Q&A: Vice President at London IB Boutique

torbenl's picture
Rank: Senior Baboon | 209

Having once been in your shoes, I understand the importance of picking the brains of someone who has been in the rat race for some time...

Here some basic information on me:
- Law Degree and Master in Management & Economics
- Started career in Consulting in the FS and TMT team for 1 year
- Moved to IB Boutique and haven't looked back since
- Fast-tracked to Vice President in 4 years
- Passionate about the past and present of IB with a special interest in the history of finance
- Repsonsible for the selection, training and mentoring of Analysts and Associates in the firm
- Read 100s of CVs, created case stadies for candidates and lead the interview rounds

Open to all kinds of questions regarding:
- IB & PE landscape in London and Germany
- Recommdendations for books and training materials
- Personal view on success factors in interviews
- Personal views on Boutique vs. BB

WSO Mentor

Would you like to work with me? Check out my profile here

Comments (59)

Funniest
  • Analyst 2 in HF - Other
May 18, 2020

would be great to know more about the case stadies

    • 3
May 18, 2020

For intern positions: Random company profile with some raw items from financial statements (i.e. P&L and CF items mixed) and ask calculate GP, EBITDA, EBIT etc. After this, asked to speak about observations (i.e. is 5% a good margin for a manufacturing business?) to check if they know a little bit about industry dynamics. Then ask who could be a buyer for the company in an M&A process (types and maybe some examples)
For analysts: Will be given parts of old IMs and raw set of transactions and comps and ask for valuation ranges including DCF. Need to justify selection of comparable companies and transactions. Also questions around details of M&A processes. Results need to be presented in Excel/PPT to see what the level of proficiency is (and how to cope with time pressure)
For associates: As above with some element of LBO modelling

    • 5
May 18, 2020

What materials/resources would you recommend to prepare for post MBA-associate positions after B-School? Considering they have a finance background, but not particularly IB.

Most Helpful
May 18, 2020

Best resource from my point of view in general: Try to get your hands on as many old IMs as possible for the sector(s) that are relevant for you and see how other banks etc. are describing business models, markets, market dynamics and which the key KPIs are (operational and financial); Find out who acquired/invested to understand the buyers in your sector.
Also always nice to have some inspiration in terms of design. Source could be friends at other firms, classmates etc.
If you prepare for the recruitment day: Build an LBO and Merger Model 4x from an empty sheet. Kind of useless as most firms have templates that will be used as basis for the models once you work there but somehow people are obsessed with seeing it done. If you follow a good book (i.e. Paul Pignatoro: Financial Modelling & Valuation) step by step, it is easy to prepare (but takes time)

    • 7
May 20, 2020

Thanks a lot for providing such valuable information.
Sorry, but what exactly do IM's imply ? Thank you, again.

    • 1
May 18, 2020

Thanks for doing this. I would be interested to know what your recommendations are for books. Thinking non-training, more general finance and/or IB biographies and non-fiction.

    • 1
May 18, 2020

Here a list of my favourite book:

The Last Tycoons (Lazard)
King of Capital (Steve Schwarzman & Blackstone)
Money & Power (Goldman Sachs)
The House of Morgan (JP Morgan & Morgan Stanley)

Reading about history of Banks/PE firms helped my to understand today's environment and gives me a great level of motivation to push hard in my job.

    • 4
May 19, 2020

Some very good books that may interest you:

  • Bloodsport: When Ruthless Dealmakers, Shrewd Ideologues, and Brawling Lawyers Toppled the Corporate Establishment: This is a history of M&A from Lipton & Flom through the 2010s. Focuses much more on actavist deal making but provides amazing context for US standards like Revlon and Unocal.
    • Big Deal - Wasserstein. - This is a history of dealmaking by the one of the greatest deal makers of all time.
    • 2
May 20, 2020

Surprised 'More Money Than God' by Sebastian Mallaby (Zanny Minton's husband) isn't on the list.

Array

    • 1
  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
May 18, 2020

Why did you decide to move from consulting to IB? was the consulting shop MBB or another boutique?

May 18, 2020

It was at a boutique (large) and I felt that I got most excited when helping PE clients on deal-related projects. Felt that I need to go, where the action is (almost electric atmosphere at stages of a deal when you feel that it making good progress). Happy that I made the move but grateful for what I have learned in my (short) time in consulting

May 18, 2020

I have a question on the way forward from here (COVID-19). Have a view that given that many tech startups are being pummeled in this crisis, the year ahead could lead to a lot of demand for distressed deals / fund raises, and M&A activity. What do you think?

    • 1
May 18, 2020

Most start-ups are almost all the time in financial distress... so this add just another level and tests business models and teams. I wouldn't expect a lot of distressed Tech start up deals as there are not a lot of buyers for it. VCs are not interested; too small or too loss-making for PE and either too small or too complicated for Strategic buyers to go through the trouble of DD and/or pushing it through the board/committee. Many will just disappear...
I am expecting more fund raising activity and M&A, as many companies have paused the process due to lack of investor appetite and the need to focus on the daily operations of the business. So need is still there and activity will pick up. After the crisis, I would expect that the resilience during the crisis will be measured by investors as one new consideration...

    • 2
May 18, 2020

Given you have a law degree, lets assume I work at a white shoe law firm (in Germany), think Kirkland, Cravath, Skadden etc. When would it be sensible to try to jump over to the finance side, ideally PE or HF? In the first 2-3? 5 years? or later? Also, assuming I could always switch between M&A, Compliance and Restructuring, which would make the smoothest transition (into an investment role)? Thanks

May 19, 2020

If you are really planning to move to an investment role, I would say the earlier, the better. Although PE and HF will appreciate the experience that you might have gained on working on deals as a lawyer, they will usually not pay for this experience. After 4-5 years as a Corporate Lawyer, you will have reached pay bands in the law firm that the PE/HF will not be willing to pay when you start with them and you need to downgrade lifestyle.
I personally would say that restructuring would be a good field as restructuring lawyers need to be more commercial and get their hands dirty. Also special situation investors tend to have team members that have more diverse backgrounds than regular PE.

    • 3
May 19, 2020

one of my PE / HF clients (with a special situations focus) has a bunch of ex biglaw on the investment team

May 18, 2020

1 quality you look for in potential analysts? What about VP promotes?

    • 1
May 19, 2020

For analysts in a nutshell: You speak to the person for the first time and you think that you want and can take this person to a client meeting, work hard together and go out for drinks when deserved.
For VP promotes: The above has worked out consistently over several years.

    • 1
May 23, 2020

Bump

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
May 18, 2020

If I learn a language for PE - would I still be at a disadvantage vs a native speaker even though I'm fully fluent in said language?

Also, how far do visa considerations play a role in European PE? Feels like IB can generally sponsor but is a disadvantage for the buyside

May 19, 2020

For me, communicating for finance (writing beautifully in teasers, IMs and clients communication) is almost like learning a new language. Native speaker tend to take this not seriously enough and I know many non-native speaker that communicate better than their native peers. If you really get the specifics for finance &sector right in the foreign language, you shouldn't have much of a disadvantage.
I agree with your observation regarding sponsoring visas: Buy-side firms tend to be smaller with mostly quite limited HR capacity and nobody wants to deal with the admin or pay for someone to do it as long as they have enough interest from suitable candidates without visa requirements.

    • 1
May 18, 2020

Any tips on how to land an internship in London coming from Germany?
Which german universities are well known in the city?
Is it possible to do an off cycle internship and convert the same year?

    • 2
May 19, 2020

For the internship: It is a combination of looking at resources like LinkedIn, banks' websites for open intern positions and speaking to recruiters that are also covering intern and entry level positions. In London, Dartmouth partners have a good program in which they screen student CVs and have interviews with them and when qualified, add them to their database. In general, it is a numbers game...
Regarding universities: London bankers are obsessed with the pedigree of (UK) universities, that people have attended but have no interest and mostly no clue about German universities. WHU, HHL and EBS are those that are better known. HSG (Switzerland) has the best reputation among DACH universities.
In our firm it is very common to have off-cycle interns after their graduation and seamlessly convert them into full time analyst if they work out. I would expect that this is the case in smaller firms but less common in the bigger ones.

    • 2
May 19, 2020

Thanks a lot!

May 18, 2020

What would you say are key things that helped you graduate from the senior associate mindset and workstyle to VP? Any tips on maximizing your efficiency at that level and building your credibility internally and with clients? Thanks

May 19, 2020

In my case, it has helped that I was probably the most informed non-partner about projects that the firm had done in the past and the "master" of the content of the server. People would turn to me to ask where to find good precedents and old potential buyers lists etc. I had also taken on many of the more painful, boring topics such as liaising with suppliers etc. without it having a negative effect on my regular work. In general, I would say it is important that you have done enough work to anticipate certain tasks on a project or when preparing a pitch, without being asked specifically for it but also having a good feeling what the partner wants (really understanding their approach and style). It helped that I was also able to generate two relevant (retainer-fee paying) projects before my end of year review...

    • 1
May 19, 2020

Got it, that's helpful, thanks. Particularly point 2 on bringing in revenue, if only I could learn how to do that soon...

May 18, 2020

How is Covid-19 affecting your hiring and your talent pool ?

    • 1
May 18, 2020

Thanks for doing this. I'm beginning my MBA in the fall and will recruit for IB. I have a few top sector groups I'd love to land in (TMT, HC, or consumer) and I read up in each space but know a lot more about another sector because it's the industry I worked in pre-MBA; however, I have no interest in joining that coverage group.

I've heard that in associate recruiting landing in a group is all about how well you can hold a conversation with the associates/VPs/maybe MDs in that group on the topic. How do you suggest someone best prepare for one of the sectors if they have some interest in it, know some about the industry, but want to become really insightful/smart in the industry? Is it reading up a lot on recent deals, reading blogs, books, or articles? Or is only a more cursory knowledge needed, and general interest in banking and nailing technicals more important?

May 20, 2020

The things that you mentioned are all very relevant. I think another good strategy is to know who the top recruiters are in the sector that you want to work in. Get to know the recruiters and make sure that they are impressed by you and then they can recommend you and put you in from of the right team. A good recruiter will be very cautious about reputation so he/she won't recommend someone strongly if they are not convinced by the candidate.
Regarding the questions sector knowledge vs. technical knowledge: Nobody expects an associate to be an expert in the sector but it is nice to see when someone shows real passion about the sector and what they say is not complete nonsense. Good technical knowledge in combination with passion for the sector without being a complete nerd about it would be enough for our firm...

    • 1
May 18, 2020

Thanks for your post! Just wonder whether the boutiques in London would normally sponsor internship or graduate working visa for non-EU students?

As a non-EU citizen studying in continental Europe with internships at BB and EB local office, I have been rejected by nearly all the boutiques in London. Any insight on the effect of visa issue on London IB recruiting is much appreciated.

    • 2
May 20, 2020

I think one of the main issues is the lack of resources (especially HR personnel) within smaller firms. I think one potential route could be to check if your university has a career office and if the team has some relationships with firms in London that could help to overcome this issue. One of the hurdles I would say is the fact that in most firms intern recruitment is handled by mid-level staff (one of the few perks that you have) and that for mid-level staff it is difficult to push for unusual or expensive things like sponsorship. Therefore one route could be to get noticed by the senior guys in the firm (in a charming rather than annoying way) and then they can push your case through.

    • 2
May 21, 2020

Thanks for your insight! New perspective to approach the recruiting process that I've never considered. SB'd

May 19, 2020

How important do you actually think is being proactive at Analyst/Associate level? Is it actually a value added?

May 19, 2020

I personally think it is extremely important but should be a reflection of your actual stage of development. Trying to originate a deal as a Senior Analyst because you had good parties during university with the son of a family-owned business is just naive and not proactive (I nevertheless tried it often w/o much success). For me being proactive is for example volunteering to work on a not very prestigious deal but then pushing to take on a lot of responsibly as the partner is more "hands -off". In general it is a fine line between being proactive and annoying, for not knowing your place, but people will notice it very favourably if you are able to walk the line.

    • 2
May 19, 2020

Thanks for the Q&A!
1) What team / group are in you in? You mentioned FS and TMT in consulting, so am I right in guessing that you transitioned to FIG / TMT coverage?
2) This forum is obsessed with classifying firms (BB, EB, regional, etc), however, I couldn't resist asking what type of boutique you work for?
3) Would be grateful for a list of training resources / materials that you've found useful. You mentioned Pignataro in one of your replies above - would be great to hear about any others

May 19, 2020

I work across FIG, Consumer and a little TMT. I enjoy Consumer a lot due to higher deal flow and generally more action and travelling. The deals in FIG tend to be bigger as a lot of the bank and insurance-related deals are balance sheet heavy and complex. A lot of analysis and pitching but not that many deals...
I work in a ambitious boutique with the partners coming from BB and EB. Good partners, culture and some exciting deals but still a lot to do on developing the brand...
I quite like the book "Mastering Private Equity: Transformation via Venture Capital, Minority Investments and Buyout". It does not only focus on the technical side of a deal but also covers topics such a Secondaries and Fund Structures which are helpful to fully understand PEs

    • 3
May 20, 2020

Thank you - SB'd

May 19, 2020

is the knowledge provided by at least CFA L1 and a master's degree in finance, in addition to financial modeling training, enough for entry level IB?
in other words, what kind of knowledge do analysts need to possess to not only get offers, but to succeed in their careers as well?

May 19, 2020

Probably good verbal and written communication skills are one of the most important and underrated skills in IB. In most cases, you will be writing more than working with Excel.

    • 1
May 19, 2020

I finished undergrad in North America and am starting at a big five in Canada in M&A IB. I am interested in transferring to Europe in a few years.

What do you think are the best resources to learn about the PE landscape in Europe?

What timeline would you suggest (keeping in mind early recruiting cycles, building relationships and working with headhunters)?

Any insight would be great.

May 20, 2020

The industry publication "Real Deals" has a good coverage of the European PE sector and the daily newsletter is for free. It shows you which firm has closed a fund and which deals have been announced. I think you should start about 1 year before you are planning to move and it might make sense to come for a holiday to London and meet some headhunters that then have you in their database and know about your profile and interests.

May 20, 2020

Thanks a lot, this is really helpful!

May 19, 2020

Thank you for your post; WSO is very US centric, so it's great to hear something from the UK side! I just had a questions about IB in London. Namely, is it essential to have a foreign language to be promoted futher than Associate level? From looking on WSO, it seems like it's basically requirement for S&T and most PE, is it the same for IB?

Thanks in advance!

    • 1
May 19, 2020

How's French unis' reputation in London? And esp. I'm a Chinese student, would it be a huge disadvantage in terms of landing an internship?

May 20, 2020

In London it really depends on the firm and the team that you are working in. The UK has a lot of domestic small & mid market M&A activity and you can easily become partner/MD if you don't speak another language. For bigger firms that do cross-border deals, it is quite common to have people with another European language (or Asian) but still not a pre-requisite. In the end, for more senior promotions, it all depends if you can (or are expected to) generate fees for the firm.

    • 3
May 21, 2020

French universities have generally a good reputation, especially top business schools such as HEC, INSEAD or ESCP. In general, it shouldn't be a disadvantage.
We received a high number of applications from Chinese students and it is very difficult to asses, based on a CV and a short cover letter the strength of a candidate if the undergraduate studies and all previous internships were done in China. In such a case, I would recommend to write a more detailed cover letter and give some support by making comparisons with European organisations.

    • 1
May 19, 2020

What are the possibilities of US MBA students to land a job at an Investment Bank or finance industry in Europe (ie London, Germany, Spain)? I figure this isn't as common but still would be a possibility I am interested in as I am starting B-School in August.

May 19, 2020

Do you think it is possible for a recent university grad to break into IB without prior internship/experience? If so, what kind of experience outside of IB-related experience is favored. If not, what route could someone take to potentially make it into IB in the future?

  • Associate 1 in IB - Ind
May 19, 2020

As an incoming post-MBA coverage associate at a regional/MM bank in the U.S., as you might expect, I'm looking to move up to either an EB or a BB, but looking to remain in advisory (consulting background). The twist is that I'd also like to move over to U.K./German markets (my German is conversational but not business fluent).

When and how would you recommend making a move?

May 19, 2020

Thank you for doing this. How would you look at summer/FT analyst candidates with a VC(early stage) background? Is it particularly advantageous to a TMT group or is the relevant skill gap too large?

Array

May 21, 2020

I personally think that a VC background is extremely interesting as you have probably seen a lot of different business models and hopefully had some deal action with insights on valuation, terms sheets etc. This is a good foundation for many sectors in addition to TMT. In the end, it would all depend on what you have actually done in the previous job in terms of analytical work, responsibly...

    • 1
May 19, 2020

bump

May 21, 2020

Thanks for doing this.

I also have a law degree and am a first year M&A associate (having done the standard two year training contract for UK lawyers) at a top law firm in London for M&A (think Slaughter and May / Freshfields / Skadden / Davis Polk). I have personally been wanting to make the move into IB. I have a lot of friends in the industry who I've spoken to about the differing roles and think it better suits my skill set long term. I have managed to gain a lot of strong transactional experience across several M&A & PE deals (ranging from GBP500m - GBP5bn), along with experience of an IPO, debt offerings and general advisory work.

Have you seen many junior lawyers make this move and what level would you expect one to join at if they did? Would joining as a final year analyst / first year associate be realistic at my level? I've been separately getting up to scratch on the technicals / modelling and wanted to know if you had any further advice for someone in my position as to how best prepare to make this move? I'm not looking to do a masters/similar to pivot out of the industry and believe I can do a straight move across, but I'm less clear on level / team to be targeting for this move.

Appreciate you answered something similar above to another person but personally am not interested in restructuring or going into PE. M&A at a BB or EB with the view of long term moving into an M&A boutique is my goal.

Separately, what do you think distinguishes a good associate as one who is likely to make the jump up to VP (or be fast-tracked even, as you were)?

Would be very appreciative of any thoughts / advice.

May 22, 2020
Comment
  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
May 22, 2020
  • Intern in IB-M&A
May 23, 2020