UK Non-Target to FT Analyst at Top Tier M&A Firm

Hi everyone,

This website has been incredibly useful to me, and I owe a lot of career success to it. It's given me a lot of excellent insight into IBD and has been a great source of motivation. Therefore, I'd like to give back by sharing my experience here.

For some context I'm a foreign student at top 10 UK non-target university.

Rejected everywhere...

In my second year of University I found myself having landed NO spring internships during first year - I got flat out rejected EVERYWHERE I applied. Coming from a non-target I received ZERO interviews which was very discouraging but motivating at the same time. I knew I had to step my game up and create a long term plan to get into a top IB position. Finding myself in that position the positive takeaway was that I learned how competitive the industry is and learned to be realistic with myself: it's important to realise that, however smart you are, you only are what your CV shows. Nothing less, nothing more. So I decided to take a year abroad at a top univeristy to accumulate experience through spring weeks and internships and to find myself in a position to compete with other candidates and start landing interviews. The "easy route" for me would have been to do a master's degree, which was not an option for me financially. I took the "hard" route, knowing the chances of me breaking into IB would be very slim.

Landed a MM IB internship offer

After doing a spring week at a tier 4 firm in my second year of uni, I spent my third year studying abroad. I applied to IBs during that period and only got 1 ib interview: made it to the final round of a top EB in London and got dinged at the last step. I was heartbroken, to put it mildly. The only interview I had, though, confirmed I was smart/good enough to break into the industry, but my prospects as a UK non-target school in penultimate year without a top IBD internship were looking very poor (especially in post-Brexit Britain - something I discovered later). Instead, I received an offer at a 2nd/3rd tier consulting firm but I knew I desperately needed IB experience going into my final year or my dream would have been crushed. Therefore, I cold emailed more than 30 boutiques, and ended up getting 5 offers. So I interned in a 2nd/3rd tier consultancy and at a MM IB firm.

Importance of networking

In my final year I applied to a mix of FT positions and SA positions. Instead of simply applying online, I realised the crucial importance of networking. In the UK, networking is not as important as it is in the U.S (based on what I understand from reading WSO posts), but it's crucial if you're from a non-target. I reached out to complete strangers for a chat and showed my hunger and passion for IB. Every call I had with alumni but mostly random people (due to lack of alumni in IB) ended up with me being referred to HR. I got interviews at 7 firms (EBS and BBs), compared to 1 the previous year and NONE in the two years before. I started to understand that IB is simply a game of people. I was naive and believed online screening is fair/efficient - that my application would actually be read. Don't make my same mistake. As soon as you enter your non target school name in your online application, there's a solid chance you'll get cut. I couldn't stress the importance of networking more!

Landed FT M&A Analyst Job

After networking my ass off and landing multiple recommendations, I prepared diligently, practiced lots of mock interviews, read the FT obsessively and studied the WSO Investment Banking guide like the bible. I highly recommend this resource as it covers the vast majority of questions you'll get - here is the link: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/guide/investment-b.... I got a few offers and got to final rounds of other BBs and EBs. I received and accepted a full time position at a top tier independent advisory firm/ EB, where I'll be starting work as a full time analyst in M&A.

Years of hard work, frustration and stress ended up paying off. I'll admit that at times I thought of quitting, to stop trying and give up on my IB dream, but don't let those rejections put you off. Put your head down, prepare and - I couldn't stress this more - NETWORK! However many rejections you get, do not give up. I tallied up all the IB rejections I received in the past few years: 126! If you really want it, work hard and smart for it, you can get into top BBs and EBs regardless of your school.

Good luck to everyone!

Mod Note (Andy): Throwback Thursday - this was originally posted Sept 2017

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Comments (16)

Feb 16, 2017

Hey congrats, quick question.
How did you turn the informational interviews into references, I find that very hard to do.

    • 1
Feb 18, 2017

Thanks SSJ_Trunks. I demonstrated my enthusiasm and hunger for the job combined with competence. By the end of most calls/coffee chats the analysts I spoke to suggested to send them my CV, which they CC'd to HR. I then applied online, did the tests and got first round interviews. Good luck!

    • 1
Feb 18, 2017

Edit your title with an "AMA" at the end. Congratz

Absolute truths don't exist... celebrated opinions do.

Apr 15, 2017

Hey, do you have any idea how many do firms take in straight on as an Analyst? i.e applying last year in uni?

I know most BBs take in 30-40 interns, and conversion rates are fairly high usually.

May 19, 2017

this depends on the bank you apply to. You're right about intern class sizes. Conversion is about 40% at my firm. Out of my analyst class only about 4-5 people were hired straight from undergrad recruitment. This may vary at different firms, but numbers tend to be low.

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May 19, 2017

Congrats! I wanted to ask you two fast questions about the networking. Which position did the bankers you contacted had? How did you contact them? (email/linkedin?)

May 19, 2017

I think what is even more effective than contacting them over email (or even linkedin in the worst case) would be to simply attend their networking events. There are a lot of them if you attend a russell group uni, more so if it is one of the real target unis.

Sep 9, 2017

Great story and well done!

Sep 10, 2017

Just out of interest - which university do you mean by UK Non Target?

Sep 10, 2017

My warmest congrats man! Actually I'm in your past situation, cold emailing MM and trying to get a little interview. A lot of rejections but I'll never give up!

Nicest haircut than Bateman

Sep 10, 2017

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Sep 10, 2017

Congratulations! Being in a position in which you were before pulling this off I can only say hats off to you. I really need to start stepping up my networking game because coming from a really non target here in the UK, networking is the only way you can get a chance I see. Are you based in London by any chance?

Sep 12, 2017

When you say tier 4 firm/MM, who does this usually include? Any examples would be much appreciated.

Sep 19, 2017

I do not really know, you might want to ask the OP. Just hit reply from the post above, not my comment, so that they can see your question and answer

Oct 17, 2017

Thank you ZeTerminator!

I have read your post with great interest and realized that I am in a similar situation. I attend a non-target MSc Finance in the UK, with some alumni presence in the industry (about 4-5 guys a year land IB jobs).

Some questions about networking and things I find confusing:

  1. When you network with bankers, do you still go through the online application process?
  2. Can I apply to the SA and FT progs (deadlines approaching) and still try to get something through networking if I get rejected?
  3. Do you approach junior or more senior bankers?

Thanks a lot for sharing your experience with us!

Dec 7, 2018