How to Network Like a Ninja in London and Break Into Finance with Low Grades and a Non-Target School on Your CV

283 Comments | Case Studies & Reader Success Stories - From Non-Target Schools and Low Grades, Investment Banking - Europe

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Investment Banking London UK“You’ve written so much about networking, but it doesn’t work outside the US. No one in my country responds to cold calls or emails – what do I do?”

It’s one of the most common objections I get to the networking advice on M&I.

There are dozens of interviews disproving the old complaint that everything here is targeted at Ivy League grads with high grades – so let’s turn our attention to showing that networking does, in fact, “work” in other countries.

In this interview with a UK reader, you’ll learn:

  • How he went from low A-levels and a non-target university to over 1,000 finance contacts in the UK and a top Master’s program there
  • How he used a non-finance degree to boost his chances of breaking into banking
  • Whether or not traditional networking “works” in the UK and how it’s different from the US
  • What it’s like to work at a combined M&A and asset management firm

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: Sure. Growing up my family had a lot of health issues, so my academics back in secondary school suffered quite a bit since I was in the hospital constantly and had to take care of myself. To give you a rough idea:

Although my grades were poor, my family situation forced me to think about how I could survive on my own and so I started investing and building up my savings at a young age (a unique finance “spark”).

Anyway, I had no chance of getting into a top school with that kind of performance, so I ended up going to a non-target university in London. I studied politics there and earned a 2:1 – not spectacular, but at least better than my performance before that.

More importantly, though, I completed a dissertation on an emerging market, which made me more interested in the region and gave me something I could speak to in my “story.”

Q: OK, so did you actually complete any banking or finance internships while at university?

A: No – it was a non-target school so it was completely off the radar of banks. I did a few internships in media, politics, and for non-profits and got exposed to well-known names like that.

You might brush off media internships as “not prestigious,” but I gained access to lots of CEOs, MDs, and other important people since their database had direct lines for everyone.

I figured out midway through university that I wanted to work in finance, but I was going to a non-target school and only had average grades, so I knew that I would need to get out there and pound the pavement.

I’m not sure how it is in the US, but in London if your applications are not perfect you will not get interviews.

Q: Right, so can you walk us through how you went about networking and how you leveraged all those connections from your media and politics internships?

A: Sure. Through those internships I found a few mentors who were not directly in finance, but who were extremely well-connected in the UK – that made it much easier to get past gatekeepers.

I went out to literally every finance-related event in London and met everyone there, asking for referrals and getting introductions along the way. I even cold-called plenty of firms – plenty of places said no, but a few were open to it and told me to come in and talk anyway. I even networked via a part-time retail job I had and managed to meet bankers there.

What drove me was how plenty of people said I wasn’t “good enough” – not all bankers are brutal and malicious, but I met quite a few who were. So I wanted to prove them all wrong.

Q: Yeah, I think Sylvester Stallone was driven by similar forces back before the first Rocky movie was made. What was your strategy in terms of which level of banker to contact, and what was the result of all your networking?

A: I didn’t discriminate much by level – I met lots of VPs and MDs, and found they still made time for me even though I was coming from a lesser-known school. I even had lunch with CEOs of well-known firms in related industries.

I took the usual informational interview approach and pretty much everyone I met said that I’d have to network harder and be fierce about wanting the job more than everyone else. They also helped a lot with rewriting my CV, and through all this networking I was getting lots of interviews.

But this was also at the height of the recession and the interviews weren’t converting well – so I decided to take a different approach and applied to a Master’s program at LSE instead.

Networking at LSE

Q: Quite a step up from the non-target university you attended. What did you do when you got there, and how was the networking environment different?

A: The program helped me re-brand myself, and my networking efforts exploded since I now had much easier access to CEOs, MDs, and Partners.

I’d meet someone who came in to give a talk, get their card, and set up a meeting immediately afterward – I was averaging 4-5 meetings per week and met senior guys at banks, PE firms, and even media companies.

One thing that surprised me was that most LSE students were pathetic at networking.

Even people who had interned at Goldman Sachs and other top banks had no clue how to talk to people at events, request a follow-up meeting, or anything – some of the students were impressive but overall I learned that you really shouldn’t overestimate the competition.

The average student there has attended private schools his/her entire life so he/she is “well-trained” but not necessarily effective in the real world.

LSE also runs the annual LSE Alternative Investments Conference, which costs money to attend but is worth it 10x over if you use it properly and get solid contacts there. The focus is more on hedge funds and private equity, but everyone knows bankers and there’s a lot of overlap.

Even while at LSE, I still got rejected quite a lot but then things turned around after exams and I landed over a dozen interviews right before I accepted my current job at a combined asset management / M&A firm.

By that time I had amassed over 1,000 contacts from the past 2 years of networking.

Q: Wow. Normally I tell readers that once you go beyond 50-100 it’s hard to even keep track of everyone – how did you manage to get that kind of Rolodex?

A: I could go on for hours about networking, but we don’t have that kind of time so I’ll summarize my tips as follows:

Know As Much As Possible About Bankers

I spent a lot of time getting to know people and writing down literally anything important from each meeting and logging it on my computer. Even in my current job I’m still going through these connections, which impresses my bosses quite a bit.

I also created a Google News Alert for every contact I met – that way if someone closed a deal I could send a congratulatory email or phone call. It takes 2 minutes and people really appreciate it.

Be Nice to Assistants

When you’re requesting informational interviews, always email first and then call to follow-up – you will likely speak with their assistant, and she will give you a list of dates they’re available.

If you’re rude to the assistant none of your emails or calls will get through. If you’re extremely nice to them, you will have a much higher hit rate.

Have Interests Outside of Finance

Yes, everyone wants to be the next big rainmaker and make the Financial Times headlines but you better have at least one thing you are passionate about outside of finance when you meet people.

You never know when the guy you’re meeting might be a keen deep sea diver outside his day job – so pay attention to “throwaway comments” that bankers make and latch onto them.

I would even ask CEOs if they were married or had kids and how they balanced work and family time.

I was passionate about non-profit and charity work so I always brought that one up when I met with bankers and used it as my “interesting fact.”

Ask for Referrals / Find People You Know

After every meeting I would always ask if there’s anyone else the person thought I should speak with – and before I got official interviews, I combed through the entire firm site and looked for anyone I knew personally, and then found out who interviewed people there and so on.

I also used websites such as that covered financial services companies – sometimes they had the details of brokers there and I would call directly to see if I could speak with them.

1,000 contacts is a lot, but I always thought of it as networking for the long-term and not just to get a job. It does get very difficult to maintain relationships with that many people, so they’ll definitely be less personal if you want that many contacts.

The most connected woman in the UK has 40,000+ contacts and is doing well, although she also has a team of 8 managing her network.

Q: A lot of readers believe that networking “doesn’t work” in the UK or in other regions outside the US because the recruiting process is more formal elsewhere. Your story disproves this one, but I’m guessing there are still some differences when networking in the UK – what are they?

A: The tactics are not much different – just follow everything I described above.

This is purely anecdotal, but I think the main differences were what they looked for in candidates – they wanted someone who had:

  1. Completed A-Level Mathematics.
  2. Studied something other than economics or finance.
  3. Outside interests and solid work experience.

#2 surprised me but a lot of bankers mentioned that they preferred to look at people with different academic backgrounds; in the UK A-Levels are huge so I definitely found #1 to be true.

Overall I just treated networking like socializing and talked about as much non-finance-related stuff as possible – these guys work so hard that they’re happy to shoot the breeze about the latest football game or go for a drink.

I also avoided pissing people off – if someone said no, I left. I didn’t go back to leads who were not going to help because there were plenty of others who would. Finding one person to be your “mentor” is also a great idea because then his/her entire address book is open to you.

Q: You mentioned that you completed a Master’s program focused on an emerging market rather than the usual choice of finance, accounting, or economics. How much did that help, and was it effective even though you didn’t study abroad there?

A: It made me stand out a lot because it was an interesting degree and people always asked, “Why?” Plus, I could talk all about that region in-depth and that was way more interesting than being just another MSc Finance guy.

There’s a lot of academic snobbery over what you study, but if you go to a place like LSE and want to do banking, it doesn’t matter much – as long as you don’t pick gender studies.

Studying abroad would have been cool, but as you’ve written before, you can’t just waltz in and start working in a country, and you need to be a native speaker in most cases to use a language for business.

Asset Management Meets M&A

Q: Can you tell us about your new role at the asset management / M&A firm? I’ve gotten tons of questions on asset management but haven’t been able to give solid answers about the work itself and day-in-the-life accounts. What do you do each day?

A: My role is much closer to M&A than it is to asset management – we work with a lot of asset and investment management firms, though, so I do get to spend time talking to fund managers at those places.

I spent time on the usual tasks you do in M&A: pitch books, writing monthly fact sheets and investor reports, cold-calling / sourcing deals, financial modeling, and so on. I go to around 3-4 client meetings per day with our sales guy.

In addition to this we’re building a giant database in order to comb the city for future investment. I’ve already at this stage worked on raising several million pounds for the firm and I’ve only been here a few months.

I also do some investor relations work and build up the image of the firm, and go along with the CEO when he speaks with Bloomberg or FT.

Next year I may go abroad for the roadshows since we’re thinking of expanding in places like HK, Zurich, and NYC.

Q: What about the perpetual questions of pay and exit opportunities?

A: Without giving specifics, pay is slightly less than what the usual banking graduate schemes offer due to the nature of the firm and the specific deal I have set up – it will change in the future, but that’s where I’m at right now.

As far as advancement and exit opportunities, there’s very little micro-managing here so I have a lot more control over my own fate than the typical IB analyst.

Other people who have worked here have gone onto:

  1. Other finance companies – equity research, private wealth management, hedge funds.
  2. INSEAD, LBS, or Barcelona for business school.
  3. Other industries altogether.

Q: You mentioned that your firm does both asset management and M&A work – how does that impact the work environment and the pay/advancement opportunities? Did you aim for this type of firm for a specific reason?

A: The work environment is nice and there’s plenty of room for advancement since it’s a relatively small firm – AUM under £1bn, with a goal to expand upwards of 10x.

I didn’t pick a combined asset management / M&A firm for a specific reason, but I wanted more of a “family”-style office because I wanted a life outside of work. I knew that at a bulge bracket bank or a mega-fund like KKR or Blackstone I would never get that.

The CEO here plays tennis all the time and everyone does something outside work, so it’s easy to hear about interesting stories from everyone here. They also acknowledged in interviews that they respected personal ambitions even if they’re unrelated to finance.

So I didn’t really “aim” for this type of firm, but it turned out to be the perfect fit for me.

Q: What are your future plans now that you’ve defied the odds to break into finance? Are you planning to stay there for a few years or move to another industry?

A: I’m planning to stay at my current firm for the long-term – my colleagues are great and I have no reason to leave since the working conditions and hours are quite good.

I will probably stay here for 3-4 years, and then maybe move somewhere else in finance such as a middle-market bank in an Associate role. At that point I might move up the ladder or go to something else like VC until I reach the MD-level. Then I’d want to set up a charity such as ARK (Absolute Returns for Kids) and focus on solving social problems and improving social mobility in the UK.

Of course, I also want to do a lot of traveling as well and see the world.

Q: Great. Thanks for your time – learned a lot about networking and how the London scene is different from other countries.

A: No problem.

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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283 Comments to “How to Network Like a Ninja in London and Break Into Finance with Low Grades and a Non-Target School on Your CV”


  1. manny says

    Hi I was talking to a guy on my rugby team who plays rugby and told him my alevels were BBC with maths and accounting and english he told me i would defo need a mba in a finance related field to get anywhere. Are alevels that important.

    • Jake says

      It depends, manny.

      A-level grades seem to matter only if you have at least 280-320 UCAS points (vague on whether or not your AS-level, you’d normally drop after year 1 counts; but that’s dependent on each bank).

      The points act as a sort of filter for internships/online applications. (If you don’t meet the points, generally don’t your A-levels on your CV if you’ve got under/postgrad degrees.)

      You’ve got 280 points with your 3 A-levels. You could still do internships at smaller banks, but any internship helps I guess. Of course if you have what’s called ‘mitigating factors’ to explain why you didn’t bag an extra 20-40 points (such as acting as a carer while studying, parents divorced around the time etc) then they may give you the benefit of the doubt. Only if you have proof though.

      That’s assuming you’re worrying that your A-level grades would let you down due to the competition’s possibly higher grades.

      That’s not to say A-levels aren’t important in all cases: if you’re doing a qual degree and not a quant degree, then your two quant A-levels could possibly save you.
      But if you’re doing a highly quant degree, then the A-levels were merely stepping stones.

      Now, don’t be retaking any A-level exams! Every top bank will demand you tell them what you got in your first sitting, making retaking a waste of time.

      Your friend may be wrong (depends on your position): if you’re at undergrad level, try to apply for MA/MSc in econ/finance degrees at ‘target unis’.
      Really, any top business school in the UK, if you plan to say here such as Oxbridge, Imperial, LSE, UCL. There are others like Durham, Warwick, Cass etc.

      Though if you’re already working then think of getting an a type of MBA.

  2. Jamie says

    “1. Completed A-Level Mathematics.
    2. Studied something other than economics or finance.
    3. Outside interests and solid work experience.”

    Also being in the UK, I respectfully disagree with the ‘solid facts’ these may propound.

    Firstly, with the IBers, finance and economic fellows I’ve spoken to: A-Level Mathematics isn’t always a be-all end all. If your degree/post-grad is has a mathematical nature, then its not a desire. A-Level is level 3 education and each year of university it goes up a level, so we can guess why.

    Secondly, I dunno… every single one of the fellows I mention who have been/are in IB always stress the importance of those ‘relevant’ degrees. For example, I was about to do an unrelated degree (Human Geography) – at a non-target – but a lot of bankers/people in finance actually *discouraged me* from doing so, saying that my chances of getting into banking, or finance, would actually be very slim.

    Only a very few said people without ‘unrelated’ degrees were in their offices. However, most of them said their floor only contained people who did said degrees. I
    But I’m guessing that’s where the desire for A-Level Maths comes in: their degree would possibly lack the quant element, so that A-Level in Math could compensate, somewhat. Possibly why I was discouraged, as I lack A-Level Maths.

    I know the article clearly said its purely anecdotal, but I thought I’d toss another experience out there.

    As for #3: that I can agree with you. *Especially* the part about work experience, which around here is actually bigger than A-Levels, which are possibly under threat against International Baccalaureates and Pre-Us. At least from what all the fellows (some HR depts included) I’ve spoken to have told me; backed up by what careers advisers told me.

    In short: I’m a little shaky with #1 and #2- but doubtlessly agree with all aspects of #3.

  3. says

    In a similar situation but have yet to graduate from my masters, this interview gives me hope that it is still possible.

    Did slightly better with my GCSEs but only achieved CCD at A level while running an online gaming business. I went to a non-target studied finance got a first, ran a society, two internships wealth management and trading which were not easy to get… on top of a whole bunch of ECs.

    I am now on my masters at Cass business school with a scholarship but this has not really helped with me online applications this time round either (did not get past the first stage of any). Networking has really been difficult, It is rare that traders turn up at events, I assume they are usually quite busy. I recently started trading and have been successful but I feel I do not get the chance to talk somene who understands.

    I think it is impressive the James was able to get into LSE with a 2.1 with a scholarship. I have also attended many events but not had much success, I’m not sure what I am doing wrong, maybe I am no good at networking.

    • Jimmy says

      “I am now on my masters at Cass business school with a scholarship but this has not really helped with me online applications this time round either (did not get past the first stage of any).”

      This part should tell you why you’re not having luck, possibly; more so this part: “did not get past the first stage of any)”.
      Only when you combine it with your A-Level and GCSE performance.

      Mind you, I’m speaking for internships which usually require GCSE Maths and English to be at grade A, at least (HSBC) and others require 280-320 UCAS points (dependent on the bank you’re thinking of).

      Applying to these internships – if you are talking about that – won’t yield much luck even if you have a masters at a target like Cass.
      They still use GCSE/UCAS points as a filter.

      So if its types internships you’re talking about then my advice would be apply to smaller banks. Then try to move into big names; assuming you were only applying to the big names.

      Now if its job applications and network opportunities in general you’re talking about:

      Although a target, Cass isn’t like LSE, UCL or Warwick where bankers usually frequent.
      Even more so, since 2008 (the recession), those big name targets have been losing out compared to Oxford (Said Business School), Cambridge (Judge Business School) and Imperial Business School.
      Bankers do visit those six (Warwick, less compared to the other five) a lot more. Than other targets and universities.

      A friend of mine was in your position. The advice he got was to go to the careers dept of your university. They’ll give you more tailored advice, and to try and contact alumni from your university that are in the industry and network from there; Cass should have a few of those.

      Also two things you need to know:
      – doing a Masters in a target will help once you’ve got the actual qualification as opposed to studying for it at the moment.
      (However you still need other things to boost your employability to stand out.)

      – if traders/bankers don’t come into your uni, it may be worth while to try to see when they’ll go to other universities. Then as one of Brian’s articles say: play ninja. Go in and try your luck there.
      — Assuming there are career fairs in the future, you’re allowed to go to them (in the UK, iirc) as they’re open to *all* institutions (universities).

      HOWEVER all this should be inclusive to Nicole’s advice.
      You want to catch the fish with all the possible ways you can, so to speak.

      Now here’s my 2 pence on this:

      Also remember, banking is downsizing as an industry. Competition will be more fierce; doesn’t mean you should overestimate the competition, however. :P

      Britain, if you know, has this chip on its shoulder about young people from universities not being as employable or not having some relevant skills etc- if you can so some side courses (only if it won’t be detrimental to your work now), that could help.

      Worst comes to worst and you don’t get something after your Masters.
      Get whatever office experience – at least 3 years of experience according to to most university entry requirements; the targets – you can then try for an MBA/executive MBA at targets.

      Also, I would urge you to absorb all that Nicole and I have told you (jot it down if you must). Then take this to Cass’ careers service to get advise tailored to your situation.

      (Don’t neglect the cold calling; every little helps.)

  4. says

    Thank you for your replies, I think cold calling is my best option now. I do not graduate until the end of July, would it be too early to call?

    My careers centre advised me to just apply online anyway and try apply to mid tier etc.

    I have not received many replies from alumni over linkedin but then not too many are working as traders.

    Some of the other universities hold special events to network with traders but are exclusively for their own students which require some submission of CV, student login or ID check.

    • Jimmy says

      I wouldn’t say so. Keep cold calling, till you get something.
      But in my opinion, I think you would have better luck applying after you actually have the Masters.

      Though, cold calling is one of your best shots, don’t limit yourself to it if you’ve got the time for other things i.e. networking.
      If I were you, personally, I’d try my gamble with other people in the profession – no matter if they’re alumni or not.
      What’ve you got to lose?

      Also perhaps trying networking with people in other positions could help? (One of the site managers would be better to answer this as networking isn’t quite my thing – I hope to say ‘yet’ eventually. :P)
      Like a “put in a good word with me” sort of thing?

      Well with the ‘going to other unis’ thing, if you can somehow circumvent those barriers go for it. If not, then if you’ve got a mate or two within one of the universities; hope they’re kind enough to share details.
      If not, then you can’t.


      The only reason I say you may have better luck with your masters is because at the moment you have the actual degree.
      They haven’t a clue what your actual Masters grade will be after you graduate; no-one does. So they’ll – assumingly – screen you as you were a candidate with a undergrad degree.

      If you can… you could provide evidence of ‘mitigating factors’ to explain things like your A-Level results, assuming you can? That sort of thing can help immensely. But you’ll require proof.

      In all, I’d agree with your career adviser and say keep applying and trying to add some work experience if you can.

  5. Dave says

    Good Afternoon,

    Firstly thank you for the excellent website, article and replies it has proved most valuable.

    My situation is a little different from the normal and I was hoping for a little advice. I am aiming for a career in Investment/Asset Management.

    My story starts when I flunked college. I failed at AS Level with 3 U grades and one C (Computing). After dropping out I completed an apprenticeship with the UK government graduating with a Foundation Degree in Telecommunications Engineering in 2006. Since then I have been working for the UK government in the IT field. Parallel to this I started an Economics degree part-time at a non-target uni where I hope to graduate in 2013.

    I know that I have some options, firstly a Masters at a target university, secondly a MBA, and thirdly to network like a ninja (in your words) and try to land either an internship (probably unpaid) this year and/or job after graduation with a small firm and work my way up.

    For my situation, how do you think it is best to proceed? I am leaning towards a masters and a lot of networking but given my lack of A-Levels and that I am currently at a non-target university I don’t know if this is the best solution.

    Any help you can provide will be most appreciated.


  6. Vik says

    Hey M&I,

    Just wanted to let you guys know that I have successfully broken into the BB SA program from a complete non-target. My success can be completely attributed to your work – without this site, the BIWS guides and your tireless efforts, none of this would have been possible. Please feel free to e-mail me and let me know if there’s anything I can do for you guys, and thank you for all your help.

      • Northerner says

        I actually transferred from a top 5 school for personal reasons at those universitys are closer to home.

        I also have a BB internship under my belt so would going to either make such a difference vs other top schools?

        • Vick says

          From what I’m told, by connections in the HSBC and their friends from other banks, going to ANY *well known/good* business school at the very least, will put you in good stead. (Academically speaking.)
          In Britain, at least.

          If you’ve got the school (top 5, as you say)to put on your CV (e.g. XYZ top uni from 20XX-20XX), you should be fine.
          Plus if you went to a top school and got into one of the better unis of England, you should be fine. Esp. with the internship.

          So I doubt you’d be at such a disadvantage.

          The only thing competition from other ‘top’ schools may have is networking (try to start, alumni (from both schools if you can), linkedin..).
          Or do what a lot of people in my uni. are doing and go to your careers dept to ask about what I’ve just mentioned – networking.
          Some of my mates were even put in touch with professionals!

          Then there’s the obvious unique stuff you should have to distinguish yourself from the competition (work experience such as your internship etc).

          To my knowledge, IBs don’t discriminate a – target – uni by what level of study you do (undergrad/postgrad); unless you go to LSB or Insead where they’d have to for obvious reasons.
          (For any ‘non-targeter’ reading, my sources tell me you’d need a 1st if you don’t plan to do post-grad.)

          But be forewarned, particularly around university reputation in Britain, you’ll get differing opinions. In regards to what makes a good/’top’ uni.

          • Northener says

            Well this transfer could be seen as a step down. In fact, it will definitely will.

            I know its reality but I would hate for my CV to be dinged based on the university I went to consider the experience.

            Even at the target, I networked my ass and I still have those networks. I would just be pissed if some recruiter thought I was bs’ing the SA internship like people who turn a week long internship into a summer one lol.

            I wont lie, the target which provided good links had terrible teaching. Its the same with people who go to LSE. I am yet to hear of an LSE student rave about their professors and teaching.

            For example, Manchester has a great Business school but because it’s not Oxbridge/LSE/UCL etc, you only see 1 or 2 interns in each SA class.

          • Vick says

            Though from my questioning do long as you’re at a top business school, you should be fine. At least, that’s what I’m told.
            They don’t go “he went to LSE, but them Durham… hmmm I’m not sure…”; Durham is quite reputable. And if I recall correctly has similar entry requirements to LSE.

            Which is why you can sort of argue that banks are a tad more lenient with letting ‘targets’ in with a 2.1 and look more favorably at a non-target wit a 1st; the uni (c.f. entry requirements) usually tells you the calibre of the student.

            Looks good for you as you went form one top standard to another top standard, more so if you still maintain a good academic performance!

            Oxbridge/Imperial/UCL/LSE only have networking opportunities within campus over the others. That’s really about it. So there’s no chance you’ll be dinged because of the university you went to.
            Non-targets usually stand a chance if they have financial experience (something those sort of unis don’t even get provided with usually); though ideally they’d need a 1st if they lack the networking benefit.

            Needless to say, I must stress that your university – name, but more importantly grade – is only one part of the application, remember that.
            For example, you’re not going to have an easy time if you get a 2.2 from LSE.
            Further, there is more emphasis on internships/financial experience – work experience.

            If you have good skills like advanced Microsoft Word/Excel/etc skills (and the specific software banks may use), that’s giving yourself another edge.

            Rather than think about the uni name (one compared to another) – something which is unreasonably stressful – think of it as a part of your application.
            Try home in on gaining/improving on other criteria {grades; experience; particular skills and what have you}.


            Also I doubt they’d say you BS’d about the internship, I imagine they’d check it out. If they do then they’d know you’re not.

            I guess another thing to consider is that people from other business schools – such as Manchester – may not choose banking?
            For example, a lot of friends of mine aren’t opting for banking due to it downsizing. Plus traditionally Oxbridge/LSE/UCL etc types traditionally tend to be interested in banking- may possibly explain why they’re more of them.

            So its not necessarily the case that the Manchester guy doesn’t get in because he isn’t a UCL guy, for example.

            As I mentioned before those unis – Oxbridge etc – have the in campus networking factor; you’ve actually got and maintained those networks.

            So long as you have those links, keep using them- keep in touch.
            (Follow the basic networking ‘rule'; this site has some good tips.)

            In all, I’d say you’re good to go.

            Try not to stress about Durham too much, its pretty good.


            About the ‘terrible teaching’ part.
            You could consider that perhaps those sort of universities tend to attract the ‘top’ pupils, they expect them to ‘self-teach’ more?

            For example, I recall a noticeable number of LSE pupils were privately educated. So their teaching experience was probably similar hence their ‘raving’.

            Mind you, this is just my opinion.

          • Vick says

            No problem.

            Brian has an excellent article on age. Though I find its more in with the US; some banks such as the HSBC – perhaps others – explicitly say age has no bearing for them.
            (Though I’d give Brian’s article a look along with other sites such as efinancial careers.)

            I assume you’re fairly young – below 30 – so you’ll be fine.

  7. Ricky says

    I’m in my work year and I’m choosing which targets to apply to next year (my non-target has literally no networking opportunities).

    Would it be better for me to defo go and apply for finance masters or would it be fine if I applied for economic masters?

    Is one preferred over the other?

  8. Chauncey says

    Hey, I’ve got quite an interesting background and still want to try for IB.

    My GCSE record was worse than interviewee; I flunked the first time only getting one grade C. The second time I managed to get ABCCC. Altogether ABCCCC.

    My A levels were also worse than his too.
    AS: ABCC; A levels: ACC. (Altogether leaving me with 320 UCAS points.)

    (I have extraneous circumstances I can mention for the above to prevent filtering.)

    Right now, I’m 19 (20 this year) and on a gap year where I’m doing an AAT (accounting) course and retail related work. Set to go to a non-target (to my knowledge with some alumini in IB), to study an economics degree which is tailored to banking and finance.

    I do intend to do a post-graduate in a target- an MBA if I need to.
    However I’m a little concerned about my pre-degree experience counting against me.

    Especially with the interviewee saying “in London if your applications are not perfect you will not get interviews.”

    Would internships grill me more for my pre-degree experience, or would actual jobs and internships do so?

    Or am I over thinking this?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      You are over thinking it. Try to land an internship in finance first. Network a lot, know how to pitch your story, apply for summer analyst roles and see how it goes

      • Chauncey says

        Thank you!

        Although am I right in thinking that I could get any internship so long as it is in finance – or has a heavy finance role – as opposed to only aiming for IB?

          • Chauncey says

            Sorry about that, I think I might’ve misinterpreted your question: what do you mean by “depends on what you want to achieve”?

          • M&I - Nicole says

            Re your question–Would internships grill me more for my pre-degree experience, or would actual jobs and internships do so?–I think you’re referring to the resume cutoff selection process

            I believe if you don’t meet certain pre-degree grades the banks might cut you off before you get selected for an interview. In your case internships would place more emphasis on that though I’m pretty sure actual jobs will too

            If you want to get into FO, try to land an internship with a boutique/third/second tier bank. Network a lot.

          • Chauncey says

            After recently checking, I found that I do meet the minimum requirements for a lot of internships and my particular mitigating circumstance (pre-degree) does carry a lot of weight.

            Though would I have to place more emphasis on networking at masters level, because the university I’ll be attending this year isn’t a target?

        • Percy says

          Sorry to be a party pooper but most places will only take into consideration your A levels (i.e. AS+A2) when calculating UCAS pts and hence, you have 280pts and not 320.

    • Jay2013 says

      I did AAT as well. What University do you intend to go to?
      Do you have any contact, cos I don’t really have any contacts & I’m looking to get into Equity Research

  9. Sid K says

    I’m in the final year of my B.Com(Accounts major)in India. I’ve applied to targets as well as the likes of Manchester, Edinburgh and ICMA centre Reading for Masters in Finance courses.

    It seems more likely than not that I won’t get any offers from the top 6 and will end up in Manchester/ICMA.

    Considering this,
    and the fact that I’ve had no experience/internships as yet,

    and keeping in mind the new UK visa restrictions which allow only a stay of up to 2 months after graduation from the course which can be extended only with a full time job of >20k GBP salary, –

    Is it possible to land such a job just by networking throughout the academic year coupled with good grades?

    Is it possible to get an analyst position directly without internship, considering my situation (an internship at the end of the course won’t be enough from the 20k pounds POV)

    Which would be more beneficial – Manchester Business School, which attracts a decent number of recruiters itself after the top tier but located, well, in Manchester
    OR ICMA centre which is located in Reading i.e. close to London but may be suffering from too many other top Schools being in the area (or is that a benefit)?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Challenging – back your story up with passion and knowledge of the industry

      Very challenging – try to land yourself an internship

      If MBS attracts decent number of recruiters I’d go for it

  10. James Mckenzie says

    Hi Brian and Nicole,

    Thank you for this great website, My grades were pretty much the same if not slightly better in certain areas in comparison to the user you have just interviewed. 2-3times a week I am out networking at University events. I have two questions.
    1) I have run into a LOT of HR and Graduate Recruiters, some of which have given me a second chance to re-do my application through network building. However I have not met any bankers- How do I go about meeting them, I dont even know where to find them!

    2) Would you be able to disclose the name of the person you interviewed during this interview. I understand the immediate answer to that is a NO. However could you ask them, if they would be open to a few questions that will take 5 minutes of their time?

  11. Rakoff says

    Hi Brian and Nicole,

    Can you give me an idea of how the 2 year FT MBA program at IESE Business School in Barcelona is perceived by ibanks in Europe? Is it considered to be among the elite/target schools for BB’s/boutiques?

    I have indeed looked at their career reports, etc. I am just trying to better understand the school’s brand name in EU.


  12. Mike says

    Jamie – I can tell you with almost absolute certainty and this is based on the experience of over 10 people I know in Ibanks who are the ones sifting resumes.

    1) A level mathematics is extremely important. If you want to do something like vanilla equity sales its still important. Lord help you if you want to go into Fixed Income which is quant heavy.

    2) Everyone wanting to go into banking in London will do economics, finance, business etc and this does not make you interesting amongst 100 resumes. If you combine History/Geography with Mathematics then this helps alot.

    The above are ‘general’ observations I have experienced personally from sifting c.v’s and remains constant with friends I have in Global Markets/IBD at GS, MS, RBC, RBS, HSBC, BoAML etc and so forth.

    Can people stop moaning about the quality of teaching at places like the LSE as well. Like all Universities, it has its problems. Teaching is one of them, yes it is bad, but the fact is the top 5% of students are going to study regardless. Plenty of people do almost no work all year and graduate with 2.1/1st class because none of the work for the year is assessed. So its pretty easy.

    You also benefit from recruiters from ALL the big companies swarming campus during the Michaelmas Term so you’re benefits are going to happen after you leave University. And yes everyone is privately educated, so what, don’t any of you realise wealth/academic merit is extremely positively correlated?

    In terms of A levels. Given the competition you need to be getting AAA+ including A level Mathematics. You will need to be getting a 1st/2.1 to even land an interview. On top of that having some work experience/spring weeks/informal internships that are finance related/F500 company help that most.

    The carve out to all of this is networking ferociously and getting people to give you an opportunity to break in as an intern/junior analyst. Then it will solely come down to the quality of your work.

    There are only 5 target universities from banks – Oxbridge, LSE, UCL, Warwick, Imperial. Then it is a massive gap and its everyone else. Other graduates from other universities even the worst ones such as London Met get in every year but thats if you bust a nut trying to break in.

    • Mac says

      “2) Everyone wanting to go into banking in London will do economics, finance, business etc and this does not make you interesting amongst 100 resumes. If you combine History/Geography with Mathematics then this helps alot. ”

      How many people in finance have degrees that would class them as “interesting” (such as history/geography with maths) compared to those who would do subjects like economics, finance, business- degrees along those lines?

      • M&I - Nicole says

        It really depends. I don’t have a survey so I don’t know. A lot will have background in business though many will also have background in liberal arts, engineering, maths etc

        • Mac says

          I’m curious as I was actually *discouraged* from doing anything that wasn’t business related by someone in the industry who asked several of her colleagues prior discouraging me.

          They mentioned that the overwhelming majority have degrees with a business background. This coincided with another article I read here – “Investment Banking Math”.
          Namely this quote:

          “Yes, there are bankers with liberal arts backgrounds as well but bankers in categories #1 [Business background people] and #2 [quant subject people (engineering etc) who moved to finance] outnumber them [Liberal Arts background people].”

          Even then, with other aspects of the site – and others – I’ve been people been advised to go for anything more related to finance if given the choice.

          The only time I’ve seen (in this site) a liberal art degree being beneficial was in the “Investment Banking Private Equity Recruiter Interview” where the interviewee said the pro of such a background is that you could tell your story well… But I see that as a benefit you can get if you did some Liberal Arts topics as your A-Levels.

          In short: I was questioning the notion of how successful the “interesting degree” people are in getting into finance as if (from what I gather at least) the very noticeable majority have a business background… would it not be a safer bet to go for a business background topic?

          Especially as the degree itself would show your interest in finance?

          • M&I - Nicole says

            Honestly having a finance background/degree helps (a lot), but it isn’t a must. Some people from liberal arts break in. Choose your major based on your strengths and interests. Otherwise you may have a low GPA and this won’t help even if you were to major in finance.

  13. Mike says

    If you want to go where bankers are in London:

    1) Canary Wharf

    2) London Liverpool Street

    3) Bank/Canon Street/St. Pauls

    Mayfair is usually hedge fund land

  14. David says

    “Completed A-Level Mathematics.”

    Does this mean that students that want t o have a career in Europe need more mathematic skills than those who want to start their career in the states?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      What gave you this impression? No I don’t think so but I may be wrong. I think certain areas in finance like structuring may demand stronger quantitative skills than sales.

  15. Mike Vancarter says

    I cannot find any networking events in London! Please suggest ideas where I can find bankers, I know I have to network, but its so difficult, there are no locations or websites that talk about where bankers will meet up, or when? Cant find anything on networking please help

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I haven’t worked in London before but I presume they’d hang out at places around Canary Wharf…..

  16. Mark says

    Great article, but I’m puzzled about something regarding networking. You keep recommending networking everywhere but I feel bad networking with people who are in finance mainly because I feel it’s a bit like using them. Is networking like befriending someone, or less ? What is the appropriate level communication for networking ?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No, networking doesn’t mean you are using people in finance. It means that you are networking and hoping to develop a genuine connection w them while asking them to help you. Also think from the perspective of giving versus taking

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No, online resources are sufficient for you to find the main “switchboard” number of the bank. As long as you know the name of the contact you want to be in touch with you can find his/her name via such resources

  17. Jim says

    Dear All,

    Before I start I just want to express my gratitude for such a useful and informative website! (I have come across a few where commenters simply criticise one other)

    My story…

    A-levels: Economics (A), psychology (A), Geography (A) and English at AS (B).

    University of Birmingham, BSc Economics (first class honours).

    This September….
    University of Cambridge, MPhil in Economics (currently trying to change to MPhil Finance and Economics).

    I understand my A-levels are not in the best subjects, however at the time I was completely unaware of my future desired career path. Having said this my degree has been rather mathematical in nature and I have excelled in quant subjects (econometrics etc..)

    I am extremely interested in Asset Management and would love to land an entry level grad position as an equity research analyst (probably not going to get into IB’s Asset Management as lack internships).

    Unfortunately I didn’t obtain any internships, however did manage to network my way to a week long placement at a boutique investment management firm.

    Please could you offer any advice with regards to career prospects and what I need to do to break-in?

    I also didn’t get involved at University as much as I should and lack the standard ‘treasurer of XX society’ however I am going to try and turn this around at Cambridge.

    Thank you for any help in advance!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Just try to gain finance experience and join an investment club (or something similar) at Cambridge.

      • Jimmy says

        Thank you. I will join the finance and investment club but concerned I won’t be able to get as involved as I’d like given I’m postgrad.. With little time. But experience is really really important… Wish I had realised all this in my first year!
        Will keep updating.

  18. Caroline says


    A quick question regarding A Levels and their importance to banks. I took an exam broadly equivalent to A Level – the benchmark most banks set in the UK is 340 UCAS Points (AAB). Because I took more than three subjects, my grades meet the benchmark in terms of points, according to the UCAS website. However, I only have one A Grade, the majority are B’s and a couple of C’s. Do I still need to list all subjects and their respective grades or would you recommend just listing the points score? While I took more subjects, I am reluctant to list ‘C’ grades on my CV, as it could be a cause for rejection. For reference, I subsequently graduated top of my class in my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees (non-target).

    • M&I - Nicole says

      A levels are important for banks in UK. I believe you should be fine as long as you meet the benchmark (assuming other aspects of your application compensate for your grades). You can choose not list the Cs on your CV though some banks may ask for your grades.

    • Matt says

      As long as you meet the minimum UCAS requirements then you’re good to go.

      Though if A-level results get to you — if you’re certain AAB will boost your chances — then you’re welcome to take an extra A-level in your spare time.
      Unless they state it, they don’t care when you sat the extra A-level, so long as it was your first sitting. In other words, you can fail AS, but defo not A2.

  19. Mike says

    A level grades.

    You are competing with kids with 10A’s at A level. If you are getting below AAA+ then you are not really going to hit the top of the resume pile. Thats how competitive it is in London. Lots of people have an Oxbridge/LSE 1st/2.1, so they’ll look back at A levels and in some cases, the snobbiest employers will look at your school.

    Whether you want to agree/disagree thats fine but you do need to ideally have AAA+ including A level mathematics.

    As for networking, identify where each bank is in London and visit the local bars, you will easily bump into markets people. i.e Goodman Steak House, Coq D’Argent, The Anthologist.

    Think about where people socialise and go where they will go. Also try talk to brokers, they have direct relationships with traders.

    • Pete says

      Are you essentially saying that unless you have all As at A-Level, you’re pretty much out of luck? Or that’s the ‘ideal’ set of qualifications you should have when applying, but you wouldn’t be totally “screwed” without them?

      • Mike says

        There seems to be some confusion let me clarify this

        1) If you do a liberal arts degree it needs to be from a Target Uni in the UK.


        2) If you do a liberal arts degree it would massively boost your chances by doing A level Mathematics and getting an A grade for it. Bonus points if you also do Further Mathematics

        3) If a bank sets a min requirement I can assure you they do not go by this. If they say 2.1 + AAB A levels this will usually mean they want above this. The HR teams and the desks do not have time to debate whether someone is on the borderline or someone is good enough. These places will give your resume 30 seconds and it is literally yes or no.

        4) These days so many kids have a 1st/2.1 + AAA+ and several internships/extra curricular activities and the right “pedigree” behind them. Whether you think this is fair or not is a totally different argument. The industry gets more competitive each year.

        5) Anecdote, the very few friends/colleagues I do have who have not been let go/left the industry have told me something a bit like this:

        “We find it incredibly hard to pick people for interview because all the resumes look the same. You have kids who have sailed around the world and done internships at Blackrock, World Bank & Morgan Stanley applying for a graduate level job. In some cases, we’ve had people interview who are working in HFs part-time during school”

        To stand the best shot you will need:

        1) Excellent High School Grades
        2) Excellent University/Grades
        3) Interesting Extra Curriculars
        4) Solid work experience at Blue Chip firms
        5) Luck (you can get interviews with GS but get rejected by HSBC)

        The carve out to this is obviously if you can meet someone very senior or someone at the mid-level with some clout in the recruitment process. Those are the only candidates I’ve known to bypass the traditional route.

        • Pete says

          So in a nutshell (unless you know someone senior) you more or less have no chance without excellent grades?

          • Mike says

            Pretty much you need to know someone if you do not sparkle on paper. Banking is after all a people’s game.

          • Ian says

            Bro, I’m sure he said “to stand the best shot you will need”. So it means to have the best shot you would need what he listed. He did not say “meet this standard or give up”.

          • Mark says

            With your in-depth (arguably ‘insider’) knowledge am I right in assuming you are currently in, or used to be in, the industry?

  20. Joseph says

    I hope someone can clarify the following.

    I had got ACCc (320 UCAS points) for A-Levels. However with my degree (finance related) I’m on track for a First and doing A-level Math on the side (so far I have an A in the AS level- meaning I now have 380 points). The uni. unfortunately is a non-target.

    Would it be worth improving my ‘C’s into A/A*s (its a matter of literally taking one paper per C). (I did have extraneous circumstances occurring during my A-Levels, should that mean anything.)

    The only worry I have about re-taking said papers is what I’ve heard: apparently only your first sitting counts. Is this true?

    My issue with my search thus far is the contradictory information alongside the lack of it. Contradictory in that every message board I go into (including some comments here, boards like the studentroom and Wikijobs) have their own ideas of what entry requirements demand.

    As for the lack of it: so far I’ve only seen the sites of banks like the HSBC and Barclays lists what their minimum requirements are (340 UCAS points is the most I’ve encountered). Everywhere else its a pain in the backside as it feels impossible to find and just leaves you with a vague “good academic background” which alludes to university performance (examples include banks like Goldman Sachs).

    Finding the switchboard for some of these banks has also been extremely hard – but with little success.

    Or should I forget resitting altogether and focus on getting into a target uni via a Masters programme?

    • Mike says

      @Joseph – You do not have the necessary grades unfortunately. Re-sitting won’t make a difference either. I am sure you have extenuating circumstances but please have some perspective

      1) Banks received >10,000 applications a year, many for front office positions

      2) The pool of people who hit every requirement they like is very high as well

      3) Given point 1 and 2 it is going to be very difficult for a bank to consider you as an applicant

      Just get a 1st class/2.1 and apply for an MSc at a top school. Please be aware that even with an MSc from Oxbridge/LSE et al you may still not land a place.

      In the mean time network quite aggressively and try find internships/grad roles at boutique places.

      I have stipulated grade requirements about 100x on this thread already.

      Banks will want


      2.1/1st class from a TOP university

      Blue chip work experience

      Interesting Extra Curriculars

      After this it is up to you to perform at interview. Please realize this is what they want. If you fall below this cut off point you will need to find another way in to the industry.

      • Joseph says

        Thanks, Mike.

        Though I do have one question regarding A-Levels. If (going by the A-Level standard) if I fall below the A-Level cut off point, why wouldn’t resitting help?

        • Mike says

          Graduate recruitment in the U.K/London is based on first sit A levels. The interviewer (I assume you are talking about proper investment banks not boutiques) will know you re-sat just from the dates on your resume and the background checks will highlight all of this.

          If you go for smaller places they obviously do not check anything.

          • Joseph says

            Thanks again! I was considering carrying on with the maths as it us technically my first sitting (my original ACCc) didn’t include A-Level Maths.

    • Mike says

      If you do not have the grades/uni you will not get past the filters?

      The banks receive 10,000 applications per year. What makes you think if you have below these grades you will get to interview?

      • Marcel says

        I didn’t disagree with you. O.o
        I just said grades are part of the application, not the least important.

        There seems to be a bit of fixation on grades here. They are very important, but you even said yourself (I think) that if you have grades and nothing else… well as I said “only part of the application”.

        • Mike says

          If you have only grades yes you will find it hard to get interviews.

          My point is this you will compete with people with both grades & work experience. Then it becomes a lottery. The smaller firms are a bit more lenient but then guess where all the top candidates will apply as back ups? the smaller places.

          If you do not hit the high standards you must network and do relevant work experience and perhaps doing the accounting exams. People try smirk but those exams are EXTREMELY hard and you’ll find a front office position in a few years with an ACA/CIMA and I know this for fact because lots of people have done it. It is very popular for say ER/IBD but not so much for sales or trading.

          • Marcel says

            Thanks for the insight, I didn’t know about the accounting exams. Though don’t you still need things like high A-Level grades to pull off the accountancy exams-to-front office approach?

            Would you say accounting work experience would count as ‘relevant’ work experience?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Networking works similarly across countries. Of course, you need to take account of the cultural differences. I’d still email and cold call people the way I would if I were in the States. Of course people might be more receptive to you if you have stellar credentials

  21. Larry says

    “Blue chip work experience

    Interesting Extra Curriculars”

    Blue chip exp as in experience from any blue chip, or finance/accounting related firms?

    When you say ‘interesting’, what counts as ‘interesting’? Do you mean extra curriculars which aren’t finance centric?

  22. Frank says

    “Studied something other than economics or finance.”

    This got me thinking. Would it still be a safe bet to do something other than one of these topics (economics/finance) for under/post-grad?

    Does this also apply to those who studied topics other than economics/finance for A-Level?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think your chances of breaking in may be higher if you studied Finance though that is not a guarantee.

  23. AT says


    I am a MSc Finance and Investment student at a non target school in England. I am meeting the recruiting team(including head of ibd recuitment) of an investment bank on Friday. I didn’t achieve my preferred grades during my undergraduate degree and I do have extenuating circumstances for this. I have got the experience of working in a bank(commercial and central), part time job at university, community service and sports.

    I have networked with a few other people from IBD within this bank.

    Any possibility of me securing a first round interview? Please let me know what actions I can take to secure the interview. Or is there no hope?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Network a lot with hiring managers (NOT HR) and convince them to hire you (at least give you a first round)

      • AT says

        If I do manage to convince them to give me a first round. Will I skip be able the numerical and verbal reasoning test? Or should I inform them after I’ve submitted my application?

        Thanks in advance.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          I think they may still ask you to do the numerical and verbal reasoning tests even if you convince them to give you a first round because I believe its the firm’s policy for all their new employees to pass the tests. If you don’t pass the tests, you may not be able get through to first round. I may be wrong though.

  24. Soul Provider says


    I’m a first year undergrad student in London, and met a VP of a bulge bracket at my uni’s careers fair. We spoke casually and I guess I impressed him when I talked about what I wanted to do…so he gave me his card without me asking and told me to drop him an email when I submit my application for spring week. Should I email him before? I should also mention that this guy is from my top choice bank. Thanks so much in advance.

  25. Future CF says

    Hi there,

    I have been following several treads and messages on this site for a few months now. I am a recent MEng Chemical Engineering graduate with a 2.1 and ABB at A levels. Over the past year, i began to learn more about the financial servies industry and i am really passionate about getting into corporate finance or structuring. I do not have any work experience with this field, just internships within an engineering research company and sales company.

    I am currently working at the moment as an account analyst for a small financial services firm but considering applying for an MSc programme in financial engineering 2013/2014. I was wondering if you had any insight on how best to secure a job within this field? Do you think i should pursue the Masters or push hard with networking? I am a little worried mid tier companies or big banks will feel i do not have the experience. I have applied to several mid tier corporate finance companies and big banks but no luck thus far. Any advice?!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d network a lot and apply for a masters too. If you get into a target school, please feel free to post on the comments page again and we can give you more pointers then!

  26. Jay says

    I have a similar situation.
    My grades are:
    Sociology AS Grade B, A-Level Grade C
    English Language and Literature AS Grade D and A-level grade D
    AAT Accounting (160 UCAS Points at A Level – Hihger than A*)
    Altogether I have 300 UCAS Points (BBB)- first Time sitting
    I have an Accounting AAT Full Membership( I am an Accounting Technician)
    I am currently at a top 50% university in the UK(Non-Target) studying Economics currently getting a 2.1. In my 1st year.

    How do I network to get into Equity Research?
    I feel insecure because the profile of Equity researchers are very different from mine.

    I know a few people at Citi Group and a GS Executive D. Risk Mngmnt.

    I am currently applying for a Spring progam 1 week which could potentially lead to SA. (Citi, Nomura, BNP, UBS)

    What are my chances of getting in with this sort of profile?
    I need your help please and opinion!

  27. Gordon says

    Can any London people (or anyone who knows about how it works in London) add some perspective to this, as that’s my ideal target (though if you can some perspective on other parts of England will be okay too)…

    I’m in first year in a very quantitative degree, with my A-Levels all being very qualitative. I’m 20 if that means anything.

    I may defer a year for legitimate personal reasons (will this disadvantage my application?), if I do this then I may use part of the year off to get A-Level Maths (I heard that’s a big requirement, even the article and some comments here support that).

    Though I’m unsure if getting it at this age will help my chances, so I need some perspective on that too. I may even get it a year after I graduate if needed, though I hoped to use that to prepare for a GMAT test as unis like LSE demand you apply for their MSc programmes with it otherwise its auto-rejection.

    So really in short I’m wondering if my year off and the age I may get A-Level Math will disadvantage me.

    • says

      I am not based in London, but I think the A-Level Math could only help you… the year off may be a bit of a disadvantage but it depends on how you spin it. If you can spin it into sounding like something productive, it could actually work in your favor.

        • Gordon says

          Ah, it just came to me! “Depending on how [I] spin it”.
          From IBs’ point of view would a year of personal reasons (that I don’t want to make public) count if I took A-Level Math and temped with various finance/accounting firms count as productive?

          As a means to show my interest? Though I could remove the mitigating circumstance bit to make it sound like I wanted to get a feel of the environment any way I could before I resumed my studies?

          Any pointers if I’m going at it all wrong?

          Thanks in advance!

  28. Shane says

    Anyone who knows about the recruitment process in London: would my first year results be a factor which determines if a bank takes me or not?

    This is mainly for internship programmes, I’m thinking about.

  29. Patrick says

    Hi, I’m just finishing the first year of university.

    I got one of my module grades. Three of my four modules are expected to be firsts or 2:1s, however this one module is a 2:2… .

    Will this one module be a hindrance or does the overall grade count more than individual module grades?

  30. Ali says

    It’s really good to see the way this website is helping people with their professional lives. I need some advice too, please. Do O-levels/GCSEs count in the recruitment process with the bulge bracket firms? Also, how does a Bsc. in Actuarial science, Business Mathematics or Statistics degree from a target school like LSE weigh against the traditional Eco,IR, Accounting & Finance etc. degrees? What should a first year Uni student in London do to gain a head-start/know-how about the finance game?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Thanks for visiting. I believe they may count for more UK-based firms, I’m not sure about the ones in the States. Your degree is fine. I don’t think the degree matters as much as the rest of your application. It would help if you have taken some accounting/finance courses. I’d network a lot, and read as much as you can about finance – our site is a great resource!

      • Ali says

        Yes, I see your site has a lot of valuable detail. Keep up the good work! You talk about the rest of the application, what else is important? Would it be possible to land an internship in London as a first year student at a target school? If so, then at which tier firm? More importantly, do you recommend it? Or would it be wiser to concentrate on studies and socializing? I have heard IB is a rigorous uphill journey, getting into a good uni is just the start.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Thanks your comment. Rest of the application – your essays (firm’s application), grades, relevant work experience, interviewing skills.

          Probably not because not many banks take first years. I think its wiser to concentrate on studies and socializing. Yes, getting into IB is a rigorous uphill journey!

  31. James says

    Hi, Thank-you for sharing this article.

    My current situation is that I have BCC at A-levels and a first class finance degree at a non-target uni. I have built up a years financial services exp at a IFA.

    I am due to start a masters in finance at St. Andrews but am looking to network a lot between now and September. Do you know of any sites that advertise networking events in London as I haven’t had much luck in finding any upcoming events held before Oct; And these tend to be career fairs which are very close to application deadlines.

    Also what are my prospects + best steps for breaking into a boutique bank? I participated in several EC’s and have held various committee leadership positions at uni.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I don’t think people would publicly advertise IB events to be honest. Most events like these are pretty exclusive. Its also the summer time now so most bankers/financiers will probably be on vacation. I’m not surprised that events aren’t till Sept. You chances can be increased if you went to a target school and gain experience in finance because you’ll be competing with people who have IB experience and are from target universities. The EC is good, but you’ll need more than that to stand out.

  32. Batu says


    I am an applied math major in Johns Hopkins University. I am also minoring in Econ and Entrepreneurship&Management. My GPA is 3.7. Next year I will be doing the LSE-General Course, mostly to enhance my employment chances in London since I want to start my career there. I am doing a summer internship in Istanbul, in Corporate finance dep. of Deloitte.

    My question is, does this background make me a strong candidate for a summer analyst internship in London? Or since I am a Turkish citizen and not coming from a UK institution, would this hinder my chances of landing an IB internship over there?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes your background helps though you will be competing against people who have had IB experience in London before. Not having a UK work permit may affect your chances

      • Batu says

        Yet I know that my Tier 4 visa would work as a work permit during my internship. That should not be much of a problem.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Cool, then I wouldn’t worry too much about your work permit for your internship then. However, you’ll still be competing against people who have had IB experience before so you’ll have to demonstrate your passion and knowledge in finance to stand out.

  33. Denise says

    I’ve been reading your blog and I really appreciate all of the valuable information you have to offer.
    I am wondering if I even have a shot at an investment banking job. Ideally I would like to focus on healthcare investment banking.
    I have a 4 year degree in Biology and currently work as project manager in a health company. I have about 5.5 years of professional experience and will be receiving my MBA next year (but may delay one year as a poster had mentioned). I am a part-time MBA student from a local college (partially employer sponsored).
    My thoughts are that I should start networking and then plan to make a trip to San Francisco if I am able to make good leads. I would be quite happy to join a lesser known firm. We have done several acquisitions at my current company and I really enjoy analyzing these transactions. This is what really got me interested in investment banking.
    I just want to make sure I am on the right track here.
    Thank you for your feedback

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes, start networking and make a few good leads first. Once you do that, take a trip to SF. I think you’ll have to demonstrate some sort of finance/valuation knowledge and experience, and be able to articulate why you want to move from biology to healthcare IB.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Again it depends on your team so I can’t say. You can say that most Europeans are generally more relaxed and like to enjoy life (and take vacations) vs. corporate culture in America. However, this is a generalization so it depends on your team

  34. Malcom says

    I know in the US you can generally work as an analyst for 3-4 years then take 2 years off to go to Business School. Then come back as an associate, or go into something like PE/HF/S&T etc…

    Does the same rule apply in London?

  35. Daniel says

    I am a sophomore majoring in Finance and Computer Science at “Washington University in St. Louis” in the US. Couple weeks ago, I received a newsletter from Brian with a recommendation to apply for the UCL Finance Conference, which he described as a good opportunity to land internships. I took the chance, and to my surprise, was given an invitation to attend on January 24.

    However, I currently have a couple concerns about attending this conference:

    1) I am a sophomore at a school that is considered top tier in the US but internationally lacking name value. Keeping in mind that the primary reason for attending this conference would be to land a summer internship, I was wondering if my current status as a sophomore would hurt my chance of landing an internship this summer. Could I ask you for your opinion and thoughts on my chance of landing an internship?

    2) Unfortunately for me, another reason that makes me hesitant about attending the conference is my tight budget. I’m working part-time throughout the school year and am living check by check to pay for my off-campus rent. Though I really want to attend the conference, realistically speaking, it would make sense for me to go if there is a good chance that the experience would lead to an internship. So based on your answer to my first question, I was wondering if you would still recommend me to go to the conference.

    I know you are very busy, and appreciate any help you can give me about these issues. Thank you so much in advance.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes most established firms take juniors as interns so you may want to focus on smaller firms. I think attending the conference is useful but not necessarily. If you can’t afford the event, I may focus on networking online via LinkedIn instead.

  36. Max says

    Some banks are telling me to list my top 3 A-Levels for the application process. However I don’t get some places because I’m short by some points.

    Would it be worth sitting an A-Level (Maths) to improve my chances? (Should I get a high grade, that would count as one of my top three A-Levels.)

    I speak more in perspective of graduate placements.

  37. Naman Goel says

    hey M&I,
    I have been asking around a lot with this question in mind, but havent found an answer from a credible source. I hope you can help me out with this.
    I am a student from India. I have recently been offered a place at LSE for MSc in Accounting & Finance for 2014/15. I am also pursuing CFA, and will have completed level 2 before joining LSE. My intention is to work in the UK after completing my MSc, but I hear that its “almost” impossible for international students to get employed there. I am looking for either a core finance job preferably at an IB, or at the big 4.
    I do not have any prior work ex. I completed my bachelors in July 2013. Can you please give me some insights into my possibilities given the current job market AND the reluctance to employ international students??
    I’d be really greatful.
    Thank you.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      in your case, yes it can be difficult because you don’t have the relevant experience and you need a sponsorship.

      However, you’d still have a chance if you network intensively and have a rock solid pitch. I’d rely on your alumni network and start early. Worst case scenario, you’d still be likely to get a good role at an international firm in India (because connections in LSE may be able to help you get jobs around the world, if visa sponsorship is an issue)

  38. John says

    From my research I meet all the criteria for grad requirements. From work experience to uni grades to even his therell well I can pitch my “story”.

    Alas (like some of the comments here) my A-Levels are a bit short off the mark.

    Now I know some people were definitely not talking from experience with grades seeing as everyone KNOWLEDGABLE and UPDATED with the financial sector tells me that as far as A-Levels are concerned: first sitting = first attempt at that particular A-Level.
    That is you circumvent the system if you do something like this (pre graduation/masters).

    Now that is out of the way, my question: is it worth sitting a separate a-level (while working in the most relevant role I can land, of course) prior doing a finance masters in a target?

    The way I see it. There is absolutely no point of me networking in an age where regulation is prominent nor is there a point for me going to a target for post grad IF I’m going to be filtered out over my a-levels.

    I understand applying for a role via networking or as you would like a non grad position is a viable alternative. BUT that’s a more longer term plan.

    I.E. is it worth sitting an extra a-level (a quant heavy one) as a means to secure grad schemes?

    • Harris says

      One of the best ways to break in the industry is via internships/placements that are relevant/interesting.
      If you are dead set on landing internships (IMO networking in your case will not land you internships) I would suggest that you sit the A-Level. Like you said, it will be your first sitting of that A-Level.

      Some banks don’t even look at your degree if you meet the minimum requirements. They probably just look at your A-Levels and other aspects of the application to see if you can be filtered out.
      Sadly even the best talent would be out if they don’t meet the mark, the A-Level mark for example.

      You’ve got 2nd tier banks like Rothschild who want 340 UCAS points which is at least AAB. Often times they’ll take your best three first sitting A-Levels. The A* grade is plausibly considered, I imagine.

      If your grades are like ABC (about 300 points IIRC), or lower (like ACC, or BCD etc) then I might recommend probably sitting Math and another (Further Math, or Pure Math, even both if you have time). If and only if you never sat the A-Level(s) before (it needs to be your first sitting).

      Personally if you’re planning to take time off prior going to a target masters, then you might as well get some work experience (as relevant as you can). You could do the A-Level and work exp if your degree was very quant based (so 90% of the stuff will be easy and you can spend time doing productive things like networking).

      Don’t make it look like you just study all the time, as that large arguably unproductive gap could say a lot about you as a candidate.

      NB: I’m assuming they will not count your AS level grades, which some may do. However they may very well do, but you probably want to cover yourself.

      I assume you have a lot of time (any reader is free to agree or disagree with what I’ve typed), as such you need to carefully consider if your time is well spent meeting the A-Level requirement or trying to get in the industry WITHOUT internships.

      Neither way is necessarily ‘right’, there are several avenues to break in.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Some people may think this is a good idea. I am not 100% sure but if you have the time and confidence to ace the exam yes you can do that.

      • John says

        Thank you, Harris and Nicole!

        I just keep hearing that the banks WILL NOT budge with their UCAS requirement. So no matter how I hack it, I’ll need to do said A-Level/s anyway to circumvent the system. Besides the person in the interview in this blog was right: they want someone whose completed Maths. Some grad schemes explicitly ask for a UCAS requirement INCLUDING an A-Level in Maths at grade B (some even want grade A!).

        My quantitative skills have become very strong during my degree and will be even stronger during the final year of university (my work placement further strengthened it). Looking at the math specs, I can pretty much do 95% of them without worrying too much, so I reckon I’ve got time for a mere 5%.
        So IMO the time and confidence factors are defo sorted.

        However taking your advice on board, I’ll use that year to network/get some relevant work too.

        Thanks again!

        • W says

          Very interesting question. To be frankly honest, I am not entirely sure. However, and please correct me if I am wrong, I assumed banks look at your first sitting AND at the same time? i.e. when everyone sits their 3 A levels in ONE go i.e. at the end of A2. This is the case for a couple of the Big 4.

          Good luck and I would be very interested to learn if this is the case or not!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      UCL is decent. I’d say LSE is probably more prominent, but again this is just my perception and I may be wrong.

      • John says

        Thanks for your comment Nicole. Just to be clear, this is a distance learning degree awarded by the University of London but with the syllabus and exams set by the LSE. Is this likely to have any value to the banks?

  39. Jenny says

    Hi, I’m a overseas student studying in LSE right now. My A lvl grades are AAACD. A is actually the highest grade for the A lvl in my country and these set of grades got me to LSE since LSE ask for 3As. I’m wondering if my A lvl results are good enough for internship? Will the grade C and D hurt my application? I’m thinking Id these grades are good enough for LSE, it should be decent for internship? Can someone enlighten me please. Thanks

      • Jenny says

        Do you think I have a shot with my grades listed above? I’m actually in the process of applying spring program to Morgan, Goldman, JP and DB. I read that most BB ask for 3As and I qualify In this aspect. Do you think this makes me a strong candidate? If possible, can you list your email so that I can email a few queries? Thank you

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Yes I think you should be fine. In terms of your competitive positioning, it depends on your work experience.

          If you can please list your queries on this comments forum, this maybe more effective and other readers can also benefit from your questions.

          • Jenny says

            I was the track and field captain back in high school and joined the country flying club(yes, I have a student pilot license). Work experience: I intern at the ministry of trade and industry in my county and did high level economics research work. Also intern at another government ministry to do new trade policy.

          • M&I - Nicole says

            In that case, I’d suggest you to get some experience in finance first. Perhaps an internship at a boutique bank may help you.

        • W says

          Jenny, I am not really sure where to start..Can you seriously be asking whether you have a shot at an IB spring program with an LSE bachelors degree on your CV? It’s a good thing LSE don’t interview applicants…Your question doesn’t even merit a response however, as an alumnus I am willing to offer some advice. Long answer short, don’t write down your C and D grades on your CV. Secondly, do your research. Lastly, you don’t need prior work experience.

          I have to ask, do you even know why you want to do a spring program? It seems to me that you’ve clearly panicked and jumped onto the LSE bandwagon…

          Also, this is clearly not the correct thread to post on. You have achieved high grades, you do attend a target school and you obviously won’t need to do much networking.

  40. R says

    hi guys, I am a economics graduate from a top 5 uni who is trying to get into trading/investment management. During my final year @ uni I found out I was dyslexic and as a result graduated with a 2:2. I have been able to land a few interview in accounting and finance, but I really am struggling to get into trading as well as investment management grad programmes. What should I do? I have done internships at UBS and Barclays, although these were insight programmes.

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