by Brian DeChesare Comments (72)

From Liberal Arts Major with No Finance Experience in the UK to Equity Research in… Mexico

Equity Research in Mexico

Ask anyone what banks have been doing over the past few years, and you’ll get the same answer: “Laying people off! Cutting! Downsizing!”

Now, that’s not quite true because hiring has actually fluctuated from year to year, but the basic point is true: the finance industry has shrunk quite a bit from the last bubble in most countries in Europe and North America….

Except for Mexico.

As banks scaled back their hiring in New York and London post-crisis, they bounced back to growth much more quickly in Mexico, Brazil, and other countries in Latin America.

Today, you’ll hear just what a difference this trend made for one reader who went from no finance experience and a liberal arts degree in the UK to equity research at a bulge bracket bank in Mexico.

So pull out a tequila shot, or two, or three, and get ready for yet another story of defying the odds to get into the industry:

Graduating Into the Crisis 101

Q: You know the drill. Walk us through how it all began.

A: I’m from the UK originally; I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do at university, so I studied some literature, some history, and ended up with a degree in “American Studies,” which just means US History/Literature.

I realized pretty early on that it wasn’t exactly for me, but I just wanted to stick it out and finish the degree – I attempted to take more economics and political economy classes since I was more interested in those, but flexibility was limited.

Then I graduated into the midst of the financial crisis, realized that my employment prospects were quite bad, and knew that my only chance would be to head off to London and look for work anywhere I could find it.

Q: I have a feeling this part of your story doesn’t end with you winning an IB offer in London.

A: Hah, nope, not at all. I ended up working in the recruitment industry (i.e. headhunting) because it was the only one hiring fairly actively back then.

This industry has a terrible reputation, but I quite liked the fact that it was a sales-oriented role and was lured by the promise of high earnings early on (very commission-driven). Plus, I didn’t have many options at the time.

I worked as a recruitment consultant at a small agency in London for a year, which ended up not being quite as bad as you might think, at least for the networking. Through a contact I made on the job, I moved over to a bulge bracket bank in a total “back office” capacity, working on recruitment for the bank.

I gained a ton of insight into the on-campus recruiting process, but I was the one administering it even though I wanted to be one of the candidates instead.

From understanding the recruitment process on the inside, I also knew that the front office even at a smaller bank would have been completely beyond my reach at this time, since I had poor grades from a lesser-known university.

Q: So what was your next move?

A: The same thing anyone else would do in this situation: complete another Bachelor’s program at a top school.

I decided to do a part-time economics & finance degree from one of the top schools in London so that I could continue working while taking online classes at the same time.

I knew, of course, that it wouldn’t be the same as the real thing, but at least I could start writing a better school’s name on my CV when applying for other positions.

I took a bit of time off to study for exams right at the end of my first year, and then one of the directors at my bank set me up with a position at a different bank in London since I had expressed interest in moving in the direction of the front office.

Q: So instead of helping you move internally, he directed you to another bank instead?

A: Yes! The director moved to this same bank himself.

This role was still not at all “front office” – but I was doing actual analysis rather than recruiting, and I was getting a lot of exposure to Excel and finance while working with and meeting a lot of people in different divisions there.

And, perhaps more importantly, now I could write the names of 2 well-known banks on my CV and the name of one of the top schools in the UK.

Q: So you stayed at this new bank, finished the online degree, and then tried to make a move into the front office there?

A: No, that would be far too boring a path to take!

I spent a year in this new role, but got to a point where I wasn’t learning much and didn’t have a great chance of advancing. It really is very difficult to move into the front office from the back office these days.

I had always wanted to live abroad and learn another language right after university, but didn’t have a chance to do so back then.

So I took everything I owned, set off for Mexico, and planned to learn Spanish while teaching English there.

I wanted to continue my part-time online degree while there, catch some sun, learn a new language, and figure it out from there.

To Mexico and Beyond

Q: I like your boldness, it reminds me of the time when I suddenly decided to sell everything I owned and head off to (South) Korea a few years ago.

So what happened when you arrived in your new home?

A: I got there and immediately found a position teaching “business English” in Mexico City – which meant “teaching English to bank employees.”

At the same time, I also started networking a lot to get my social life going there.

After about 3 months, I was getting tired of the English teaching role – it got repetitive after a while, and unlike in countries such as Japan/Korea the pay was quite poor.

But since I had been teaching business English, I made lots of contacts at banks there and started asking them about open positions.

They saw the names of the large banks on my CV and sometimes didn’t take the time to understand the specifics of what I did – they just said, “Well, he worked at these 2 brand-name banks, he must know what he’s doing.”

So I started getting referrals to banks directly for interviews. In Mexico, it’s a highly informal process where you can easily get interviews if you know a few people in the right places.

Q: OK, but wait a minute: you had just arrived there 3 months ago. There’s no way you could have learned Spanish in that amount of time.

Is it not required for finance roles there?

A: To clarify, you do need Spanish for IB and PE-type roles there since you work with local companies and many people won’t know English.

I interviewed for a few of those roles and they said, “We’re happy to interview you and give you a shot if you have intermediate-level Spanish, but if you come on board you need to get to business-level Spanish ASAP.”

I focused on equity research associate roles because you don’t need Spanish quite as much for those – all the reports are still written in English since they’re sent to investors worldwide, and the investor relations departments of large companies in Mexico also all speak English because they cater to those international investors as well.

Intermediate Spanish (and Google Translate) comes in handy when I need to refer to a local news source for info that is not yet on Bloomberg and other English language media sites, but that is not a deal-breaker, especially in the early days.

You definitely want to learn Spanish if you’re here for any length of time because you need it for informal / social occasions and it’s essential for “client relationships” past a certain seniority level.

Q: OK, thanks for clarifying. What made you so confident that you could even get these roles?

A: I just didn’t care about what I was “qualified” for. I said, “I’m in a foreign country, I don’t want to teach English, but I do want to stay here, so what do I have to lose by aiming for the moon?”

Also, I had built up so many contacts from my teaching job and highly sociable expat existence that it would have been a waste not to leverage them.

I ended up getting interviews at several bulge brackets in Mexico City, all through my contacts there, all within 1-2 months of each other.

The interviews were completely different from what I was expecting, mostly because they’re so much less formal and the recruiting system in Mexico is also completely different.

Q: How exactly is the recruiting process different?

A: They don’t have the “summer analyst programs” here where you work for a few months and then possibly get a full-time offer at the end.

Instead, they bring on interns throughout the year, often hiring or interviewing solely based on word-of-mouth, and most interns complete part-time ongoing internships in the last year to year-and-a-half of university here.

If they do well enough, they’ll receive full-time offers.

As a result, interns work far more closely with the team than typical summer analysts do – and it’s great for the bank because they get “cheap labor” and can also take much longer to evaluate your performance before giving you an offer.

Q: Sounds more like the system in many European countries where year-round recruiting is more common…

So what about interviews?

A: They were far less intense than what your articles on equity research have suggested.

Here’s what I encountered:

  • 1-hour long numerical “numerical reasoning test” (very similar to the ones given in the UK)
  • After this test, I went through 3 back-to-back interviews with Associates at the bank
  • For the “2nd & final round,” I had a telephone interview with the Lead Analyst on the team (he is based abroad) and he mostly just asked if I could “perform certain tasks,” such as building valuations and 3-statement models
  • Most interviews were “fit”-focused more than anything else, or simply asked me to describe certain aspects of the job
  • Almost everyone I spoke with was in their mid-20’s– very few senior people interviewed me
  • Most of the technical questions were pretty basic – the time value of money, accounting, the 3 statements, valuation…

There was no stock pitch, no modeling test, no case study, or anything else like that.

I had read your guides and articles here and prepared for something much more difficult, which impressed them – apparently, a lot of candidates from Mexico don’t do much preparation and often come in without a clear idea of what different divisions do.

It was fairly easy to rise above the rest just by understanding exactly what equity research is, why you want to do it more than IB or sales & trading (side note: no chance for S&T without native-level Spanish), and being as prepared for the interview as you would be in NY or London.

Mexico Equity Research – Rating: Outperform

Q: So I’m assuming you went through all this and won offer(s) after a few months.

A: Yeah, it was a fairly quick process because it was so informal.

Essentially, they just viewed me as a full-time intern joining the team at first and the “barriers to entry” were lower since it wasn’t a locked-in, long-term commitment on their part.

Q: Right, even interns in the US sometimes get that treatment at very small firms here.

So how is the equity research job itself different in Mexico?

A: It’s not as different as you’d expect.

I’ve seen some of your accounts of ER in other markets, like the Middle East, and what a strange culture it can be there – but at a bulge bracket bank here, it’s still fairly close to what your original article on equity research careers described.

Most of our clients are institutional investors in NY or London with an emerging markets focus or an emerging markets team.

In fact, I’d say around 75-80% of the buy-side investors we work with are foreign. Of the remainder, 15-20% are in Brazil and then only around 5% are actually local Mexican funds.

So the expectations are very similar to NY or London roles, and most of our senior people are in those places rather than here in Mexico City.

Most companies here are not “amateur” like you might see in other emerging markets – disclosure requirements have gotten stricter over time, and all companies here have transitioned into GAAP by now. That switch was fairly recent, though, so sometimes we have to spend time modifying previous years’ data to make it comparable.

You do still see some “funny business” in filings, but those companies are in the minority or are shunned by serious investors, so we do not cover them.

Really, the main difference is that you focus on different industriestelecom and media (think Carlos Slim) are huge, and so are consumer, materials, and industrials.

Other sectors represent a smaller percentage of what we do.

Q: Great. What about your own interaction with institutional investors?

A: So far, it has mostly been answering client requests, sometimes going to events such as Investor Days (though that is more for the companies we cover rather than the buy-side), attending conferences, and so on.

One advantage of having the more senior people abroad is that if a client wants to visit a coverage company, you will be the one making it happen and accompanying them for the day, so you get exposure to some reasonably well-known PMs – which I would imagine is more difficult when you are junior in NY or London.

As I mentioned, most of the investors we work with are foreign because the buy-side is still nascent in Mexico. Brazil is a bit further ahead, but it’s not even close to what you see in developed markets, so there’s a lot of growth in store for the region over the next few decades.

Q: You mentioned how interviews were not very technical – what about the job itself?

A: It’s all fairly standard and you use the same types of analyses. Especially since companies here now use GAAP, you don’t need to make (m)any adjustments.

The only real difference is that you have to price in extra political / emerging markets risk since the country is more “unstable” than those in developed markets – although, with events over the past few years I’m not even sure how “safe” developed countries are anymore…

Culture: Fiesta or Siesta?

Q: And I’m assuming that things are pretty relaxed since everyone there is young and there aren’t many senior staff?

A: Yes and no. The “oldest” people here (in EQ) are in their mid-20’s, so in that sense it’s more relaxed with the immediate team.

But everyone is still very serious about what they do, and the hours are not much different from what you find in London or NY.

During earnings season, it still gets crazy and turns into near-investment banking hours. The rest of the time, finishing at 7 – 8 PM after spending 12 hours in the office is more likely.

We don’t have much direct supervision in this office, but that doesn’t make a difference because senior people elsewhere still want to see our output constantly.

Q: Well, at least the pay should be in the same range then, right? I mean, everyone says pay in Brazil is actually higher than in NY/London…

A: I wish! You can’t compare it to Brazil because that’s a bigger market, the cost of living is higher, and talent is extremely scarce, so pay in traditional IB/PE roles can be higher.

Here, however, the compensation is disproportionately lower – even if you adjust for PPP, it’s still significantly less than what you would have earned in a developed market.

And, of course, they pay interns even less and internships are close to “unpaid.”

However, you do get bigger “bumps” as you advance than you would in developed markets.

So once you’ve been here for a few years, the pay might potentially catch up to the level of 2nd/3rd year associates in ER elsewhere. And if you adjust for PPP and the quality of life you can get, it might even overtake it.

The bottom-line: do NOT come here for the money.

If you really like the country and culture and want a market that’s easier to get into, it can be great – just make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Q: Does this issue with pay prompt people to move to other countries?

A: Sometimes, yes, but it’s also about getting broader exposure and better access to buy-side roles at larger funds. I’ve seen people move to Brazil, NY, and London after working here for a few years.

Local exit opportunities are actually quite good; I’ve seen people go to local PE firms (tiny but growing quickly), trading firms, top strategy consulting  firms (McKinsey/BCG), or even go to blue-chip companies for the corporate finance career path, or investor relations roles.

If you want to move “up” in market prestige and get yourself to NY / London / HK, you will need to leverage your emerging market expertise; emerging markets-focused asset management firms or hedge funds are your most likely route when making a move like that.

Q: So, are you planning to do something like that in the future?

A: I haven’t been here long enough to say quite yet. At the minimum, I’m planning to stay here for a few years and then consider moving to another market.

I could actually see myself going to Asia since I have a bit of an “emerging markets bug” after this experience!

Q: Awesome. Anything else you want to add for our readers?

A: A few other points:

  • The CFA. Yes, I know you hate it, but they actually care about it here. It became a talking point in a few interviews when I mentioned that I was studying for it. They have no idea what you really know when you interview for roles in Mexico, so by stating that you’ve signed up for the CFA or have taken it, you’re “validating” yourself and reducing the risk in hiring you. And especially for ER, the material in the CFA is very relevant to the job.
  • Emerging Markets. Here’s a fun stat for you: global emerging markets now make up over 25% of equity capital markets worldwide, and that’s only going to grow in coming years. So you’ll still get great exposure to large clients here, team sizes are getting bigger and bigger, and it’s a great field to be in. And that’s not even mentioning the fun lifestyle: being an expat is awesome.

Finally, I just wanted to say that I decided to share my story because I saw some negative / discouraging comments on your site about getting into finance in emerging markets and I had a completely different experience.

While I think the above is true in places like China where it’s very difficult for foreigners to break in, recruiting can be much easier in some of the other “emerging markets,” especially if it’s for a role that doesn’t require proficiency in the local language.

So don’t sell yourself short or assume that you can’t do it just because you’re not from the country.

Q: Thanks for your time and for sharing your story!

A: My pleasure.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

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

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  1. Realize this was few years ago, but any chance this is still relevant for research jobs in Mexico? Would love to talk to the original poster if they are still in the loop.

    1. Honestly, I’m not sure. I lost touch with the interviewee here, but finance is still a fast-growing market in Mexico.

  2. I loved this article, as I’m in a similar boat. Liberal arts degree and master’s (drama), graduated into the recession, but somehow lucked into an administrative role at a boutique offshore firm. After 4-ish years here, I have learned a great deal about IR and Structured Finance that isn’t reflected by my current job title, despite having no “formal” training per se. A move to NYC is in the cards for me (currently UK based). I love the kind of work we do on my current team, and want to take a more active role in the Securitisation processes we oversee.

    1. How would you recommend I best transition away from admin support within the group to better position myself as a proper associate candidate in a NYC Structured Finance environment?

    2. I do not have a degree in an acceptable discipline and cannot afford to go back to school. Could my work experience make up for it, or is this a dealbreaker?

    1. 1) I’m not sure there’s a secret trick for doing this. Ask your supervisors directly if you can make the move, and if not, network with other firms and ask around at those places. Take a look at some of the middle/back office to front office stories on this site as well.

      2) I don’t think it matters because you don’t need anything more than an undergrad or master’s degree for Structured Finance.

  3. Hi,

    I just got offers from 2 ER teams in NYC – one of them from a boutique firm and the other from a bulge bracket firm – and I am deciding which offer to take. After spending 2-3 years working for the firm in NYC, it is a life-long dream to live (and work) in several foreign countries for maybe 1-3 years at a time.

    Will working for the BB firm aid my ability to work in different countries as perhaps it would be easier to internally transfer to other open position in different regions? Is there any particular reason why an ER firm in, let’s say, Germany would even want to hire an ER associate with 1-2 years of experience coming out of a NY firm?

    Additionally, the author of this post mentions he is considering working in an Asian market next but what about the language factor? If the firm wants you to know the local language to an intermediate level before applying, do you study up on your Japanese whilst in Mexico (seems very difficult) or take time off to travel to and learn the local language and then re-apply?

    1. Yes, the BB offer would definitely make it easier to move to other countries because you could transfer to different cities more easily. You’re not likely to get hired at firms in other countries if you just apply directly with no previous experience or connection to the country.

      You won’t be hired in most Asian markets (China, Japan, Korea) unless you’re a native speaker of the language in question. Maybe Singapore or maybe HK for some roles, but even those are shifting more toward Mandarin being required.

      1. Thanks for the info!

  4. Hi,

    I’m currently in my final year of my business degree from a semi-target English university and looking to go into banking in Mexico, my only professional internship was for an automotive manufacturer in Spain working in the sales & business development department.
    I speak fluent French and conversational Spanish.

    My question is, without much of a financial background outside of university and intermediate Spanish, how should I go about entering the Mexican banking industry?
    All that I’ve read leads me to believe equity research would be the best entry point for a non-Spanish speaker and then learn Spanish there, but without the experience I have my doubts that would be possible.

    Thank you.

    1. P.S. I could quite easily get a position in wealth management at BNP Paribas in France first, but ideally I would like to go to Mexico straight after graduating and work on my CFA at the same time.

    2. Your options are to network in advance via email/LinkedIn, or to just go there in-person, do some business English teaching as the interviewee here did and then network your way in like that. Equity research is probably the best starting point, yes (IB requires advanced Spanish skills). Maybe start by contacting some people in ER in Mexico via LinkedIn, present your background, and see what they say.

      1. Thank you, I’ve connected with an ER associate there on LinkedIn, we’ll see if anything positive comes out of it!
        Thanks again and keep up the good work, I love your website and Youtube channel, very informative!

  5. Hi Brian
    Long time creeper, first time poster. I came across this particular article just in my time of need. Ive been in the S&T side of most major investment banks in Singapore and wanted to move to Mexico. As i’m still rather junior, it would be very long till I might be able to get an internal move and I really want to make a move at this juncture of my life.
    I just want to know how does one go about really reaching out to somebody? (i’ve cold-emailed a bunch of people but no replies as of yet)
    Moreover, I plan to eventually physically move there for about 1-2 months (im lucky to have a family there) to be able to physically meet people where the opportunity comes along. Do you think this might be a good idea?
    Lastly, how does recruiting in S&T in mexico differ from Research/IB? (is it still a year-round hiring process, or more structured?)

    Thank you very much for your response and i’m more than willing to provide more details!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d probably fly down there, meet people and see what comes up. So yes I think its a great idea that you’ll be there! I am not 100% sure re. S&T in Mexico vs. research but I presume the process maybe similar, though the questions raised would likely be different.

      1. Dear Nicole
        Thank you very much for your response! I have also sent an email to you guys for a follow up question.

        Thank you very much for all your assistance!


        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          You’re welcome!

  6. Hi Brian, interesting post! Just wondering if you had any thoughts on moving from doing equity research in Asia to doing ER in London. I am currently already covering small- cap stocks in Asia but am wondering if I have to start over being an equity research associate or if I can start covering stocks straight away in London? What do you think will be the best way to make the move? Thanks!

    1. They may discount your experience, but more so if you’re moving from a small firm to a big one. Otherwise if you’re moving from a large bank to another large bank it’s probably OK. To make the move, networking (alumni, LinkedIn, cold-emailing) is the best option – headhunters are sort of useless for regional transfers and if you’re aiming for large banks.

  7. Then could you tell me hovv long does it normally take for an analysist to become an associate. Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Usually 2-3 years. Otherwise 4 max. If you’re stellar, maybe 1 but that’s rare.

      1. Hi Brain

        On the resume. when it comes to references. how important is it. Can people just write ‘I will provide references on request.’ Thanks

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes, you can just write “references available upon request”

  8. Dear Brain

    I m preparing an IB interview for next Tuesday. I still don’t feel confident to answer questions like ‘why you want to do investment banking’. Could you please advice me what are the key points to answer questions like this. Thanks a million.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You need to mention something from your background or interests that not everyone else can just look up online and regurgitate in interviews.

      1. Thanks a lot for your advise on my coming interview. There is another thing I have been bothered for a long time. You see even I have a top MBA degree. but I still don’t have any IB experience. Given my age 32. what position do you think would suits me the best. Besides?what positions bankers would normally give when they hire a 32-year old MBA with no financial experiences. 

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I think you may want to approach boutique/smaller banks and start off as a senior analyst/associate first. You may have to network a lot and convince people to give you a chance given your age and lack of experience.

      2. Hi Brain
        As I looked up IB job offers online. Most of them clearly says 1 or 2 years relevant experience needed.
        As to me apart from a MBA degree I don’t have any IB experience. (I only have a 8 weeks finacial Internship experience. Doing balance sheet recs. Income recs and project profitability analysis).
        What would be the best way for me to approach those jobs.
        P.S. What is the main differences between analysist and associate. Thanks

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          You’ll probably be applying as an analyst, unless the associate role is specifically for post-MBAs. Most associates require students with a few years of experience in banking. Analyst is a rank below associates, people who join initially start as analysts

  9. Really nice interiew!
    Regarding that “foreign effect” does it apply also to Spaniards or just to people from the US and UK?

    1. I think it can, potentially, but it depends on where you’ve worked before as well… brand-name firms and larger companies / universities will always help.

    2. Avatar

      I think it might apply to Europeans/Americans in general. Only thing is Mexico – Spain is a bit of an awkward one potentially, due to the history. But totally agree with Brian get some big companies/universities on the CV and that will be big a help.

  10. Great idea. Thanks a lot.

  11. Dear Brain

    I have been net working since Febury. As you can see it is June already. I still have not get any intern offer from IB. However I have been told that I can get a intern in Accounting section at a IT firm.
    Could you please advise me that at which section of accounting relates to IB the most. Or is there any other interns which can help me for my future application to IB banks.
    Thanks a million.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you get into a big 4 accounting firm, probably TAS –
      I’d suggest you to move to a Big 4 after your current internship and try to break in from there. Not the ideal route, but if you don’t have other options on hand right now you may have to try this route first.

  12. Avatar

    Hi Brian,

    I’ve been a long time creeper on this website and I have really enjoyed all the experiences and have actually learned a lot from some of them.
    I am Latin American, from a Spanish speaking country, about to finish my MSF in a top 3 European School and CFA level II candidate and I am actually considering moving to Mexico (is either Mexico or Brazil, where I would have to learn the language).
    I wanted to ask you how do you see the market on IB, if there is a recruiting season or not and how good/bad positioned I am in comparison to the rest? Also how good/bad positioned I would be to make a jump to NY or London after 2 or 3 years?
    I am planning to move there to look for a job on site, that is why I am worried about it, there is too much risk so I want to have as much knowledge as I can.
    Thanks again to you Brian and the Interviewee. As always, great great stuff on this website!!!

    1. Avatar

      Well from my experience I think you would probably have a very reasonable chance of breaking into IB in Mexico. The big advantage of Mexico over Brazil is the considerably lower cost of living, which is quite important if you are taking the risk of arriving in a country before having a job secure.

      Having native Spanish and a top European MSF as well as CFA Level 1 done (or I guess hopefully level 2 now, after Saturday) will stand you in very good stead. I would guess you will be in the top 10% or so of candidates automatically.

      There is no official recruiting season, it is year around in most places, as far as I know.

      And yeah once you are in, if you are a bad ass for 2-3 years you have a very reasonable chance of getting across to NY/London.

      Good luck, let me know if you come over.

      1. Avatar

        Thanks ¨interviewee¨for your response, I really appreciate it since it´s a topic that is driving me kinda crazy. (I hope I am a level 2 candidate by August too haha)
        By any chance would you know what BB or MM are the biggest players in M&A there?

        I am most likely going to end up in Mexico at the beginning of August with another one of my friends from the Master so if you want get my email from Brian and feel free to get in touch!

        Thanks again bro!

  13. Going by the description mexico is just another emerging market and is facing similar problems which less developed countries are facing , like the ones in Asia.
    Eventually the problems do frustrate you , the novelty of living in such places dies out after some time

    1. Yes that is true, but hey if you’re working all the time you might not even notice that much…

    2. Avatar

      Interesting – quite possibly. The novelty of living in London died out too though. You speaking from experience? What frustrating problems do you mean specifically?

      1. Im from an emerging market , this site does have articles on my country.
        Im mainly talking about non-work , cultural problems which frustrate people from europe or usa when they come to emerging countries.Plus the adjustments that are needed to be made to adapt to the local conditions.
        Bored of living in London?London is expensive but didnt you explore continental europe?

        1. Avatar

          I am originally from the continent and lived there when I was a child. But not too drawn to it at the moment, tbh – crisis and all.

          And yeah people find it amazing when I say that I am not too interested in living in London again in the medium term. I guess grass is always greener.

  14. Thanks for doing this interview, always love to read something about emerging markets and LatAm in particular.

    The interviewee referred to Brazil in terms of talent being scarce in supply. While I recognize you area of specialisation being Mexico, I’d still like to know if you had any insights whether the Brazilian recruitment process is similar to Mexico and what chances foreigners, who are fluent in Portuguese, have in the Brazilian market.

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us.

    1. I’m not sure about the recruitment process in Brazil, but we hope to cover that soon. I think it is more difficult for foreigners to get into that market because language requirements are stricter, but they do have a shortage of talent so who knows.

    2. Avatar

      Most BB research teams will cover their sector for LatAm as a whole, and as a result the team is normally split between a Sao Paulo office and a Mexico City office. Usually a large majority is in Brazil.

      I do not know the exact recruitment process for Brazil, but I imagine it is likely to be fairly similar, since it is normally just a different part of the same team down there, run by the same people. I.e. often lead analysts will be in Sao Paulo and have an associate in Mexico City and so on.

      One note – Brazil is a lot more expensive to live in (than even London or NY) so you need a much bigger cushion to go there with the intention of finding work once you get there.

      Being fluent in Portuguese is probably a slightly larger plus there since there is more of a buy side in Brazil, so a larger proportion of your clients will be locally based. But at the same time, you are likely to be ok getting started with intermediate Portuguese, with the view that you will improve as you go.

      Also anywhere you go where they write their research in English, they are likely to appreciate native English skills. All local recruits must have excellent English, and that is more of an important requirement than having excellent Spanish/Portuguese/local language, especially at entry level. So as a native English speaker one has that advantage.

      In addition there seems to be a ‘foreigner effect’ in place, where they assume you will be better than a local recruit, just because you are foreign. It is of course quite unfounded, and I presume, only present in certain markets, but one may as well take advantage of it if it is there.

  15. Hey Brian-

    27 year old with Pharmacology background looking to get into Equity Research (most likely Pharma but open to other areas) with no Finance background via a top 20 MBA program. Your thoughts on how I would be received upon graduation?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It would help if you could gain some finance/valuation experience first. I think getting into ER (covering pharmaceutical companies) make sense, though you’ll have to demonstrate your finance skills. Getting the CFA will also help.

      1. Thank you. Would the MBA help with gaining that finance/valulation knowledge? Or will I be expected to enter school with that knowledge?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes, the MBA will improve your finance/valuation knowledge.

  16. Did the interviewer have any trouble obtaining work permit or visa?

    1. Avatar

      Not really. I entered the country with a tourist visa which allows you to stay for 6 months. Then the language school I taught for sorted out a year long work visa for me.

      Having this was probably an advantage when interviewing, as the bank did not feel like they would have to go through a lot of trouble to get it for me themselves. Probably not a deal breaker, but an advantage. You could always make sure you make a few lawyer friends that will sort out the work visa for you (for a fee) before you interview, so you have that up your sleeve.

      1. I guess you will need to renew your visa after this year when it expires because you said you planned to stay there for a few years.

        Going to Asia is a good idea. I suggest Singapore since you only need to know English to work there.

        1. Avatar

          Yes, but the renewal process will be handled by the bank. Once you are in, you can expect them to take care of that. Just giving them as few reasons as possible to say no when you are interviewing is probably a good idea. (If it is down to you and another candidate they like equally, the one that will be less hassle – and also less delay, time to hire wise will probably win out)

          Singapore is definitely on the possibles list.

  17. You previously said networking is not as effective in emerging markets but that does not seem true anymore.

    What’s your opinion on Facebook friends? Should people post status updates each day to keep in touch with them? Does that actually help anyone break into investment banking?

    1. I would not use Facebook for business purposes / networking. LinkedIn is for that. It is a really bad idea to mix networking with normal friends unless you want to maintain different privacy settings. Posting status updates on any social network has 0 impact on getting into traditional roles in finance.

  18. Great post! I would like to know what are the top business schools that offer online degrees. And which ones do you recommend me the most. Thanks

    1. Thanks! I’m not sure of all the schools that offer them, but most top schools have some time of part-time / online option these days. You can use those to your advantage, but generally it’s better to be in the official program for better access to recruiting.

  19. Hi Brian

    I have been following your website since mid 2011, i find extremely useful, well done. I stay in Johannesburg South Africa, definately one of the top 5 cities in the continent, I want to get into ER and work my way up into PM, but like in any major city, though its a developing country it is still very tough as it is a mature financial idustry with highly educated folks with MSC, and CFA (there is an extreme regard for CFA here).

    My story goes like I hold an honours degree in Business Science from a decent University here in SA, I currently do not have CFA, I got into a graduate programme in a mid size Asset Manager but the programm got discontinued now im back to unemployment. My idea is to write a report perhaps on a best current investment theme or a stock with a likely upside with short term and long term catalyst to drive it value and send that to all buy AM.

    My question is where do I start, i dont know where to start getting all the information i need, my only resources is a PC and data.

    Please help.



    1. Yes, that could potentially work. Here are some tips on how to find data and come up with investment theses:

  20. I don’t know if there is a big market for it in Poland – most banks have their ER teams in other European countries. If someone volunteers, we can certainly do an interview on that topic.

  21. Avatar
    No way Jose


    One last thing, as for personal safety, your typical Ibanking job in Mexico will be based in Mexico City’s metro area, where drug related crime is largely contained; You’d be more worried about petty theft and car traffic, lol.

    1. Haha, so the same as any major city.

      Muchas gracias No Way Jose! I appreciate the responses, and I think that covered everything!!

      1. Oh, and in my newsletter I was just joking about the drug cartel reference to Breaking Bad – Mexico City is actually safer than what most people describe, at least in the area that banks are in.

        1. Avatar


          Re drug cartels: It has not even been a concern in the slightest, whilst some parts of the country are fairly bad, Mexico City is entirely kept out of that.

          Re general safety: I honestly feel safer here than in London. Part of that will be due to never having to leave the nice parts of town (a fresh grad in London has to slum it a bit, an expat in Mexico City does not)

          Re coming here to work if you’re Mexican: I would imagine you would find it considerably easier to get into a BB in IBD here than in NYC. But I do doubt you would be able to transfer back there in 3-6 months. Think more like 18-36 months.

          1. Avatar
            No way Jose

            Hi Interviewee:

            If allowed by the site’s privacy rules, is there a way we can connect? I was in Global Commodities with a BB in the US and have some upstream experience, but found myself back in Mexico.

            Looking to breakthrough and could use some help.

          2. Jose: if the email address you entered is correct, I will email you to put you in touch (with the interviewer’s permission).

          3. Avatar

            Sure, put me in touch with No way Jose.

          4. Hi Interviewee,

            I am from Monterrey, have a bachelor´s from an American school (not a target) and have 3 yrs. experience in the financial sector. I am now looking to get into IB and would like to get in contact with you.

  22. Hi Brian,

    Great blog post, and very insightful–as per usual. I actually wanted to get your opinions on this topic. I am a U.S. Citizen, but I am Mexican and speak both fluent English and Spanish. I have experience in sales and financial planning, but I really want to move into banking. I also have a MSF from a decent school (not a target, but people have had success with it in finance).

    I was wondering which banks were considered bulge brackets in Mexico, and whether the interviewee had any trouble with the drug cartels–since this is a major issue?

    Also, would it be a better decision to try and get work experience at a bulge bracket in Mexico, since I could hit the ground running, and come back to the U.S. after 3 – 6 months, or should I look at boutiques in NY?

    My ultimate goal is to work in IB or DCM in NYC.

    1. Avatar
      No way Jose


      Most bulge bracket banks have presence in Mexico. So you have Banamex (Citigroup), JP Morgan, UBS, Credit Suisse, Alfaro Davila Rios (Lazard JV).

      What varies is their focus. JP Morgan focuses more on transactional banking, UBS and CS on fixed income, while ADR on Financial Advisory.

      As far as the article, it nailed it right through, as the interviews are far less sophisticated and more focused on fit, which confirms the high context nature of Mexico as a society.

    2. Well, Jose answered everything before I could respond – but in general, I don’t know if there’s a huge difference between a BB in Mexico vs. boutique in NY… the Mexico experience would be discounted, but the bulge bracket name still holds value.

      The problem is that after 3-6 months you’d still be an “intern” – so you might get results more quickly if you work in NYC first, though it would arguably be easier to win roles in Mexico given your background.

    3. Avatar
      Rodrigo Bernardo Cortez


      I myself am a US Citizen, Mexican, and fluent in English and Spanish. I am from a non-target, and after doing some investment banking internships, I was able to land a job in New York with BBVA in New York (I am sure you know they are the largest in Mexico as Bancomer). They are very active and would recommend you to look into it as your background would help. Contact me if you would like.

      1. Avatar
        M&I - Nicole

        Thanks for your input.

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