7 Questions You Won’t See Answered on M&I in 2009

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2008 was an interesting year for the finance industry. Back when Bear Stearns failed, we thought it was the end of the world.

But the economy kept getting worse and worse, and then September rolled around and we were in a full state of financial apocalypse.

Despite how much things have changed, there are a few questions that keep coming up over and over again.

I’ve tried to answer some frequently asked questions, but after a year of doing this, I’ve decided that some questions are just not worth answering.

So here are 7 questions that you will not see answered on Mergers & Inquisitions in 2009 – and some good questions that will be addressed.

1. “Can You Rank the Most Prestigious Banks/Groups/Offices?”

Asking me to rank banks is a great way to get me to ignore you. I can’t think of anything that’s a bigger waste of time than trying to “rank” financial institutions or specific groups/offices.

Why?

  1. These days you’re lucky to get an offer anywhere. If you’re still in the mindset of “Bulge bracket or bust” you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
  2. Individual banks change quickly because turnover is high. Witness what happened when Moelis left and UBS LA then collapsed and fired (almost) everyone, all within the course of 1-1.5 years.
  3. No one cares where you work/worked. To “normal people,” investment banking is investment banking and it’s all the same no matter where you are – and they’re pretty much right about that one.

2. “Do You Agree With the US News Business School Rankings?”

“Ranking” business schools / undergraduate schools is a similar waste of time. All that matter is whether or not banks recruit at a school.

So if you go to Yale, please don’t transfer to Harvard because you think it will improve your recruiting chances.

The same applies to business schools: why anyone would argue over which of the top 10 or so schools is “best” is beyond me.

3. “So, Will the Economy Improve in 2009/2010/2011/2131?”

I still don’t have a crystal ball, sorry. This might be another Great Depression – or it might improve more quickly than expected

Many finance blogs are in the business of future prediction, but that’s not what we do here. The goal is education + entertainment – not palm reading.

Do something because you want to do it – not because you “predict” the market will be worse / better / the same 2 years from now.

4. “If I Want to Be an Investment Banker for Life, What Should I Do?”

The question is legitimate, but I don’t know anyone who can actually answer it because most just use it as a steppingstone.

For anyone who hasn’t worked in the industry before, this question is a little presumptuous because you have no idea whether or not you’ll really like it.

Rather than planning things out 5-10 years in the future, take them one step at a time and see what happens.

I’ve gotten questions over my “5-year plan” or “10-year plan” and I always give the same answer:

I don’t have one.

It’s too hard to plan that far in advance, so I think in terms of 3-month, 6-month and 1-year periods instead.

5. “So, Can I Round My GPA to a 3.7…”

After the “rank banks” question, this might be the second best way to get me to ignore you.

You’re never going to get accepted or rejected because your GPA is 0.1 higher or lower than what it really is.

Like the other questions on this list, all that matters is what range it was in.

So stop debating whether to write 3.53 or 3.6 and spend the time networking and improving your interview skills instead.

6. “I’m a Senior in High School and I Want to Be an Investment Banker…”

No, you don’t.

Getting started early can be good, but too early works against you. At least wait until you’re a little older and have had some more experience first.

More broadly, the same advice applies to anyone who just decides to do this on a whim: you need to do your homework first.

This is also important when you’re networking – if it doesn’t seem like you’ve done your own research, you won’t be put on the interview list anywhere.

7. “Wait, So How Many Hours Do I Really Work Each Week?”

Haven’t we covered this one before? You know, bad days, good days, and even entire weeks?

But ignoring that for a moment, if you’re concerned about the hours you should not be thinking about anything in finance. Even outside banking, you still work way more than in any other industry.

Yes, it might not be as bad at a boutique, but you’re missing the big picture: expect to work a lot.

Questions That Will Be Answered

Ok, so what questions will we address in 2009?

  • What to do if you don’t get in and have to fall back on your “Plan B.”
  • What it’s like working in different parts of the world, including interviews with current/former bankers.
  • How you can apply lessons from popular TV shows/movies to your internship/job search (timed to coincide with the premier of a certain popular TV show in January…).
  • Case studies on how “normal people” got into the industry.
  • What happens when things don’t work out – poor hiring decisions, people going down in flames, office drama and more.

Those are just a few of the ideas on the list – if you have experience with any of the above and want to be interviewed (obviously everything would be anonymous) / contribute, we would love to hear from you.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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16 Comments to “7 Questions You Won’t See Answered on M&I in 2009”

Comments

  1. Lisa says

    Would you have any comment on the relative attractiveness of starting out in London versus New York, particularly in the wake of the past few months?

    • says

      The conventional wisdom is that NYC is “the best” to start out in, but these days I recommend going as broad as possible and considering all options… London has also been hard-hit by the crisis, but if you have an opportunity there I would definitely take it.

  2. Mike says

    Great advice, as always.

    Here’s a question I hope you can answer.

    In the personal section of the resume, is it okay to write “Personally financed education by working 20 hours per week throughout school”? Or would that be a big turnoff?

    Thanks.

  3. HK Fan says

    “The goal is education + entertainment – not palm reading.”

    double negative, so you do palm reading!

    sorry the market is slow and i am bored

  4. Mike says

    Just read your post on wardrobes, and figured I’d comment here since I don’t know if you still monitor older posts for comments.

    You mention no cufflinks for analysts/summer interns. How ’bout pocket squares?

    Thanks.

  5. says

    What television show are you talking about ?
    Sorry if this is an obvious question, I don’t watch that much TV.

    Thanks again for this blog, Happy New Year !

  6. Jason says

    Hey,
    I have a question that I don’t think you’ve answered. I got a summer analyst opportunity at a top middle market bank. People in the industry have definitely heard of it but I’d like to eventually get to top tier PE firm (I’m legitimately interested in PE long term). Since PE shops are so small I think working for a bulge bracket might be the best way to get headhunters to work hard for me when I try to go from IBD to PE. Any ideas on going from middle market summer analyst to Bulge Bracket bank full-time analyst? Thanks! This site totally helped me get the summer analyst position by the way.
    -Jason

  7. Gary says

    I wasn’t sure where to ask this question:
    1)Is it normal to have pockets on dress shirts in banking or is it better to wear shirts without pockets?
    Thanks!

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