Stuff Investment Bankers Don’t Like: The CFA, Your Activities, Your Ph.D., and More

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meaningless_certificationsI’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately: many readers have the wrong idea of what will help them with investment banking recruiting.

Thinking that they need to do “something” at the last minute to boost their chances of getting into the industry, they come up with all sorts of “creative” – yet marginally effective – ideas.

Read on to see exactly what not to do to get noticed in recruiting.

1. The CFA

I must get more comments about the CFA than any other topic (yes, even you, models and bottles).

There are hundreds of reasons the CFA (any level) is a waste of time for getting into investment banking (note those highlighted words carefully, and read to the end of these points before leaving an angry comment), but here are the top 3:

a. It’s not necessary for advancement and the majority of investment bankers don’t even have it.

If you want to be a portfolio manager, go ahead… but for the rest of us it’s marginally helpful at best.

b. Studying for the exam requires an obscene amount of time – almost 1,000 hours according to the website.

Think about how much networking you could do in that same amount of time: let’s assume 900 hours of study time for the CFA (300 hours per level).

Assuming you can plan and conduct 1 informational interview in 1 hour total, that’s nine hundred new contacts.

Which do you think will be more useful: a single line at the bottom of your resume, or almost 1,000 people who can help you get interviews?

c. There’s almost no correlation between the CFA and what you actually do as an investment banking or private equity Analyst / Associate.

Last time I checked, the CFA curriculum did not cover administrative work, due diligence, pitch books, and the financial modeling specific to banking.

Please, no more email or comments on the CFA. Use those 900 hours and do some networking, learn another language, or go on a trip around the world – any of those would be more helpful for getting into finance.

Clarifications to the Statements Above: In some situations and geographies the CFA can be useful – for a full discussion, please read this newsletter article on the pros and cons and when you should think about the CFA.

The reason why I made such strong statements above is this: most comments and questions I get on the CFA are coming from people with low grades at lesser-known schools with no experience who think that the CFA will magically get them into Goldman Sachs investment banking.

It won’t.

It may help, and it is certainly more useful in other fields such as equity research, portfolio management, and (some) hedge funds, but it will not “replace” low grades or limited work experience.

Here’s more on degrees and certifications in investment banking.

2. Your Activities

“But wait,” you say, “I thought it was really important to be ‘interesting’ in interviews?”

It is – but bankers pick resumes mostly based on work experience and whether or not they know you.

Now if you’ve done something truly impressive – like starting a non-profit that built 1,000 schools in Southeast Asia – that can actually help you.

But let’s be honest: many activities are just resume padders, and having 1 name or 50 names won’t make a difference if that’s the case.

If you have absolutely NO finance experience and nothing even related to business on your resume, then you can play up your activities – but otherwise avoid it.

3. That Investment Club You Started

If you can’t get a real internship, start an investment club or student-managed fund instead, right?

Actually, this logic is not terrible: it’s certainly more helpful than the CFA, and in the absence of real business experience, it looks better than being a lifeguard or working at a restaurant.

But no student-run investment club is going to put you on par with the guy who did 2 summers at Morgan Stanley.

You should only do this if you can’t find a part-time, school-year, or summer business-related internship of any kind.

4. Your “Internship” Waiting Tables

Truthfully, being an investment banking analyst is much more similar to being a waiter than it is to most “real” internships.

You need to multi-task, you’re always running around, you have to deal with annoying clients all day, and you have to do a ton of grunt work.

But bankers themselves don’t see it that way and won’t acknowledge this type of work experience as equal to a “real” internship.

You don’t want to write about any of this unless you have nothing else to point to.

5. Bloomberg / FRM / CPA / Other Meaningless Certifications

Similar to the CFA, most other certifications are also useless – although on the up-side they don’t waste nearly as many hours as the CFA.

Some of these certifications – like the FRM and CPA – have nothing to do with investment banking, while others – like Bloomberg – are somewhat relevant but useless compared to, say, calling 5 alumni.

Remember, the only part at the bottom of your resume that most people even read is what’s in the “Interests” section.

Bored office workers always want to meet interesting people, but no one wants to meet well-certified people.

6. The GMAT

While getting a decent GMAT score is important for business school admissions, it’s less relevant for getting into investment banking at the MBA-level. And it’s even less relevant at the undergraduate level.

If you had to take it for business school anyway and earned a good score, you can list it if you want – but if you don’t have room, cut it.

But if you haven’t had to take it for any reason yet, don’t do it in hopes of getting a good score and using that to propel your way into finance: your time is better spent elsewhere.

7. Non-Native-Speaker-Level Language Skills

Ok, this one is not 100% true.

It helps to have some language ability, even if you’re not native speaker-level – something is better than nothing.

But unless you’re at an extremely high level (i.e. you could watch a university-level lecture on economics, understand everything, and then write a brilliant 10-page paper about it in that language), you can’t leverage language abilities to move to offices in other countries – there’s too much reading and writing required.

There are some roles – like trading and certain back and middle-office positions – that don’t necessarily require language mastery. But if you’re reading this site, you’re probably more interested in areas like investment banking and private equity, both of which require a lot of communication and reading/writing.

8. Your Ph.D.

After the CFA, this might be my #2 question received via email:

“Will a Ph.D. help me get in? Do banks care about my quantum physics skills? What if I’m the next Isaac Newton?”

First off, if you’re smart enough to write the next Principia, you should not be in investment banking because you’re going to get a lot dumber. Go write a book about your discoveries and win a Nobel Prize.

The math required in finance is VERY simple. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division if you get really fancy.

Most of what you do in M&A is administrative: sending emails, keeping track of different buyers, and updating Word documents.

So the only reason to get a higher degree is if you want better access to recruiting channels at a more prestigious school – and even then, stop at the Master’s level rather than doing unnecessary work.

9. Financial Modeling Courses

“Wait a minute, you just RELEASED your own financial modeling course, and now you’re saying that banks don’t care whether or not we’ve gone through them? Are you crazy?”

No, I’m just being honest.

The *knowledge* you gain from these courses is very helpful, especially if you don’t have a finance background or you want to prepare before you start working.

But listing the course itself on your resume – no matter which one it is, or whether you invest $100 or $10,000 – doesn’t guarantee you anything.

The bottom-line is that if you want to prepare for interviews and for work itself, these can be a good option – but they fail as mere resume padders.

Wait, So What DO They Care About?


  1. Work Experience
  2. Educational Background (more applicable if you’re a student)
  3. How many people you know at their firm and how much they like you (networking)

But there’s a problem if you’re trying to use any of these to boost your chances at the last minute: each one takes years or months of effort – you can’t do it overnight.

But It’s the Last Minute and I Really Need Something!

It’s pretty much impossible to add anything substantial if you only have a week left before interviews begin – but if you have a few months, here are 2 quick examples of how you can make some impressive-sounding last-minute additions:

  1. Study abroad program / some kind of international experience. (doesn’t need to be 3-4 months – something shorter is fine)
  2. Summer, night, or part-time program at a well-known school.

Any type of study abroad program is also great to talk about in interviews, especially if it’s to a completely random country or region. Going on a trek to Antarctica stands out more than going to Paris.

Doing some type part-time or summer program at a brand-name school is more helpful if you’re not going to a well-known school right now – anyone scanning your resume quickly will say, “Aha, I recognize that name.”

Last-Minute Standout?

Of course, none of these tactics will make up for a lack of solid work experience or lack of contacts in the industry.

But if you’re struggling to stand out with only a few months left, you don’t have much of a choice – you have to take what you can get.

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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358 Comments to “Stuff Investment Bankers Don’t Like: The CFA, Your Activities, Your Ph.D., and More”


  1. Marin says

    Hi I recently created a new website focusing on notifying consumers of sales prices. On the resume how would you write it down? Would you write it under professional along with internships or under activities? Would you write the title as “Website Name” or www.”Website Name”.com? Thank you nicole!!!

  2. James says

    Hi, I have been doing MMA and brazilian jiu jitsu for a while now. Is that something to write on my resume or keep it off? I know it might sound weird but I dont want bankers thinking stereotypically of me and somewhat over-aggressive or the other negativities associated with martial arts.

  3. JJ says

    How important is an applicant’s GMAT score in securing a job in investment banking (IBD)? I am matriculating at an Ivy League MBA program next year but my GMAT was only a 680.

  4. Rohan says

    If i am interested in IB and also PHD would it make sense if i got a few years of experience in IB say till associate or senior associate level and then go back to getting a PHD (assuming i go into IB after getting a masters or an MBA)

  5. Edwin says

    Hi. I’m exactly the type of people that you mentioned in your article. I have finished my CFA level 1 and on course to CFA level 2. I also completed CAIA level 1. Can you share your thoughts regarding how to break into Finance Analyst field? I have worked three years as business analyst at a biotech company, so you can say I have no prior experience. Any comment on that will be appreciated. Thanks.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Networking with people in finance will be a start. I’d also look at analyst roles in funds that invest in the biotech sector

  6. Steve Johnson says

    Listen to Brian!

    I have a passed the CFA level 1 exam and it doesn’t help getting into an I-bank(at least entry-level analyst/associate). If networking came as easy as the CFA level 1(and it is hard, only 40% pass the first level), I would have a job at a bulge bracket already.

    Selling yourself is more important than any intelligence you have. That is why someone with an average GPA can beat out a high GPA, or a non-target can beat a target, or an easy discipline can beat a hard discipline.

    I took the CFA to combat my OK GPA(and to challenge myself). I wish I would have found this website my Sophmore/Junior year in college.

    I unfortunately have a huge uphill battle to get into an I-bank now that I graduated(and no internships due to my company match 401k).

    How hard is it to get into an I-bank at mid-level positions(3-5 years of professional experience)? How hard is it to get into it from a different sector in the financial services industry(financial adviser, client representative, etc)?

    Sorry for the length. Thank you.

  7. Tanzeel says

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the information. I am a CA in Canada and I have been interested in pursuing either equity research or investment banking for quite some time now. Since I already started in the CA Path, I felt it would be a good idea to finish. I have interned with a mid-sized CA firm and then moved to KPMG as a full time. I am a member of the board of directors of a local charity as well. Do you think there is a way for me to use my CA designation to become more marketable? I am trying to get in touch with my contacts in the investment banking world. What else do you think I should be doing to improve my chances? I will take as long as needed to better acquaint my self with the industry before applying.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Network a lot. Familiarize yourself with valuation and modelling. Know why you want to switch and pitch your story well.

  8. YM says

    Hi Brian!
    I just sent you a tweet yesterday so here’s the follow up.

    I would like to ask for yor advice, As well as anyone reading;
    Should I pursue an undergraduate degree at Peking University Guanghua School of Management? I have been offered a position due to start in September. My other options would include National university of singapore and other US colleges.

    Personally I feel that if I should do so, the international experience, especially from China, would benefit me greatly in exposure to greater markets, as well as perhaps looking good on my resume?

    However I feel I’m wading into uncharted waters by taking a contrarian approach to my career education.

    How do you feel about a degree in Beijing? I intend to pursue a MBA in the US after my bba so I would have a well-rounded experience.

    And yes I am a huge IB wannabe! Haha

    Thank you!

  9. Lou says

    What about these ‘breaking into Wall. St. courses/webinars on the right hand side of the article. Will these help me procure a top line position at an IB/PE firm? Curious in Columbus.

  10. Ihab Nasr says

    A better heading to your article could be : “Why the financial industry is in the dumps”. Most of the reasons you mentioned are exactly why I think there is no hope for this industry.

    Hiring people based on who they know instead of what they know and what they can do is really concerning. But chances are the trend will not change, and also, you probably don’t need to know a thing about the economy, markets, stocks, risk, interest rates, etc to get into an investment bank, you just need to meet the right people which makes 1000 hours of networking more valuable than 1000 hours of studying something that might actually help clients and the industry.

    End result: The best people in finance are without jobs while those agreeable,”like-able”, and less knowledgeable folks are in charge of managing people’s money.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Ihab, thanks for your input. I would like to make a point though:

      “Hiring people based on who they know instead of what they know and what they can do is really concerning” = This occurs in all industry, not just in finance. And no this won’t change because human beings are social animals and we tend to want to work with people we like. However, hiring people based on who they know does not necessarily compromise the “quality” of the people you hire.

      Anyway, I just wanted to state my point. Don’t have much more to say on this topic.

  11. moritzplatz says

    I am interested in investment banking but my problem is that i don’t have ANY work experience.
    before going to uni in oxford i thought it was fine (noone in my country has work experience (apart from the ones who decide to start working at the end of high school) when 19 or 20…)
    but now here everyone seems to have done something already!!
    i tried the spring internships but i got rejected by all (3) of them, i should have applied for more..
    what can i do about this problem (work experience) now?
    p.s. should i put in my cv that i am in the development squad of the oxford univ rowing team?

  12. furan says


    I am finishing my PhD in material physics and I want to explore other careers outside academia.

    Would banks consider me for Analyst applications rather than quant?

    I should be 24 when I finish btw.

    Thank you

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes. However, it will be useful if you have some sort of work experience in IB and knowledge in finance.
      Quant funds like guys w PhDs so you might have a better shot there but yes if you position yourself well banks might consider you for IB roles too

      • furan says

        OK. Do you know if one could do internships in IB whilst on a doctoral course, rather than undergraduate course?
        Would you suggest boutique banks rather than bulge bracket?

        Thank you

  13. Amit says

    Hi Brian,
    I am a QA in an IB and have 5 yrs of work ex . i want to move up in the role and become a BA. Do u think going for any certification like CFA wud help me to get a job as a BA instead of a QA ? If not CFA then what else could be an option for me ?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If you’re in research/asset or wealth management/private banking, a CFA would help. Otherwise, I’d suggest networking lots and excelling at your role; make sure your whole team likes you…

  14. Akin says

    I commented on one of your blog, I am a Geophysicst who want to break in Oil and gas side of finance…Current pay is 90k$..but, I dont know much about finance except I can read financial reports of companies..I spend hours after my work doing that….So dont you think CFA is requirement for me for breaking in….what are your views on garp ERP course



    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think the CFA can be useful in your case. I don’t know much about the garp ERP course so readers may be able to comment on it better than I can

  15. JUGAL says

    i have completed CA,wrkng fr a commodity exchange as of now..would like 2 know wat course can i pursue as i feel in india its education that matters & takes you to a higher level along with work experience.

  16. says

    I am currently doing my undergrad. And was considering CFA or actuarial science after my bachelor degree. I want to consider a line of finance and am inclined towards financial management and analysis. What do you recommend will be the most helpful for me?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think a CFA would be useful if you are interested in the public markets and want to get into the buy side. I’m not sure what sort of financial analysis you were referring to.

      • Devanshi says

        Thank you for the reply. I was referring to mainly from the Capital raising and financial mangement point of view. I am actually in my first year of college. So am yet in the deciding phase. And would like to keep my options open.

  17. Anna says

    Hello. What do you think of a CFA designation for someone that works in the Emergente Market, like Brazil? I´m a bachelor in Economics and for 10 years I´ve worked as an auditor/consultant in the financial market. Inside of banks (but no IB) and investments funds. So after the financial crises of 2008/09 I was one of the hundred of employees that a worldwide bank had to dismiss, I spent 6 months trying to find a new job, a different one, and this process was not easy. I got a compliance officer position in a brokerage insurance company and after one year and a half I got a new job, different of all the things that I´ve done (now in a IB, not that only this type of bank was my target, I was just looking forward to work again for a bank again. I like the bank businesses), but at the same time in a job where I could use all my knowledge of products and risks analysis. This just happened due my networking, so I fully agree with you about the networking. Today I work coordinating the product approval process in a IB and I really like my job. My intention is not be a trader, but maybe someone in the FO side to help in the organization of products, other possibilities that I have in mind are the Syndicalization and Debt Restructuring areas. I will take CFA level I as a form to give more consistence for my CV in this market and zlso because I don´t have a MBA yet, in fact I want to do a Master in Economics in the future.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’m not quite familiar w the market in Brazil though the CFA is useful for roles which are related to the public markets (i.e. buy side roles etc). If you want to learn more about the various financial instruments/products, the CFA and the CAIA are useful

    • says

      I wrote this article 3 years and stand by it. And it’s one of the most popular ones on the site. Education, Work Experience, and Networking are still far more important than anything else above. Yes, certifications etc. can help you sometimes but you should not spend the bulk of your time on them if you want to get into IB/PE. In other fields it varies, do a search for “certifications” for more coverage.

  18. says

    The Ports are an important part of our transport infrastructure and they need to be operating as productively and efficiently as possible.

  19. NickS says

    From reading your article I understand networking is essential in landing an entry-level finance position. Do I have to network with Managers in Finance or can I reach out to recent graduates that hold finance positions?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Network with both, though having the relationship with senior managers who have the hiring power will help you a lot since they are the one who drives hiring decisions

  20. geet says


    i want to get into investment bank.. i have completed my graduation in 2011 n given cfa level 1 in this june.. n also doing course on financial modelling i dnt have any work experience plzz suggest me were to apply as nobody takes graduates..

  21. Rifki says


    I am currently undergoing a ‘management associate program’ in a commercial bank (will graduate in 6 months). However I would like to switch over to IB, any suggestions for me on how to do so?

    Thanks in advance.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      It can be challenging to do a lateral switch to another bank unless your bank has an IB arm. If you are serious about breaking into IB, you might want to do an internship with a bank first and see how that goes

  22. Zoe says

    Hi Brian/Nicole,

    I am in emerging markets (China) where you said CFA would be useful. However, I failed the lv 1 three times and I am in financial advisory (Big 4) industry. Do you think I should continue studying for CFA program? or just go for a MBA (I’ve already read your article on this)


  23. durrett says

    Hi Brian/Nicole,

    I’m currently in a PHD in international political economy and comparative political economy of China (with mandarin fluency) and is heavily quant work.

    If interested in financial analysis or working in an IB, do you think I need to go after a CFA?

    I was considering to review for test between quarters if so.

  24. Yaffet says

    Hey Brian and Nicole

    I am a a 20 yr old senior at georgetown university finishing up my bachelors in neurobiology with an ok gpa. However, Im interested in going into finance and pursuing a financial analyst position. I was planning on taking the CFA level 1 since I thought it was a good compensation for having no background in finance, but after reading your article and others like it, Im a bit hesitant. Any advice on where I should start?


    • M&I - Nicole says

      A CFA is useful if you want to work in the buyside. I’d still take it in your case to demonstrate your interest in finance. Join GUSIF. Learn as much as you can about the industry. If Al DeRosa is still teaching there, ask him if he has an internship opportunity available for you ;) I’d also look for finance roles in DC too – there are plenty firms there, not as many as in NY but enough!

      • Yaffet says

        Hey Nicole thanks for the advice. I honestly hadn’t realized that you went to Georgetown too! My traditional Ethiopian parents really wanted me to study medicine/law as well, but I’m just not interested in that. Unfortunately, DeRosa is no longer a professor here, but I will definitely look into GUSIF and somehow look for internship opportunities in DC. Hopefully it will work out. Thanks again!

      • Yaffet Menna says

        Hey Nicole, thank you so much for your advice. I joined GUSIF and was able to land an IB internship at a small middle market firm for the summer. Unfortunately, they told me due to their budget, they most likely won’t be handing out offers to any of the interns which means that I need to get ready for full time recruiting in the fall. However, they have offered to sponsor me for the series 79 exam and said that it would look good on my resume. Is it really worth taking the series 79 as an intern?


        • M&I - Nicole says

          Sure, it is useful, though I’d really focus on landing yourself a full time offer first and this should be your priority in the next few months.

  25. Shaun says


    I am currently a financial analyst for State Street and I am debating the merits of an MBA or a CFA. I think eventually I would like both, but that’s a decision to be made later down the road. Due to financial reasons the earliest I could start an MBA progam would probably be Winter 14′ so I was thinking in the meantime maybe I’d try my hand at the CFA. I don’t really want to get into portfolio or investment management, I’d rather stay in analytics or even consulting. Would you recommend the CFA to someone in my situation? Also, will I be disadvantaged given that my undergrad is in HR Management?


    • M&I - Nicole says

      Not really. CFA would be useful for buy-side roles though (asset management, wealth management, research, S&T)

  26. Yathin says

    hi, I am presently in my final year of my undergrad program in sciences , i have done couple of interns in finance (quant analysis on trading strategies and in a broking firm )i am developing my networking with people already in the sector , will CFA help me get in to the buy-side as a research analyst (investment management, in emerging markets)
    I would later want to get a MBA in finance after a few years of experience and go over to the sell-side.

    Can you please advice me on this choice and its feasibility.
    Thanks in advance

  27. Nicholas says

    This article is so true. It also shows why corporate America is falling apart. It is about who you know and not what you know. As indicated by the 2008 crash. Paying 50k for an MBA works best even though you dont come out knowing a damn thing. Eventually the system will change though; it has to.


  28. Nick says

    I have a superday coming up for MM IB and have already signed up for CFA Level 1 in June. Should I avoid bringing up that I am planning to take the test?

  29. Anthony says

    I am an international student who is about to graduate this semester from a non-target school in US, have not yet networking enough and secured a job in IB due to time manners. I am thinking of pursuing a PHD degree here in US after my undergraduate probably at schools around New York area so that it would be easy for me to travel there and make my connections. If success in securing a job, then I would leave the PHD program. I dont want to pursue MSF or MFE due to budgetary issue. Do you think it is feasible? Will I have a shot in getting into BBs in this case? By the way I am a majoring in economics, and had an internship with a boutique in the M&A advisory.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Your chances are decent, though you will have a higher chance if you have had some sort of experience in IB because you will be competing with candidates who have had experience interning at a BB. Your PhD experience is valuable, though not as valuable as real work experience.

  30. Stryfe says

    In High School I placed 4th Nationally as a Soloist at the National High School Drill Team Competition, and I’m not the student coach for my universities ROTC Drill Team – worth putting on my resume/how much will that make me stand out? I know that guys who are nationally ranked in other sports stand out, but mind is a bit more unknown – although I am listed in a couple websites/magazines.

  31. DavidK says

    I’m a contributor (financial news and politics) to a VERY SMALL – we never really get more than a few hundred hits – sponsored blog. How relevant is this?

  32. Penn says

    How would you recommend approaching the job application for someone with a fresh PhD in a filed like government or politics?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Perhaps you can look at roles that require you to have an understanding of govt policies like credit research/macro research or even roles at the World Bank

  33. Robert says

    Hi Brian,

    I am an international student from Korea currently attending a university in California. Due to my citizenship I would have to serve the military for 21 months, which I was planning on doing so after my sophomore year and before my junior year before the recruiting season starts. I was wondering if I should include my two years of military experience on my resume. Thank you.

  34. Calum says


    Thanks for a really great and informative site. I’ve recently graduated with a high 2.1 Law degree from a UK university and I’m considering a Masters (MSc in Finance and Investment Management that includes CFA Level 1 certification) as I currently have no relevant work experience to IB. Would I be better to network and do the masters or to consider Corporate Finance at a Big 4 firm and transition to IB that way? Would the masters improve my chances of getting into IB at analyst entry level? Thanks in advance.

    • says

      It depends on how well-known your university was. If it was a top school, I would do corporate finance at the Big 4 firm and move into IB from there. Otherwise, if a brand-name school would be a big addition to your CV, I would consider a Master’s program at a top school in the UK first.

  35. Olad says


    I am interested in Equity Research and investment management, I am currently doing a MBA-Coop program (28 months with 1 year integrated work experience) here in Canada. I plan to major in Finance and I will be sitting for CFA Level 1 exam in December. Prior to this, I have completed a PhD in molecular biology and 2 years work experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Based on my details, how best do you think I can break into equity research positions, thanks.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Your CFA will help you. I’d suggest you to keep up with the markets, pick 1-2 stocks to follow (for your stock pitch), read equity research reports if you can get a hold of them through your school, online sources or friends, and start contacting research analysts for informational meetings. Given your background, you may want to focus on healthcare stocks.

  36. Mukul Arora says

    Thanks for the blog, really helpful.
    I keep reading throughout the blog about the importance of networking, but how can a person in early twenties dreaming to enter into this career possibly network with bigshots already working in the industry.
    Kindly share your views.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Confidence, right positioning (pitch), great credentials (schools, grades and work experience), and network

  37. Chris says


    Thanks for the blog, its great insight.
    I’m a sophomore at the University of Colorado. My school offers a Quantitative Finance Certificate (rigorous math curriculum, and other courses). I was considering pursuing this certificate along with a minor in math.

    My question, is in regards to breaking into one of the top firms-
    I know UCB isn’t an Ivy League so what is my best option here

    should I just major in plain Finance (receive a better GPA due to less rigor in courses) and strive for internships every summer.


    Should I receive the quantitative finance certificate and math minor. And forgo the chance at an internship my sophomore summer, and a less impressive GPA.


    • M&I - Nicole says

      Work experience matters most so if you can get a high GPA (above 3.7) I’d just do Finance. Otherwise, the 2nd option is good but I wouldn’t forgo relevant finance work experience

  38. Goher Shah says

    I am done with my BS (Hons) Business Accounting and Finance and am job less. I wanna know is CFA appealing in the developing countries?

  39. TAMOGHNA says


  40. Ryan says

    Hi, I am a recent graduate studying on Accounting; After working on IT consulting in a big 4 audit firms for 4 months, i found a back office contact in financial market at scb. I am considering whether to take CFA too, since i want to find a job at the front office or at a private equity after the end of contact. Should i network more with the people at the firm to look for internal transfer or Should i take the CFA to increase the possibility of getting hired? or do both? Thanks for your advice.

  41. Dean H says

    In regards to point 3, is an investment club really not that useful?

    I work in middle/back office of a top tier investment bank but I’m really passionate about investing. As a result, I started my own fund and have expanded my investor base at a reasonable rate. In terms of my “story”, I was hoping that this venture of mine would help me with exit opportunities, and I can talk about valuations, my portfolio and the profits made, etc.

    Sure, front office experience would be ideal but to break into it, do you think it would hold much weight if I can say that I sourced capital for my own fund, did the valuations, and outperformed the index by 15% (hopefully)?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If you have ” sourced capital for my own fund, did the valuations, and outperformed the index by 15%” then you should focus on that. Your experience is useful to firms, and as long as you pitch your story in the right way, you should have a good shot.

  42. Laith Alkhalili says

    I read this 2 weeks before my CFA Level 1 Exam, and …….. I’m …. Shattered .. hahaahah :D :D :P

  43. Kevin says

    Investment Banking in my country is more debt finance raising for infrastructure deals than typical M&A advisory in developed nations. M&A is fairly scarce here and equity-related issuances here are also quite infrequent.

    I have 1 year of Commercial and Corporate Lending experience, 4 years of equity research experience(International equities), a bachelors in Finance and a CFA Level 1 pass.

    I’ll be moving into Investment Banking (finally) from next month where I’d like to stay and progress. What qualification(s) do you think I should pursue for Career Advancement? I had sort of put the CFA to bed after deciding that I’m not interested in a career in investment management.


    • M&I - Nicole says

      I don’t think you need further qualifications. A top tier MBA from a target school may help you, especially if you want to move outside of your country or to management roles within an IB.

  44. Kevin says

    Thanks Nicole,

    I forgot to mention that I’m also enrolled in the Chartered Business Valuator (CBV) program. It’s offered by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators (CICBV) as a distance learning program through York University. Its main focuses are Business Valuation and Corporate Finance.

    I’ve completed the first level thus far. I had chosen to do this instead of the sort of default MBA option because I wanted to differentiate myself and my skill set. Also, there are currently less than 3 CBVs in my country (generous estimate).

    Hopefully I’m making the right choice. I haven’t completely written off the MBA as yet. I’ll be joining the bank at the Associate level.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Congratulations! I am not familiar with the CBV though it can potentially be useful. Please keep us posted!

      • Kevin says

        Sure, The CBV Program of studies is 6 courses (with 6 exams) followed by a membership qualification exam that will get you the CBV designation after 1,500 hours of practical experience in the field of Business Valuation and Corp Finance.

        Maybe you guys can provide your take on it in an article one of these days :)

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Thanks for your information. We will keep your suggestion in mind, though unlikely we will include this topic in the near future. Thanks for your input!

  45. Archit says

    I am a student of chartered accountancy(2nd level), I want to know what should I do to increase my chances to become a investment banker

  46. Dean says

    When insulting the intellect of another party one should ensure one’s insult is free from spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s just a matter of credibility.

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