Investment banking case studies come up in a number of contexts – sometimes you see them in interviews, and other times you get the case studies beforehand and have some time to complete them.
And outside the US – in Europe and Australia especially – you will get case studies and group presentations at assessment centers (or “assessment centres” if we want to be authentic).
And if you want to land investment banking offers, you need to know how to prepare and how to answer case study-based questions.
Why Case Studies?
The theory is simple: traditional job interviews do a poor job of determining the best candidates.
Interviewers are biased by your appearance and the first few minutes of what you say, and can’t assess how well you’ll perform via a 30-minute discussion.
Case studies show bankers what you’ll be like on the job and are therefore a much better indicator of how well you’ll perform.
The case study is often your final interview – so if you screw it up, you will just barely miss getting an offer.
And if you’re outside the US, you’re a lateral hire, or you’re at the MBA-level, you will almost certainly get a case study at some point.
What Are “Case Studies”?
There are 2 types:
- “Take-Home” Case Studies – You get an extended period (a few days to a week) to work on these, complete your analysis, and then present your findings.
- “On the Spot” Case Studies – You do these on the spot at interviews or at assessment centers and you only have 1-2 hours to create a coherent presentation.
Usually the case study centers on a question such as:
- Company X wants to acquire one of these 3 companies. Which one should they acquire, and why?
- Company Y needs to raise capital – should they raise debt or equity, and what’s the best way to do it?
- Company Z wants to expand – should they acquire another company, merge, or continue to grow organically?
As you might have guessed, you need to make a concrete decision to succeed with case studies.
For the “on the spot” case studies, there will rarely be much financial modeling or valuation work – you don’t have enough time.
You might look at companies’ valuation multiples and use those to decide whether they’re undervalued, overvalued, or valued correctly – but it usually doesn’t go beyond that.
For the “take-home” case studies, there will be more modeling and you will have to do a simple valuation or merger/LBO model.
And sometimes they might just say, “Create a DCF for Company X” – in which case it’s less of a case study and more of a modeling test.
The Time Split
At an assessment center, a typical time split for a 1-on-1 case study where you present your findings to bankers by yourself might be:
- 45 minutes preparation
- 5 minutes presentation
- 25 minutes Q&A
If it’s a group presentation, you might get 1-2 hours for preparation and 15 minutes for the presentation instead.
For take-home case studies, you might get up to a week to prepare and then around 30 minutes for your presentation.
How Should You Tackle Your Case Studies?
I’m glad you asked.
Included are 3 case study examples, suggested presentation sequences, and tips on how to present and successfully work in a group.
Only one problem: it’s almost impossible to find real case study questions used at banks.
So I would suggest the following if you want to practice:
- Ask your friends who have been through assessment centers / case studies about the questions they received, and use those as a starting point.
- If you can’t find anything that way, pick a company that you are familiar with – such as Apple, Netflix, General Electric, and so on – and create your own case study for them.
For the second option, just pick a simple question such as, “Should they raise debt or equity?” or “Which company should they acquire?”
Then, do your own research and create a 5-10 page presentation that answers the question, following the outlines suggested in the guide above.
For Even More Practice…
For even more practice with numerical, verbal and logical aptitude tests and assessment centers in general, check out Job Test Prep and all their test prep offerings.
They have our highest recommendation for online tests and assessment center prep – and their courses are the single best way around to prepare for EMEA recruiting.
P.S. Get here from an email forward, a friend’s link, or a random Google search?
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