Breaking and Entering Into Investment Banking As an Accountant

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accountant“It’s tax time. I know this because I’m staring at documents that make no sense to me, no matter how many beers I drink.”

-Dave Barry

Got “stuck” in accounting or auditing and now you want to break into investment banking?

I discussed this exact topic with a reader recently – as one of the bonus consultations for the Investment Banking Networking Toolkit – and covered what to do.

So here’s your step-by-step plan:

What You’re Up Against

Think of every recruiting effort as a battle. Depending on your background, you’ll have some advantages and some disadvantages over the enemy.

  • Consultants: You can deal with crazy people and work long hours, but can you count? Do you know how to use Excel without the mouse?
  • Liberal Arts Majors: You can communicate, but can you crunch numbers and burn the midnight oil?
  • Engineers: You can stare at computer monitors without sleeping for days at a time, but can you talk to people? Are you really interested in finance?
  • Lawyers: You can deal with psychotic people and work until you bleed, even tracking your time in 6-minute increments, but do you know how to value a company? And give up your career?

If you’re coming from an accounting or auditing background, here’s your challenge:

“I know that you know accounting inside and out, and that you’re an Excel wiz. But are you motivated enough to work 100 hours a week? Why didn’t you do investment banking from the start if you’re really interested in it?”

So you need to have good answers to those 2 questions, because they’ll be the key “objections” that any banker speaking with you will have (keep reading for suggested answers).

In Your Favor

On the other hand, you do have some things in your favor:

  • They know you know how to “count” because accountants are pretty good at that.
  • You “get” what any professional services business is all about – doing menial work for annoying and high-maintenance clients and changing periods and decimal places in documents.
  • You may have better access to networking opportunities, depending on what firm you’re at and what group you’re in.

Telling Your Story

Before you even start recruiting, you need to lock this one down.

You want to use a variation of the following answer:

“I was really interested in accounting and finance all throughout school, and the opportunity to work at [FIRM NAME] just fell into my lap. I liked the [exposure to clients / culture / group], so I took the offer and have done very well over the past year there. But during that time, I’ve gotten increasingly interested in investment banking, because I’ve [been exposed via clients / heard a lot about it from friends / met bankers at such-and-such event]. I’m eager to move into something faster-paced that lets me actually work on transactions instead of just handling the paper-work and fact-checking afterward.”

You might expand on that (interviews) or shorten it (networking) depending on the context, but that’s the basic sketch you want to use.

Similar to any “Why investment banking?” question, specific events or people are almost a requirement. So if you had a revelation one morning after going to an alternative investments conference and meeting the top brass at SAC, make that part of your story.

Bankers love to think they are important and lead interesting lives, so play on their egos and emphasize how fast-paced it is and how you would get more responsibility / meaningful work.

Networking Ninja Tactics

Once you figure out what you’re going to say, you need to figure out who you’ll say it to.

Even if you’re working full-time, networking is not much different from what MBA/university students do: you still use alumni, referrals, and possibly cold-calling depending on what you’re aiming for.

The difference is that you’ll have a lot more co-workers, former co-workers, and clients/former clients that you can use for networking purposes.

You do have to use discretion, but all of these sources give you a big advantage over students who need to network to get in.

Unless you have amazing connections at bulge bracket banks, don’t waste your time applying there. Go for boutiques, middle-market firms, and any group where in-depth accounting knowledge might come in handy: Financial Institutions / Restructuring – you bet. Technology – not so much.

If you truly have no alumni connections, no professional referrals you can use, and no other links to finance, then you’ll need to get them.

Join professional societies, go to conferences, and look up events on nearby campuses if you want to start building these connections.

Otherwise you’ll need to do a lot of cold-calling, which is covered in this podcast, in this video, this case study, these case studies, The Investment Banking Networking Toolkit, and probably other places I’m forgetting about right now.

Transaction Advisory Services

Networking is great, but there’s another method available to accountants as well: get into the Transaction Advisory Services (TAS) group at your firm.

Not all accounting firms have these, but the Big 4 and some smaller companies certainly do.

In the TAS group you work with bankers and client companies on transactions, assisting with valuation, due diligence, and sometimes effectively acting as the M&A advisor on the deal.

This helps you in two ways:

  1. Your work looks much closer to banking.
  2. You get better access to contacts in finance.

Do you transfer to TAS first, or do you try to move into investment banking from another group first?

If it will take 1 year+ to transfer, test the waters right now and see what response you get from banks.

But if you can do it more quickly than that, make the transfer first and then think about banking after you’ve been there for awhile.

Spinning Your Resume

So now you have your story down and you’re in the midst of networking and working the phones.

Almost everyone will ask for your resume, so you need to get that right.

The number one mistake you can make as an accountant is writing too much about accounting and not enough about finance.

If you start going into details on general ledgers, journal entries, SOX controls, and other accounting topics, any banker looking at it will think, “Ok, he’s accountant material. PASS.”

Instead, you need to spin what you did to make it seem more relevant to finance.

Use the “Experienced” template here and make every client into a “Project” entry on your resume – but remember that you are applying for finance jobs, not accounting jobs.

  • “Performed Sarbanes-Oxley testing and found that client’s controls were sufficient; reviewed journal entries and determined that client’s reserves were appropriate, which allowed them to project prices of raw materials for upcoming construction project.”

This would sound much better if you titled the entry “Raw Material Price Prediction Model” rather than “SOX Testing” and wrote:

  • “Worked with client to develop Excel model that allowed them to project prices of raw materials based on previous historical patterns and proven reserves; client later used this as supplement to financial statements and in own internal projections to validate potential return on new construction project.”

In this case, we’ve shifted the focus to a very, very small part of what you did – this Excel model – and removed the parts that sound too much like accounting.

Think about which projects can be spun into sounding finance-related, pick those, and then focus on the relevant parts and cut anything that doesn’t sound banking-related.

In Interviews

Most interviews will be focused on the “Are you motivated enough to work 100 hours a week rather than 60?” and the “Why didn’t you get into finance earlier?” questions.

For the first one, you need specific stories of when you’ve burned the midnight oil over an extended period in the past. Examples:

  • Talk about how busy you get during tax season and how the hours and client demands spike up.
  • Talk about commitments outside work and how those also take up a lot of time and effort, which requires you to juggle a lot all at once.
  • Talk about any projects / commitments from university (it’s better to go more recent if you can).

For the “Why now?” question you should pretend that you weren’t fully aware of all the options early on, and only became truly interested in the past year (see the story outline above).

Much of your effectiveness is determined by your body language and expressions in the interview – if you don’t seem enthusiastic and energetic, they’ll assume that you’re not.

Technical Questions

Everything’s fair game here – since you have an accounting background, they’ll assume that you know more than an engineer or lawyer trying to move into the field.

So learn financial modeling, review all your technical interview questions, and make sure you can walk through the basics in your sleep.

You may also get more advanced questions on accounting and tax-related questions.

I would be shocked if they asked a student something like, “What’s the flaw with using book values of assets when determining the goodwill allocation in an asset purchase vs. a stock purchase?” or “Here are values for the 20 different items in this purchase price allocation – walk me through the resulting Book vs. Cash Tax Schedule and how the corresponding Balance Sheet items change in future years.”

Most full-time bankers don’t even have the technical knowledge to answer those questions, but you could easily run into these topics if you have a more technically-adept interviewer.

Plan B Options

If you don’t get great responses when networking, you don’t get interviews, or you don’t get any offers, what do you do next?

1. Move to the Transaction Advisory Services Group

It’s still easier than getting into a top business school. If you’re in a situation where it will take a year or more to transfer, still consider doing it if all your other efforts have failed.

Also think about moving to another firm if it’s too difficult to move internally – some large companies are resistant to change.

2. Business School

No, business school is still not a magic bullet – but it will give you a big boost in terms of networking and access to recruiters.

If you go this route, I strongly recommend doing some kind of pre-MBA opportunity, or even taking time off before and doing an informal internship.

While they’re normally reluctant to let you do this if you have full-time work experience, they’ll be more open to it if you explain that you’re going back to business school and want to do something in the interim.

3. Keep At It

One common networking question is “When do I give up?”

I would give it at least 6-9 months before you throw in the towel.

In a down economy it will often take a year or more to find anything – so you can’t get discouraged by rejections. Networking is a numbers game past a certain point.

Just look at Rocky: he got rejected 1,500 times before claiming victory.

So unless you’ve gotten at least 150 rejections, don’t even think about quitting.

Series: Career Transitions

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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260 Comments to “Breaking and Entering Into Investment Banking As an Accountant”

Comments

  1. sonia says

    Hi

    Could i please have some advice , as a student with a 2:1 civil engineering from a non target university and who has poor Alevels..
    Should i try to enter via accountancy studying towards ACCA, then enter Transaction Advisory Services ? Then into IB ?

    How can a trainee accountant work towards entering TAS , would i have to wait until fully qualified as an accountant? Then work for a few years there?

    Sorry for the twenty questions ,
    Appreciate the advice ,

    Sonia

  2. RH says

    Since TAS is composed of three practices generally between the firms (Diligence, Valuations, and Accounting Advisory), which one between Diligence and Valuations would you say is the best bridge to IB? I excluded Accounting Advisory since I doubt bankers want to hire accountants on steriods.

    • says

      Depends as the specific duties vary a lot but most would say valuations are more relevant than DD since you don’t do much actual DD as a banker (more just sending the docs rather than analyzing them)

  3. Odin says

    I know you’ve posted on this many times before but my situation may be somewhat unique. I’m a senior at a target school now with a 3.3 GPA and I signed on to begin with a Big Four with their one of their risk assessment groups. Over the past few months I’ve come to realize that I do not want to do this for the rest of my life, I would much rather go for an IBD role. Obviously, now that I have already signed, it is far too late to try and get out. Originally, I thought the best way to switch was to go for an MBA but after reading the comments and articles here I am starting to realize that I may be able to break in sooner.

    My questions are: 1.) How do you network once you are working? Don’t people notice when you leave work a lot to meet people or when you are calling people a lot? 2.) Do I even have a chance with my low GPA? I’m planning on targeting small boutiques of course but when should I try and contact them? In the comments above spring was mentioned but I want to make sure I have my time frame correct. 3.) Are there any other specific tips you recommend? Can I do anything to help myself with my remaining time as a college student? (I start work in September)

    • says

      1) You have to be subtle; try to network more on weekends, after work, before work, and so on and keep calls during the day to a minimum. Use GMail rather than work email.

      2) Yes but not a great one, you will have to focus on boutiques and pitch it as a trial run or internship rather than a full-time here. http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/cold-calling-investment-banking/

      3) See the link above – I would actually start calling now if you can and introducing yourself, seeing what’s out there, etc.

      • Odin says

        Thanks for the advice. I will be sure to make good use of my school’s alumni network and try and setup informational interviews.

        • Odin says

          Couple questions additional questions :

          I’m guessing the only advantage i have is that I’m at a target school and have access to its alumni network + job postings. However, is this even an advantage considering my GPA? Most of the alumni listed are at bulge brackets that I’m guessing won’t even give a second glance to someone with under a 3.5. How do you search for alumni at boutiques?

          How useful do you think the networking ninja toolkit would be for someone in my position?

          • says

            You can still use your alumni database, or maybe just search for boutique names and see if there are alumni there… there aren’t going to be as many in general at smaller firms though. If your GPA is low that makes things more difficult but you can still get in if you’re passionate enough. The networking program may help you but I would look at the samples and outline first to see how much you already know.

  4. ipra says

    Hi M&I,

    Very nice website.
    I am currently a junior year student at a target university in the U.K and will be completing a summer internship in Audit at a Big 4. However, I am now considering applying for IBD roles at bulge brackets during my final year.
    I’ve been told without summer IB experience, that might be tough.
    What are your views? And how best can I maximise my chances?
    Thanks a lot! Take care.

    • says

      Yes it will be more difficult but Big 4 experience is viewed more favorably in Europe… just follow the resume templates and advice here and spin your experience into sounding relevant, i.e. by focusing more on tasks that relate to what bankers do such as financial statement analysis.

  5. Sangeet says

    Great article!!
    I was an accountant with an NGO and i’m currently doing my MBA. How should i drive my story , as in if i am asked” How does being an accountant with an NGO help you in Finance”. What should i reply back.

    • says

      Say that you learned how to deal work with extremely limited resources and get things done no matter what – which is crucial in finance because you’re always working under impossible deadlines with limited resources as well.

  6. Harry says

    Hello! I just graduated from a non-target school and I will be working as a Financial Consultant at a Big 4 firm in NYC. I tried to transfer to the TAS group, however, I was told it is too late now, but most likely I could transfer after a year. Once I transfer I will have a lot more opportunities to meet investment bankers and to expand my network.

    I have a few questions and I would be extremely thankful if you could answer them.

    A. How many years of work experience in the TAS group is enough to start looking for IB positions?

    B. Would I be looking for analyst or associate positions?

    C. Do you think I would have a better chance by obtaining an MBA from a target school after working 1-2 years in the TAS group?

    • says

      a) Probably 6 months – 1 year

      b) Analyst

      c) Yes, but it is also very expensive in terms of time and money so I wouldn’t recommend it unless everything else fails.

  7. RH says

    Seems like most of the banks are not really willing to bring in associates with no prior banking expierences and without a top tier MBA. Coming from a Big 4 TAS DD group, would you say its worth it to set myself a year and apply for third year analyst positions?

  8. GoldenDays says

    Hey there.

    Don’t know where to ask, so excuse me for writing this under this Topic.
    I’m stuck between two options and don’t know which one to choose.
    I’m a first year undergrad and got 2 offers for an intership.

    1) Big4 – Audit
    2) large European Bank – Corporate Banking

    Which option will be more suitable to boost my chance to break into IBD?

    Thank you in advance.

  9. John says

    Hey,

    For a May 2010 graduate who just became a CPA at PwC audit after one year, what is the best time of the year to apply to new analyst positions? Would September be the best bet as banks are trying to fill their 2012 class? Or would the app just be disregarded since there are so many undergrads, assuming semi-target finance major with very good stats?

    Thanks for your help

  10. PS says

    Thank you for this website.

    I graduated a Mechanical Engineer with 3.6 GPA from a top engineering school and I’m looking to break into IB. I have a Business Minor too which includes a couple of Accounting and Finance classes. My internships have been with a consulting firm and an engineering firm. I recently accepted a full-time offer from a Big 4 in Transaction Services. What are my chances like to break into IB with 1 year of work experience in TS and how can I improve them?

    • says

      Decent chances, need to network a lot and possibly do something more banking-related like move to the middle market bank within the Big 4 firm

  11. Optimist says

    Hi, first off, this website is really good.

    I’ve got 3 questions regarding qualifications.

    1) Im from South Africa and have noticed that alot of the top players in the Investment Banking and PE space are Chartered Accountants/CPA’s and it seems that if you do not have this qualification you are at a bit of a disadvantage. Yes, I do understand the fact that one has to evaluate potential investments but is this qualification that much of a necessity?

    2) I come from purely Internal Audit work experience (and a purely Internal Audit qualification) and am deciding whether to further my studies in accounting or economics?

    3) Would my jumpstart from Internal Audit be a disadvantage if I decided to head the Trading route? (BTW, I was with Deloitte in Risk Advisory for 3 Years).

    Thanks!

  12. JT says

    Hi,thanks for all the information.Do you think that 1)Big4 audit-financial services or 2)credit risk management is best route to investment banking(m&a)-equity research? I am confused. Some people say that credit risk is very close to IBD and is really front office role.Also, that bonuses in Credit risk are close to IBD. On the other side, I believe that with audit are more doors opened and there are more exit opportunities.What do you think?
    Thanks for your time and attention.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      1. is better than 2. if you want to break into IB & ER
      Credit Risk = Less about advising companies and less or very few interactions w corporate clients, and and more about figuring out what risk a certain bank has.
      I’d say working for an IB pays more than working for an accounting firm, but I don’t think credit risk mgmt’s bonus is close to IBD’s.

  13. Ray says

    Nice website!.
    I am a senior student economics major at a target school and I have 3.3 GPA. But the problem is that I do not have an internship experience in IB or accounting. So, I am thinking to take a semester off and try to get an internship experience in a small IB firm if I can find one.
    Question 1. If I cannot get an internship in IB due to the low GPA and lack of experience, what other internship experiences will be helpful in pursuing career in IB.
    Question 2. can you recommend where to start considering my position.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Experience that allows you to value/analyze companies (you need to learn solid modelling skills)
      Networking and trying to land yourself an internship (paid or unpaid) in finance

  14. Dubster says

    What a tremendous platform. Thankyou for your excellent advise. I have a quick question regarding the discussion above.

    I am an accountant, recently qualified with a BIG 4 within financial services Audit. Prior qualifications include a Masters in Management Information Systems from London school of economics (LSE). Want to move to IBD (M&A).

    My strengths (at the utter risk of sounding immodest):

    - Confident; Can talk well and can handle situations well.
    - I have MD level networking connections in some bulge bracket banks in the middle east (UAE).
    - I have ACA and LSE qualification and Big 4 experience in Europe.

    Weaknesses:

    - My finance is not as strong as perhaps would be required. Would there be on the job training for this? I can analyse financials and certain ratios but I doubt its in depth enough. It scares me from an interview point of view.

    - My excel skills which i understand are instrumental for IBD are weak. I am willing to work on this. Can I still enter into IBD and work on this skill while on job or there is no way I will make past the interview stage? Can i learn prior to joining. Would it take ages?

    Should I still go ahead and start talking to the connections or do you think I may be dropped during interviews owing to weaknesses above.

    Alternate option is going into TS and learning the desired skill set but since I am already nearing 30, I want to minimise my time getting into IBD and jump into it ASAP.

    Please advise what you think would be my best bet given all of the above!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Start networking and see where if leads you. Hone up on your excel skills now. Network and get yourself a role at TAS too to hedge your bets. Don’t think too much.

  15. Arch says

    Hi,
    I am a Chartered Accountant working in a captive KPO of a bulge bracket investment bank in Mumbai, India,in Internal Controls. Prior to this I was in internal audit in a bank taking care of treasury audit. I have overall 6 years of post qualification exp. in Audit/Control function in banking and 5 years of pre-qualification exp of statutory audit in an accounting firm. I am 32 years old. what are my chances of breaking into investment banking if I resort to networking or cold-calling?
    Looking forward to your reply,
    Thanks in advance.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Chances? 50-50 or less if I really had to quantify it but I may be wrong. Just cold call and see if what responses you get

  16. Mark says

    hi i have been working in big 4 as an auditor for 3 years and have quitted recently. Recruiters offer me an accounting role in an investment bank. should i take it? would it get me further way from a an analyst role?

  17. Al Gonzalez says

    Brian,

    Thanks for the free guide, I have already started reading it. I am a fifth year graduate student in the Professional Program of Accounting at Texas A&M University and am currently pursuing an MS in Finance. I will be sitting for the CPA exam this spring semester and will be working full time at a Big 4 acct firm in audit. However, I do not plan on staying there long and want to work in I-banking in the future. I had opportunities this past spring to interview for internships at investment banks but did not apply, and I clearly regret it. I do not know how I will break into I-banking in the future. Could you help me out?

  18. says

    Hi M&I

    Thanks for this great site. It’s been really helpful to us. I have a specific question regarding my qualification.

    I completed a National Diploma in Internal Auditing at (_________University of Technology). I then did an internship at an insurance company (Old Mutual)for a period of 1yr and 4mnths.

    I then completed a 3 year training contract (specialising in Internal Auditing) with Deloitte (Risk Advisory division).

    I will be 27 years old in Jan 2012 and have the following dilemma:

    1. Do i do a Bachelors Degree (BCom) (specialising in Internal Audit) then do an MBA? (start at 2nd year level for a 3 year degree) (then use this to get into an Investment Bank)
    2. Do i do a Bcom (Economics) then do an MBA?
    3. Do i do something Maths related (or Statistics).

    I really love doing equity research and the long slog that comes with finding different data but I am attracted to the earnings potential that come with trading.

    Should I go the Internal Auditing route (because of my 4 years of internal audit experience)

    or

    Go the Economics route as this is the more common IB qualification.

    or Other….

  19. Patrick says

    Hi M&I,

    In terms of qualifications, I’m in a rather odd position and I was wondering if you could share your insight.

    I am an accounting major from a non-feeder school (GPA >3.9). Passed my CPA right after this.

    Then, I went straight to a mid-tier law school because of a hefty scholarship (expected GPA > 3.75). The courses I took have been very business focused (Corp Fin, Asset mgmt, corporate/ptnr taxation). Also have a semester internship with the SEC. I will finish law school at the age of 23.

    I now have an offer in tax with one of the Big4. I’m in the NY office and in the financial services division. (While probably not relevant to the long term goal of IBD, I’ll also be doing my LLM in tax part time).

    Given this, would you have any advice on positioning myself for IBD (preferably bulge bracket)? I am very open to the possibility of an MBA and am fairly confident for the GMATs (the GPA I assume shouldn’t be too much of an issue given the performance listed above).

    Thanks in advance.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d network w bankers and see what’s out there. In terms of positioning, you’ll have to highlight your deal experience if you have any

  20. Dre60 says

    Off-topic but are non-recurring/ extraordinary (unusual & infrequent) items already backed-out of on the CF statement (i.e. CF from Operations)?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Again, I’d suggest you to subscribe to our BIWS courses. My colleagues there would be able to assist you with your technical questions

  21. Ken says

    Hi M&I,

    Thank you for this truely amazing site, I have just graduated from Imperial College London and have got an offer from the UK National Audit Office doing the ACA [I will be auditing central government departments (public sectors)]

    i want to get into IB in the future but at the moment it just seems pretty impossible having not being able to get into the big4, where the audit sectors are a lot more relevant to banking clients. I wanted to ask

    1) how would you play this, i have done lots of research and linkedin lots of people that have worked at the NAO before and now at banks, and the most common way is
    NAO –> Big4 public sector –> Big4 consultancy –> banks
    i was just wondering if there is a quicker way, my biggest problem is that despite doing Audit I won’t get the commercial profit-making sector experience which i would get if i was auditing at one of the Big4. or should i try to get in Big4 Transaction services straight after qualifying the ACA with NAO [3years]

    2) I really have no idea at this stage but do you know if public sector experience would help me get in IB or not at all helpful, do you think in that case I should decline my NAO offer and try to get into a Big4 next year? but i have also heard that government does outsource a lot of its work so in a way will i be getting interactions with commercial clients?

    Many Thanks for taking the time to help, truely appreciate everything.

    Ken

    • M&I - Nicole says

      1. Quicker way? Network with bankers and see how it goes.
      2. I don’t think the public sector experience is that useful but readers may be able to offer you better insights

  22. Anky says

    Hi Brian,

    Sorry for diaviating from the topic, but I could not find a relevant article to ask this one..

    I am a qualified accountant and a CFA with 3.5yrs work ex (2.8 years in back office finance and about 9mts in Risk Management now, its client facing). Both these firms were top MNCs.

    Could you please help me with suitable exit opportunities? I plan to stay in my current org for atleast a year.
    By any chance can I target S&T (I have a flair for it) or maybe something in Risk Management itself.

    Thanks in advance.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I suggest you to network with people and see what opportunities are out there. You should pursue S&T and RM if those are your goals though I think switching to S&T may be a tough sell for you

      Hard for me to tell you since I have not spoken to you and hard to say on comments page

  23. Brandon says

    I know the standard path here is to be a top performer in big 4 audit, transfer into TAS, then middle market/boutique bank if you network your ass off. Are there any opportunities to move into ibanking from tax? There are tax positions in TAS as well, though they perform a more specialized role.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think it can be more challenging, unless you can demonstrate your knowledge of modeling/valuing companies and have had such exposure. I think it also depends on how you spin your story and your network

    • The President says

      Just a commenter and am speaking from the vantage point of somebody with no firsthand knowledge, but I’ve seen a multitude of job postings by Big4/PA firms for M&A tax advisory and have heard of people leveraging tax exp into starting their own financial advising practice. I doubt if this would lead to a career in vsnilla IBD, but tax knowledge is highly lucrative and in demand for various reasons. I have no idea if IBanks have tax groups housed under IBD, though.

      Point is that unless you abhor tax as a profession (like myself), you can make surprisingly large amounts of money for both yourself and for your clients…

  24. Bing says

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the article!

    I am currently working at a Big 4 in Beijing. I graduated from a target school in China last year with a 3.6 GPA. I had done several internship at boutiques before graduation. Now I really want to go back to IB.

    I have quite a few friends who work as first year analysts at BB banks. However, one friend working at MS Beijing told me for sure that they are not hiring anyone at the moment, and it seems to be the case with other BB banks as well. So may I get your advice on the questions below?

    #1 Should I spend more time networking with people working at BB banks or focusing on middle market firms/boutiques?

    #2 Is it too soon to get rid of my first job? Will another one or two years at Big 4 boost my chance of breaking in BB banks?

    Your response is much appreciated.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      #1. Both – whoever you have the most chemistry! The more the merrier!
      #2. Not necessarily. I’d just network and apply and see where it leads

      • Bing says

        Thanks Nicole.

        For #1, do you think I have a shot at BB banks even when I know they’re not hiring? Given my background:

        Strengths:
        top 1 university in China;
        exchange experience in US(where I got 4.0 GPA);
        boutiques intern experience;
        IPO projects at Big 4;

        Weaknesses:
        no BB intern experience;
        currently out of IB industry;

        do you think I should spend my limited free time on talking to people at BB banks?

        Thanks for your patience!

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Hard to say. I’d try Chinese banks/2nd/3rd tier investment banks first. The above may be an easier transition for you.

  25. Allen says

    What are my chances of breaking into IB from a large bank’s commercial banking department (chase, bank of America, wells fargo etc).

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Its ideal if you have had some sort of experience in IB. Otherwise, it can be challenging to transfer given the difference in skill sets

  26. FK says

    I graduated in 2011 from a target recruiting school. I accepted an offer at KPMG in the Valuation group, but I came to realize during the year that I didn’t enjoy the work at a Big 4 Accounting firm. I want to move into an investment banking role. How would I go about doing that? Is now the best time to look for a new job? How can I market myself for the position? I am interested in a new and exciting, fast-paced lifestyle.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      It can be challenging if you don’t have previous experience in IB. Other than networking with bankers, I’d try to move into the TAS group at KPMG.

  27. Rocky says

    I currently work in the TAS area at a Big 4 at the São Paulo office in Brazil. I Just started working here a month ago, and my work is focused on Mergers & Acquisitions and valuations. I have always wanted to break into IB, but felt that the experience at TAS would help my application.

    How long should I stay here? Was it a smart idea to gain some experience before applying to an IB? (Btw, I’m applying to IB’s in their latin american sector as I wish to stay here.)

    Thanks again!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      You might want to stay there for a year before moving around though you can sniff around for info now and build network in IB

  28. Jay z says

    Im currently working at a mortgage company as an underwriter. I just started this job about a month ago and am not enjoying the work very much. I have always been interested in getting into IB but I had no luck during recuiting. I accepted the mortgage company offer just so that I have something to do. What should I do to break into IB or other financial analyst positions at this point? I don’t know how to leverage my underwriting experience. Please advise, thanks

  29. Elsie says

    Hi?

    Many people have discussed the swift from TAS to IB. However, I do want to know what specific or unspecific work should I focus on as an auditor in order to move to TAS. I got an offer from a big 4 but my long-term goal is to work on M&A at an IB. So what kind of M&A related experience could an auditor gain?

    Many thanks!

  30. Emma says

    Hi Nicole,

    I’ve worked at big 4 corporate finance team for a year and in China. I have two options:

    1. MBA program – I’ve read the relevant articles from the site and know it not necessarily get me into i-banking;

    2. network with others and lateral hire to i- bank.

    which one do you think it more realistic?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      2 – depends on your networking skills and how well you present yourself.

      I think you should attempt both. Apply and see if you get in. In the meantime, network a lot and see what opportunities open up

  31. Stanley says

    Hi

    a quick question: I interned at KPMG more than 14 months ago, which is the external auditor of CS, DB, HSBC and also Citi. Will this experience make me rejected by banks above?

    Much appreciated!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I don’t think this experience will make you rejected by the above banks, but having relevant banking experience will help

  32. PRANAYA says

    I am a CA Final Student and have worked for Two Years at an Auditing Firm and currently working at ING Vysya Bank in Risk Management-Emerging Corporates as an Industrial Trainee for the last year of my training for CA. I have always wanted to enter into the Investment Banking Sector. Please guide regarding:
    1. Steps to be followed to enter in the sector ?
    2. Do I need to gain any other professional degree for entrance ?
    3. Will my experience as an Industrial Trainee at a Bank count in entry as an Investment banker ?

  33. Mark says

    Hi M&I

    I am currently at CA at a Big 4 firm. Completed Level I of the CFA program and I have completed 3 1/2 years in Audit, specifically in the asset management practice. I am specifically interested in breaking into equity research (covering Oil and Gas or Real Estate)

    I’m specifically looking for sell side. Is it better to work for a big bank or a smaller firm? What can I expect in terms of interview style/questions? What do you suggest to make me more marketable for a position?

    Thanks,

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d focus on looking for a role in ER first – apply to both large and boutique banks

      Focus on knowing a stock pitch for interviews. A CFA may help too

  34. Jack Mack says

    I’m doing a degree at a non-target which covers all the relevant economics, banking, accounting and finance for various careers in finance including IB.

    However between year 1 and year 2 I’ve got accounting experience rather than any banking/finance experience.

    Would this disadvantage me?

  35. Mohit says

    Hi
    Very informative website!
    I am from India. I completed my graduation in June 2012 in Bachelor of Commerce(Honors). I am currently working in EY Assurance as an Associate(joined in August 2012). I want to do an MBA in Fianance after taking my GMAT.
    I wanted to know if my experience at an Auditing firm(from the Big 4) will comply with the 2 years’ work experience required to take GMAT.

  36. Alex says

    Hi Brian,

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m currently an undegrad Economics and Accounting student, planning to graduate next december. I am considering my offer at Amazon for a Financial Analyst Internship during the Spring quarter and Summer. Just wondering if you could please tell me my chances of landing interviews with investment banks when I do come back to school in the fall for full-time recruiting. Thank you so much and it would be great if you can please tell me soon as I have still not made my decision.

    • says

      You have a shot, but your odds are not great vs. people who have completed real IB internships. You should focus on tech boutiques or tech groups with that background.

  37. Ahmed Malik says

    Hi Brian,

    First off I want to say that I’ve been following your site for almost a year now and I have to say its been a pleasure both reading the articles you’ve posted and I’ve learned a ton about the finance industry in general. I also was wondering if you could provide some insight on a career question:

    Im currently at a top graduate accounting program (one year masters straight out of undergrad) graduating this may and sitting for the CPA exam this summer. Next fall I’m headed to a Big 4 transaction services group in New York. Now while I am getting an accounting degree, I must say I’m more interested in finance. I went to a really small liberal arts undergrad, majored in business (with a focus in accounting because we had no finance concentration) and chose this program because of its exposure to big firms. Believe me, while I was undergrad I did my best to network with alumni in the finance industry (specifically investment banking) and there were ZERO prospects. I chose my undergrad based on the fact that I was playing college basketball there and it wasn’t until a two years in that I figured out what I wanted to do. Needless to say I started a little behind on the eight ball for kids looking to get into high finance. I REALLY want to work in private equity. For me thats my endgame, and I know that right now I’m way out of the spectrum of typical candidates, however my transactions group does a fair amount of work with PE, so I figured that could be some good exposure? My question is 1) do I even have a shot to break in? 2) Should I try and pursue a banking analyst program first? 3) Would an MBA (from a top ten program) at any point help? Right now I have an hypothesis that I’ll work in the big 4 group for two years, gain some experience and then spend my free time trying to network into a banking program after two years. Is that feasible? or will I need to get an MBA first? Btw…When are we going to get part two of your life story? Part one was great. Thanks for your help.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      1. You have a chance of breaking in, though you will be competing against IB candidates who have worked in IB before
      2. Yes, that would help mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-recruiting/
      3. Yes an MBA from a top tier school will help you and your career in PE going forward
      4. Yes Part Two will be released (You’ll have to keep coming back to the site and check for it! :) )

  38. John says

    Hi,

    I work in Canada for a big 4 accounting firm and my work is primarily financial due diligence for PE firms, strategic buyers and vendors. We focus on mid market so smaller deals.
    How do bankers view DD experience? Do they consider this experience an asset when looking for an experienced analyst (2 or 3)?

    Thanks

  39. Leslie says

    Hi,

    I am a penultimate year Economics student with 2 internship offers in hand: CF advisory in a big 4 firm as well as Futures – institutional department in an IB (Asian country). A management consultant offer may be coming up as well. If I am looking to break into an (London) IB’s CF, ECM/DCM or S&T department (looking to enter PE/VC/HF in the future), which will be the best choice of internship?

    The futures dept’s intern description is trade reconciliation, presentation slides and trading platform system tests, hence there might be a shortage of quantitative analysis/modelling work. The CF advisory department will probably promise more quant work involving deals with clients.

    Any thoughts about the best choice of progression will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Congratulations on your offer! I’d say working at IB (assuming the institutional department means S&T) may open you some doors given your areas of interest and its brand name and it is probably better than the big4 option given its name. With the above being said, if you’re being offered a role at Bain/Mckinsey (a top tier consulting firm), I’d probably choose it over the others given its brand name, your level of responsibility and that you can always craft a pitch to transfer back to banking for your FT role. And the work you do in consulting is also somewhat relevant to PE/IB.

      • Leslie says

        Hi Nicole,

        Thanks for your reply. With regards to what you said, it seems that Big 4′s CF isn’t as feasible as the IB and MC offer. However, it seems that the IB offer I was given is related more to brokerage for futures. Is it still considered a proper S&T internship then and how viable is it? The offer for management consulting isn’t from the big 3 but it would be from one of the top 10. How would you weigh the options on the table in light of these?

        Thanks again.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          I don’t think you could go wrong either way. I’ve made a brief list of pros and cons below which I think may be useful to help you weigh your options. I’d suggest you to write down a list of pros and cons, talk to the interviewers again, and think about which team you’d fit in with best and which role you think you’d enjoy most. I’d go with that one.

          (1) CF Advisory in Big 4 Firm – Gives you relevant experience but lacks the brand name. Will have to explain transition to IB.
          (2) Futures/Trade Reconciliation in IB in Asia – Gives you brand name and ability to build network to understand IB but not in London & FO. Will have to explain transition to FO; I’d try your best to build contacts in London through (2) since (1) and (3) not likely to offer you this opportunity.
          (3) MC in Top 10 Firm – Gives you experience to learn qualitative metrics of valuing companies – potentially useful for VC, entrepreneurship, IB going forward. Will have to explain transition to IB

          Since you aren’t quite sure of which division you are most interested in IB (honestly ECM, S&T and CF are different), I think what you need to do is to gain in-depth understanding of each division before applications next year so as to (1) focus your networking efforts (2) hone your pitch. To gain this understanding, the best way to do so is to talk to people (network) and gain real time experience.

          • Leslie says

            Thanks once again. I just finished finals and did some research after on both MC and IB roles I’ve been offered. IB would seem to be the rational choice however I have some reservations.

            1) The IB is a specialised ASEAN bank and I’m not certain about its brand name overseas though it has a unit in London, hence networking and the brand advantage might be a little lost. The job description might cover something along the lines of engaging clients (account opening, seminars, marketing events) and getting acquainted with the trading system. Granted, ASEAN countries especially mine are huge in commodities, thus our futures market is booming which will allow me to craft a pitch.

            2) MC’s job scope includes metrics, budgeting, scheduling etc which will be analytical in nature and like you said is relevant to IB. However interviewers might grill me on my decision to intern in MC.

            Pitching to interviewers regarding my decision to join IBD might not be the toughest part. The tricky part could be which internship looks better on my CV which will catch the interviewers’ eyes while they go through applicant CVs.

            Any thoughts on these?

            Very helpful as usual Nicole and M&I :)

          • M&I - Nicole says

            Thanks for your help! It doesn’t seem like you’ll be doing valuation work in (1) from what you’ve described. the MC role may be slightly more relevant. In your case, I’d probably choose an offer based on (1) the name of the firm (2) which firm (the people) you like the most. If you’re more comfortable w crafting your pitch with (1) I’d choose that one.

  40. David says

    You’ve talked about Transaction Services for Big 4. I’m actually interning for a structured finance group at a Big 4 and I want to move into banking. Do you think this can also work? In a nutshell, the practice services many finance products from wall street banks. I’m not sure how much ill get to work with them though.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes the knowledge you learned in your role maybe useful for financing roles within IB. You’ll have to network a lot!

      • David says

        Thanks for replying so fast! Now, I would have the option of working in Transaction in New York versus structured finance in DC. Which woul you recommend that I take, if I managed to get both offers?

        Is one more effective than the other, or is it based entirely on what I want to do? Because, to speak freely, I just really want to get my foot in the door first.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Hard to say. I’d choose NY personally because I like the city a lot. I think NY may offer you more networking opportunity.

  41. Eddy says

    Hi,

    I am about to decide on which bachelor degree to enroll into. Is Accounting and Finance suitable for someone that wants to break into the buy-side/hedge funds, or would a degree in Economics and Finance be more suitable? Thanks!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think both are suitable. If you’re looking at macro HFs perhaps an Economics degree is more useful. If you’re looking at fundamental analysis/value investing, I’d pick Accounting.

  42. Robert says

    Hi. I want to get into IB but been working as accountant 1.5 years. On top of that, I’ve had 2 temp jobs, which were my most recent jobs. How does 2 temp jobs in 9 months look like to an IB?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If those temp jobs are front office roles in IB then it may potentially be helpful. Otherwise they may not necessarily add too much value on your resume.

  43. Earl says

    Hi, I am at a target school but my GPA is super low – 2.8. I am an Econ major with finance concentration. Any suggestions for how to overcome my GPA issue with landing an IB internship?

  44. Merlyn says

    Hey Brian,

    I’m an Undergrad Accountant at a college in Upstate, NY. I have a GPA of 3.6 and I’m looking for an entry level investment banking analyst position in one of the big firms at NYC. I’ve done an accounting internship at a financial services firm. I applied online to the big firms and I haven’t networked with any one in the big firms. What would the next recommended steps be apart from cold calling and networking.

  45. Merlyn says

    Can you please name some boutiques in NYC and smaller firms that could possibly be an option for me to apply.

    Thanks for the help.

  46. CK says

    Hi,

    Some questions…

    What Big 4 graduate route should you take if you want IB to be a feasible option after a couple of years? (I know CF & TS are better suited but I’m mentioning these as a safety)

    - Assurance
    - Risk/Assurance
    - Management Consulting

    What would act as and be looked at as the best transition into IB from Corporate Finance or Transaction Services?

    Lastly after how many years should you leave for IB at the latest?

    Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think all of them offers similar opportunities unless you go for TAS

      Perhaps a big name like Bain or McKinsey at MC will be prioritized among the other options you listed

      I’d say 2-3 years max.

  47. Brittany says

    Dear M&I,

    I’m a graduate in accounting and finance in an Aussie uni and have just started out working in big 4 internal audit for a month plus in SEA. I was thinking of doing ICAA (CA) for 3 years and transfer to TAS but I don’t quite like what I’m doing now. I’ve no contacts in TAS to understand what they are doing but i have read their roles in a few forums. My goal is to do asset management in the end. There are a few options I’ve considered:
    1. Apply to TAS – valuation and modeling NOW and do it for at least 2 years before switching to banks, at the same time completing my cfa.
    2. Do 3 years of IA to get my qualification in CA then transfer to TAS for a year
    3. Do 3 years of IA, do CA then jump to a bank for AM.
    4. Do IA, but do CFA level 1 instead and change to TAS after one year.

    Your reply is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d choose 1, and I wouldn’t limit it to 2 years – you can move anytime as long as the opportunity presents itself

      • Brittany says

        Thanks for your prompt reply. It’s precisely what I needed. Just a question, which sector in transaction services- M&A, restructuring, valuation and business modelling or transaction support will give me more edge for asset management? What about for pe firms? Thanks Nicole!

        • M&I - Nicole says

          That I am not 100% sure. Perhaps M&A and business modelling. Asset management firms look for people who have valuation experience as well as a knack for identifying investments and being in touch with the markets. TAS may not be the best ft for AM, but more relevant to IBD.

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