Why Investment Banking?

How to answer the question "Why Investment Banking?"

Author: Adin Lykken
Adin Lykken
Adin Lykken
Consulting | Private Equity

Currently, Adin is an associate at Berkshire Partners, an $16B middle-market private equity fund. Prior to joining Berkshire Partners, Adin worked for just over three years at The Boston Consulting Group as an associate and consultant and previously interned for the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Senate.

Adin graduated from Yale University, Magna Cum Claude, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics.

Reviewed By: Andy Yan
Andy Yan
Andy Yan
Investment Banking | Corporate Development

Before deciding to pursue his MBA, Andy previously spent two years at Credit Suisse in Investment Banking, primarily working on M&A and IPO transactions. Prior to joining Credit Suisse, Andy was a Business Analyst Intern for Capital One and worked as an associate for Cambridge Realty Capital Companies.

Andy graduated from University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and is currently an MBA candidate at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a concentration in Analytical Finance.

Last Updated:October 6, 2023

“Tell us why you want to work in {the industry you are interviewing for}?” is a question that interviews love to throw at their interviewees.

Investment banking recruiters are no different, and you will 100% come across this question or something like it in your quest to break into IB.

Unfortunately, candidates facing this question without looking at online guides like the free one we got here usually screw up big time.


how NOT to answer the “Why investment banking” question

We will look at the wrong answers first and then show you how to answer the question correctly.

Remember, there are many ways to mess up this question. Just like drafting a cover letter, it is better not to try and blow away the interviewer.

Think about it as one of those questions that are more checkboxes where your best outcome is that you don’t mess up any potential offers. This isn’t a “Walk me through your resume” question.

So with that out of the way, let’s look at answers you shouldn’t give, even though they might be the real reason you want to get in.

“I need the money” or something along those lines

Yes, we all know you are attracted to IB because of the money. It is no hidden fact that it pays really well to get into IB. However, bringing up money in an interview is a surefire way to sabotage any chance you had of landing the offer.

There are two reasons why this is a bad answer. 

  1. Everyone likes to believe they do things for more than money (whether they do or not is up for debate). Naturally, an answer mentioning money could rub your interviewer the wrong way.
  2. It could signal that you are a flight risk to the firm. In other words, you will leave the moment another firm pays you more since money is your primary objective. Hence, it doesn’t make sense for the firm to hire you since they believe you won’t stick around for long.


Don't answer “I want to move to private equity” or some other exit opportunity

Most IB recruits don’t stay in IB. It is a well-known fact and is backed by data.

IB is well known for its exit opportunities. There is a very high chance you will be bombarded by recruiter calls a few months into your tenure. Private equity, hedge funds, and corporates all have a need for investment banking talent. 

And for the same reasons that talking about money is a no-go, mentioning that banking is a stepping stone to another career shows you won’t stick around for long. So avoid this reason at all costs unless you don’t want an offer.


Don’t mention client interactions. Period. Anyone who's said anything about 'CEOs, executives, clients, management teams, and (cringe) the C-suite' are immediate 'this kid doesn't know what we/he will do here' dings.

WSO Academy Logo Banner

The Only Program You Need to Land in High Finance Careers

The most comprehensive curriculum and support network to break into high finance.

Learn More

So what is actually the best way to answer this question?

Best Answers to the “Why Investment Banking” interview question

While cookie-cutter responses are safe, sometimes a little more substance is appropriate/appreciated.

An example of a good response is:

I want to work in investment banking because I understand it has a steep learning curve. It will allow me to establish a strong foundation for valuation, Excel modeling skills, and an understanding of the XXX sector. I know the hours will be long, but the time spent understanding and learning about XXX space would allow me to remain in finance over the longer term.

This response does a few things:

You left the interviewer 'bait.' Now they will ask, "Oh really? So what hours do you expect?" So you simply answer 80 low-end and 100+ if a lot is going on.

By mentioning valuation/Excel, you're showing you know what you'll be doing, and you have pitched why it is valuable to have a strong base of skills for a *future* on Wall Street.

Because you never want the interviewer to think you're interested in anything besides banking.

Below are a few examples you could use depending on your specific background.

Law to Investment Banking

I know that I love transactional work, like working in a fast-paced, demanding environment, don't mind long hours, and eventually want to be the one making the deals rather than a lawyer/banker who only facilitates them.

Investment banking makes sense because I can develop valuation/pitching/modeling skills.

Investment Banking Interview Course

Everything You Need To Break into Investment Banking

Sign Up to The Insider's Guide on How to Land the Most Prestigious Jobs on Wall Street.

Learn More

Consulting to Investment Banking

If you're interviewing for an entry-level junior role, then your response to this question could be:

While I have gained some great experience working in consulting that translates well to investment banking, I feel that I could learn a more useful technical skill set at an investment bank working on live transactions at [XYZ Firm].

For those trying to get into more senior roles post-MBA, a more appropriate answer would be:

I like long projects and getting to know clients; however, the transactional nature of investment banking is very appealing to me because you see the results of your work much more quickly. Whereas consulting engagements can last for years, especially when implementation is involved, the average investment banking mandate typically lasts for several months, so you are getting exposed to more scenarios, and the learning curve is faster.

Commercial Banking to Investment Banking

Because I look around at 5 pm and see everyone head for the exit, I know I have more to offer and want more out of my career.

It may be cheesy, but it has helped one of our members land a role in IB.

Also, make sure to read up on the latest M&A deals, know how to tackle technical questions, and show an eagerness to break into the industry.

Demonstrate you belong. Given your 'atypical' background, you will have to try that much harder to show you belong compared to your interviewing peers who may already be working at other IBs and looking to lateral.

Asset Management to Investment Banking

Although Asset Management allowed me to analyze companies and financials and make trades based on that analysis, where I really feel that I would excel long term is working more directly with these companies and in transactional work.

You now have a good idea of how to answer the “Why investment banking?” question when it comes up in your interviews.


WSO Academy Logo Banner

The Only Program You Need to Land in High Finance Careers

The most comprehensive curriculum and support network to break into high finance.

Learn More

Interested In Investment Banking - Breaking In

The above examples illustrate how you could leverage your prior experience to answer the question and appear unique. We recommend that you improvise on the answers, or craft a new one keeping the points in mind.

Are you interviewing for an investment banking role? Our IB interview course has an immense library of questions and proven answers to help you ace that interview.

Investment Banking Interview Course

Everything You Need To Break into Investment Banking

Sign Up to The Insider's Guide on How to Land the Most Prestigious Jobs on Wall Street.

Learn More

Additional interview resources

To learn more about interviews and the questions asked, please check out the additional interview resources below: