Why Investment Banking?

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question mark“I looked at all the articles on your site but nothing told me WHY I want to get into this industry.

Can YOU tell me why I want to be an investment banker?

It’s a question you’ll get in every interview.

But it’s also a question where 90% of interviewees give terrible answers, no matter what their background is.

I can’t tell you exactly why you want to do investment banking… but I can tell you what to say in interviews.

So, why investment banking?

The Conventional “Wisdom” – Saying the Generic

Most websites, books, and other resources recommend generic answers:

  • You want to learn a lot.
  • You’re interested in corporate finance.
  • You like a fast-paced environment.
  • You’ve always done well in finance/accounting classes.
  • You want to work with smart and motivated people.

These answers aren’t “wrong.”

But there is a problem: interviewers have heard them thousands of times and will start dozing off if yours resembles one of the above.

A friend at a bulge bracket bank in Asia said one recent interviewee gave the following answer for his “Why Investment Banking?” question:

“I… just want to learn. Nowhere else would give me the learning opportunity, and I want to learn so much… I’m really interested in learning and investment banking is the best place to learn.”

Uh, so why don’t you just stay in school then?

The Real Way to Answer the Question

It’s not about “honesty.”

It’s about being personal.

You can include some of the “generic” points above in your answer, but you shouldn’t limit your answer to those.

Instead, you need to mention something from your background or interests that NOT everyone else can just look up online and regurgitate in interviews.

We’re going to look at 2 ways you can do this: the “Big Picture” method and the “Slice of Life” method.

The Big Picture

With this one, you talk about how you started out on another path but shifted your interest to finance over time.

This one works best if you’re:

  • A Career Changer (at any level).
  • A Non-Finance/Accounting Major.
  • Interviewing with an Industry Group.
  • Struggling to think of a specific incident that made you interested.

The strategy is simple: Background in One Field +Experience in Finance = Long-Term Success.

This is not the “Tell me about yourself” question, so you need to get your points across quickly – take any longer than 30 seconds and you’ll bore the interviewer, unless you were a male escort in a former life.

Example for MBA-Level Career Changer:

Let’s say you worked at a healthcare policy think tank, started to learn more about the business of healthcare, and then decided to go to business school to re-brand yourself and get into finance.

You would start by mentioning how you were interested in biology/medicine/healthcare originally, and enjoyed the work at the institute at first. But then you had to do a lot of research into healthcare M&A deals, you learned more about business/finance, met a lot of bankers, and you realized you were more interested in that side – in the future you want to advise healthcare companies on business decisions, so healthcare investment banking is the perfect match.

Example for Former Engineer at Undergraduate Level:

Let’s say you’re coming from a technical background, did a few internships, but then realized you were more interested in business.

Talk about how you did well in your internships, but became more interested in business after speaking with friends in different departments, and how you started following startup news, technology M&A news, and recent deals. You’re interested in being an investor in tech companies one day, so combining your previous background with banking experience would let you do this.

I used a similar story in multiple interviews and it always worked.

You need to modify these examples based on what you’ve done, but the basic formula is simple: Background in One Field + Finance Experience = Success in Achieving Long-Term Goals.

If you don’t know what your “long-term goals” are, just make them up to fit the situation.

The Slice of Life

With this method, you talk about how an event early in your life made you interested in business/finance and how your interest developed after that experience.

This one works best if you’re:

  • A Finance/Accounting/Business Major.
  • Coming in with previous finance/banking full-time or internship experience.
  • A “Career Changer” but you can point to something specific that prompted the change.

So let’s say you’ve been a finance major since you started university and you don’t have a “career change” to point to. In that case, you need to think about your family, experiences growing up, school, summer camps, and anything else you can think of that can explain how you became interested:

  • You saw your parents day-trading when you were younger and started following the markets.
  • You went to an event for women in business and met some MDs at banks there, which got you interested.
  • Your friend started working at a bank and you toured his office one day and met lots of people there.
  • You were in an investment club and won 1st place in a competition by picking stocks no one else even considered.

It doesn’t need to be a unique story: it just needs to be something that not everyone else will say.

And don’t overestimate the competition: I know from interviewing people at “top” schools that 99% of interviewees don’t even get the basics right.

Once you figure out what your “event that made you interested in finance” is, start your answer by stating what it is and then how it led you into your major, internships, and jobs, and how you see banking as your next step to achieve whatever you’re thinking about doing in the long-term, which is hopefully related to business.

There’s nothing “wrong” with saying you want to learn or that you’re interested in corporate finance – but you shouldn’t stop there.

You need to set yourself apart by thinking about your Slice of Life or your Big Picture.

And Not Just for “Why Investment Banking”

You need to use this answer for more than just the “Why investment banking?” questions: you have to use it in your “story” and also when you’re networking, because anyone you contact will ask why you’re interested.

Especially if you’re coming from a non-finance background, figuring out your “reason why” is critical because most peoples’ rationale consists of “I want to make more money!”

Other Possibilities

You can combine these two methods as well – just make sure your answer is short, because there’s nothing worse than asking this question and having someone ramble for 5 minutes after you’ve lost interest within 30 seconds.

Keep it to a few sentences and explain how your own background or some specific experience makes you a good match for the group you’re interviewing with.

Whatever you do, avoid stating the generic and talking about how you “want to learn.” You need to tie your “reason why” to what you’ve done in the past and what you want to do in the future.

Complications

There are a few situations where you may need to modify or add to your strategy:

  1. You’re coming in from an extremely non-traditional background and have changed your career so many times you don’t know where to start.
  2. You interviewed for banking positions before, but didn’t get any offers and ended up at a bank in a non-investment-banking position – and now you’re interviewing again.
  3. You did an internship but didn’t get a return offer and now you’re interviewing for full-time positions.

For #1, avoid the temptation to make your story “complicated.” Skip less relevant details and simplify your background so that it’s understandable in 30 seconds.

For #2, if you’re speaking with a bank you’ve interviewed at before, you should emphasize how you’ve learned / improved a lot since your initial interviews and have realized you’re even more interested now after completing your internship.

If it’s a bank you haven’t interviewed with before, say that you only became seriously interested over the summer and don’t mention your previous interviews.

For #3, say that you did well but didn’t like your group and didn’t fit in with the culture. You can’t lie about receiving an offer – but you can position it as being a “lack of cultural fit” rather than you not performing well.

Why Investment Banking?

That’s your homework: go and spend 30 minutes planning out what you’re going to say and which approach you’ll use.

And whatever you do, please don’t use the word “learn” 10 times in your response.

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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220 Comments to “Why Investment Banking?”

Comments

  1. Nick says

    Thanks for this site, I have found it extremely helpful.

    I got into an early MBA program at a top 3 bschool right out of undergrad, and the program requires me to work for 2-3 years. I currently work a corporate job and I was hoping to leverage the prestige for a better pre-MBA job.

    I have no banking experience but I have done some corporate finance and some consulting type stuff.

    I was wondering how someone would view the early MBA thing, does it help me at all?

    • says

      It may help a bit but usually they only care if you’ve actually completed the program. It’s still worth mentioning but I don’t know that the program itself will help that much.

  2. Eric says

    Great article again Brian.

    You mentioned that for an engineering, you can use the background in tech + interest in finance = success in becoming a tech investor

    But how about if you are interviewing with a generalist group or some group that is not tech related? Do you just change the tech investor portion into something else?

    Thanks a bunch.

    Eric

    • says

      I think we talked about this before, but yeah I would just say something like, “I’m interested in learning about a different industry and either being an investor there or starting a company there one day” and mention how your technical background gave you the analytical skills necessary to do it.

  3. David says

    Does this relate to all aspects of investment banking including the public finance group at BB firms? Also, can you shed some light on the PF group? Is it actually investment banking? Are there similar exit opps to PE or VC or HF? Does it help for b school? thanks brian!

    • says

      Yes, it applies to other groups but of course you need to modify it somewhat based on the group. I don’t know too much about the PF group but most people would not consider it “investment banking” – you can still move elsewhere afterward, but it’s not the same as banking. May help for b-school, but most people think it’s a notch below banking.

      • ADB says

        PF is placed in IBD at most firms, however, it is not very similar in nature to regular investment banking due to the nature of the types of projects financed.

      • ADB says

        PF is placed in IBD at most firms, however, it is not very similar in nature to regular investment banking due to the public nature of projects financed.

  4. says

    Off topic comment but after thinking a long time about what I want to do after banking I realized I would like to go into S&T. Any idea on how to position myself when contacting recruiters? I realize it will be harder to break in but definitely what i want to do after, any advice is much appreciated.

    (to the poster above Public finance does not = PE and HF. You are raising money via bonds IE: Muni bonds for a road, so its all capital raising, might be useful transition into an ECM role at a bank but PE / HF will not like it as much as it is 1. not related to the market and 2. no modeling experience. Still better than not being in IB though)

    • says

      Hmm, you need to focus on your interest in the markets and any evidence of trading / personal portfolios etc. that you have. Say you learned a lot in banking and did well, but realized you’re more interested in following the market and the news each day rather than the long-term projects you get in banking.

  5. Nitin says

    Dang! This article is one day too late.
    I was asked exactly the same question at an interview with a boutique yesterday.
    My background is on the buy side (asset management) and I also just got through my CFA Level I. So they pointedly asked me why I was interviewing for Investment Banking at all. I don’t think I made the cut.
    This would have helped so much.

    Oh, BTW, whoever has not bought Brian’s Interview Questions book should go and do so NOW. All the technical questions I was asked was straight out of that book. If only I had paid more attention to those fit questions…

    • says

      Well, thanks for the endorsement.

      Yeah you have to be prepared for this question in any interview, even if it’s not for banking – but hopefully you have a better idea now.

  6. remo says

    How do you ensure that you will get asked this question on its own? I know you’re supposed to talk about your “story”, touch upon past experience, and how this led you to banking. So I feel like you have to mention a little about why you’re there interviewing for investment banking – but if you do, you risk that they may not ask it specifically on its own and then you don’t get a chance to fully explain why banking.

    Also, if you’ve had an interest in business for a while, and majored in Finance, shouldn’t you talk more specifically about why banking (as opposed to S&T for example) – and in banking you gain a more diverse skill-set and learn more about the industry than any other job? Thanks again.

    • says

      There’s no way to “ensure” that you’ll get this question – sometimes they’ll ask explicitly, and sometimes they won’t. You definitely need to touch on this in your story though – and I would remind them at the end once again why you’re there and how it’s connected to your future.

      I would not mention why banking vs. S&T because then it makes them think that you might be interested in other fields – focus on the “why banking” rather than “Why it’s better than other alternatives.”

      • dee says

        I understand we shouldn’t talk much about the alternative but I was asked this very question: why ib and not consulting? What would I say then?

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Good question.

          I’d try to relate a personal story to why I want to do banking (this builds rapport). I’d say that I’m more interested in understanding how to execute M&A deals/IPO processes/pick stocks (depends on which group(s) you’re interviewing for) vs helping companies improve their performance in consulting. Also say that you think IB produces more “tangible results” – bankers typically make far more of an impact than consultants. True, some transactions fall apart, but when they happen you get a new public company or a new conglomerate. By contrast, you never know if the recommendations consultants make will be implemented

      • Ezra says

        Could you provide some advice for the situation i’m currently in? I’m 19 this year and has been in architecture for almost 2 years. I found out about IB few months ago doing research for an investment challenge game, and am deeply interested in it.

        I’m planning to take A levels next year, and then a Bachelor. If all goes well, I’d graduate at 24, or 25. Will I be too old to be an analyst?

        Another path that I have in mind is to take up a foundation course, which will lead to a University of London External Programme, graduate around 23, or 24 then going for Master’s at target schools.

  7. Largo says

    According to current situation on global market = downturn + threat that France and Germany will convince England to reduce/vanish bonuses for Ibankers, I think, now it’s better to go into MC. Why?
    1.salary of analyst: 60000 + 0-10000 bonus in both industries the same.
    2. MC works less hard than IB, right?
    3. MC get perks as points on loyalty programs so after getting retired will travel&sleep in hotel for free
    4. better exit opportunities which in today’s world, when everything changes so dynamically, constitutes definitely great advantage.
    but still
    5. MC not as prestigious as IB – well, IMHO

    • says

      Bankers still make more than consultants, even in a downturn.

      While “the hours” in consulting are not as long on paper, you travel almost every week and that gets very tiring. No matter how cool it sounds at first, living out of a hotel and getting on multiple flights each week gets old very fast.

      As far as exit opportunities, you could argue it gives you a broader set but honestly you’re at a big disadvantage if you want to get into finance from consulting.

  8. Sofia says

    I think the real underlying lesson here is that if you can’t think of an honestl and good answer to “Why Investment Banking?” that truly comes from your personal experiences and inclinations, then you should probably consider another career.

    For those who are truly serious about IB and their respective career paths following an analyst stint (or those truly serious about an IB career for incoming associates) would not have much of a problem with this question.

    So, the only real answer to “Why Investment Banking?”, imho, is to do some serious soul-searching until you can pinpoint exactly why.

  9. John says

    Do you think it is a bad idea to take an offer at Citi or BofA considering their financial situation? How much better is it to go to GS or MS?

  10. Frank says

    I’m currently a sophomore at a non-target and will be transferring to a target school starting next fall. My question is, is it really that important to have a sophomore year summer internship? I do fully plan on having a junior year BB IBD internship, however, I probably can’t get a relevant finance related internship sophomore year. Would not having a PWM internship or a “typical” sophomore summer internship really look bad and put me at a disadvantage vs. others that did have sophomore internships; when it comes to junior year internships and eventually FT recruiting?

    Thanks for your continued help!!

  11. Alt18 says

    Brian, what are your thoughts on Teach For America straight out of undergrad? Would a program like this help with finance/consulting/b-school/corporate recruiting? Thanks.

    • says

      It’s a good program, but it’s always tougher to get into those fields if you’ve already graduated… it has a solid alumni network and it might be good for business school, but it’s still going to be tougher to get into competitive fields afterward.

  12. e says

    Coming from a liberal arts school with no quantitative background, I feel like I’ve been completely tanking at my first month of work. My associate constantly reprimands me, and because I was put immediately on a deal, I feel like I’ve had no time to even learn that everything needs to be formatted, even for internal calculations, or little things like checking for updated stock prices. How do I make sure my reputation doesn’t get completely shot and that I’m not fired before Christmas?

  13. Tom says

    I am using your template to apply to sales & trading – I have been trading my own account for a couple of months now and wanted to mention this, where is the best place, how much should I say?

    • says

      You could say that in your rationale for how you got interested in trading – either mention it in the beginning when you’re explaining why, or say it at the end right before you conclude and remind them why you’re there.

      • Tom Clayson says

        Probably best to do that in the covering letter then?
        Also – do you think it would be ok to mention freelance ‘work’ in the work and leadership section? I code trading systems and technical indicators on a freelance basis, but again wasn’t sure whether this is legitimate ‘work’?

        Thanks for your time.

  14. Ziv says

    Hey,
    I’ve been reading here for a while, since i understood that i wanna do I-banking … Im a smart software guy with excellent personal skills and very good with math …

    Do i need an MBA to go into IB or there’s ANY chance someone will accept me as-is and let me learn/develop while working (my ass off, i know) ?

    thx

  15. Mike says

    Hi, I read your <>. In your example of expressing the career goal, you said “I want to go into venture capital and doing investment banking is the perfect way to get there”. I need to ask you if it is safe to say you want to get to point B and using point A as a step, as in my career class in school I was taught to express long-term commitment to a position. Now I have an interview for a risk reporting position in a bank, can I tell the interviewer that I want to eventually do risk management and I see this risk reporting role a great way to get there (as through which I can learn the work knowledge about the risk)?

  16. Mike says

    Hi, I read your The Banker Blueprint. In your example of expressing the career goal, you said “I want to go into venture capital and doing investment banking is the perfect way to get there”. I need to ask you if it is safe to say you want to get to point B and using point A as a step, as in my career class in school I was taught to express long-term commitment to a position. Now I have an interview for a risk reporting position in a bank, can I tell the interviewer that I want to eventually do risk management and I see this risk reporting role a great way to get there (as through which I can learn the work knowledge about the risk)?

    • says

      It is safe to say that if you’re going for analyst-level positions, for associate level you want to be more committed.

  17. Adad says

    Great site!

    I was wondering would internship experience at the World Bank be looked upon positively by investment banks? I will be working in the Transportation division in Beijing, China

    Thanks

  18. IB says

    Hey Brian- Is it ok to say you wanna do i-banking because it gives you exposure to corporate finance and the fundamentals of business given my interests in doing business in the future? I’m not really sure about the business part because from what I have been told, analysts don’t get much exposure to the details of operating business or how it really works whether being in M&A or specific industry groups. But you still work on big business transactions, so what would be the correct way to phrase this?

    • says

      You can say that but it sounds kind of generic – better to get something more personal if you can. I might not say “fundamentals of business” for the reasons you stated, you really don’t learn about the operations of real companies that much.

  19. IB says

    Yep I’ll definitely try to get personal with the question. But what exactly about businesses that we learn in I-Banking? I can back up the corporate finance part, but still haven’t figured out how to respond if, for example, they ask what you hope to learn about businesses by being an IBanking analyst.

    • says

      You learn how management teams think through decisions, plan strategy, and decide how to use financing and acquisitions to build their businesses.

  20. Janet says

    Hey Brian!

    Thanks for your awesome posts, I think I have covered almost all of them and they definitely give the best insights I’ve heard into the ibanking world. I am a rising junior in a top ten college, for my experiences I have been doing nonprofit and several marketing internships in the past and right now I am trying to figure out how to tell recruiters that I am interested in ibanking after not so much finance experience. I am trying to figure out how in my interview I could say how I have apply the skills that I learned in marketing to ibanking, do you have any suggestions of skills that recruiters would especially like from marketing? Thanks so much!!

    • says

      Tell them you know how to manage clients, set expectations, and pitch companies’ products… which are transferrable to banking because you’re also managing clients, pitching, and so on

  21. Ezra says

    Could you provide some advice for the situation i’m currently in? I’m 19 this year and has been in architecture for almost 2 years. I found out about IB few months ago doing research for an investment challenge game, and am deeply interested in it.

    I’m planning to take A levels next year, and then a Bachelor at a target school. If all goes well, I’d graduate at 24, or 25. Will I be too old to be an analyst?

    Another path that I have in mind is to take up a foundation course, which will lead to a University of London External Programme, graduate around 23, or 24 then going for Master’s at target schools. Do graduating one or a couple years earlier matter a lot in IB?

  22. A says

    Hi Brian- I’m an economics major and only know I want to do something related to business in the future. So will saying I want to be an advisor to companies sound a bit off? And saying that means I can’t use the ‘I’m not sure…” route in the where do you see yourself in years anymore right? Thanks!

  23. James says

    Hi Brain, I need your suggestion on landed a job on wall street as a financial analyst first. I am 28 yrs, old and I graduated from a non ivy league college with a 2.99 GPA. I got a bachelors in business management and a minor in finance. I currently do a Master’s In Organizational Leadership. I did a financial modeling course last yr with the Analyst Exchange it cost me about $2,500. I still feel I need some more skills. What is the best program you guys have that I should take? What are some books that I should read? I have a 3month goal to land this career job. Can you help me please.

    • says

      Don’t waste time or money on courses – with 6 years of experience, a 3.0 GPA and a non-ivy league school you have no chance of breaking in right now. Either do a top MBA program if you can get in or forget about banking and do trading at a small prop trading firm instead.

  24. Eug says

    Hi Brian, my internship was an internal auditing position in a small manufacturing company. I wonder how I could link my working experience to my interest in investment banking during the interview. By the way, if I am applying for an operations analyst (back office), will I be asked similar technical questions as I would get for a sales/trading analyst (like concepts related to CAPM/DCF/IPO)? Thanks!

    • says

      Usually back office interviews are less technical but you could still get those types of questions. For linking your interest just talk about how you got exposed to deals or M&A activity or partnerships or something like that while working at the manufacturing company.

  25. Sher says

    Dear Brain,

    1. I am a student at a target university with a 3.5 cumulative GPA Do you think this is enough to get into any of the bulge bracket banks? I’ve heard you need at least a 3.7.

    2. I often it’s difficult to talk to people you met after an informational interview and before you ask them for help for recruiting. Is emailing about things happening in their industry good?

    Thank you!

  26. Hao says

    Hey Brain,

    I am an engineering student but began interested in corporate finance from end of second year. However, I only managed to get an internship in GS ops. I am now looking for full-time in corporate finance. How should I better position myself in answering this question?

    Also, another typical question is when i answered I am interested in corporate side of banking, they will ask me why not consulting? You have any insight on answering this?

    Thanks in advance,
    Hao

  27. John Salmons says

    Hi M%I,

    Thanks for the helpful article. For answering “Why IB?” you recommend talking about personal experiences, such as how your parents traded, and you started following the market – but I am having a hard time learning how to spin that to why IB. Wouldn’t that make you more interested in S&T or AM – something that deals with the markets?

    Thanks in advance for your insight.

    • says

      The point is to show how you became interested in finance, broadly speaking, and then became more interested in IB after that initial “spark.”

  28. Joe says

    This is a great site. Not just for investment banking but for interviewing and recruiting in general. Thanks for this resource. I’ve been reading a lot of your material on interviewing essentials, especially the “how to get into banking from accounting” and I feel like I’ve crafted a good genuine story that is unique.
    I’ve struggled through the job market and I’m still here however I lack experience. Right now I am in a masters program for accounting and I studied math and econ undergrad at a top school. I had a “gap” year where I was taking prereqs in order to get into a masters program.
    My story is hard to tell because it seems as though I am focused on a career in accounting, but I have always been interested in finance. In the beginning my interest stemmed more from the glamour of investment banking without really knowing what it was all about. My interest has matured greatly over the past year and a half. I’ve grown up around entrepreneurial minds and naturally I took an interest in VC/PE. I realized how critical it is for business to have services that advise them on capital raising and expansion. My skill-set and interests are perfectly in line with invest banking and I know this is what I want to do now.
    My story also involves the, “why investment banking question?” so what happens if I tell my story and they ask me, “why do you want to be a banker? why now?” when I’ve already answered it in my story?

    Also, my undergrad gpa is crummy and not reflective of my abilities which is my fault. I feel as though I’ve proven myself post=grad though by excelling in all of my accounting and finance classes. I’m not sure this will be enough. I do have an extensive alumni network in top banks though. Do you think I have a fighting chance?

    Loving all the material. Thanks again. Happy Holidays.

    • says

      Just answer it again and go into more detail. GPA depends on how bad it was but if it was above 3.0 or so you still have a shot with networking.

  29. HB says

    Hi Brian, This is a great site. I was wondering If i can brake into IB with 2:1 bachelors degree in International business from an average university, but with not much experience. I did vacation work in sales and marketing, also in recruitment consultancy and work for three years in respected bar and restaurant while in University. im 25 years old and highly interested in IB, do you think i still have a chance to brake into investment banking?

  30. Paris says

    Thank you for this website – I really find the information I have read so far very valuable. I graduated from an undergraduate business school this past May with a degree in Finance, a 3.7 GPA, and several interesting extracurriculars. My school is non-ivy league, but is in the top 10 business schools in the nation. I interned in private wealth management last summer at JP Morgan and ended up taking the wrong path after graduation, accepting an offer in consulting instead because I was wary of signing a 3-year contract without being 100% sure what I wanted (I am currently not under contract.) I really want to get into asset/portfolio management or investment banking at a bulge bracket — am I at a huge disadvantage considering I have already graduated?

    I have performed excellently on my current job, have really good SAT scores (2190), and am a CFA candidate. My interest, hunger, and skills are definitely there, but I’m nervous that my only option is applying online next fall for the following summer and that people don’t even read these applications, but without campus recruiting I feel it is my only option.

    Any suggestions on how to break into the field as a new graduate, but still not the traditional entry-level candidate? (I actually want to apply to an entry-level position to be trained properly in the industry)

    Thanks for your help.

  31. Monica says

    Hi Brain,

    Thank you very much for the article.

    My academic backgrand is a mess, I’ve always wanted to consult with someone because I’m planning to work in the Investment Banking industry. Could you please give me some advice if you don’t mind to read the long story?

    I started my A levels in 2003 and was accepted by Oxford University conditioned on two ‘A’s at my final A level exams, so I dropped the third A level subject and got only 2 completed A levels with ‘A’s then started to study at Oxford in 2005. That’s when and where I became an alcoholic and committed an eating disorder…
    I didn’t take the problems that serious at the time as I thought I was just unhappy and trying to avoid studying. So I blamed myself badly, the more I felt guilty the worse I performed at uni and the serious I suffered from the problems. I got kicked out from Oxford after the first year in 2006. I had to take a year out and take another A level subject as there’s no good university would accept a student with only two completed A levels.
    I re-started at another relatively good university in 2007 and changed the subject from Physics to Computing. But I was still having the problems with food and alcohol, which had had strongly affected my daily life. In 2008, I got kicked out from uni again..
    Then I went to a rehab and have been seeing a doctor to treat the problems while studying Finance at another university. The reason I chose to study Finance at the beginning was that only this Finance course at University C accepted me without asking any explanation of why I left the other two universities.
    I have been recovering well and started to feel that I can study as how I used to. (ps I was a really good student and very hard-working before becoming an alcoholic…)
    Although I didn’t know anything about finance before, I found Finance is most interesting subject I’ve ever studied, and I’ve visited many banks in the City and talked to many bankers recently. I have to say that I love what they do and I want to be one of them…
    I read an article on this website, it’s about if you are not a graduate from a top university, it is a good choice to take a Master’s degree at one the top business schools. I’ll do what you suggested. I’m planning to do a Masters at LSE after I graduate in 2012 and I believe I can make it.

    Now, the problem is I will be 27 when I start to work.
    Firstly, I don’t know if I will be too old to become an analyst. I remember you mentioned in one of the articles that the banks tend to hire people below the age of 26 as analysts…
    Secondly, I cannot explain what happend to me in the past. I don’t think they will consider suffering from eating disorder is an acceptable excuse of getting kicked out from uni twice and also, honestly, I don’t want to tell them that I had those problems.
    I need an explanation. The banks are going to know which schools I’ve attended to after GCSEs…Could you please give me some advice? Can I make up an excuse based on the truth but without mentioning I was an alcoholic and had to make myself throw up everyday? I’m sure I can control myself now and concentrate on studying and working well, but how can I make them believe it?

    Many thanks,

  32. StoryTime says

    I have 2 stories. This is for associate level.

    1)Story: My dad is a banker. He was an EVP and Secretary to the Board of Directors at his bank. So there was a banking ‘atmosphere’ in my house and I always had an interest in finance and followed business news. I chose engineering in undergrad as I loved fiddling around with gadgets. I worked in engineering for a few years to understand the industry and now I want to do banking in Diversified Industries (my current field of work). I knew I wanted to be a BFL (like my dad) hence I am here sitting in front of you interviewing for associate positions.

    What actually happened: I knew I wanted to become a BFL like my dad. So I decided to take a “regular” job and enjoy my early 20s and not become a banking analyst and work 100hrs/week(I knew I entering at associate level was better for BFL). So if I mention my dad will I across as unoriginal and uncreative who follows the herd (in this case my dad)? Or would it be good as they know I have a ‘background’ in finance and am actually committed to the field and won’t jump off to PE or HF?

    2) Use the template your provided in your article on how to break into investment banking as an engineer and not mention my family angle and instead use some other “spark” like an informational interview with alumni or case competition etc and just pretend that I had never heard of banking before in my life?

    Thanks so much for your time and help!

    • StoryTime says

      I am not sure about the US, but in my country I have seen associates jumping off to PE/HF, hence I mentioned it.

    • says

      You can still use that story, the family angle isn’t necessarily bad. If you don’t have another good reason just use that story.

  33. E says

    Great article, I am not sure if my story however would cut it… I think that while it is genuine, I feel it might come across as a bit thin?

    Basically I want to get into investment banking because I love business, and I enjoy reading about too many different industries to actually pick one to work for in particular… so I figured that investment banking gives me exposure to many different industries, as well as being able to perform the role of finance which I find interesting (valuation etc.)

    Thats my primary reason, however I dont know if it will cut it with the interviewer. My father used to be the director of the retail loans division for one of the top 4 banks in Australia and ran the short term money market operations in the same bank at one point. Through this I gained an insight into the banking world and loved his crazy stories about the ridiculous hours and awesome things that happened whilst he was working in these positions.

    Should I use this in my ‘story’ for interviewers instead, or perhaps combine the two? It seems as a more tangible link to interest rather than a embedded interest that I have developed over my time in university.

    Awesome site by the way, I have been trawling it the past week or so gleaning every single piece of information I can get from it!

    E

  34. Eric says

    Hi Brian,

    Great article, thank you for putting all the info on.

    I am a final year undergraduate student from a top Australia university. I have a 3.8+ GPA and past internship in a big four accounting firm (doing auditing work). I am now interning at morningstar (equity data team). But I really want to get into investment banking or sales & trading.

    I will graduate by the end of this year, so I will participate into the upcoming graduate recruitment in fall.

    Could you please suggest how much chance I can get into either IB or S&T? Which one do you think better for me to apply later?

    Thanks

  35. Sanjay says

    Hi,

    Nice article, thanks.

    I recently graduated from a top undergrad B school and did an ibanking internship at a boutique in NYC. However, I decided to pass on their offer or try to move to a bigger bank and instead took a consulting position at a start-up consulting firm. Now I’m thinking, though, that I should have stayed in banking.

    How hard do you think it will be to get back into banking with this background?

    Thanks.

    • says

      Harder than it would have been had you stayed at the boutique bank, from consulting it’s tough outside the top 3 firms

  36. Jayson says

    Hi,

    Thank you for the great article.

    I am a final semester engineering undergraduate (expected to graduate in July) from University of New South Wales. I have developed keen interest in joining IB.

    I have a 3.9/4 GPA and held various leadership position in curricular activities. However, I do not have any finance related industry internship.

    What do you think is my chance of breaking into IB with my current background (I am aiming Australia and Asia due to my personal background) and I would really appreciate any advice in terms of securing a graduate position in one of the bulge bracket banks.

    Thank you.

    ps: I have read your article on engineers breaking into IB.

    • says

      You have a chance, mostly because fewer people do internships in Australia. In other regions it would be nearly impossible with no finance-related internships. If you look at the case studies under the Recruiting page at the top you’ll see some interview with readers in similar positions.

  37. Ram says

    Hey Brian,

    Great articles. I’m currently at my engineering related internship, (only a freshman transitioning to a sophomore so I took whatever I could get). I’ve been interested in Finance and Investment banking for a while now, and when I get back to school, I’m going to change my major back to Finance, and apply to the school’s business program and honors college.
    The thing is though, I go to UMass Amherst. I know it’s not the greatest school, so I was wondering what my chances are of landing a solid investment banking internship next summer/studying abroad junior year and staying for the summer for an international experience in ibanking? Anything I should do to help my case?

    Thanks for any help, again, I love your articles, I need to seriously get back to work at this internship haha.

    Ram

  38. M.D says

    Thanks Brian! Your articles are really helpful and they give me a lot to think about. I am a rising sophomore at a pretty good college and currently having an intership in a hegdge fund company. My question is, I know i am interested in M&A but a lot of my past experiences are trading/equity research related. If the interviewer asks me why investment banking, I don’t know exactly how to tell my story from those trading/equity research experience. Can you give me some advice? Thanks !

    • says

      Just say you thought trading would be more interesting but over time realized you like working on longer-term projects and getting to play a role in what entire companies are doing

  39. Robert says

    Brian,

    I wish I had come to this site earlier!!! I am going to be a senior at a target school and I had applied to about 15 banking internships and only got one interview which I didn’t get an offer for. I am doing a wealth management internship at a BB right now and I am majoring in Statistics and Economics. I have a very high GPA, above 3.9 and have taken a good number of “quant” classes, ie (stochastic processes, linear modeling, time series, etc). The problem I am having right now is how I sell myself. I am legitimately interested in I-banking, not like some people who are only for the money. Do you know how an interviewer might see my background and what you suggest is the most important thing I focus on right now in going after a full-time analyst position? Thank you so much, really wish you had a donate link!!

    • says

      Yeah I would focus on how wealth management was good to get you exposed but you wanted something higher-profile; skip the quant classes as that will make you look even rose.

      • Robert says

        By higher-profile, do you mean like “I wanted something that involved researching and advising for larger clients, i.e. institutions?”

        Also, sorry but what do you mean by even rose? Thanks for the kind help, I am planning on buying your kit soon!

          • Robert says

            Hi, one final question, my friend was asked “so why exactly do you “like” advising for larger companies. What would be a good response to that? He was interviewing at Goldman for Superday and he said he believed that his BS answer to this was the biggest reason he didn’t get an offer.

          • says

            Say that it lets you explore more complex issues that you wouldn’t learn about on smaller deals… on smaller deals people tend to get paranoid/stupid about tiny issues that don’t matter, whereas on larger ones you get to learn about things like integration, cross-border M&A law, etc. that you don’t get exposed to on local ones.

  40. Thomas says

    my real reason is to assist the client with an multi-billionaire M&A or IPO and together make an impact on the industry n make it to the news headline. Is that too little? I am 22 looking for an internship and really dont have any family members in the field of finance or any good stories too add.

  41. Chris says

    Hi Brian,

    Incredible site, entertaining and very informative. I’m about to be a senior at a target school with a pretty impressive resume… for a consultant. Two consulting internships, specialized workshops, clubs – ready for an MBB run. I applied to a few banks last year (and, miraculously, did walk away with one internship offer despite zero finance knowledge), but went with my consulting one instead. Now I’ve come to the realization that I seem far better suited for banking (for real resons, not models and bottles) and don’t know how to spin my consulting-centric resume. I’d love to get your input when you have a moment.

    Thanks,
    Chris

  42. Adam says

    Hi, I was in an interview not too long ago and I got asked a very tough question. The lady interviewing me asked me “How I felt about the financial companies and the recent public backlash against them”. What is the correct way to answer that?

  43. apoorva says

    hi,
    i read ur article..and it’s really helpful…i am an engineer and is interested to work in bank as a probationary officer. recently was interviewed in a bank…they put the usual question why u did engineering if u want to join a bank….
    i answered that engineering has developed my analytical skills…i can handle numeric data well and m looking forward for an administrative job…but seeing there expression they weren’t satisfied…by my ans….
    i really don’t have a story…for my intrest towards banking…..can you help me to put up my answer in a more precise way???

  44. Holland says

    Brian,

    You probably won’t be able to answer this in time, because my interview is tomorrow. Anyways, I am a graduate student in public policy, with an internship in management consulting, project finance, and currently as a federal employee researching financial regulations. I am interviewing for an analyst position at a middle market Ibank.

    I’m wondering if you have any general tips for someone with my sort of background.

    Thanks.

  45. tina says

    hi, i belong more to the second category–econ major, boutique ibanking internship in the summer, now going for full time recruiting. i know what it is that started my interest in ibanking, but the problem is that i don’t know what i want to do in the long term. what do you recommend that i say then? thanks!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      It is not a problem that you don’t know what you want to do in the long term – it is common; no one really knows.

      Just focus on the story of what got you interested in banking (spin it right) and what you think you can learn from being in banking (maybe the modelling skills, the magnitude of exposure to corporate clients which other companies can’t provide you, the caliber of the people you will be working with, etc). In terms of the LT goals, you might not have an idea of what it is you want to do, but try to visualize what it is you are trying to achieve in the LT (Hopefully sth business related; I’m sure you can come up with something) and link that w banking.

      • tina says

        could i just say that i’m not quite sure what i want to do in the long term, but i know that it will be something finance-related, so banking will… blahblah?

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Don’t say you are not quite sure of what you want to do because that will not come across as “attractive” to interviewers. Just think of a concrete story that attracted you to banking. If they press what you want to do in the LT, make up something that you actually somewhat believe in – maybe you envision urself climbing the ladders, eventually helping banks originate clients, etc

  46. Mohamed Fasil Rahiman says

    Hi,
    I’m a B-tech(EEE) with an MBA.I have nearly 1 year experience in a trading firm.What are opportunities for me to get into investment banking jobs???

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Gain some modelling experience. Get an internship w a bank. Try to understand what IB is about and why you want to get into banking. Network extensively. Otherwise, your chances are low.

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