Investment Banking Networking: How to Break In

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Investment Banking NetworkingAh, networking into investment banking.

No other topic creates so much confusion – so let’s dive right and see how you use networking to break into the industry.

Definitions

There are 2 main approaches to networking:

  1. Developing Relationships – Meet bankers at information sessions, during weekend trips, and get to know them over time.
  2. Cold-Calling – Find a list of local boutique banks and go down the list, setting aside an hour each day for calling firms.

Method #1 – developing relationships – works better if:

  • You have at least 6 months between now and the start of recruiting season.
  • You attend a “target” school that many banks recruit at.
  • You’re aiming for bulge bracket banks rather than boutiques.

Cold-calling works better if:

  • This is a last-minute effort and you need a job ASAP.
  • You don’t have access to on-campus recruiting or similar channels.
  • You’re going for boutique and middle-market firms.
  • You’re an undergraduate or recent graduate.

How to Meet Bankers and Develop Relationships

Both processes are similar, but developing relationships takes more time because you don’t want to contact the banker and say, “Give me a job!”

Here’s what you should do to develop relationships:

1. Make Your List

Start with alumni, family, friends, professional contacts, anyone you’ve met at information sessions, and then think about options like student groups, professional organizations, volunteer groups, professors, and even religious groups.

Nothing is “unfair” when it comes to your starting list – if you have Capital IQ access, use it. If you need to “sneak into” other schools’ information sessions, do it.

Aim for 20-30 names before you start your outreach.

2. Make the Initial Outreach

Email each of your contacts and ask for a 15-minute informational interview.

Keep your email to 5 sentences at the most, and introduce yourself by giving your school name, explaining how you found them, and summarizing your work experience.

Then propose 2-3 specific dates and times to speak with them.

3. Follow-Up If You Don’t Get a Response

Follow-up within a week if you haven’t heard back. If you don’t hear back after another week, move to the phone.

Keep these emails very short – 1-2 sentences at most.

And if you haven’t heard back after 5 or so attempts, put the person on the back burner and move onto other contacts.

4. Do Additional Research

Once you’ve set up your call or meeting, spend 20 minutes doing some simple Google and LinkedIn searches of the person’s name and see what you can find.

Don’t go crazy with this – just do enough research to properly frame your questions.

5. Make the Call / Attend the Meeting

Start by asking about the person’s background and interests – always keep the conversation focused on them.

They may “test” you but never preempt this by bragging about your accomplishments or showing off how smart you are.

6. Make Your “Mini-Ask”

As your conversation is drawing to a close, ask them if it’s ok to follow-up with any additional questions you have, ask for referrals, and suggest meeting in the future.

You do this to condition the other person into helping you out. If you never ask for anything in the beginning, it’s weird when you do so later on.

7. Follow-Up

Only follow-up when you actually have something to say. If someone wasn’t helpful or if you have better contacts, don’t feel pressured to stay in touch with  everyone all the time.

Referral requests, advice about job offers, and news of an upcoming weekend trip are all good reasons to follow-up.

8. Make Your “Real Ask”

Once you’ve had your initial conversation and followed-up at least a few times, ask for what you want:

“I hope all is well. With recruiting season approaching, I wanted to follow-up and ask you how I could best position myself for an interview with your firm.”

That’s all there is to it. If you’ve made a good first impression and they like you, they’ll help you.

Otherwise, don’t dwell on it – focus on the bankers who are most helpful.

Even More Relationships

The process above shows you how to set up informational interviews and win interviews like that – but there are other ways you could develop relationships.

Information Sessions

I’m not going to repeat everything here because there’s already a full-length article on investment banking information sessions.

The short version: focus on the bankers with the fewest students surrounding them, chat for a few minutes, collect business cards, and then make an excuse and go off to meet the other bankers.

Quick follow-up is essential because these sessions usually take place just before interviews.

Weekend Trips

There’s no better way to network like a ninja than traveling to New York, London, or any other financial center and spending the weekend there.

Aim for 10 meetings per day (30 minutes each), and make sure that your meetings are in close proximity – you don’t want to be hopping around from Midtown to Downtown Manhattan every 30 minutes.

Even More

If you want even more on this process, check out The Investment Banking Networking Toolkit for email templates and sample informational interviews – and step-by-step detail on how to do everything listed above.

And Read These Articles:

Cold-Calling

The cold-calling process is not much different from developing relationships: it’s just an abbreviated version. Here’s what you do differently:

1. Perfect Your Pitch

You need a concise 2-3 sentence pitch that introduces yourself and explains why you’re calling – give your name, your school / where you work, and say that you’re calling to find out how to best secure a position at their bank.

Practice a few times in front of a mirror, then practice again by calling companies you don’t care about quite as much at first.

2. Make Your List

Focus on local / boutique firms. Actual people are ideal if you can find them, but if not, just settle for the main lines of companies.

Where should you find this list of boutiques?

  1. Ask a friend with Capital IQ / Bloomberg / Factset access
  2. Random Google searches
  3. The IB Networking Toolkit (Best source – 10,000+ firms)

3. Refine Your List

Before you start calling places, verify that the information you’ve found is accurate – check out each bank’s site first and make sure it exists and that you have the right numbers.

4. Place Your Calls

Now start placing your calls. If you hit gatekeepers, try early morning or early evening – before they get to work or after they leave.

Don’t take “no” for an answer until you speak with someone who’s actually in charge of recruiting – always answer their objections with another question.

“They’re not hiring” – Is it money? Lack of time/resources? They already have someone?

And then offer to work for free, train yourself, or check back next month.

5. Follow-Up

Follow-up at least once a week until you receive a definitive response. Even if it’s “no,” follow-up with the bank once a month to see if anything has changed.

This is just stupid, persistent effort – think like Rocky.

6. Rinse, Wash, and Repeat

Keep at it until you win interviews and offers. If you’re out of local firms to contact, expand your scope and do some traveling.

If you read through all the networking and cold-calling case studies on this site, you’ll see that it really is just 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.

Networking Like a Ninja

So that’s how you break into investment banking via networking – whether you want to develop relationships or cold-call your way to success.

For even more ninja tactics and for email templates, video instruction, and real informational interview and cold call transcripts with analysis and commentary, check out The Investment Banking Networking Toolkit.

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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