA associate to focus on before recruiting for IB?

Progress is impossible without change...
  • 2
Mar 11, 2020 - 4:22pm
  1. It is so bank specific, and the current environment is changing real-time. I know we have limited experience hiring international post-MBA candidates, but that's not say that it doesn't happen at other shops. We had the same offer rate this year for our interns as prior years, and before this past week, we had not cut back on recruiting efforts.

  2. I haven't spent much time with our RX folks, but would imagine that they are going to be busy in the coming months...

  3. Nothing special here, but just make sure to get your name and resume out there, and when given the opportunity to speak to banks, nail your conversations. Leverage your experience and make sure to emphasize that you have semi-relevant professional experience that has allowed you to learn the necessary client interaction/soft skills.

Jun 16, 2020 - 8:15am

i know this is late, but I disagree with Flunky on this one. This person didn't go through MBA recruiting, which is incredibly structured. They got their job through lateraling, which is very different than campus recruiting.

reaching out now is high risk, relatively meh award, for MBA candidates. The reason is that you have one shot to make a first impression, and much of the mba recruitment is done through one on one coffee chats. They are really screening to see your interest in the industry, and while you most likely would not get a technical question, the senior person may ask "what's a deal you've been following?". if you can't answer, it's gonna look bad and potentially impact your candidacy down the line. If you answer well, sure, this could help get you through the first cut of people but honestly you could probably manage that anyway.

Just a different perspective.

Array

  • 5
  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 13, 2020 - 1:36pm

Thanks for this thread. I wanted to ask how you landed internships coming from a non-target.
Im a sophmore at a non-target, finance major with roughly 3.0-3.4 GPA. I am honestly aiming for any internship at this point, especially something in PWM to get me started.

How should I go about emailing PWM firms for internships? Should I straight up ask for an internship or go about getting on the phone to get to know employees first? It's pretty late in the game so I was thinking just straight up asking. I have experience working with clients so I thought that would be something worth mentioning in the email.

Sorry if this may not be completely applicable in your case, but I would like a perspective from a professional on if emailing straight up for an internship would be the right call.

Thank you in advance for this thread.

Mar 15, 2020 - 12:25am

First of all, I respect the shit out of you and thanks for doing this AMA. I figured I'll try to get some advice from you though my situation is pretty tough, so I apologize in advance for the long-winded question.

My whole life I was pre-med, got into med school, and decided its not for me. I've always wanted to do something in the business world (especially finance, something like IBD or trading). So now, I'm committing to this field. I have a 2.95 in Biology from a non-target state school with absolutely zero technical financial knowledge or coursework. Thus, I'm having a very hard time breaking into the sector. So far, I have about 1 year of work experience as a Research Assistant with clinical trials (I'm 1.5 years out of undergrad). It seems my only route to breaking into high finance would be via MBA (or maybe MSF?). I've always been masterful at standardized testing (why i got into med school with a 2.9), so I think I'll do well enough on GMAT to somewhat offset GPA to get into a T15-20 MBA to get into IBD.

How would you recommend getting good work experience for the MBA program? My only job offers in the biz world so far are at a place where I'd sell life insurance lol but I'm working on trying to get a position as a data researcher at S&P Global. The latter would definitely be preferable, but do you have suggestions on how to get financial jobs in my situation? Would cold calling banks, etc, work? Would it maybe be a good idea to get a MSF so I can get some sort of financial job for 3-4 years and then go for an MBA?

Mar 24, 2020 - 3:06pm

Have you considered looking into joining a Healthcare IBD team? You have relevant industry experience (even if it is limited) and that could be a nice way to leverage your studies and break into IB. Otherwise I would continue to reach out, but proactively prep for your MBA. For both your MBA, and future IB interviews, I cannot stress the importance of having a solid "story" explaining your career path to-date, and why you want to transition. Feel free to pm me with more specific questions if helpful

Mar 24, 2020 - 6:58pm

When looking at lateral analyst hires, how can I prepare for the modelling test at EBs? I am in an industry coverage group that has not seen much deal flow. Also, how industry specific are the analyst lateral interviews at EBs? For example, I think LAZ structures its groups by industry, so will I expect industry specific qurstions in the interview?

Mar 25, 2020 - 11:31am

The best advice I can give here is to work your way through either the free or paid online guides that are almost ubiquitous at this point. modeling tests at each bank (regardless of EB or BB) have different nuances and specifics, but are all seeking to test both your technical expertise as well as how proficient you are at solving problems/critical thinking. With that in mind, make sure to sharpen your technical skills, but also spend time practicing modeling in a timed and controlled environment so you can get comfortable. Again, there are numerous practice tests online that you can use.

To your last two questions - if you are interviewing with an industry group, you definitely need to research that industry and be prepared to discuss (even at a high level) recent transactions, trends, and major news. If you have prior experience in the same industry group, the bar will be set much higher in terms of what bankers expect you to know versus if you are switching to a different sector.

  • Analyst 1 in Other
Jun 16, 2020 - 3:49am

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jun 17, 2020 - 7:26pm

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