Q&A : Getting into bulge bracket IB - Ask me anything you would hesitate to ask at a networking session (ex-DB VP)

I got into bulge bracket IB from a non-target school and ended up running undergraduate and graduate recruiting for multiple years at different IBs. Networked through 50+ coffees, 23 information sessions and countless calls to land an IB internship. Once I was in, I was on the other side of the coffee table for years and realized that there a lot of questions prospective candidates hold off on asking because they are worried about creating the wrong impression with a potential employer. I am here to answer any of those questions you may have.. or any other IB recruiting related questions. No holds barred!

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Comments (71)

Apr 18, 2021 - 12:16pm

Thanks for doing this. I'm a trader in FI with an European bank ( think HSBC, Deutsche, Barclays), have worked across locations; Mumbai, London and will soon move to Hong Kong. I have had a good run until now, but trading is really not something I see myself doing in a long term ( and trading has really few exits, primarily because the job skill set is highly untransferable), hence to make a shift to probably IB, I'm looking to do MBA. Regarding that I had few questions:

A) Does a work ex in trading provide any edge in post MBA IB recruiting?

B) Is there any bias against hiring international students ( I'm from India) at BBs? Given the h1B visa and all might not PAN out

C) How do you see future of IB panning out in long run? Is it worth it to leave a well paying trading job, do an MBA and then enter it?

D) What does typical comp, all in, look like, for a second year associate and onwards?

E) Roughly what fraction of Associates, make it to MD? counting only those associate who aim for MD/banking career in long run 

Apr 19, 2021 - 11:41am

A) Sorry to disappoint, but I don't see trading giving you an extra edge in recruiting. It definitely will give you an edge over your MBA classmates with no finance background (teachers, marketing folks and to an extent engineers). When we look at candidates, if you have any accounting or finance experience, those names jump straight to the top of the resume pile. I had a non-finance background and finished all 3 levels of my CFA before b-school hoping that it would give me an edge. But in my first few networking sessions that belief was shattered as they bluntly told me "We don't give a s*** about your CFA!". The whole take away for them from my CFA was that I am a hard worker and I am motivated.

B) Most bulge bracket banks don't care about your visa status. If they like you they will tell HR to "Just find a way to hire this kid!". That said there were a couple of BBs like UBS which do not hire internationals. Also, most of the boutique shops like Lazard won't sponsor visas. You just have to be aware of this and focus your networking efforts on banks that sponsor visas. Your school's career center will know which banks sponsor and which ones don't.

C) Exit opportunities are tremendous for Analysts coming out of IBs but relatively scarce for a post MBA Associate. PE's and hedge funds want to hire Analysts not IB Associates (it does happen though). Most post MBA IBs exit into Corporate Finance opportunities for the lifestyle but they take a 30% - 40% pay cut from the IB salary to make that transition. In one way post MBA IB is a golden handcuff. Honestly, IB is a step down from trading in terms of comp. Senior bankers (i.e. MD's and senior directors do exit in CFO and PE MD/partner roles).

D) You can expect anywhere around ~$250k all in comp at the end of your first full year of banking. Add $50k to your comp for every additional Associate and VP year. A first year VP is making upwards of $350k-$400k in a good year and that is what makes exit opportunities so hard to find. Very few opportunities outside of banking would pay that kind of salary for someone just 4 years out of b-school.

E) Out of my North America Associate class of 22 at DB, 5-6 made it to VP and only 3 stayed on to become Directors..so that gives you an idea. It is not because they were forced out but they chose to exit because they wanted a better lifestyle, more time with family etc.

Hope this helps.

Apr 19, 2021 - 2:58pm

Considering only 5/6 associates make VP, do most associates just end up in corporate making $100-120k then in their 30's? I feel like that's not worth it if you're already making $100k or more at 25 pre-MBA.

Array

Apr 21, 2021 - 1:43pm

Thank you for such a detailed response. Really helpful.

A follow up question though, exit wise, are MM funds also similarly inclined as big funds, or are they, trend/historically speaking, relatively more "welcoming" when it comes to hiring post-MBA IB lads at lateral positions? 

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  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Apr 20, 2021 - 3:19am

Do you mind if I ask, do you need any language other than English to work in Hong Kong as a trader? Thanks

Apr 21, 2021 - 1:45pm

I can second laurent_blanc's comment: 

In my team of four in HK, there are two Americans, one Indian, and one French. They have never had any major problem language wise and asked me to not stress it at all .

PS: It didn't hurt though that two of them learned the language and are fluent now :-) . But then again, they have been there for 8-10 years. 

Apr 19, 2021 - 11:50am

Good question :-). Rejections in networking (just like in dating) is hard to deal with. In my opinion, the best way to deal with it is to cultivate a realization that IB recruitingis a cr** shoot and you protect yourself by casting a wide net. I have had times when I would come back from a networking session feeling really good about my prospects and ended up not getting an interview. There were also times when I thought I got a cold shoulder after a coffee and then ended up getting an interview invite. All of my fellow classmates who networked for IB had similar experiences. Bottom-line, not everyone is going to like you and that is the case for every fellow candidate. It is good to have your top 3 target banks in your mind but be open minded and network with as many different banks as possible.

Most Helpful
  • Intern in IB-M&A
Apr 18, 2021 - 12:21pm

What does FT recruiting at the end of SA look like?

How can a potential candidate stand out?

What was it like assessing candidates at the end of the superday?

How much say did HR have in making decisions?

How were international students assessed?

Apr 19, 2021 - 11:56am

We didn't have an quotas at DB. In fact, almost half of my North America Associate class was internationals who required visa sponsorship. In all my years of recruiting, HR never gave us a restriction on how many internationals we could hire. There were years when all the interns for regional (less-sought after) offices like Houston had an all international class who ended up getting offers and visa sponsorship. In my experience, if a senior banker really likes you and wants you in the office he will instruct the HR to find a way to hire you no matter what. So don't let % numbers bother you as long you know the specific bank you are talking to have a policy of hiring internationals.

Apr 18, 2021 - 1:45pm

Thanks for the QnA! I'm also from a non target and I was wondering before you had any experience on ur resume for IB, how did u get ur first IB internship. I'm sure networking played a big role but in order to land that first ib internship, what was ur process. I'm struggling right now and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Apr 19, 2021 - 12:16pm

For me, I can confidently say that relentless networking was what made the difference. But there are things other than networking you can do to make sure your resume stands out. I have seen students take up unpaid internships at local IB shops that do lower middle market M&A after their sophomore year just for the experience. That shows you are determined and is willing to do whatever it takes to make it.

Find out if any of your alumni are/were in banking and reach out to them via LinkedIn (your career center might have contact details). For a non-target school the best way to network is with your alumni and request them to put you in touch with their banker friends/colleagues. 

Joining your finance club and being active in its activities helps too.

I can't stress enough the importance of networking. Even if you don't get a response to your networking request don't give up..be persistent email him/her again (make sure to be not be annoying :-)..give some time between your email requests). There were times when I ignored the first or second email from a non-target school student because I was busy at work or simply maybe I didn't feel like responding...but then I relented after the 3rd email. Persistence pays!

Also, don't let the fact that you are from non-target school bog you down. We had a year when we had 3 summer interns for our Chicago office (1 from Harvard, 1 from Yale and 1 from a non-target school). He worked harder than the Ivy league kids and had the best attitude..and he ended up getting a full time offer but the Harvard kid didn't. 

Apr 18, 2021 - 3:17pm

Appreciate you doing this, TIA!

Background: Decent High School student, went to Non-Target UK for Econ. Undergrad. Spent 3 years focused on picking up grades after health issues, graduated with a First class & part time work experience at local McD to support expenses. Spent majority of time before undergrad as National-level athlete & President of Student Council, but lack any leadership experience throughout Uni. Currently at UK target midway through MScFin. 

Dilemma:  I have been networking aggressively, but there are a few factors holding me back from the feedback received so far:

a) Lack of leadership experience through Uni- My experience as an athlete seems outdated, 5-6 years ago. However I am unable to relay the fact that multiple surgeries that resulted in a premature halt to sport & the consequent mental health implications left me room only to focus on getting my grades up through Undergrad. 

Any advice on how to communicate this gap effectively through the CV, I believe transferrable skills like perseverance/work ethic/resilience from then still apply.

b) Lack of Solid Work Ex. - My only exp. comes from ~4 months at a small boutique where all I did was create pitch decks for IPO's & limited financial modelling. I am currently pushing hard to reach out to small shops & fill up the gap with unpaid experience while working towards a CFA, are there any more steps I can take to expedite the process/ catalyse my efforts?

Trying to build a holistic perspective on how to approach things for when motivation seems to be running low, appreciate any input on whether to keep pushing the same agenda or make some changes.

Apr 20, 2021 - 11:35pm

National level athlete is a great accomplishment! Regardless of the fact that it was a few years ago..it shows you are hardworking and has great work ethic. That matters immensely in banking! Also, bankers love a profile/story that stands out from the rest..how many other potential candidates can talk about being a national level athlete?! Play that up in your networking sessions, talk about what you had to do become a national level athlete and you will definitely get some attention. To me multiple surgeries you had to go through is a perfectly reasonable explanation.

Trying to get some experience with a small shop is the right way to go! As someone who put a lot of effort into passing all 3 levels of CFA before I started my banking recruiting, I can tell you CFA is not much of game changer in IB recruiting (CFA is very well respected in Asset Management and Equity Research roles but not so relevant for IB). Given the amount of time CFA test prep takes up, I suggest you focus your efforts on an unpaid internship which will be more valuable form an IB recruiting context.

I can understand how motivation can run low when you feel like you are getting a cold reception to your networking efforts. But I can promise you getting into IB is not nearly as hard as the effort it takes to become a national level athlete! Cast a wide net, be persistent in your efforts and you will be fine. Happy to help refine your story and messaging if you feel the need for some extra guidance. Good luck!

Apr 18, 2021 - 7:19pm

A few DB specific questions. Most of the people I spoke with at DB stressed that they don't care as much about hiring a technical guru but more looking for a person that has the basics, the intangibles and desire to work since everything else can be taught, do you consider this to be true? I've heard it from other banks but I feel like that was really the selling point at DB. Not a bad thing, just want to see if this is something emphasized internally. What are some things you looked at to gauge culture fit? Also, what's your outlook on the bank after being on the inside? Groups to stay away from / strong groups? Thanks for this btw

Apr 22, 2021 - 9:54am

I completely agree with that! That is one of the things that made DB stand out compared to other banks. All we expected from a good candidate was a good attitude, willingness to learn and a good understanding of basics in the finance/young fundamentals. Please see my previous responses in the thread for culture fit.

To be honest, DB has been struggling quite a bit with their regulatory issues in the US in the last 4-5 years. But that doesn't change the fact that they have some really good groups with decent deal flow. DB's lev fin group is still one of the best on the street. Same applies to their industrials, healthcare and mining groups

  • VP in S&T - FI
Apr 19, 2021 - 12:00pm

what are your thoughts on a trader who "failed as a trader"  after 4-5 years (seem to be blackballed from the industry, nobody responds to interview requests), has been unemployed for a few years and burned thru most of savings, now wants to career change, but also wants a career that maximizes earning potential?

Apr 19, 2021 - 2:54pm

I am sorry to hear that you are going through a tough time. If you don't mind letting me know your educational background I would probably be able to give you a better suggestions. Providing a few thoughts below.

If you don't have an MBA degree yet..I would say doing an MBA would be a great way to start over. Personally, I don't believe an MBA adds a lot from a learning perspective for someone with a trading/finance background. I see MBA as a 2 year long networking opportunity to cold call and email as many people as possible without being judged. When you have that 'student' tag people cut you a lot of slack which they won't otherwise. I have seen failed musicians becoming bankers, army vets becoming wealth advisors, teachers becoming marketing specialists through an MBA. Also, you can always go to a school in a different geographic region with a totally different industry focus and start all over again.

2 years school might sound daunting...especially with how costly MBA can be. But there are schools which give very generous scholarships and if you plan well and apply to the right schools you can come out with a great degree with minimal debt burden. Most good business schools have average starting salaries in the 6 figures and could be as high as $180k - $250k if you target big tech finance roles, IB or consulting jobs out of business school

  • VP in S&T - FI
Apr 19, 2021 - 4:39pm

state school 20 years ago undergrad in economics...i think 3.3 gpa...can't exactly remember.  worked as a VBA / SQL programmer 10-15 years ago

2 year MBA not an option at this point...need to earn an income pronto

have been day trading bond futures in my PA and doing ok (using my skills from former life)....but not stable enough to raise a family on.  ideally would get a seat trading bonds for a bank or hedge fund, but the few bank people i talked to said i had been out of the business for too long and they wouldn't even consider me.

Apr 19, 2021 - 12:02pm

Thanks for doing this. I am at a T20 MBA and recruiting for FT Associate roles. Here are my questions:

1) If I manage to get a SD at a BB, how should I prepare for a) Fit interviews b) Technical interviews?

2) What are some of the mistakes you see MBAs make in the interviewing process?

Any other advice will also be helpful.

Apr 20, 2021 - 10:42am

Think about fit interviews as the junior guys trying to make a judgement call as to 'Is he/she going to be a fun guy/girl to hang out with at 1 am on a Thursday night when I am grinding through an high yield bond offering memorandum for the bank's internal committee'. This is why it is important to talk to as many people as possible at every bank you are recruiting at so that you have understanding of the kind of people who work there and what they might be looking for in a potential recruit. At the end of the day, everyone is looking for a colleague who will lower their work load and show a good attitude under stressful circumstances.

technical interviews are relatively straight forward. Almost always, the stick to the same questions that banks have been asking for decades. Our finance club had an IB question bank with 500 questions or so (I am sure it is shared somewhere here on this forum). If you can master those questions..that is all you need.

I have seen some MBAs who do really well in networking. We like the candidate and go in with high expectations based on our networking and the kid end up totally bombing the technical interview. Bankers know the technical questions we ask are well known and easy to prepare for..so if you can't even put in the effort to prepare for those then you stand no chance to make it. Another one is putting something on your resume you can't speak to. If you mentioned in your 'other activities' section that you are a member of the wine club then you better be prepared to speak about your favorite wine etc. The worst one is when some candidates try to play one bank against another and lie about getting an offer from another bank. Keep in mind that almost every banker has friends at other banks and they talk and exchange notes (unofficially) on candidates a lot of times. We had a candidate who told us that he had a verbal offer from another bank and it turned out he was lying. He was blacklisted from our process and we let other banks know that he lied to us.

Apr 20, 2021 - 10:10am

I have multiple analysts friends who made it to Carlyle, Blackrock etc. from DB, UBS, Evercore etc. It all comes down to the industry you cover and your bank's expertise/deal flow etc. For example, CS is widely accepted to have on of the best deal flow in the Energy space and a CS Energy analyst would likely rank above a GS/MS analyst for a role in Carlyle's energy fund. But if you are a generalist or an M&A analyst it is definitely an advantage to have GS/MS on your resume

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Apr 19, 2021 - 7:24pm

Do you have any insights on lateral recruiting at all? Is there anything I can do in my first 1 year in my analyst graduate role to put me in good stead?

Is it also possible to use the network with my firm to land a role at a higher tiered bank (assuming they might have contacts) or should I avoid any involvement of my colleagues knowing of my intentions to move?

Apr 20, 2021 - 10:05am

Banks usually try to avoid lateral recruiting if they can. The number of summer internship positions usually equate to the total number of full time roles and they prefer to fill full time spots through internships. They go lateral route only if there is more than usual turnover in their analyst/associate ranks or if deal flow increased significantly above their expectations and they need more bodies to help with the work. Lateral recruitment is higher in the senior associate/VP roles than in Junior roles.

A definite no no to letting your firm insiders know about your intentions to leave for a competitor. It is inevitably going to leak out to the higher ups and will affect your bonus, rankings etc. It is a different story if you are leaving for a PE shop/Corporate finance role (banks see that as you leaving for a client/future potential client)

  • Analyst 3+ in CorpDev
Apr 20, 2021 - 10:24am

Hi.

Thanks for this.

Any advice on trying to lateral from corporate development to IB?

If you can offer any tips on networking as a lateral hire as well that would be appreciated!

Apr 20, 2021 - 11:40pm

It is extremely hard to make a transition from Corp Dev to IB. In all my years of doing banking I have seen just one individual make that transition (one group at CS had a huge exodus of analysts and they badly needed more bodies). I would suggest accumulating a few years of Corp Dev experience and then doing an MBA. An MBA student with a Corp Dev experience would be a hot target for IBs. Also, you get to skip 3 years of 100 hr weeks you would have to go through as an analyst!

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Treas
Apr 20, 2021 - 5:26pm

Thanks for this ! Any advice for rising seniors who didn't get an SA IB gig, but are wanting to re-recruit for fulltime ?

Apr 22, 2021 - 10:07am

Keep in touch with all the banks you networked with so that they will consider you in case they didn't extend full time offers to some of their SAs. Also, if the deal flow has gone up significantly and they need more Analysts than they anticipated then they will back to recruiting. Keep networking!

Apr 20, 2021 - 9:37pm

Would your recommended MIT or Princeton for a future banker? Such a difficult decision for a high school senior interested in pursuing a major in computer science with a finance minor.  

Apr 20, 2021 - 11:46pm

If you are going to MIT or Princeton for a computer science degree why would even want to look at Investment Banking?! With a computer science degree and a finance minor you would be a much better fit for a hedge fund/quant fund where you can put to work your programming and finance skills. Those roles are much more sought after and you would make multiples of what a typical IB analyst would make. In the Wall Street pecking order hedge funds are definitely above IBs.

If you still want to pursue IB you can't go wrong with either MIT or Princeton. Both are great schools from which Wall Street IBs recruit regularly.

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Apr 21, 2021 - 7:40am

Hello, thank you for doing this. I just have a couple of questions as I am an incoming analyst at DB:

-What is the total comp for AN1 and AN2?

-Are the analyst stints still only 2 years, and after they promote you to associate?

-What are the best groups regarding deal flow at the moment for DB?

Particularly interested in NYC IBD. Thank you so much in advance!

Apr 22, 2021 - 10:00am

1) AN1 - $120 - $140k, AN2 - $150 - $180k

2) Analyst program is 3 years but given 90% of analysts want to exit to PE/HFs banks usually think of it as a 2 year program. But if you are performing well and want to stay for AN3 you totally can and they totally would let you. You will get promoted to Associate at the end of year 3 and get all the benefits such as sign on bonus which a MBA Associate would get.

3) Industrials, Metals and Mining and to an extent tech group

Apr 23, 2021 - 1:58pm

2) Analyst program is 3 years but given 90% of analysts want to exit to PE/HFs banks usually think of it as a 2 year program. But if you are performing well and want to stay for AN3 you totally can and they totally would let you. You will get promoted to Associate at the end of year 3 and get all the benefits such as sign on bonus which a MBA Associate would get.

Are banks Still holding strong to a 3 year program or there opportunities for faster promotions at BBs?  

Apr 21, 2021 - 1:30pm

I am currently having serious second thoughts about going into IB as I go through the SA recruitment process - given that committing to SA in IB is a very important career decision, would you recommend against IB for anyone that is having trouble justifying their reasons for going into the industry?

Apr 22, 2021 - 10:04am

Serious commitment is one thing every banker looks for in banking candidate. Last thing they want is you to accept an offer and then quit within a few months leaving them short of resources. That will force them to go out and recruit again while dealing with their 100 hr work week. That would lead to some serious resentment and wouldn't be good for either parties. Also, if you aren't hundred percent committed it will be really hard to get through back to back 100 hr work weeks during busy times. My suggestion is that you give it some serious thought and make sure you really want it before spending time into SA recruiting.

Apr 23, 2021 - 11:53am

Thanks for doing this.

What actually constitutes a good deal? Are a client's long-term interests in mind when IB advises? I understand the name of the game is fees, but what's the typical client life cycle? In other words, when clients need this type of expertise do they keep going back to the same bank or not?

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Apr 23, 2021 - 12:40pm

Thanks for doing this. You mentioned earlier that PE firms like hiring IB analysts, but not IB associates. If you're unsure whether you want to make the IB to PE switch, what do you think about the strategy of prolonging your time to decide by doing a third year as an IB analyst?  Seems like PE firms like hiring IB people when they're younger... so do you think if one starts recruiting for PE at the beginning of their third year as an IB analyst, PE firms will be discouraged from hiring that person because they're deemed too old? Thanks.  

Apr 23, 2021 - 12:48pm

I don't think age is a matter of concern for PE firms. It is more about the recruiting cycle for PE firms relative to Analyst lifecycle. Analysts recruit for PE jobs at the end of their first year at IBs and are expected to join the PE after their second year bonus. So if you chose not to recruit for PE at the end of your AN 1, you just have to be prepared to answer why you didn't recruit with the usual cycle. Also, you might have to start at PE at the same pay/grade as that of someone who joined PE after AN2 even if you chose to stay one extra year in banking.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Apr 23, 2021 - 12:53pm

Great, thanks! It just seems strange -- a PE firm will recruit a third year IB analyst, but not a first year IB associate... seems like a strange and arbitrary demarcation line to be drawn... why not just look for the best candidate?   

Apr 23, 2021 - 1:51pm

Apologies if already asked, but how do I ensure my resume is actually forwarded by folks (cold outreach with no traditional connections e.g. employer or school alumni) I network with (and ensure I am top of mind when opportunities do arise). As a disclaimer, I only ask this at the end of the intro chat if I feel like I have built some rapport. Typically the other person seems happy to keep an eye out. As a way to keep the trail warm, some recommended small things such as giving congratulations on posted accomplishments on LinkedIn, grabbing coffee help on this front, or asking for feedback on a work sample e.g. an equity pitch  

Background: 4 years of experience at 2 bulge brackets doing strategy consulting and FP&A (plus 2 private equity search fund internships - I did these internships for the deal reps)

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