How to Pick Your Group as an Investment Banking Summer Analyst

46 Comments | Investment Banking - Preparing for Work

1 Flares 1 Flares ×

“Help! I have an offer but now I don’t know which group to list as my top choice! Should I go with M&A, LevFin, or pick an industry group instead?”

“I have offers at the M&A group of a lesser-known bank and the Consumer Retail group of a better-known bank – which one do I pick?”

So, how do you pick your group as an investment banking summer analyst (or associate)?

CAN You Even Pick Your Group?

Assuming that you’ve won at least 1 investment banking offer, there are 3 possibilities:

  1. You have multiple offers, and they’re with different groups and possibly different banks.
  2. You have 1 offer with 1 bank, and they’re letting you select your group.
  3. You have 1 offer with 1 bank, but you will be assigned to a group or you’ve already been assigned.

Case #3 is easy: you can’t do much. You could appeal to anyone you know well or anyone you got to know via recruiting, but large banks are rigid.

Case #1 is also easy: pick the best-known bank. No matter what group you’re placed in as a summer intern, the chances of you getting “real” work are slim – so go for brand name instead.

It’s Case #2 – when you get to pick your group – where things become more interesting.

The Usual Process

Simple:

  1. Bank gives you a list of possible groups and a deadline – a few weeks to a month – to rank your preferences.
  2. You give your preferences and rank different groups.
  3. Then, you hear back from the bank with your group assignment.

Easy, right?

Except for figuring out which ranking is best and what you can do to affect the outcome.

Key Considerations

Let’s talk about how to rank the groups first before getting into how you can manipulate the process to your own ends.

1. The People

You want to be working with as few Sycophants as possible and as many full-time Analysts / Associates who take one for the team as you can.

Some groups are relaxed and chill, while others make you want to gouge out your eyeballs with bicycle spokes and then jump into an alligator-filled acidic lake.

You’ll be working most closely with full-time Analysts and Associates, so those 2 groups matter the most – but it’s also worth considering VPs and up because they will determine your fate as a full-timer.

Wait, but don’t most investment banks have extremely high turnover? Why does this matter if the people will be completely different when you start?

Turnover rates are high, but you’ll see much less of a change over 3-4 months vs. 1 year.

2. Deal Flow / “Real” Work

Everyone hates pitch books and fixing printers, right?

You always want to be doing as much models and models as you can, right?

In theory this is true, and in an ideal world you would base your group selection on how much modeling / client work you’d be doing.

3. Full-Time Offer Conversion Rate

Judging by the amount of email I get on which groups “have the best full-time offer conversion rates,” you’d have to assume that this is another important criterion for group selection.

Even if you want to move to another group or bank for full-time recruiting, you still want as many backup plans as possible – especially if the unemployment rate happens to be over 10%.

4. “Game Theory”

M&A or Leveraged Finance are the best because you do the most technical work there, right?

Not if everyone else ranks those as their #1 or #2 choices.

Your chances are slim if all 20 summer interns say that M&A is their #1 choice but the M&A group only needs 5 interns.

So you need to keep in mind what other interns are likely to pick as well.

5. Regional / Industry Experience or Expertise

This one can also factor into your decisions – but at the summer intern level you probably won’t have much specific expertise.

If you do happen to be the former CEO of the largest energy company in Russia or you just happen to speak 10 languages fluently, sure, leverage that and go to the group that’s most compatible with you.

What You Think Matters

Faced with this criteria, you might think the following:

“Well, deal experience and technical skills matter a lot – so I definitely want to be in M&A or Leveraged Finance. But I know everyone else will pick those as their #1 or #2 choices, so I’ll put a random industry group first, and THEN I’ll list M&A or LevFin on the off chance that not everyone will pick them.”

Not quite.

As an intern – at any level – you’re unlikely to get much “real” work, even if you’re working in the busiest M&A group in New York.

Yes, there are exceptions and sometimes interns at bulge bracket banks get to run deals by themselves – but those are Black Swans.

So forget about predictability.

Any banks looking at you for full-time recruiting won’t expect you to have run a deal by yourself or to be a finance guru from a summer internship, though they will expect you to know something.

What Actually Matters

The 2 most important factors are the people and the full-time offer conversion rate.

They’re inter-related: a more relaxed group / bank will give out more full-time offers, while a more anal retentive group will give fewer full-time offers.

If these are the most important factors, 2 questions now arise:

  1. How can you find out which groups have the best people?
  2. How can you figure out which groups give out the most full-time offers?

What NOT to Do

The most common mistake here is to do Google searches for the best groups, send me dozens of emails, leave comments asking about different groups, or spend hours looking for the information on message boards.

These are the “lazy intern’s solution” and not a good idea for a couple reasons:

  1. Any information you find online is likely to be hearsay, flat-out wrong, or out-of-date.
  2. If you spend all your time “researching” groups like this, you prevent yourself from doing more important tasks – like picking up the phone and talking to real people.

You might now be wondering, “Wait a minute, so are you saying that your entire website is hearsay, flat-out-wrong, or out-of-date? Why should I believe anything on this site?!”

It’s not that everything you read online is wrong – it’s just that anonymous people on the Internet come up short when you need information on specific, proprietary information that changes frequently.

Like the full-time offer conversion rate for Morgan Stanley M&A in Hong Kong.

You’re always better off going straight to the source.

How to Gather Intel & Influence Your Assignment

You’ve probably guessed it by now: networking.

Contact alumni at the bank – or even better yet, in the specific groups you’re choosing between – or find anyone with a history in those banks or groups.

Anyone you met during the recruiting process is also a good bet: now that you have the offer, you have more power than they do and you can use that to find out a lot of information.

Yes, it may be out-of-date but it’s still better than the Interwebs because:

  1. Real, live people are more reliable than Google searches anyway.
  2. You can use your summer offer to 1) Give them proof that you’re capable; and 2) Use it as an excuse to stay in touch or to reach out to new people. Both of which are very useful when you want to move elsewhere full-time.

Tips & Tactics

This is pretty simple – casually email your contacts and say:

“Hi ______, I hope all is well. I just received an offer at ______ and have a choice on different groups there. I wanted to reach out to you and see if you had any quick thoughts on what might be the best option between ______, ______, and ______ since you work / worked there / had some experience in those groups before.”

Remember, brevity is your friend.

If you’ve already spoken on the phone or you know them decently well you can suggest a quick call as well.

It’s not worth killing yourself and contacting hundreds of people just to find out which group is friendlier or gives more full-time offers; just go for the lowest-hanging fruit.

Group Selection… Check

That’s all there is to it: if you’re deciding between different groups at the same bank, spend some time networking, figure out which groups have the best people and full-time offer conversion rates, and select accordingly.

And if you can’t get that information, just pick whatever industry groups you’re interested in, or whip out your dartboard and label each square with a different group’s name.

Or you could just list M&A or Leveraged Finance as your top choices.

Everyone else is doing it, right?

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Access to Exclusive Content for Members Only!

Loading the player...

Sign up for The Banker Blueprint today and enjoy:

ebook
  • Free Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews,
  • Exclusive emailed bonus material,
  • Free Banker Blueprint newsletter with more in-depth advice,
  • Unlimited access to all articles, videos, and advice - and free updates whenever new content is added to the site,

 

We respect your email privacy

Read below or add a comment...

46 Comments to “How to Pick Your Group as an Investment Banking Summer Analyst”

Comments

    • says

      Hard to say without knowing what you did. The thing about cold-calling is that you need to do it many, many times and follow-up with a bank constantly to succeed – it’s not the type of thing that you can just do once and expect to see success. You also have to try different people at the same bank, because some will be helpful, some won’t care, and it’s always random. If you look at some of the reader interviews on this site, you’ll see that they called places aggressively and kept calling until they got an actual answer one way or the other.

  1. Howard says

    M&I,

    Another great, informative post. Curious though, this is all assuming you got an offer to a bank to work there. What if you didn’t get any offers? I know from another article you mentioned not to work at Best Buy and simply try to get ANYTHING finance, but how would you rank non-bank related finance internships? For example would working in wealth management be better than real estate finance or something? (especially if you’re trying to position yourself for next year’s recruiting). Also, would the whole brand-name recognition work here? For example would working at say…Hyundai Motors Finance be better than some unknown LLC, even though the unknown LLC might have something to do more with banking related thing? Sorry for the long post and rapid succession of questions. Thank you.

    • says

      In general, the closer you get to transaction / due diligence work, the better.

      I would say a rough guide is:

      1. PWM at large bank (brand-name recognition).
      2. Real estate finance, anything else involving buying companies or assets and doing modeling.
      3. Corporate development at a company, whether big or small.

      Brand-name recognition is actually tough to take into account here – I would say that within the same “level” brand-name matters but it’s hard to compare it between levels.

      So let’s say you did real estate finance and worked on modeling property purchases at a smaller firm… I would say that actually beats being a Controller or something similar at, say, a Fortune 500 company.

      On the other hand, if you have the choice between corporate finance at Google vs. unknown 10-person company, definitely go with Google.

  2. Jojo says

    Hi Brian,
    What are your thoughts on the “tell me about yourself” question. Is it the same as why I-banking/why finance question, or should I wait for those and just have a 30 second answer to “tell me about yourself”?

    Thanks.

    Best,

    Jojo.

  3. banker88 says

    How does your advice differ if you didn’t do ibanking for SA but got a generalist offer at a BB for FT? I have spoken to a few people in different groups, and I know my preferences. But is there any way to influence the decision before we do the ranking later this month? Thanks again!

    • says

      The only difference is you need to think more about what you want to after, i.e. PE, HFs, etc. and which group will put you in the best position to get there.

      Other than networking with people, there isn’t much you can do to influence the decision beforehand – don’t hesitate to be relatively outspoken when you talk to bankers as that can get you noticed / get them to push for you.

  4. cogu says

    Brian,

    As an international student I think my goal is to become an associate after my analyst program. Maybe even get transferred to my home-country. (Even if I wanted to stay in the US and move to PE/HF it would be hard to do due to visa issues.)

    In that case do you think there’s any specific group that I should try to go for?
    I will be a SA at a top BB this summer and I know my goal is to first get the FT offer and then think about the “exit opps” but I would like to hear your thoughts.

    • says

      Going to any groups that focus on your home country or prominent industries in your home country (e.g. going to an energy group if you want to go to the Middle East) is a good bet. Otherwise there isn’t much you can do this far in advance.

  5. K says

    Great post. I’ve done all of these steps with a bunch of banks, but I’ve found that I’m a little worried about asking what the conversion rate was. Are there certain people who are more appropriate to approach and ask this question specifically?

    • says

      You should ask the 2nd year analysts more so than the senior bankers – it gets risky if you go and ask a VP or MD how many interns get FT offers.

  6. Mark says

    Hi,

    Im applying for an summer internship with the banks. Any suggestion on which group is relatively easier to get into? In general, i know m&a and trading are much more difficult.

  7. Jim says

    First of all, thanks for all the awesome advice. I don’t know what I would do without M&I.

    My question is on somewhat of a tangent from group selection and is more about selecting a city to apply for. Is it a bad idea to select all the reions a Boutique offers (LA, NY, SF, Boston) as cities you’re willing to work in? I’d be happy just to land an internship anywhere this late in recruiting season and I’m just curious if doing this might fall into the category of “he has no idea what he wants to do?”

    Thank you!

  8. I says

    Hey,

    I have an offer in goldman ibd, and I’m trying to pick a group. so far, I’m interested in industrials, nat res, tmt, and consumer retail. do you think tmt really does work that much harder? I really don’t know what to believe at this point because I’ve heard so much conflicting information. I find the area interesting, but I’m afraid of dying over the summer. Am I correct in thinking I’ll be working that much harder in tmt versus, say, industrials? I’m not sure I can safely say if one of them has a better lifestyle. Thanks

    • says

      I think that’s false, any group at GS you will be working a ton. I would not pick the group based on perceived hours/lifestyle as you will be working a lot no matter where you are

  9. Grace says

    UBS M&A vs. Goldman giving me any random group they feel like; which is better? What about if I would like to eventually go into PE?

    • says

      About the same, decide based on how much you like the M&A group (if it’s “not much,” random selection at Goldman is better)

  10. lamdan says

    Great post as always.

    Would you shed some light on how may we find out performance of a particular group in the bank? Is there any ranking or league table for that? (I mean league table for specific coverage group, not the thompson reuters league table for each bank). Appreciate any suggestions!

    • says

      In general you can’t really tell, even league tables don’t tell the full story and can be gamed. The best way to tell is to actually ask people in the group how they’re doing and what kind of deal flow they have, that brings the added benefit of networking as well.

      You can go to message boards and look but information is generally unreliable since it changes quickly and since a lot of people in finance don’t even use sites like this.

  11. jay says

    Hi, I’m currently a 3rd year, my goal is trying to get into investment banking after i graduate. There seems like alot of excel work involved as a first year interning analyst, is there anything I can read or do to learn about valuation or any other common duties of an analyst?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      What is your situation? Have you been given an offer in a particular team already? I think it is always best to present yourself as someone who knows where you’re going and which team you want to work for.

  12. B says

    First off, another great article. This website has helped me so much during this grueling and often times disheartening recruiting process.

    I hope to do PE one day and am choosing groups for a BB internship in London. I don’t speak a European language (at least not well) and I know most of the M&A teams will be regionally focused. I feel I might be disadvantaged ranking M&A highly and I’m not yet sure on LevFin FT conversion but this would be another group of interest. I spoke with a lot of FIG bankers during the process who were nice but I get the impression moving into PE from FIG (or to other groups) would be difficult. Do you have any advice?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Congrats on your offer! If you want to break into PE, please read http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-recruiting/

      I’d choose three groups that you are most interested in first and foremost. Secondly, I’d get to know the members of the three groups and choose the group which you think you will get along well with most. I think LevFin is a good way for you to break into PE – it has become a norm that analysts from the area seek to move to private equity, hedge funds, or mezzanine funds. http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/leveraged-finance/

      FIG is definitely more specialized, and that can limit PE opportunities – but FIG bankers are also in a much better position for funds that invest in financial institutions. Most normal PE firms won’t even touch financial institutions because they don’t understand them – but there are a few specialized PE firms that focus on FIG and they’re not likely to recruit someone without FIG experience. http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/financial-institutions-groups/

  13. Stanley says

    Hi M&I,

    First of all! Thank you so much for all the great resources on this site. It helped me tremendously in landing a SA job at a BB in HK.

    Now, I have a question about group selection (both for SA and potentially FT going forwards) — What are the pros and cons of taking a generalist vs. specialist (in specific groups) position as an IBD analyst?

    I heard from a source inside the bank that they are increasingly having most of the analyst class in the generalist pool and may potentially blend M&A into this pool too. So I am curious as to what would be the benefits of working as a generalist vs. a sector/industry specialist (where it could be very helpful for developing industry knowledge and expertise)

    Thank you!!

    S.W

  14. Casey Long says

    Hello,

    I worked as a Public Finance Summer Analyst at a BB last summer (after my sophomore year) in SF, and am now set to work at the same bank in NYC in the IBD. Since I worked at the same bank last summer, I went through the internal mobility process and was able to successfully switch groups.

    The downside to this was that I never really networked with any bankers in NYC, as my only contact with them was an over the phone super day the last week of my internship. Now I am about to go through the placement process, and am worried I will get an unpopular group because of my limited network. I am also from a non-target school on the west coast. Is there anything I should be doing besides reaching out to people on LinkedIn at the bank and asking to chat? Most of my contacts are on the west coast and few know anyone in NYC

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Casey, I can understand your concern. Perhaps you can try to reach out to people at the bank’s IBD division. The best way to go about this is to email your team in SF and ask them to connect you with people in NY. Otherwise, I’d speak to HR and ask them to do so. They should be able to give you plenty of support since you’ve already been hired. Otherwise, you can reach out to the NY office team on LinkedIn, though I’d go through your firm first if possible.

      • Casey says

        Thanks I’ve set up a few calls and hopefully it goes well. Also, I talked to a friend who went through the same process at the same bank last year, and he told me to be ruthless and ignore bankers from groups I don’t want if they reach out to me. Shouldn’t I worry about being rude to bankers who are already at the firm? I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          No I don’t think you should ignore them because you want to build a solid rapport with people in the office. I’d really focus your time on networking and speaking with groups you’re most interested. Spend less time with groups you’re not as interested in (but don’t ignore them); be tactful – still be responsive and helpful but don’t put too much effort into that group. You want the group you don’t like to like you, but not like you enough to want you in their group. Alternatively, you want to make sure the group you like to love you and vouch for you.

  15. Mike says

    Hi Nicole,

    I’ve been offered an IBD SA with a bulge bracket in HK. They called me today, wanting to transfer me to Beijing’s office instead. I expressed my surprise and unwillingness but they said they do reserve the right to change the contact. They didn’t give me a confirmation on what they want to do with me at the end of the call. I wonder what is happening, why the sudden change? I’m getting a bit worried.

    Many thanks!
    Mike.

    • says

      That seems quite odd – maybe call back and ask why they’re changing it and what your offer status will be at the end. Most likely it is because they have too many people in HK and are shifting them around elsewhere. Not necessarily a disaster since it’s a summer internship and you can move into other cities / roles more easily, but worth asking someone to figure out what’s going on.

      • Mike says

        Thanks Brian, I did email them, and was transferred back to HK eventually. They didn’t give me the reason for the change though. My original concern was that with all the regulations on foreign banks in China, I wasn’t very sure if there’s much work to be done for a SA.

    • SW says

      Mike, if this was GS, I wouldn’t be surprised. I heard they are moving their HQ in Asia to Beijing, and I knew a lot of SAs at GS HK being relocated to Beijing in the past (if you are Chinese citizen).

      • Mike says

        Hi SW, it’s not GS. It wouldn’t be surprising if the others follow the same strategy as GS. I’m not against it, but just thought that as a SA it’s a bit early to work in China.

Leave a Reply