Investment Banking: Pakistan Edition

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Investment Banking PakistanOK, I’ll admit it upfront: while this site has featured lots of interviews from readers in “hot” emerging markets such as China and India, I haven’t gotten too many requests for Pakistan.

But this is such a good interview and has such specific information that I wanted to publish it anyway.

Plus, the interviewee has been a long-time reader of M&I and captured the personality of the site very well. So let’s get started and learn all about banking, PE, recruiting, and the lifestyle in an emerging market that might be completely off your radar.

Introductions

Q: Can you tell us about your background?

A: I play the drums. I love buffalo wings with sour cream and ginger ale. I love stargazing. I’m a huge Tolkien fan. I find jazz very relaxing. I just discovered a hidden passion for photography and hopefully I’ll be traveling to Iceland in a few months after I buy a Canon DSLR.

I was born in Abu Dhabi and raised in Dubai. My father retired from his marketing job and we moved to Islamabad (Pakistan’s capital), where I completed high school and undergrad. I was a very distracted student during my O/A Levels because I really didn’t know why I was studying and what I wanted to do, so I definitely lacked direction for a time.

But during the first year of my undergraduate, I got really interested in corporate finance and M&A – so I actually performed decently and did much better than in high school.

After graduating, I networked my way into an investment banking analyst position at a bulge bracket bank in Karachi (Pakistan’s finance capital), and then I moved into private equity in the same city.

Q: Most Westerners know very little about Pakistan aside from what’s reported (accurately or inaccurately) in the news. What is the country really like, and how is the finance industry there different? Are the rumors of economic collapse / bankruptcy true?

A: A recent Newsweek cover described Pakistan as “The World’s Bravest Nation” – after describing it 3 years earlier as “The World’s Most Dangerous Nation.” I know the general perception is that it’s a country filled with corruption, religious fundamentalism, and no roads or women.

There is an element of truth to those claims, but for the most part we’re just regular people and most of what you read about in the news corresponds to a very small part of the country.

So don’t believe everything you read about the claims above (especially the part on roads and women) or the frequent accusations of terrorism – there are isolated extremists here but they are not representative of Pakistan at large.

Economically, we were always an underdeveloped country due to corruption from previous governments – but during Musharraf’s 10-year rule we were elevated to “developing country”status. Since that time the rulers have been questionable, so the progress has been disappointing since then.

The rumors of economic collapse are untrue. We’re not in the best shape right now, but we’re far from bankruptcy – the US and its allies also have too much of a stake in the country to let a bankruptcy happen. And we’re part of an IMF program that has pledged billions to us over the next 3-4 years.

Overall finance is still very much in a growth phase here, and private equity is at a nascent stage; Islamic finance is developing rapidly and corporate finance is also thriving. Hedge funds don’t exist yet, but many banks do have investment banking divisions and a handful of research and brokerage houses here offer investment banking and related services.

Q: What’s different about recruiting there? Do they prefer certain backgrounds or certifications?

A: The recruiting process for both IB and PE is highly unstructured.

Unlike the US or Europe where certain “paths” are preferred, here you can transition from almost any finance-related field into IB or PE.

I know people who have gotten into investment banking from industry, management consulting, and research, and people who have gotten into PE from Transaction Advisory Services, research, middle office trading support roles, and corporate banking.

Local banks here have a tendency to hire accountants and research analysts – and just like other regions such as India and South Africa, they love the CFA.

My VP (from the US) would always tell this analyst at my bank that the CFA was completely useless in banking, but in Pakistan people have been conditioned into believing that a CFA + an accounting degree is the key to achieving unprecedented glory.

Wheeling & Dealing

Q: You were at a bulge bracket bank there – do the other global bulge bracket banks have presences in Pakistan, or are local firms more common?

A: It’s a mix of both. JP Morgan has been here since the early 90’s, Citi even earlier than that, and Credit Suisse has been here since 2008. UBS and BoAML operate through local affiliates, but aren’t officially here.

Even though they’re bulge bracket banks, they usually work on deals worth around $100 million USD – sizable for here but small by US standards.

M&I Note: Middle market banks in the US would do deals of this size; most bulge brackets focus on $500M+ or $1B+ deals, though they do occasionally go lower depending on the market.

Since that’s “the bar” for bulge bracket banks, smaller, local firms – called “investment houses” – advise on deals worth less than $100 million USD.

They offer everything from research to mutual funds to M&A advisory and capital raising. Two of the largest investment houses also have consumer and corporate banking divisions that they use for syndications.

Pure-play boutique investment banks are still very rare here – off the top of my head I know of just one firm that offers only M&A advisory and restructuring services to clients.

Q: What types of deals and companies are most common in Pakistan?

A: The breakout for deal types is something like this:

  • Debt Financing: 70%
  • IPOs: 15%
  • M&A: 10%
  • Restructuring: 5%

M&A is most common in the banking and telecom sectors. Here’s a table of M&A activity from 2002 – 2010 that I’ve been updating from time to time:

Pakistan M&A 2002-2010

M&A in Pakistan rarely takes place to create value – this consolidation in the banking sector is driven by regulatory requirements (specifically higher capital adequacy requirements).

The actual rationale for M&A activity would be more interesting to look at – in my opinion it’s something like the following:

  • Regulatory: 65%
  • Gain Market Share: 20%
  • Divesting Operations or Exiting from Pakistan: 10%
  • Private Equity Investment: 5%
  • Value Creation: 0%

The government also has a massive privatization program in place (the numbers above exclude this, by the way) and so all the bulge brackets submit RFPs (Requests for Proposals) to the Privatization Commission for each deal.

Even some banks like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and UBS that don’t have a direct presence in Pakistan will fly in, submit their RFPs, pitch, and fly out – they’re known as “parachute bankers.”

Some local firms also work on these privatization transactions, while the bulge bracket banks focus more on attracting institutional investors via road shows or finding international buyers for assets that the government is divesting.

Here are lists of completed and upcoming privatization transactions in Pakistan:

Got Networking?

Q: You mentioned how you networked into investment banking and then into private equity – how is it different in Pakistan? Do informational interviews and cold calls still work?

A: Right, so just to give you a brief overview first of how I networked my way in:

I went to a non-target school, but I did have 5 internships and decent extracurricular activities, as well as the resume template on your site. And I knew a lot about investment banking and private equity and kept up with global M&A deals and private equity activity via the NY Times Dealbook site.

A year before my graduation, I cold-called the bulge bracket bank I worked at – they’re known for only hiring summer interns from top US and UK schools, so it was a bold move.

A man picked up and I asked to speak to someone regarding summer internship opportunities in investment banking – the guy replied with, “I’m the guy” and he turned out to be my future VP.

I asked about the recruiting process for summer internships and he said they had already gotten started with interviews – but to email my resume anyway so he could send it to the team.

I did that, and about an hour later he replied and said, “When will you be able to join us for an internship?”

Q: Wait a minute, so you actually got an internship just by cold-calling a bulge bracket and asking for one?

A: Far from it, though that’s what I actually thought at the time – I didn’t even get an interview. I think he was just asking that to see when I would be free for an internship rather than actually giving me one on the spot.

He said they really liked my resume but were looking for a winter intern, which didn’t work for me timing-wise due to classes.

Over the next 5-6 months, I stayed in touch, emailed him on his birthday a la Bud Fox, added him on LinkedIn, and even sent the occasional random link.

Q: So you actually pinged him consistently – that’s interesting because I usually tell readers NOT to worry about constantly staying in touch and to focus more on making a good first impression and then asking for what they want when the time comes.

A: Right – you do have to be subtle if you want to take this approach. I didn’t want to give the impression that I was stalking him or wanted to be his best friend.

I did this more because I had an uphill battle given my school and background, and because there just aren’t as many banks in Pakistan – so it’s not like the US where you could easily go through hundreds or thousands of contacts to find the most helpful bankers.

Q: So what was the final outcome here?

A: In May I called him again, sent him my updated resume and “reiterated my interest” for an investment banking analyst position.

Despite being up against 100+ candidates from target schools, I was interviewed and offered the position.

What worked in my favor?

  1. I was myself and had the ability to laugh at myself – I didn’t act like some super-genius with perfect grades who claimed to know everything about finance.
  2. I had a burning desire to get into investment banking – I read everything and anything related to banking that I could find and this came across with how much I knew about the industry vs. the other candidates.

Q: What about your move into private equity? Did you go through a headhunter there or was that also networking?

A: Networking, once again. I cold-called my current PE firm’s Dubai office and spoke to a Partner there – we chatted about how Dubai has changed over the years and about the Middle East PE market in general.

I sent my resume, he forwarded it to the Partner in Karachi, and I interviewed a couple times and was offered the position.

M&I Note: This may seem ridiculous, but keep in mind that in certain parts of the world they are looking for very specific people and recruiting is less structured. It would be tough to pull off the scenario above in the US, but the same is not true in emerging markets.

Q: So it sounds like overall, the standard networking strategies still work and may even work better since recruiting is so unstructured in Pakistan.

You mentioned before how knowing so much about investment banking gave you a big advantage – but doesn’t everyone coming out of target schools there know the industry quite well?

A: No! A lot of students from top schools have absolutely no idea what investment banking or private equity are.

I’ve interviewed candidates from top schools here and this is how interviews often go:

  • Me: What do you think investment bankers do?
  • Interviewee: They make investments so that you get higher returns.
  • Me: Higher returns… um, ok, and why do you want to get into investment banking?
  • Interviewee: I’ve heard really good things about investment banking and [Interviewee inserts objective from his/her resume and “pitches” it] and how much I can learn there and bring my skills to the organization.
  • Me: Right, we’ll let you know.

One time I had a PE candidate try to convince me that he was a “private equity investor” because he invested in the stock market.

I’ve come across only one candidate who made a convincing argument for why he/she should work in investment banking or private equity. And I’ve met hardly anyone else who has networked his/her way into IB or PE here like I did.

But as you can see from my story, it’s definitely possible – if you’re hungry and motivated, you can do pretty much anything.

Private Iniquity, Pay, and Exit Opps

Q: Not to sound like those annoying kids in Harold & Kumar, but what’s it like working for a PE firm there? What types of companies do you invest in, and is your job more about sourcing or execution?

A: Work is very unpredictable, which makes the hours unpredictable as well. I’ve pulled all-nighters, and I’ve found that there is a massive cultural difference / work ethic difference between local firms and international firms.

PE firms here do not focus on specific sectors – they’ll invest in anything from green/brownfield projects to mature companies and even distressed assets.

LBOs are highly uncommon here and so most of these investments are minority stake acquisitions instead.

Work is a function of sourcing and execution – I’d say I spend 20% of my time on sourcing (looking for new investments) and 80% on execution (doing due diligence, modeling for investments, and coordinating our team).

Q: As with other emerging markets, I’m assuming that salaries and bonuses are lower on an absolute scale but higher on a relative basis if you take into account the cost of living – is that accurate?

A: Yes, definitely true. In a good year, an analyst at a local firm can make 10 to 15 times his monthly pay with his bonus (around 80% to 125% of his annual pay).

In average years an analyst’s bonus might be around 50% of his annual pay – which is quite a lot of money in Pakistan.

Q: And are your co-workers all from Pakistan or are you starting to see immigrants there as well?

A: Right now there are hardly any immigrants – it’s 99.9% Pakistani co-workers.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: I’m planning to attend business school in 2 years, ideally at Wharton. I do want to stay in PE, and post-MBA I’d want to go to a larger firm in the US and work there for a few years before returning to the Middle East or Pakistan. If all goes well, I might start my own buyout fund here one day.

I also want to take up stellar and extragalactic astronomy – it has always fascinated me. And if I have enough capital, I want to start a theme-based restaurant at some point.

Or I could just take the CFA…

Q: Please, don’t.

A: Yeah, I think my own restaurant would be more fun anyway.

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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54 Comments to “Investment Banking: Pakistan Edition”

Comments

  1. Ashwin Kharel says

    Interesting interview, I should say; tacit and informative. No wonder he is a banker. Me myself having come from a country nearby Pakistan (it’s Nepal, by the way) I can certainly relate myself to certain working conditions and the general ambiance of the society, however, the presence of some bulge bracket bank in Pakistan is a far cry from my country’s standard of financial sector. Having suffered from internal war for the so called Maoist movement and given the incompetence and impotency of the consequent coalition government, its a bleak future we are heading to.

    You might be wondering why am I attempting to write the history of Nepal in this response column. The thing is, now I am in Japan, actually have been here for the last 7 years, and will be starting working in a Japanese Investment Bank from next year. I have been following your blog for around one year or so and have to admit that I find it very helpful and
    informative. And your recent covering of the emerging market is quite helpful given the chances of getting transferred to India in the near future is quite high. Personally prefer Singapore to India but I don’t really mind either.

    On a different note,
    I am (or one of the) the person who replied to your Asian rendezvous twit expressing the desire to meet you in person somewhere over here in Tokyo. So, if you have any plans of dropping by Tokyo and if the only way you are killing your time is by changing tv channels then please let me know.

    • says

      Glad to hear it and interesting to hear about Nepal. I will let you know or post something on Twitter if I make it to Tokyo – plans are shifting around a bit but I should know soon.

  2. J says

    Do you think it would be possible to get into PE right out of undergrad/non-MBA Masters without banking experience in one of the emerging markets.

    Thanks.

  3. Clark says

    Excellent article, it was a very interesting perspective. I never knew that investment banking in Pakistan was that competitive. So the Pakistani BB’s have “100+ candidates from target schools” interviewing?

    • says

      Apparently, yes. Though as the interviewee pointed out, the quality of the candidates is below what you would find in the US or Europe because finance is so new there.

      • Muzammel Naeem says

        I would not second your opinion. Not because I want to support my country but because that’s completely false. Most of the banking functions in Pakistan are much more advanced and sophisticated as compared to the middle east and UAE. But since Pakistan is a developing country it does need to broaden its horizon when talking about financial markets, instruments etc.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Thanks for your input. This interview is based on our reader/interviewer’s input. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree.

  4. Leonardo says

    Congratulations on your very enlightening website
    I’m brazilian and also very interested in working in investment banking, and since you publishes so much on emerging markets, I’d like to know if it’s possible for you to publishes some information about IB in Brazil.
    Thanks

    • says

      I would love to do something on Brazil but unfortunately no one has volunteered yet. If someone from there can help out we can publish something on Brazil.

      • Leonardo says

        I’d be happy to do it. But first I got to break in!

        I’m attending business at a considered top business school. But I’m seeking an internship in IB right now, so I guess it wouldn’t help so much because you’re more focused on analyst level.

        • says

          If you can get an internship set up and work there for a couple months we can do something – I’ve had a few people before with only internship experience. Thanks for the offer.

          • Leonardo says

            I broke in! M&I helped a lot, thank you for this. In a couple of months we can do something about IB in Brazil if you’re still interested.
            Thanks again

  5. Faiz says

    Interesting article I came across that speaks directly to VC in Pakistan and it’s relation to alleviating the country’s economic woes. http://venturebeat.com/2010/11/16/pakistan-venture-capital/

    Would you recommend taking the opportunity to work at a BB IBD in Pakistan right out of college if given the opportunity?

    I was born/raised in the US (I’m of Pakistani descent) and am in my junior year of engineering at a non-target. Could you provide this gentleman’s contact info? I may be in the area over winter, and it would be great to meet up with him.

    • Muhammad says

      I would also like to know if the interviewee would be willing to give out his contact information so I could ask him some questions. I was born in Pakistan and grew up in the US, but had never considered IB options in my home country.
      This is really interesting. Thanks for the article!

    • says

      If you have the opportunity it might be interesting but I would still not recommend it over working at a BB in the US or UK because the deals are far less complex there. I’ll ask about contact information but the interviewee is extremely busy right now and I don’t like to ask too much of anyone who volunteers.

  6. Prospective banker says

    Excellent piece of work! First of all, I would like to congratulate you for this great article! I have been following your website ever since I finished business school in the UK at a non-target and I must say this website has been very helpful in educating about the domain of investment banking. Specifically this particular article, which addresses the IB market in my country, where M&A is far from a developed segment in the IB space, is a great endeavour!

    Since graduation, I have taken up an equity research analyst position back home in karachi (the local finance capital), which gives you good modelling/presentation experience and usually does help transit to an IB role here. Hope I land myself into a respectable M&A role, when the market picks up and the deals start coming in.

    I will agree with the interviewee’s remarks over the obsession with the CFA and accountants over here. Also, there are fewer places that give you hardcore M&A experience, hence competition for those places remains intense, while big banks do a bit of everything, but deals are largely debt financing related.

    I would like to reiterate the request for the interviewee’s contact information, if possible, so I can discuss with him some queries.

    Thanks again for this great effort!

  7. AKF says

    Great piece of work! Following M&I since a while and love it. I must admit, Investment Banking: Pakistan Edition was the last thing I was expecting when I logged on today. I came back from the States a couple of years ago and am doing IB in Pakistan. I would love to get in contact with your interviewee if he is willing to talk. So please try to convince him. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  8. khan says

    Great post and information. Were you able to get the contact information for this poster? I also grew up in the US and was considering moving back to the area if I could secure a job…

  9. suhaib says

    can you find out what the salaries are like for investment banking in pakistan, and what a graduate from the uk can earn there and how can he find a place.

    thanks

    • says

      The interviewee did not want to give specific numbers, but on an absolute dollar basis they are less than NYC/London but still probably 50x (or more) the average income of someone in Pakistan.

      • suhaib says

        ok thanks for the reply, but he says in the interview jp morgan, credit suiss, and others operate their, however there is no website for them in pakistan, how do they hire?

        i have been trying to apply to IB there but found no ways.

        • says

          I’m not sure about that, they might just not have sites there. You may want to call their UK line or another office in the region (e.g. Dubai) and see if they can point you in the right direction.

  10. Umair Khan says

    WOW, i was blown away by this piece. being an expat pakistani whos finishing his undergrad (non target school) in canada, i always wanted to do something in Pakistan. Didnt know M&A was so popular in pakistan.

    i would love to spend a couple of years in the emerging markets and have a chat with your interviewee, i would appreciate any contact info.

    • says

      Thanks for your interest – I can ask the interviewee but this took place quite awhile ago and due to privacy concerns and time constraints he may not be able to respond.

  11. Obaid says

    Woah, I am seriously blown away by this. Its the last thing I would have expected on this site. I am currently pursuing an undergrad degree within Finance at a target school in Germany, and lately I have been considering about the possibility of moving back to my home country, Pakistan. But I literally don’t know any one who is involved in the IB scene back home so this article has definitely been an icebreaker. Once again thank you so much M&I for this insightful post.

  12. Ali says

    I’ve been working in equity research for about a year in Toronto, Canada. I’m originally from Pakistan and have been contemplating returning back for a while now. I was completely unaware of opportunities in IB in Pakistan and was hoping M&I could help me connect with the person who volunteered answers for this article. Please let me know if this would be a possibility! Thanks!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      It is challenging for us to connect interviewees with readers because interviewees like to remain anonymous most of the time. Perhaps you can raise your questions here on this board.

      • Ali says

        Thanks for the response Nicole. If I just had a few questions, I would certainly do so. But I’ve been out of the country for several years now and was looking to have more of a conversation with the interviewee. Is it possible to check with the interviewee if he/she would be open to that? I would understand if someone in the US/Canadian market would be unwilling to share contact information over the internet since said person would probably be flooded with emails, but Pakistan, I would assume not? Please do let me know if what I have requested is a possibility

  13. Zee says

    Interesting interview. I lived and worked in Pakistan as an equity analyst for 5 years before moving to the US. Currently I am in the investment management side. Anyways although to each his/her own but I am offended by the CFA comments. LOL. It is a lot of hardwork. And I am in investment management in one of the top 5 banks in the US, CFA has its perks. But then again you are right about directly in Banking, guess it is not.
    The comment about “what is investment banking all about..?” I have come across that answer a zillion times, and I come from a target school in Pakistan. trust me when I say, I have heard that answer from my fellow classmates and all.
    If you want to break into any sector in a country like Pakistan you need contact more than you need education. Also if you want to source deals you need to have government contacts very very important. My firm back in Pakistan had a VP Corp and IBD who didnt know a simple Price/Earning ratio let alone building models. The reason why he was in the job was because majority of the debt financing deals were sourced by him due to his connections of influence. So its different in that country. As far as pay out is concerned you will make a very nice living from middle management onwards VPs and up. Below that it is crap. Mostly because of inflation. but from middle management onwards you start beating inflation and that is when you enjoy.
    Anyways a good read

  14. Zee says

    Also to answer to a lot of inquires in the thread above…There are a lot of VC (small) operating you just have to work hard in finding them out. It will not be spectacular like it would be working for VC in the Silicon Valley or something, but it will be a nice emerging market exposure. Oil & Gas exposure would really help you in breaking in since a lot of deals are based around that sector.

    If you dont have connections best bet would be to take advantage of schools placement office. LUMS IBA, LSE, CBM they have nice placement offices. Contacting Alumni helps. I hired a person a couple of years back, he sourced me out of the alumni contact.

    I come from a family of bankers, immediate family members working for Pakistani Bulge Brackets and a couple of them heading the banks there, there is very little IBD per say, Corporate Banking is what prevails.

    Someone else asked about opportunities in that market with GS and MS etc, they will not hire for Pakistan but normally when a deal comes across, they will use their Dubai Office or London Office for sourcing, majorly dubai. For instance there was an IPO in the local market and GS was one of the runners, although didnt get the tombstone position was but up there. Their Dubai office worked on it.

    IB you would find in banks like MCB, UBL Standard Chartered etc but not in small banks like Silk and all. Boutiques none I would say.

    As far as payout are concerned, a VP level in Corporate Division would be looking at around 200-250K (RUPEES)/mo. Plus bonus ofcourse but then there are 4 bonuses. Eid Bonus, BaqraEid bonus which is just your one months base. And note here that if you are drawing 200K a month you base would ideally be not more than 100K rest are allowances. And then there is the performance bonus. I wanna say if you are a SUPER STAR at the VP level you would get a year end performance bonus of about a Million Rupees. Increments are good if you get a 10% increment you really need to revisit where you went wrong or you need to stop sleeping with your manager’s wife ;)

    My numbers might be a little off since I left that country more than a couple of years ago.

    There was another question up there regarding breaking in. Well if you are a US/UK graduate and have experience here then you shouldnt have a problem with breaking in. In Middle East you do get a 15-20% premium if you have a blue or a red passport since there are caps on the visas that can be issued for different nationalities per company that is a law in middle east. US/UK citizen there is no cap.

    Also someone moving back I would strongly recommend to work in this part of the world first have make your resume a little strong before moving back. But I would think at least 10 times prior to moving back since the economic situation is not that great. Its stagnant with no growth however from my analysis it has hit bottom so from here onwards it should go back up. It has been in a turf for the past 4 years or so, it is bound to bounce back.

    Cheers

    • Ali says

      Thanks Zee for sharing your insights. I actually connected with the interviewee of this article a few months ago and had a chat with him over the phone about opportunities in Pakistan. He, along with a bunch of others, and now you did tell me about thinking more than twice before moving back; the deteriorating socio-politcal landscape being one of the obvious reasons. So for now I am sticking to equity research in Canada. I am lucky enough to be part of a busy sector (mining and metals) which is quite big in this part of the world so can’t really complain about that. Regarding the CFA comments, I am on the same page as you are! I recently completed Level III and it’s a huge weight off my shoulders. It’s not the most difficult exam in the world, but it does take a big chunk of your time and is a major marathon to run. Could you elaborate on the “perks” being associated with the CFA over in the US? Because in Canada, it seems that there is almost an unwritten rule for people breaking in to go get their CFA done. And if I am not mistaken, Toronto has the highest per capita charterholders in the world. But I am really interested in knowing how it is viewed south of the border so please do let me know! Thanks!

      • Zee says

        Ali..congratulations on completing part 3, I am a level 2 candidate. Lol just lazy and dreading the coursework. Haha. Happy hours are getting to me and the bonus was good so anyways I really need to pull up my socks and get to it.

        Anyways to answer your question CFA will not help you in M&A or PE directly. I am in investment management, and like u said it is an unspoken rule. In my division I wanna say there are about 15% full charter holders and 20% level 2 candidates. the full charter holders are SVPs and all. Now I am not saying that not getting a CFA will stop you from moving up the ladder but having one will surely help. The valuation techniques and all will help in my side of the business. But then again if you are advising on a merger whether sell side or buy side or looking into a PE investment you need to crunch numbers and CFA specifically teaches you that.

        With Perks well I like the society associations and the fact that only about 4% of full charter holders are unemployeed 50% of them being volunteers. So it helps.
        During my interviews I negotiated my CFA, so my firm paid for my part1. If I pass part 2 they will pay for it. And then I get a small bonus for passing part 1 and so on and so forth. But that would depend on firm to firm and your negotiation.
        However if you are in corporate banking or institutional side, I doubt it will be of much help.

        However my perspective is that education doesnt go to waste. NEVER!
        You do gain/learn something and it benefits.
        Another thing is it being on your resume..shows conviction and a desire to learn and move up. These days the most difficult thing in landing a job is passing the automated resume checks and having a live person take a look at the resume. Keywords like Valuations, CFA, MBA they really help. I know the inside since I was dating an HR Recuriter at a bulge bracket and this is coming all from her.

        • Ali says

          Thanks for your reply Zee, from what you described it seems the culture is quite different south of the border because I have seen quite a few bankers in Canada pursue their CFA. But I do feel that I should date someone in HR at a bulge bracket as well!

          Zee, you mind sharing your email address? Would like to reach out to you on a more personal level if that’s okay with you.

          • Zee says

            About CFA..I know alot of bankers pursue that path as well.. There is no hard and fast rule I guess. Plus extra education never hurts anyone.

            Out of experience you dont wanna do that, date someone from HR. HR and a Bulge Bracket bad combo. hahaha. Sooner or later you will come across a position you are really interested in and she happens to be the person or know the person responsible and then you will break up :D..but goodluck with that.
            This was back in Pakistan with a multi-national bank.
            Anyways yea for sure hit me up.
            zainaijaz@hotmail.com

  15. FS says

    I worked in equity research for a major buy side house for 1.5 years before making the switch to consulting in the middle east with a big 4 accounting firm and then subsequently to a small PE house.

    I can attest to a lot of what has been said about Pakistani IB – mostly debt, less M&A, lots of government privatization work etc.

    The interviewee mentioned that he got a job by cold calling. That is definitely a one off, its mostly about networking (but networking here means your contacts – not informationals etc like in the US). Also, schools count for a lot. Local business schools like LUMS, IBA, CBM, SZABIST etc. are preferred over average foreign universities. But if you have a degree from a good foreign university, then you should have no trouble landing interviews.

    As for all the glory about CFA (disclaimer – I am a CFA charterholder), it is highly sought after in Pakistan compared to developed markets mainly for a number of reasons:

    1. Even if you are from a foreign university or local, there is a great emphasis on “technical” skills – so employers have a liking for people who have done or are undertaking the CFA.

    2. A lot of pakistanis wish to move abroad, esp. to the middle east (narrower definition of middle east which is the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) – Dubai, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi and Kuwait – all oil rich countries and more rich and stable than Egypt, Lebanon etc) since salaries are 4x-5x higher and are untaxed, these countries provide a great standard of living and are safe/secure (political instability in Pakistan due to terrorism etc has led to a lot of professionals moving out in search of greener pastures). To get the job abroad, recruiters (mostly non-bulge brackets) want to see some level of technical ability and CFA is something which gives them confidence. Interview calls before and after the CFA were markedly higher. In the middle east, esp. if you are not in a global bulge bracket, having the CFA (although it is highly specialized towards portfolio management) is better than not having it.

    3. its a cultural thing – people just want to add to their education and then feel good/boast about it

    Another note, for potential candidates seeking employment, in terms of institutions which are doing banking work (again, mostly debt) or even investing for their own book, there are a number of joint venture companies (govt of Pak and other foreign firms) which hold a lot of investments in the country and would be advisable for employment

    Pak-Kuwait Investment Co
    Pak-Libya Investment Co
    Pak-Iran Investment Co
    Saudi Pak Investment Co

    Hope this helps
    FS

    • Ali says

      Thanks for sharing FS. But I would just like some clarity and would add a few things here with regards to the points you noted in your post:

      1. I do not really understand your take on the CFA as being something technical and why it is desired by employers due to its “technical” appeal. I would be grateful if you elaborated on that.

      2. In the recent past, I have heard of some horrible experiences directly from Pakistanis living in the GCC region. Apparently a ‘green’ passport owner’s salary will be much less than someone with a ‘red’ or ‘blue’ passport; at the expense of sounding a little naive, I must admit I still fail to understand this phenomenon. As well, I know a few people who recently got top paying jobs in certain countries of the GCC but their visas were rejected; apparently they did not belong to a “correct” sect of the predominant religion of the region and this is another way of cracking down on them. This very recently happened with a friend of mine who landed a job at ADIA. Of course there are exceptions to the rule as well. Also, there is absolutely no social security because once your employment is over you are not allowed to stay in the country. Of course, this is not the forum to discuss these issues but I just wanted to briefly point them out since the 4-5x untaxed salary comes with other hidden costs which readers should research/investigate further.

      3. Absolutely understand the cultural thing. Apparently in our culture, no amount of education is enough and “letter collecting” after your name seems to be quite normal.

      Thanks again for sharing your insights and reading my post!

      • FS says

        Hi Ali

        Thanks for reaching out.

        1. By technical appeal, I meant that even before employers get you to an interview, they look for ways to see if a person knows about key finance concepts (valuation, financial statement analysis etc.). CFA gives them comfort that the person has some technical skills and is willing to invest his time in his profession (although, as has been rightly pointed out about CFA, it does not give you due diligence skills, or advanced accounting issues relating to mergers etc etc which are very relevant for banking – CFA is more suitable for portfolio management).

        2. You are right about the hidden costs of working in the GCC, but if you do a thorough cost benefit analysis, the benefits outnumber the costs.

        Rightly said, on a number of occasions, Pakistanis with Pakistani passports end up getting less than Pakistanis who put in 5 years in Canada or UK, got that passport, and now work in the Middle East. It has to do with quotas, inherent biases etc etc.

        There is also the issue with sectarianism, although it is predominantly an issue in Bahrain. First time I’ve heard of it happening in the UAE (at ADIA).

        There are horror stories of people who were fired and had to pack everything up within a month and go to their home countries. But generally, companies have been accommodative. From personal experience (2 people I know who were fired – one was placed in another office of the Big 4 firm, while the other had a long extension to his visa to help him look for a job – and he found it).

        3. Letter collecting is highly prevalent in Pakistan, as well as in India. I think we can attribute it to be a South Asian phenomenon ;)

      • pakistani-reality says

        FS, ZEE and ALI are spot on … these 3 should be interviewed by M&I for further insights into the Pakistani work culture because the students in Pakistan just live in this weird fantasy world that could not be more inaccurate about the realities in the field .. and as for our target schools and student quality, they are mostly a joke really

        and yes most of the time worker skill in Pakistan does not really matter it is the connections you have that matter i.e. political, governmental and let us not forget landlords, etc, even knowing criminals like Dawood Ibrahim helps – a LOT actually, basically knowing anyone with power, money and influence is better than any skill you might possess

        and if this was not the case then the CSS examination and the Governmental Jobs would have been recognized as a joke a long time ago but instead the examination and the job are thought of as ‘elite’ — only a Pakistani will be able to understand relevance of this point to a career in finance

        basically individuals in the developed countries cannot even begin to understand the pathetic standard of the undergrad and graduate studies in Pakistan

        nice work M&I, keep it up

  16. Sameer says

    Thank you so much… This interview helped me a lot…. This site is just amazing… :)
    I was wondering maybe if you be kind enough to post another interview just like this one from Pakistan… That will help a lot of interested people here :)

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