by Brian DeChesare Comments (18)

How to Break into Investment Banking at the Last Minute and Win a Role in the Industrials Coverage Group

Last-Minute Investment Banking Recruiting

Can you get into investment banking at the last minute?

Back in 2005-2007, the answer was “Yes” – at least if you had good grades and had attended a well-known university.

Plenty of students “became interested in finance” when full-time recruiting began, and then made frantic efforts to pass on-campus interviews.

Over the past ten years, though, that path has become less viable.

You almost always need a sequence of internships, and banks prefer to hire full-time Analysts exclusively from their intern classes.

And if you’re at a non-target school… good luck, I guess?

That’s why I was interested to hear from a reader who broke into investment banking at the last minute, with no prior IB internships, from a non-target school.

I couldn’t believe his story, so I asked him for the details:

Last-Minute Odds and Strategy

Q: Can you walk us through your story?

A: Sure. I went to a textbook example of a non-target school; we were known for our parties more than our academics or placement into finance jobs.

I didn’t even get interested in finance until my junior year, at which I point I won a private wealth management internship at a bulge-bracket bank.

When the internship began, I realized I wanted to do investment banking instead.

But I had no prior IB/PE internships, almost no alumni network, and only a few months until full-time recruiting began.

Despite that, I decided to go “all-in” with my networking efforts midway through my summer internship.

I looked up hundreds of bankers via LinkedIn, guessed their email addresses, and set up dozens of in-person informational interviews in my city.

I won a few first-round interviews toward the end of August, went through Superdays in September, and won two offers from “In-Between-a-Banks” (IBABs), as you’ve labeled them, by mid-September.

“In-Between-a-Banks” sit in between bulge-bracket and middle-market banks and include firms like HSBC, RBC, and many European, Asian, and Canadian banks that are strong in specific regions or deal types.

I accepted one of those offers, joined the group, and have been working here ever since.

Q: That story sounds too good to be true. It’s time to poke some holes in it.

First of all, how many banks recruit for full-time Analyst roles?

Don’t they all try to convert as many summer interns as possible?

A: It is very difficult to win a full-time offer without a prior internship, but a few points improved my odds:

  1. I Was Not in New York – I was in a city with many “regional offices” instead (think: LA, SF, Boston, Chicago, etc.).
  2. I Did Not Focus on Bulge Brackets or Elite Boutiques – The quality of summer interns at banks outside the top two tiers is often “mixed,” which creates opportunities.
  3. I Had Directly Relevant Deal Experience in My PWM Internship – I had followed a few companies that were acquired or otherwise involved in M&A deals.
  4. I Did a Ridiculous Amount of Networking – Sometimes I sent dozens of emails in a single day; in total, I contacted hundreds of bankers in the span of 2-3 months.
  5. I Had Favorable Market Conditions – I recruited in a year when deal activity was on the rise and when some banks had under-hired.

The top interns usually head to BBs and EBs in financial centers such as NY and London, so it’s extremely competitive to switch banks after a summer internship there.

While there are fewer jobs outside the major financial centers, sometimes it’s easier to win full-time offers because there’s a higher percentage of “non-performing interns.”

Q: OK, those are fair points. But how did you explain your sudden interest in IB?

A: Bankers did not care about my PWM experience at all, so I made it sound more relevant by pointing out my exposure to M&A deals there.

I said, “I was very interested in working in finance and advising clients, so I accepted the PWM offer. When some of the companies we followed were involved in M&A deals, I became a lot more interested in transactions and began learning all I could about investment banking.

I’ve now analyzed several companies in Industry X, and I’m particularly interested in your bank and group since you’ve worked on a lot of deals in that industry.”

Most candidates over-emphasize the technical questions and spend too little time thinking through their motivations for doing investment banking.

Yes, the bar for technical questions has risen – you need to know the fundamentals quite well to make it through interviews.

But like internship experience, technical knowledge is a “check the checkbox” item: Necessary but not sufficient to win offers.

Q: I still can’t believe that banks would buy into your sudden, last-minute interest.

A: Many of them didn’t! That’s why I won only two offers from all this networking.

But here’s another way to think about this point: If a bank does not get all the summer interns it wants – which is very likely in regional offices – it has three options:

  1. Be Understaffed – So, they’ll have to spend time and resources making lateral hires in the coming months.
  2. Recruit Interns from Other Banks – But MMs and IBABs are more likely to get interest from interns who did not receive return offers elsewhere. Why else would a BB or EB intern move to a smaller firm?
  3. Take a Chance on Someone New – And this is where I came in. I didn’t have prior IB internships, but I also didn’t have a track record of not receiving a full-time return offer.

The basic point is simple: Don’t assume that “all banks” hire 100% of their full-time Analysts exclusively from their intern classes.

Q: I can understand that logic, but I’m still skeptical.

What was the time frame for this process?

A: I decided to recruit for IB roles in late May / early June.

I spent the next month giving myself a crash course on IB and networking, and then I accelerated my efforts in July.

I continued that in August and won a few first-round phone interviews toward the end of the month.

My first Superday took place in early September, and I went through 5-6 interviews and received my offer a week later.

My second Superday took place in mid-September, and I went through ~8 interviews and received my offer a week later.

Q: What would you say to students at non-target schools who are in similar positions?

How can they decide whether to quit or stick?

A: It’s mostly a question of timing.

If you get interested in IB in the August before your final year, you have no chance of winning offers because you need at least a few months to network.

But if you get interested by May or June, and you’re willing to do a ridiculous amount of networking in a short time, you can pull it off.

Even if you don’t win offers, it’s not necessarily a waste of time: Keep networking during the school year, do an MSF program or delay your graduation, and apply for internships again.

There will be A LOT of naysayers who claim that you have no chance, but you shouldn’t listen to this criticism.

People often underestimate the high turnover in investment banking and how that can create opportunities.

For example, just my group at this bank has sometimes hired 1-2 new Analysts in a single month to replace ones who left abruptly for other roles.

And these off-cycle hires often come from groups like corporate banking or equity research.

On the Job in the Industrials Group at an IBAB

Q: Thanks for that summary.

Speaking of your group, what has the job been like so far?

A: Overall, I’ve been very pleased.

I’m in the Industrials coverage group, so I cover all the sub-industries, but I spend most of my time on defense and aerospace.

We work on all deal types – debt, equity, and M&A – and I spend ~50% of my time working on live deals.

The name “In-Between-a-Bank” is very appropriate because the firm is a cultural mix between a bulge-bracket and middle-market bank.

Since we’re not in NY, the culture is also different: People tend to be friendlier and come from more diverse schools and backgrounds.

I have worked on some very large deals, but mostly on the financing side; most M&A deals have been in the middle-market range.

Q: We’ve received some questions on exit opportunities from the IBABs.

What have you seen so far?

A: Most Analysts here end up at middle-market private equity firms.

Almost everyone joins industrials-focused PE firms, and some that went into PE have since moved into corporate development at portfolio companies or larger public companies.

A few people have gotten into mega-funds over the years, but it is not that common.

Few Analysts have joined hedge funds, but I’m not sure if that’s because funds aren’t interested or because our Analysts aren’t interested.

There’s geographic diversity to the exits, with people ending up in SF, LA, Chicago, Boston, NY, and more.

My bank has been pushing to keep Analysts around for longer, so more of them also stay for 3rd year and Associate promotions.

Q: Great, thanks for explaining that.

Can you share any other impressions of the job so far?

A: I’ve been surprised by the relative lack of Excel and financial modeling work, even when working on live deals.

I completed several of your courses, and the PowerPoint training turned to be more useful than the Excel tutorials because I’ve spent more time creating presentations so far.

We rarely build models from scratch, and much of the valuation work, such as retrieving data for the public comps, is automated via the Capital IQ and FactSet plugins.

If you’re about to start working at a bank, do not underestimate the number of written documents and presentations you’ll create.

And prepare accordingly!

Q: Thanks for adding that, and for your time.

A: My pleasure. Hopefully, my story inspires other students from non-target schools.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. I just graduated from a target (but not in the business school) and I am dead set on IB but did not know this until very late in college and have only completed a data analytics internship. Because of all of this, my chances of recruiting for IB straight out of school are extremely slim. What would be a good field to start in so that I could transition into IB after 2-3 years?

    1. A Big 4 firm, an independent valuation firm, or corporate finance at a normal company would be your best options. I’m assuming internships are not possible since you have already graduated. Also, you need to transition into IB more quickly than 2-3 years – aim for 1-2 years, or bankers will start suggesting an MBA instead.

      1. Thank you so much! Do you think that doing valuation or corporate finance would better than getting into independent equity research or wealth management?

        Thank you for your help!

        1. Better than wealth management but about the same or slightly worse than equity research.

  2. Justin Tucker

    Hey Brian,

    I am going to Fordham next year and was able to obtain a Morgan Stanley wealth management internship this summer. Would you reccomend trying to go into I-banking at a smaller firm next summer or work at a BB and do something not as related like I am doing this summer?

    1. Ideally, you’ll do both (the BB first helps for the brand name, but then after that, do something more closely related to IB even if it’s at a smaller bank).

  3. What type of school is he talking about? I go to Wisconsin, but we consistently get one or two kids into each BB every year… is that the type of school he is talking about

    1. His school has a lower ranking than Wisconsin and probably gets even fewer students into large banks each year, at least in investment banking.

  4. James Steel

    Hey Brian,

    I’ve spent my career up until this point in enterprise tech (Oracle, Salesforce, SAP) on the buiness side, and lately I’ve been more and more attracted to finance. It seems like every poser with an analytical bent left finance and is now running around “startups” like Uber… And it sucks! They are just the worst, people looking for the next approved “track” to follow.

    I honestly really like finance: valuation, doing deals, looking at both micro and macro economics… all of this stuff really apepars to me. I’m 32 now. Trying to change careers now will be expensive in every sense of the word. I probably can’t get a banking or (ideally) an investment management job even with a tier 1 MBA, but how about equity research or sales and trading? I feel stuck….

    1. I could be wrong, but I think you’ve asked this question or a variation of it on multiple other posts, and my answer is still the same: You have to think long and hard about changing careers into finance at age 32, and it’s probably not worth it.

      If you want to make more money, start a side business, do real estate investing, or do something else that doesn’t require a set degree and certain path to break into.

      ER or S&T would be very difficult because there isn’t much recruiting at the MBA level.

      if you’re really set on finance, consider corporate development or corporate finance at a normal company… try to use your current role to move in, and if that doesn’t work, maybe think about the MBA.

  5. Love to hear these stories. I was an intern at a Big 4 accounting firm from a very non-target liberal arts school and managed to get into a respected MM bank after realizing in late June of my internship that IB was the industry for me. Just wanted to leave another example for any students from non-targets that are considering pursuing IB. It’s not impossible!

    1. Thanks! Yes, it’s definitely possible even if you decide to pursue IB at a late stage.

  6. Juan Manuel

    To brian,

    I am very inspired. After i quitted on my IB internship from Lazard (2 years ago), i got my interest back in IB recently and i’ve been doing abrutply high networking efforts (in Perú). It’s super hard but it definetely inspires, and i’ts been particularly hard because i quitted and that kind of knocked off my reputation.

    Any advice brian?, im still trying

    1. Thanks! We’re featuring Peru / corporate finance in LatAm in an upcoming article, which may be helpful for you.

      In the meantime, it’s probably not a great idea to go for IB roles in Peru because the market is quite small there and it’s hard to get in after a “break” from IB. I would suggest aiming for non-IB roles there (maybe corporate banking at one of the top 4 banks or corporate development), or going outside the country and into a market with more IB roles, like Mexico. Or Brazil if you know Portuguese.

      1. Juan Manuel

        Thanks Brian, that is true. The market here is ultra small and i know i probably screwed my IB career when quitting the internship. Moving outside is a good idea actually. Currently im working at a pension fund as an investment analyst. If you want to know a little bit more about the market of IB in Perú, or asset management, i would love to have an interview with you. I believe you have my email since it’s a requisite for commenting in the web.

        1. Thanks, will do! We currently have a large backlog of interviews, but I’ll contact you soon.

  7. Do you think the same strategy can be applied for looking for summer internships? I have one summer left in 2018 that I can still go for a summer internship but I am not from a target school.

    1. Potentially, yes, but I think you’d have to target smaller firms (actual boutiques) because most mid-sized banks have hired summer interns by now. People occasionally drop out, but the turnover rate is lower than it is with full-time hires. Most of our “I found a summer internship at the last minute” stories are from boutiques:

      http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-from-state-school-no-finance-background/

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