Q&A: Senior VP in BB M&A (London)

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Hello all,

I am one of WSO's new mentors/resume reviewers so thought I'd do a Q&A to kick things off. 

Brief background:

  • VP at a BB in London with 9yrs experience in M&A/coverage (PUI, Natural Resources, Transport, Industrials)
  • Resource director/staffer for my group
  • Masters in Economics from a top 3 global university
  • Previously ran a university admissions consultancy business on the side helping prep candidates for university applications

My path to IB was relatively traditional with Spring Week to Summer Internship to Full Time where I've been for 9 years so hopefully I can give good perspectives on how to rise through the ranks and survive the grind. I've also been the resource director/staffer of my group for a number of years and involved in intern/full time recruiting so I can tackle any questions on applications, what makes a good analyst/associate, how to position yourself for ranking season etc.

Happy to answer questions on any topics you may have.

 

Want to work with me? Check out my profile here.

 
 

 

 

Comments (108)

 
Most Helpful
Aug 31, 2020 - 12:58pm

Good question. The below is a mix of tips that helped me and traits I see in successful analysts in my team.

  1. Attitude above all else. People want to work with people they like. Be proactive, keen and enthusiastic. Maintain a good attitude even if it's late at night or a stressful situation
  2. Think ahead – the biggest mind-set shift I made as an analyst was to start thinking about the wider context of each piece of work. What is the purpose of this analysis, what are the client's strategic objectives, how does this deal achieve them etc. This also extends to being able to explain your work to others, particularly when it comes to modelling - why does EBITDA move in this way, why is the ICR breached in year 3 etc.
  3. Ability to learn – show an aptitude to learn and pick things up. Most seniors have no problem giving you their time to train you but we want to see that our time is not wasted and you are moving up the learning curve
  4. Always check your work – this gets preached so much but it's amazing how many analysts don't follow it and let down a great piece of work with sloppy errors
  5. Work neat and clean – be organised, setup good shortcuts/hotkeys, label files properly, save things down in the right place, format your excel well etc. A few extra minutes a day save hours in the long-run
  6. Understand it's just business and not personal – it's inevitable you'll work with difficult characters in IB, being able to take it on the chin goes a long way
  7. Treat people well – again one that's preached often, but not followed. Treat the cleaners/presentations team/printers/assistants well. Aside from being the right thing to do these people can save you in a pinch
  8. Practical – get a good screen and keyboard/mouse setup for home so you don't need to always go into the office on weekends

On avoiding burnout I'd say:

  1. Understand it's a marathon not a sprint. I went flying out the blocks as an analyst and it was only a few years in that I realised it wasn't sustainable and adopted more work life balance
  2. Being a good performer helps, if you are trusted as someone who can deliver your seniors will be much more flexible in terms of deadlines – I appreciate that it can take time to build up this sort of political capital
  3. Don't sacrifice exercise; doing something is better than nothing even if it's only Friday/Weekends or going for a walk around the City during the working day
  4. Take advantage of your disposable income to make life easier (healthy eating, laundry services, cleaner for your apartment etc), its money well spent. Apps make it easier than ever particularly in London/NY

Re staying in the long haul, I landed in a really good group early on with a great learning experience, good comp and a couple of good Rabbis so my threshold for leaving was quite high. Over time this meant I had quite a bit of leeway to choose what I worked on and lots of upward exposure so my experience has been very positive. I also saw a number of peers who left for PE having an experience not so different to IB with in some cases worse comp. Thirdly I suppose a small part of it is the paradox of choice when there are lots of opportunities out there (PE, tech, start-ups, corporates etc).

 
  • Intern in IB - Ind
Aug 31, 2020 - 12:03pm

Hi! Thanks for taking the time to post - hope you are well. I got a few qns

1) FT & OC recruiting in London - how bad is it set to be following covid? I graduated from a london based target in 2019 and recent networking has said its a shit show with barely any spots going around

2) best advice for preparing for case studies used in the AC? I had one at a US BB AC and I was a bit thrown - how can I best prep to not be caught out by it

3) How is headcount looking in your view 20/21   

 

thanks again!

 
Aug 31, 2020 - 1:21pm

Question 1

I think the full impact remains to be seen. Banks are very much taking things day by day and reacting to the wider news-flow around COVID - e.g. if there's a vaccine and economic and M&A activity return to normal then the situation could recover very quickly, or the opposite if we have a particularly bad second wave.

So far the bigger impact seems to be on the OC side, a number of BBs in London have suspended their OC programmes for this year. That partly reflects the fact that OC internships have historically not been as much of a feature of London recruiting as say Paris. On the FT side spots are down versus previous years as banks are being cautious. That being said there are still spots out there as a few banks didn't convert 100% of interns.

 

Question 2

On the practical side, get comfortable with navigating the three statements quickly and easily and get comfortable digesting large amounts of information to quickly hone in on the relevant bits (similar skill-set to psychometric tests). On the day itself pace yourself and don't waste too much time going down rabbit holes. Staying calm and composed also goes a long way but I appreciate thats easier said than done

 

Question 3

All other things being equal for 2021 spring weeks/interns, no discernible change. FT analyst classes will be down but magnitude of 10-20% rather than 30-40% I reckon. Experienced hires/fires will just be a continuation of existing policies. I.e. those banks which had headcount freezes or reduction programmes in place pre-covid will end up resuming them. Again all this is just an opinion based on an outlook which changes daily!

 
  • Summer Associate in IB - Ind
Aug 31, 2020 - 1:59pm

Thank you for doing this. I'm just starting out in an industry group as a post MBA Associate. Is it possible to switch groups (Coverage to DCM/ECM) after a year? How should I go about doing this internally? 

 
Aug 31, 2020 - 2:08pm

Definitely, very possible to do so after a year, and certainly easier than it was 10yrs ago. All banks champion internal mobility but ultimately it comes down to the bank and the seniors in the team you are trying to leave and join. A few observations/bits of advice

  1. Have patience, sometimes these moves can take 6months+ to happen and you may have to push hard for it
  2. Be a good performer, this helps immeasurably. If you are a superstar the bank will find a way to make the move happen rather than lose you to another bank.
  3. Where possible try and get experience working on ECM/DCM deals in your sector and get exposure to the team you are looking to join
  4. Start networking with the ECM/DCM teams without actively shopping yourself. At the right juncture raise it someone senior in the target team, if you get some positive encouragement then raise it with the head of your team (eg 6months in)
  5. Be flexible, if the group you wish to join loses someone then accelerate your process
  6. Most banks have internal mobility portals/networks but often good roles in IBD don't appear on there so be proactive

Hope this helps.

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 31, 2020 - 2:21pm

Hi, thank you very much for the Q&A.

I'm about to join a London BB in the PUI team - I chose the team for the technical modelling experience, interest in the industry, and for the team's good reputation.

My question is: do you have any particular advice for someone joining this sector (that might not apply to other sectors)? What about the sector interests you? Is there anything in particular you advise learning / reading / practising early on that would help me in this sector in particular?

Thank you!

 
Aug 31, 2020 - 2:38pm

In terms of sector specific advice;

  1. Being detailed orientated helps, PUI models can be 20-40yrs with detailed build ups of revenue, opex etc. Having clear, well laid out models that are logical matters even more in this sector
  2. Don't be disheartened by the additional learning curve the sector presents, persist with it and it will eventually click into place. I found coming in on weekends during my first year really helped. It allowed me to focus on a model for long periods without the distraction of a typical workday
  3. Find a good senior analyst/associate and learn from them
  4. Cross sub-sector knowledge helps, once you master modelling one PUI asset you'll find that many of the principles apply to other sub-sectors
  5. Use sector specific knowledge to your advantage to help you become a better coverage banker (ie understand how a toll-road or power plant work) but recognise that you are a banker not a sector consultant
  6. Absorb as much as you can during training but recognise that most of the learning comes on the job

As for why I liked/like the sector PUI (particularly the I) is a maturing asset class with lots of growth so the deal flow is very good. In particular during COVID as M&A volumes have declined, PUI seems to have remained relatively robust. Secondly the sharper modelling skills you pick-up are a real advantage, not everyone can do it, so if you have these skills it can really help differentiate you at bonus time. Finally I really like that as analyst there seems to be much more value placed on the work you do versus other sectors where valuation and modelling is more vanilla - clients (particularly financial sponsors) are interested in the output of your model and scrutinise it.

 
Aug 31, 2020 - 3:52pm

Live comfortably is really subjective, your question depends on your spending habits and what you prioritise financially - which is true in any occupation. I know many VPs who prioritise renting in the most expensive areas of London, taking very expensive holidays, table service every weekend etc and spend all of their income.  Equally I know others who prioritise savings, investing and buying a house/apartment. Personally speaking I can't imagine grinding away for 10yrs and having nothing to show for it but each to their own.

Compared to pre-GFC comp levels are not as generous and prime real estate prices in major cities (NY, London etc) have increased dramatically such that the purchasing power of a banking salary is not what it used to be. However if you are a well ranked, don't have excessive spending habits and invest your money wisely then its very possible to be well setup for the future by the time you reach year 9. You find many people in banking ratchet up their spending levels as their income rises and then find it hard to readjust downwards. If you leave as a VP for a vanilla corporate development role you can certainly live comfortably assuming you have a property and low/zero mortgage. Equally you'd probably struggle if you tried to maintain your old spending habits or were trying to send 3 kids to private school for example.

 

 
  • Analyst 3+ in CorpDev
Aug 31, 2020 - 3:03pm

Hi there,

I'm currently in a specialty finance FIG corp dev role but may want to move into IB at some point. I don't have prior IB experience but I have spent 2 years at a boutique investment fund before moving to corp dev. Through my role I speak regularly with the BBs and MM banks.

Any advice on how I can make the move into IB? If you were to consider hiring an individual from corp dev, what would you look for? Any other general advice would be appreciated!

Thanks.

 
Aug 31, 2020 - 4:01pm

Its difficult but not impossible and I've certainly seen people make similar moves. Your best chance is to impress a BB/MM you work closely with, develop a relationship and try and find an in that way. I assume you would aim to move into a FIG coverage team within IB rather than M&A/a different sector since it would be valuable to leverage your sector experience.

If I were hiring someone with a corporate development background I'd focus on;

  • Quality of technical/numerical skills. There will always be some catch-up required but can I get comfortable the candidate is starting from some base and has the aptitude to learn quickly
  • Quality of previous corporate development experience, have they been actively involved in large scale strategic projects and M&A
  • Sector knowledge in FIG
  • Experience or competencies which can be demonstrated from the boutique investment fund role
  • Education/other background
 
Aug 31, 2020 - 3:13pm

Hi, thanks for doing this AMA.

I'm currently in a DCM team as a VP, and I have had experience before in corporate finance (covering debt financing in a Big4). Do you think is it possible to move to a VP role in a BB with little experience in M&A? Or would I need an MBA in order to change? Any advice would be helpful.

Thanks!

Money never sleeps.
 
Aug 31, 2020 - 4:07pm

I had a colleague who transitioned from a debt role into M&A as a senior associate. It was quite a learning curve (particularly in terms of the level of detail and strategic thinking required in an M&A execution vs DCM) but she was smart and keen to learn which helped a lot.

Your best bet is to move internally, you'd likely have to take a step down in quality of institution if moving to M&A at another bank otherwise. Perhaps as a stepping stone moving to a coverage team with significant DCM and M&A deal flow where you can learn the M&A skill-set without being throw in at the deep end would help. Particularly as people are less forgiving at the VP level and will expect you to make the adjustment quicker than an analyst.

Easier to make such a transition without an MBA in Europe than it is in the US.

 

 
  • NA in IB-M&A
Aug 31, 2020 - 3:21pm

Thanks for doing this! I'm in the process of applying for Summer Analyst roles, and was wondering what your thoughts were on how to go about showing an interest in Investment Banking when my background (internships, ECs) have been very investing (AM/ ER style) focused? Would an explanation in a Cover Letter, and later at interviews, suffice? 

Thanks very much!

 
Aug 31, 2020 - 4:13pm

I wouldn't worry too much about your past experience given its the Summer Analyst stage, indeed a number of other applicants will have even less relevant prior experience. AM/ER is close enough at your level to be beneficial in your application. The cover letter would be a good forum as you suggest. However rather than trying to explain away or justify your past experience I would focus on why IBD and then draw positives from your AM/ER experience to support that. If the question comes up at interview its far more likely to be a "why IBD" type question rather than "why dont you have past IBD experience".

 
  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Aug 31, 2020 - 5:01pm

What made you stay in IB over going to PE? I'm currently in PE and switched over mainly cause of comp/idea of more interesting work but have realized that the first part doesn't really kick in until much later and I haven't closed a deal In a year. I was in a coverage group in London and was wondering if I could make the transition to BB [email protected] 

 
Aug 31, 2020 - 5:09pm

Looking at the experiences of friends and peers who moved to PE many worked IBD hours when on a deal (albeit lower hours when not on a live deal) and as you point out with equal or marginally lower/higher comp until carry kicked in. Therefore the upsides, while there, didn't seem as significant as many analysts perceive it to be. There are certainly PE shops where the economics work out much better than IBD but you really need to pick your spot if making the move. I also ended up staying in banking because I enjoy it, think I'm relatively good at it and have been fortunate to land in a good team where I'm well ranked every year. If you have experience in IBD coverage and then PE I think a move back to M&A or another coverage team would be relatively easy.

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 2, 2020 - 3:55pm

Curious regarding your experience...is it that bad to have not closed a deal in a year? And how much does the lack of interest and comp relate to the specific fund you are at? (are you at a MF / large cap / midmarket etc) and do you not still find the job interesting without deals - why do you think M&A would be more interesting?

Sorry to hijack the thread but I'm intrigued as I'm on a similar path (not been around long but no deals just by virtue of luck...)

 
Aug 31, 2020 - 5:32pm

In a very good year two M&A deals where I'm the day-to-day lead or heavily involved, plus perhaps one 'ancillary' deal (eg a financing or an M&A deal led by another team). In a bad year zero - lots of buy-sides for financial sponsors which can be a crap-shoot.

On comp google the Arkesden Compensation Report, broadly correct for London

 
  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Aug 31, 2020 - 8:09pm

wanted your thoughts on coverage vs M&A. I have seen that coverage bankers tend to have the relationships with firms while M&A is more execution focused. However, then again, all the senior most bankers at BB etc. came from M&A including the legends. Do you think M&A MDs also have strong relationships or is it more execution based at BB

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 6:40am

The best MDs do both, the top M&A bankers you refer to all had excellent relationships with clients in a few sectors and equally the best coverage bankers I've worked with are those who are skilled in execution. A lot of the larger/better performing coverage groups across the City do most of their M&A execution 'in-house'.

Having done both I personally prefer coverage as I find the balance between relationships and execution better at the VP level, and I like the opportunity to deploy sector specific knowledge.

 

 

 
  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Sep 1, 2020 - 10:06am

This thread is fantastic- so refreshing to hear from a banker who likes their job rather than just glorifying the buyside- thanks a ton. 

 

quick questions from my end: 

 

1) In response to your question above-- does that mean the top MDs may have started out in coverage, spent some time in M&A and then switched between groups? I am talking about these super senior bankers who now head divisions.

 

2) In response to your below point- if you were given an offer at say EVC and Bofa- which one would you personally take? I have heard boutqiues aren't as well established in EMEA and BBs are the way to go.

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 8:24am

BAML and Citi are both a small step below JPM/MS/GS in London, but they both have certain very strong groups. BAML in Europe is an odd one, with the resources and balance sheet they shouldn't lag so far behind JPM. They had a number of senior departures over the last 3-4yrs and performed quite poorly in M&A, but seem to be turning a corner in the last year. With any BB it's a balance between brand name and quality of team, it can be worth sacrificing a little on one for the benefit of the other.

I rate Evercore EMEA very highly, its got the scale to allow greater sector specialism (vs CW/PWP), but the advantages of a boutique (good comp levels, bonuses fully cash etc) and some very strong industry teams. Plus the office location is nice. CW is a very strong performer, some of the best comp amongst the BBs and larger boutiques but tough working hours and lots of pressure to perform. PWP I haven't had much interaction with in Europe. 

 

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 1, 2020 - 4:15pm

Very interesting point of view. 

Do you think that currently BAML is 1 step below of JPM and 1 ahead from Citi? Having worked at both I see more dealflow at BAML´s most of the teams and much better exits (which I dont end up understanding given the similar exposure)

Regarding to the gap between BAML/Citi and JP/MS, league tables in EMEA show that its getting smaller, do you think that these 2 will get to a point of similar prestige, or does this go beyond the dealflow / experience?

Thanks for this

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 8:35am

Networking seems to matter less in Europe than the US, but there is still value in doing it. Competition is still tough so networking wont get a bad candidate an offer but it can help a marginal candidate. There is also value in networking if you eventually receive a SA offer, it can help significantly with landing in the stronger groups during team allocation. I would suggest connecting with juniors at your target firms either through your university network, friends of friends or cold approaches on LinkedIn. Asking smart questions and displaying interest can (a) help with your own knowledge base and understanding of the industry (b) may elicit some useful tips for the interview stage and (c) you never know who may end up interviewing you.

It seems more important now than ever in London to get 'in the system' early, ie Spring Weeks (but I'm assuming that doesn't work with your timing). For SA apply early, banks don't wait until the deadline to start interviewing/making offers, they do it in tranches so there is real value in this.

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 2:24am

Any insight on how the interview shortlisting process work and any tips for a non with a somehow competitive profile ( strong Ecs, decent springs, equivalent A-level grades) to improve his chances of making the cut

What interview questions do you think candidates fall the most on?

What are your career plan at this point, become MD?

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 9:01am

Shortlisting - Banks are more open than ever to 'non-standard' profiles and are keen to have greater diversity in SA and FT classes (referring here to non-target schools and past work experience). This will help with getting an interview but whether you are from a target or non-target school there are enough strong candidates in each group such that you need to make every element of your application (interview, case study, psychometric testing, cover letter etc.) as strong as possible. If you have strong ECs, Spring Weeks and A-Level Grades then I don't see you falling foul of the shortlisting process. For me personally target vs non-target school is very quickly eclipsed by a strong or weak interview.

Interview questions 

  1. Technical questions - many candidates do not adapt to the specifics of a question and tend to deliver cookie-cutter answers they have memorised. I've interviewed countless people over the years who can recite how to do a DCF perfectly, but crumble if you ask anything off-piste. Basic knowledge of accounting can help with technical questions also.
  2. Overall poor preparation - I'm amazed how many candidates (a) can't speak to their previous experience well and (b) haven't prepared the standard competencies. I can understand being blindsided by an unexpected technical question, but there is no excuse for not preparing these two items.
  3. Nerves and interview technique - these are worth practising, they help you to perform your best and add polish to your answers. Get in the habit of pausing for a second, breathing and structuring your answer rather than trying to answer immediately.

MD - probably still my Plan A, but as with many people COVID has prompted a period of reevaluation and reflection on lifestyle and long-term goals.

 
  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Sep 1, 2020 - 8:03am

Thanks for doing this - have you seen move across from IB Credit Risk to M&A / Coverage teams, and if so typically at what level? Understand that Lev Fin is more typical but curious to see whether M&A is also viable. 

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 8:17am

I personally haven't come across anyone making that exact move but that's not to say it doesn't or cant happen. It will be difficult but not impossible. Typically these type of cross department moves are easier during the mid-analyst to mid-associate years, any later and you'll be putting a lot of pressure on yourself to 'catch-up'. You are best off first trying to make that move internally, networking across a number of coverage/M&A teams to get your profile out there and understand when/where the opportunities arise. The tricky thing will be getting opportunities to demonstrate your skills. If you are at a top BB in credit risk it may also be worth considering a sideways move to a tier 2/3 or boutique to get 1-2yrs of experience before trying to move up again. Good luck!

 

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 1, 2020 - 9:51am

1. In one of your earlier comments you mentioned that you are amazed about how many candidates don't prepare for interviews/get nervous. Roughly what % of candidates which you interview are poorly prepared?

2. Have you ever read a covering letter?

3. If you were not working in Banking, what job would you be doing?

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 10:11am

1) 20% are very well prepared/couldn't do more, 60% are well prepared but have a couple of holes they could easily fix and 20% are poorly prepared

2) Yes always. Admittedly I don't see an application until the interview stage so an element of filtering has already taken place. But if someone goes to the effort of producing a cover letter and attending an interview I will certainly read it. Whether cover letters are useful that's another matter, I personally feel they are of limited use.

3) My answer to this changes quite often, and I answer it from a perspective of having worked in banking (rather than instead of banking). Atm it would either be a type of portfolio career (having 3-4 income streams, day trading, running my own businesses etc) or working in a tech startup (boring answer I know!). 

 
  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Sep 1, 2020 - 10:19am

This thread is fantastic- so refreshing to hear from a banker who likes their job rather than just glorifying the buyside- thanks a ton. 

 

quick questions from my end: 

 

1) In response to your question above-- does that mean the top MDs may have started out in coverage, spent some time in M&A and then switched between groups? I am talking about these super senior bankers who now head divisions.

 

2) In response to your below point- if you were given an offer at say EVC and Bofa- which one would you personally take? I have heard boutqiues aren't as well established in EMEA and BBs are the way to go.

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 10:49am

Thank you for the kind words, you are very welcome.

1) It was more to say don't think of these top M&A guys as execution only, they have great relationships too. Its those relationships that allow them to go and setup a Zaoui & Co or a Robey Warshaw. To make it into super senior management positions you need to be well rounded. So an M&A banker without relationships or a coverage banker who cant execute M&A won't make it to Head of European M&A or Head of Investment Banking. 

2) It really depends on the quality of the groups at each, does one have a clear advantage over the other? What are your long term goals? Feel free to DM me if you wish.

Im not sure the comparison of BBs vs boutiques is that clear cut. Evercore is quite different to a Centerview/PWP/PJT which is quite different to Ardea/Robey Warshaw/Zaoui. For me Evercore sits between BBs and boutiques given its size. It also does a pretty good job of training juniors which can be a gamble at other boutiques. Equally Evercore EMEA is not quite the same as the US given the Lexicon acquisition. Both BAML and Evercore would be fine choices, the experience will be different but not sure one is necessarily 'better' than the other. Again it depends on group/your other criteria.

 
  • Intern in IB-M&A
Sep 1, 2020 - 1:55pm

Thanks for your time and consideration. I'm an Asian international student studying in the US, at non-HYP Ivy (Think Columbia, Dartmouth, UPenn).

Attended an international school in SE Asia with many British friends, I always wanted to try out something across the pond. From my understanding, recruiting at the UK works modestly different from one in the US (Spring Week, many people come with a Master's degree).

 

I was wondering what is a realistic chance for a non-EU student studying in the US, at breaking into London I-banking. I have a 4.0/4.0 GPA and several relevant internships. Also, is applying through official application all I can do? or is networking helpful in terms of landing a first-round interview?

 

Thank you.

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 6:12pm

You raise a few interesting topics in here so I'll take them in turn.

EMEA recruiting vs US - Spring Week's are not essential, particularly if you have other relevant work experience or mini internships, but it is helpful in getting you onto a bank's recruiting track early. This is particularly true now when banking recruitment is more formalised and standardised vs 10yrs ago. That being said the majority of SA class in a given bank in London will not have done a Spring Week at that same institution.

Your chances - A non-EU student from a strong university such as Columbia, Dartmouth or Penn with a 4.0GPA and relevant internships will be a strong candidate indeed and stand a very good chance of an offer assuming you interview well etc. Where things may become difficult is around visa and right to work, this I'm less of an expert on. It doesn't seem to have been an issue at my bank with Asian students, but I don't know the particulars of each persons case.

Applications - As mentioned earlier in this thread applying early is key. Banks in London don't wait until the deadline to start interviewing or making offers, they do it in batches. In my view networking doesn't make much difference in securing an interview or not, where it can help is team allocation once you have a SA or FT offer. See my reply to Anubodi's post earlier in this thread for more perspectives on networking in London.

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 2:04pm

Hi,

Very excited to see your post and actually have some question about work in London:)

I work for power economic sector and a power trader in Canada - planning to pursue MBA with LBS for Fall 2021 starts and want to make a career transition to IBD or investment fund. Could you elaborate some details about MBA recruiting and the competitiveness of the job market ?

Also, as a female, will the chance to break in be much lower ? I hope to gain the global experience in London.

Thanks a lot in advance !

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 6:29pm

MBA recruiting in London is a bit of a mixed bag compared to New York. Most US BBs in London typically hire MBAs every year, the European BBs run an MBA associate programme some years and not others. From what I've seen MBA recruiting in London (both FT and SA) has been one of the first areas, along with OC interns, to get suspended as a result of Covid. So MBA recruiting can be tough if for no other reason than places are limited, and can vary dramatically year to year.

LBS is a target school for most banks in London and has a good careers service and alumni network so I'd encourage you to leverage those as a first step. Secondly take finance, valuation or accounting related courses as part of your MBA where possible. If you are joining as an associate you'll be ranked against those who have been in banking for 2-3yrs, so anything you can do now to close that gap will help. Finally take advantage of the special networking and recruiting events for women. Banks are desperate to solve the gender imbalance in front office roles, so being female will certainly not be a disadvantage. That being said there are enough high quality female applicants that you will still need to put your best foot forward. Finally it may be worth trying to target Power/Energy/Nat Res groups given your current experience.

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 2:26pm

Thanks you I am interested more on your way through advancement.

SafariJoe, wins again!
 
Sep 1, 2020 - 3:52pm

I have been working my ass off in a backend IB role in India that caters to a large BB that's dominating the EMEA markets right now. 

We have an internship program where the best back-end analysts are offered an internship by the BB and if the firm likes the performance, FT offers are extended as well. 

I have delivered high-quality work with >99% accuracy even during tight timelines, took only 2 sick leaves in the last 2.5 years (most of the other well-planned leaves for my CFA prep), have been appreciated by every single senior, but the opportunity hasn't been offered yet. Trump has basically blocked the US/NYC route for now and my relationship with the EMEA/London bankers is not so strong since they send limited work and don't acknowledge our emails unless they have comments or additional work to share. 

I'm turning 23 in a couple of months and want to see myself as a FO analyst asap now. a few things I am confident of (apart from fundamental finance concepts) is my work quality and reliability.

Have worked on thousands of profiles, comps and precedents. But I guess I'll be able to realize my full potential after getting into a FO role with valuation and financial modelling, and other analysis-based stuff.  

Any help would be appreciated, thanks a lot. 

I understand how most of the FO bankers are always busy so really appreciate your time. 

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 6:54pm

I have seen people making similar moves, and on one occasion been involved in transferring someone from a back-end IB team to my team in London. There are still some visa hurdles to jump through in London but far fewer than the US. The move you describe is eminently achievable, you just need to push and approach it in the right way. I would advise;

  1. Firstly if there is a formal programme to offer internships politely try to find out why this has not been extended to you. Approach your local manager or programme/section head. Is it your relative performance, perhaps the transfer programme has been paused due to covid etc.
  2. Can you get any exposure to the team in London, or other sector/product teams in London to build a reputation? Can you staffer help with allocating you more London based projects?
  3. Can any of the US bankers you have worked with advocate for you in London?
  4. These moves can take time. There are lots of HR and visa complications to be navigated. Don't lose faith if it doesn't happen immediately and stick with it.
 
Sep 2, 2020 - 3:25am

Thanks a lot, really appreciate your time.

1. I was offered a strategy internship role where I had to work within the corporate business and reporting team. It's a 2-3 week internship in London and then had to come back to India for this same role where I had to work independently. I politely declined over email and said that my only goal is to get into a corp. finance / M&A role. This was offered last year. The internship program is slowing down due to various reasons. Last year pre covid, I was told that the bank already hired a lot of FO analysts. Generally the bank asks our firm to send the CVs of the best analysts at the firm and then it shortlists the one's who they seem fit for an internship.

2. Hardly, 80% of the requests that come to the Industrials team are from the US bankers and 10-12% from EMEA. I have tried following up with the EMEA bankers to ask for feedback on meetings, what did the client have to say etc. etc. But we generally don't get any response unless they have additional work to send or have comments/changes on the previous work. US bankers, on the other hand, even shared some of their meeting notes to help understand the reasoning behind the slides. 

3. Absolutely, I have been working on transportation and logistics sector within Industrials team and if you'd ask any of the analysts involved in the sector, I am confident that they would have only positives to say about the work quality and performance.

4. Yes, I completely understand that. However, India IB (where MBAs from tier 1 colleges are hired as analysts) is very competitive and since I work in a KPO, I stand no chance to get into an IB firm in India. So with every passing year, I feel lost. 

This Q&A session has a lot of good advise and I can't thank you enough for the responses. 

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 4:08pm

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer questions from the community - your responses above have been super helpful.

What specific steps should one take in order to make a strong transition from Analyst 3 to Associate 1? A piece of advice I have received on this question is to 'try to emulate' what a good Associate in your team does but often I find that my perception of a 'good' Associate is biased by the fact that I like to work with/get on well with said Associate, rather than by their objective abilities.

Thanks!

 
Sep 1, 2020 - 7:14pm

Given analyst promotions tend to happen after 2-2.5yrs in London (vs 3-3.5yrs previously), the transition is a lot gentler than it used to be. My advice would be;

  1. Find a good associate and learn from them, particularly when it comes to modelling
  2. Think about the wider context of each piece of work. What is the purpose of this analysis, what are the client's strategic objectives, how does this deal achieve them etc. Often analysts are so focused on a model they miss the bigger picture, good associates don't
  3. Be invested in what you do and own a piece of work. Get in the mind-set of producing work because you understand the 'why' rather than simply because you've been tasked with it. I am always impressed when my analysts think beyond the task I've given them and it's the hallmark of a good associate
  4. Develop a reputation as a safe pair of hands and self-starter. If you can be that trusted junior to a senior associate or VP they will really go to bat for you. Not to mention they will give you more leeway with deadlines
  5. Demonstrate an ability to manage juniors and delegate effectively where possible. As an analyst this can often be done with intern
  6. Above all else just be really good at what you do, particularly from a modelling perspective. Associates with gaps in their technical skills end up getting staffed like analysts
 
  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Sep 1, 2020 - 6:36pm

thanks for doing this. your insights are very helpful. would be great to get your take on these two:

- how to position yourself for ranking season

- how to position yourself for good deal experience

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 5:39am

Ranking season

  1. Don't be shy about vocalising your achievements, without being boastful. Don't assume good work is automatically and universally recognised
  2. Don't sweat the process too much as an analyst, the difference in absolute bonus between a top and middle performer is much less than you'd think. Its only when you get to associate level that the difference becomes meaningful
  3. Be good at what you do. Obvious I know but worth repeating
  4. Make yourself indispensable to a senior associate or VP/D, be their go-to analyst. You need someone to bat for you during ranking season
  5. Manage expectations – this is more a tip for associate onwards. Have an open chat with the head of your team or MD/D responsible for rankings in say early autumn. Let them know how you think the year has gone and your expectations (not necessarily in monetary terms). This is also an opportunity to learn whether the bank views your performance differently and to prevent any surprises in February. There is no point having this chat on bonus day, it's too late by that point
  6. Work across IBD where possible. Ranking at most banks tends to place more weight on feedback from those outside your immediate team. Get exposure to as many different sectors/products/geographies as possible

Deal experience

  1. Hopefully you have a good staffer who makes sure all the analysts in your group have a varied experience across the different products/sectors/geographies - but don't rely on this
  2. Manage your own career, make sure you are getting varied experience, if this is not happening have a chat with your staffer. Obviously handle this in the right way, staffers are at the mercy of the workflow they receive, and be sensible about it (i.e if you are not getting varied experience in the long run)
  3. Develop some niches within that broader framework. E.g. if you are in a country M&A team and have worked on two recent consumer deals, it makes sense for you to be on the next one which comes along
  4. Again be good, see the post at the top of the thread about traits of a good analyst, the best performers get the best opportunities
  5. As an Analyst 1 complete every bit of work, no matter how small, to the best of your ability. Show people you can walk (comps etc) and very quickly you'll be trusted to run (deals)
 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 1, 2020 - 7:17pm

Many thanks for doing this! Really appreciate the insight. As there seems to be a lot of misinformation on this forum around top groups at different firms, I was just wondering whether you could list 2-3 of the strongest teams at the individual BBs.

 
  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Ind
Sep 2, 2020 - 5:42am

Thank you very much for your very helpful Q&A!

 

I will start my analyst stint with Citi soon and was wondering what the strongest teams are before group selection starts?

 

Thank you very much!

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 8:45am

Brilliant thread here, thanks for taking the time to do this. Don't see enough from London on WSO.

Can I get your advice on getting into a BB without financial experience? I did my BA at a top 5 uni, and I'm doing a masters in Econ at Oxbridge now. I have some transferable experience from internships in politics (working with data to build models, interpersonal skills), but nothing like a spring week or SA. Is there any chance for me trying to get an SA/FT offer this cycle, and if so, what would be your advice?

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 12:34pm

When do you graduate from your masters? Assuming its next year SAs are off the table given they need to be the summer before your penultimate year of study. Based on your strong academics, and what sounds like a quality internships I would certainly apply for a FT place. Advice:

  • Apply early - see the advice earlier in this thread
  • Be well drilled on the standard competencies and draw examples from your politics internship(s)
  • Prepare for greater technical scrutiny and more "why IBD" style questions - I always probe further on these two areas when interviewing someone with your profile. On the technical side I'd still want to see aptitude, logical thinking and being able to think IBD mindset even if there are gaps in technical knowledge.
  • Apply far and wide, you may have more success with 'Tier 2' banks who are generally more open to smart people with limited past experience
  • Any off cycle internships you can apply for? Any part time internships you can take while finishing your masters (appreciate this is probably very tricky at Oxford, so perhaps focus on your degree)?

I hope this helps.

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 8:56pm

I'm due to graduate in 2021, so I suppose I ought to shoot for FT positions. I'm pretty well-versed in technicals, but I'll certainly apply broadly.

A potential side issue, I'm a US citizen rather than a UK. Do you think this will disqualify me because I'd need sponsorship? Or if I apply to the London office but I'd rather work in the US for tax purposes, is there any chance then can move me to an American office (not necessarily NYC) since I wouldn't need a visa?

This has been very helpful, thank you.

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 9:44am

Hey there, thanks for the Q&A, great to see some content relating to London. Just have a couple questions regarding work life balance as you move up the ranks.

Do you feel like you get more ownership of your time as you move up, in terms of being able to plan events ahead and not having to cancel plans/holidays last minute? Also, as a VP is it more common to leave the office earlier and catch up with any left over work in the evening?

Secondly, would you say your work/life balance is better than that of your US colleagues at the expense of lower overall comp?

Finally, slightly off topic, what does the promotion track look like from VP and upwards, and what do those who can't make the cut end up doing?

Thanks again

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 1:05pm

Ownership of time - Yes definitely, its easier to exercise and make social plans for weekday evenings when you have more control over your own time. However this also relies on self policing - seniors are less likely to outright deny/cancel a vacation, but you're expected to decide that for yourself. As a VP I certainly work fewer hours than as an analyst or associate, but more crucially its fewer hours at the desk thanks to technology. Even if I leave the office early I still spend at least a couple of hours most evenings marking up pitches or replying to client emails from home. I don't find this super stressful however and being able to dine at home is a big plus for me. . Of course I still pull plenty of late nights in the office if a deal requires it, but work-life balance is much improved vs analyst/associate

Work/Life balance EMEA vs US - this depends on how strong your group is (i.e. deal flow, level of technical skills required, how organised your MD/D/VPs are etc). A strong group in Europe will work harder than a weak group in the US and vice versa. Equally do not equate long hours with success. Analysts in my class in weaker teams often worked longer hours than I did but sat there producing hundreds of slides of strip profiles and comps outputs. Comp is definitely structurally lower in Europe than in the US but that is partly a function of our longer vacation time and better benefits in addition to the fact that M&A fees are generally higher in the US.

VP and upwards - VP to D is the first promo with a small element of uncertainty for middling performers (vs An to As or As to VP). That being said its still up or out. If you are a solid to strong performer it should be no issue and you should have a good sense of what your chances are 12-24 months out. It's the first promotion where you have to put in a bit of effort and make your promotion case with a business plan (i.e. these are the trends in our sector/product/geography, this is the deal flow that should result, these are the deals and clients our team should target, here is how I've been working towards those).

From D to MD this is the difficult one, especially post GFC, where even strong performers may take until their 4th or 5th year to make it. External factors such performance of the wider business comes into play. You need to have revenue attached to your name and already be demonstrating you can hustle like an MD needs to. With weaker/middling performers banks know the risk of a D leaving if they don't get promoted is low.

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 3:11pm

In M&A/coverage, pretty similar to what it has always required

  1. Demonstrable ability to generate revenue as a Director
  2. Quality of relationships
  3. Ability to hustle hard / tenacity to chase down business
  4. A strong internal network and ability to navigate/play politics when required
  5. Track record of performance at the firm helps too
  6. Patience and resilience - this is the only additional item which is a product of the current environment. D to MD promotion rates are lower than pre-GFC, even a good performer may have to wait an additional year. Recognise that you may have missed out on the promotion due to factors outside your control

In terms of preparation - really you need to have ticked all these boxes as a D1/2 (and indeed formed some of them as a VP), if you wait until D3 its already too late 

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 3:25pm

Hi there, 

I am currently a 26 year old undergrad student ready to transfer from my Local community college to a top 10 Business school and earn my degree in Finance. I have hopes of becoming an IB and hoping to get hired at one of the bulge bracket firms. Is there any advice you can give me on how to get an edge over other students or how to maneuver through school where I can set myself up? Any tips would help. Also, it bothers me that I started late in my schooling as there are other students doing what I am doing at 20. Do you think my age would cause some concern during interviews or the hiring process? Thank you again! 

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 3:33pm

Hello,

The advice in the rest of the thread would also apply in your situation.

Broadly speaking, competition in IB recruiting is very tough so I would encourage you to (1) learn more about the various areas of finance (there are lots of excellent resources on WSO) which interest you, whether within IB or elsewhere, (2) network with people in these areas (alumni networks, friends of friends, cold approaches on LinkedIn) (3) work on achieving the best grades possible in your degree and try and focus on accounting/finance related courses and finally (4) try and secure work experience/internships in other areas of finance to help improve your CV before its time to do your IB internship.

Regarding your age I wouldn't worry about this at all. I've come across plenty of analysts over the years who were 25+ and indeed a couple who started in banking age 30+. In any case it doesn't pay to dwell on what could have been, look forward and attack this process.

Finally it sounds like you are based in the US so you may wish to seek additional specific advice from a banker based there, given my advice is from a European perspective.

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 3:43pm

How did you get to become a WSO mentor since it is not so famous here in Europe. I am curious.

Thank you for all your help.

Are you involved in watching Video interviews if yes? Any tips or standout ones you have seen as well as the bad ones too.

Thought on putting cancelled internship on a CV. It was because of covid. It is a brand name and I am a non target.

I am pharmacy student and wanted to play the healthcare side for recruitment but given they dont recruit by group in ldn any advice to stand out?

What do you think about diversity in the industry. I know some people hate it

 
Sep 2, 2020 - 3:49pm

While not as popular as the US, I know plenty of people in Europe who use the site. The interview guides and modelling prep tools are relevant regardless of geography

I have never conducted a video interview, only face-to-face or via telephone. Given the current pandemic there are many guides out there for video interviews who can do the topic justice.

Cancelled internship - I don't see why not, but keep it to one line

SA/FT recruit into a pool, but your pharmacy background can come into play during the team selection process. Spaces are not randomly allocated, once you are on a SA or FT programme, start networking with people in the healthcare team, sell your attributes and make sure they know you're keen to join the team. I always try to speak to/meet SA/FTs in advance of the selection process. Its very rare my group will pick someone we haven't met or spoken to.

 

 
  • Prospect in IB - Ind
Sep 2, 2020 - 4:28pm

Thank you so much for doing this! What's your take on EB vs BB to start out as an Analyst? From what I've read on this page so far EBs are not as well regarded in Europe as in the US? Do you think Citi and eg PWP are on a comparable level in Europe?

 
Sep 3, 2020 - 6:06am

I wouldn't necessarily say they are not as well regarded. EBs in the US are just larger and consequently the experience seems closer to a BB than in Europe. For example Evercore sometimes ranks T5 in US M&A, Centerview in the T10 which doesn't typically happen in Europe (although I suppose Lazard and Rothschild take their place).

I still think Evercore and Centerview and great places to work in Europe, good exposure and good comp (see earlier in this thread). PWP Europe is a different beast, they are a lot smaller and as such the risk of your analyst experience deviating from a BB (in terms of different deal exposure or a poorer training experience) is probably higher than Evercore or CW. That's not to say it's likely to be poor or I think PWP is a bad place to work - there's just more risk. This is all at the junior level btw.

In your position I'd personally go with Citi over PWP. If the choice was between say BAML EMEA and Evercore/CW EMEA I'd have to think a little longer. However that's just IMO and I don't know the specifics of your situation.

 
  • Analyst 3+ in CorpDev
Sep 3, 2020 - 4:34am

Hi there,

Since you're a Senior VP and the job becomes more sales focussed as you progress through the ranks, how are you actively building your own book of clients or how have the top MDs/rainmakers e.g. Simon Robey achieved this? 

If you're at a BB the clients may be clients of the firm instead of the MD, is this the case? 

Also, a significant part of the job involves writing whether it is preparing strategic updates or various marketing materials, how do you refine your writing skills? Is it just through repetition?  

 

Thanks!

 
Sep 3, 2020 - 7:05am

When it comes to client relationships

  • Start early. Try and form relationships with juniors clients as an analyst/associate, as they rise through the ranks so do you
  • Get used to presenting/speaking extensively in meetings early (it should be commonplace by the time you are an associate). Show clients you have content and add value at an early stage. It's a small industry and you cross paths with the same people again and again
  • Be personable - clients want to work with people they like
  • Have a good technical base - the best coverage bankers are those with both relationships and a good technical execution skill-set 
  • Find sub-sectors/niches which aren't covered as heavily by MDs/Ds and try and make them your own. This will enable much more solo client interaction. Obviously there needs to be a business case to make it worth your time.
  • As for the top rainmakers its a combination of connections, tenacity and determination, working hard, developing your career over many years and navigating internal politics. Even then most MD's will never make it to the top top level of rainmaker, that probably requires an additional dose of luck, having outstanding connections and some 'secret sauce' which I'm yet to decipher

Firm vs MD - it depends, varies on a relationship by relationship basis. If all BB clients was solely bank relationships then Robey Warshaw, to use your example, would never have got off the ground.

Writing skills I'm afraid its difficult to give advice. English is my mother tongue and writing has always come naturally to me. I suppose reading books can help expand your vocab and grammar.

 
  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 3, 2020 - 1:37pm

Thank you for this, super informative.

Would be great to get some advice on my situation. I moved to a London BB recently, coming from a European country where I was in a no name boutique. I had a few years of experience, but took a bit of a title cut to make the move to where I am now.

Everything is going really well and I have achieved high rankings, but I feel that because there was some discount to my previous experience I am at "too low" of a level - I think this is kind of acknowledged by the team and I am staffed as if I was in the year ahead of me / aren't compared to what is officially my intake. My question is how can I approach asking to be bumped up a year / getting an early promotion? I don't want to annoy anyone, but want to be compensated and treated at the right level for the work I am doing.

Many thanks.

 

 
  • Intern in IB - Gen
Sep 3, 2020 - 5:06pm

Thank you so much for making this thread, I've read every single word of your comments and I really think it is super helpful and inspiring.

I was wondering if you could give me some advices about my current situation:

I have graduated in 2019 from a semi-target EU b-school and done several OC internships, most recently, at a BB in London. 2/3 of this BB internship was done by WFH and due to the headcount cut-off or maybe the fact that I was not shining enough, I did not get a return from my bank. The only good news so far is I am still in good connection with some of analysts and associates I've worked with.

I am very passionate about M&A and IBD and would like to do anything to break into this field. Below are my plans:

  • Plan A: Apply as many FT/OC positions as I can, and even SA as I also have a plan B to further study in UK for a year (don't know whether I am still eligible to apply for SA). I am also sending out hundred of cold emails trying to make it happen (I know I look desperate and stupid). As I see the likes of BAML, Citi, Nomura not even opening FT/OC apps for now, if I can't get a positive result of my apps before roughly December then I have to take my Plan B
  • Plan B: Study a master in finance in a reputable UK school and continue applying in next recruiting season. (previously I studied only management so could be a reasonable motivation)
  • Plan C: Go back to my country in Asia, find a job in some local IB, and two years later come back to UK as MBA candidate for summer associate 

Do you have any recommendations or comments about the above? I would appreciate for any thoughts of you in this terribly special season. Many thanks in advance!

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