HOME Investment Banking Courses: A Scam?

Investment Banking Courses: A Scam?

Investment Banking CoursesI’ve gotten many questions on which investment banking course is the best, how they compare to the CFA and degrees, and whether or not they’re worth it.

So I wanted to give you my own views and also tell you about the business behind M&I that I’ve never talked about publicly before.

The Disclaimer

I (Brian) am the creator of the Breaking Into Wall Street training programs so this is not an impartial summary.

My economic incentive is to say, “Training programs are great! Sign up right now!” – because that improves my business.

But instead I’m going to tell you why I was reluctant to create a program in the first place, whether or not they’ll actually help you, and do some myth-busting.

First, Some History

When I first started Mergers & Inquisitions, I resisted modeling programs for 2 reasons:

  1. I was working full-time in investment banking, so I had about 5 hours of free time per week.
  2. I felt that resume editing and mock interviews were more helpful, since those get you into finance.

I didn’t want 100% of my business to be based on consulting, so I started working on a membership site as well – but it would include more than just financial modeling.

Why I Changed My Strategy

A year later, a couple things made me change my mind:

  1. My planned membership site had already taken 6 months of full-time work and I wasn’t even close to finished.
  2. I never hit the “tipping point” with mock interviews and resume editing. I had dozens of customers, but those 2 services never became breakout hits.

So I released some of my membership site content as the IB interview guide and that took off – readers were more interested in a guide than in practice interviews.

A couple months later I released early modeling videos to a few customers, got a lot of positive feedback, and then decided to strip down the membership site and make it financial modeling-based.

That modeling program then became a lot more popular than mock interviews, resume editing, and the interview guide – so I changed my focus to financial modeling.

So Are Training Programs Worth It?

When I first started M&I I didn’t want to create modeling programs because you learn everything you need when you start working.

But then readers responded with some good points:

  1. Some wanted extra prep before interviews or before they started working – sure, you can learn on the job but it helps to get a 3-month head-start on everyone.
  2. Others pointed out that not everyone learns modeling at banks – you might be in a less technical group, or you might not have a training program.

I still believe that networking is the best way to break into finance, but I now see the benefits of investment banking courses and training.

But there are still many misconceptions over what these programs will and won’t do – so let’s start with what modeling training programs won’t do:

Take the Place of an MBA

Let’s compare an MBA and a training program:

  • Cost: An MBA from a top school is well over $100,000, while training programs can be less than $1,000.
  • Time: A top MBA takes 1-2 years, while a training program might take a few weeks to complete.
  • Brand Name: Everyone knows Harvard Business School… and Wharton… and Columbia, and so on. But hardly anyone has heard of companies named “Wall Street [Insert Training-Like Word Here].”
  • Access: Top banks all over the world come to business schools to recruit… good luck finding that with investment banking courses.

So don’t think that a $1,000 training program will take the place of a Harvard MBA.

Replace the CFA

I’ve been critical of the CFA in the past because it’s a waste of time for investment banking and private equity in developed markets.

But the CFA has one thing going for it: it’s a widely agreed-upon standard that everyone recognizes on your resume.

With training programs, there’s no widely recognized standard – most programs teach similar concepts, but interviewers can never look at your resume and say, “OK, you learned X, Y, and Z based on this course.”

Guarantee You Interviews

Nothing will guarantee you interviews.

Listing training programs on your resume may help because they show your interest in finance, especially if you’re from a non-finance background.

But merely listing a program and bullet points on what you learned does not guarantee interviews – otherwise, everyone would do it.

So What Are Training Programs Good For?

Here’s why you’d sign up for a training program:

  • To learn financial modeling because you want to learn it.
  • To perform better in interviews with technical questions and case studies.
  • To get a leg-up on everyone else before you start working.
  • To serve as a quick reference when you’re working and need to look something up.
  • For networking opportunities, if your program provides that.

So they have their uses – but no program will replace an MBA, the CFA, or guarantee you interviews at Goldman Sachs.

Types of Training Programs

There are 2 types of investment banking courses: live, in-person training and self-study training.

Live, In-Person Training

These programs last for a few days, or take place over several weekends.

You go in-person and listen as the instructor teaches modeling, while you follow along and build your own model in Excel.

You ask questions, get 1-on-1 interaction, and even complete homework assignments.

This type of training is expensive – always at least $1,000 and often more like $5,000 – $10,000 (that’s per-person).

Self-Study Programs

With these, you get a series of materials on modeling – books, CDs, DVDs, or online videos – and you complete the course yourself.

You can ask questions via online forums, but it’s not the same as being there in-person with the instructor.

The advantage is that you can go at your own pace from anywhere in the world and still learn the material.

Plus, they’re more affordable – most programs are under $1,000, with some at $500 or even less than that.

Which Program is the Best?

I’m biased against in-person training because it’s way too expensive unless your bank is paying for it – and many banks won’t even do that.

But some in-person programs have solid networking opportunities and actually come with internships at boutique banks.

If you can find one like that, the price tag justifies itself.

But most programs don’t offer networking – so you could waste piles of money on false hope.

If you’re interested in preparing for interviews or full-time work, self-study courses are a better, more affordable option.

The Dreaded Sales Pitch?

I’ve been through all the modeling programs, and here’s my honest view:

If you’re preparing for interviews or learning modeling from the ground up, Breaking Into Wall Street is your best option for the price.

To be upfront, we don’t cover exactly the same topics that other providers do.

So if you are looking for something not covered by us, sure, check out other providers and see if they have what you’re looking for (this changes all the time, so you’re best off just looking this up online directly).

In some cases, other providers specialize in a specific topic, such as real estate, so inevitably there will be more detail in the 10 separate real estate courses they offer than there will be in our single course on the topic.

On the other hand, we feature a lot of content and case studies that no other courses do (examples for growth equity, private equity, hedge funds, equity research and more, whereas other courses are focused strictly on investment banking).

And yes, as the creator of BIWS I am biased – but I also acknowledge that other programs do have their advantages.

What Now?

If training programs could benefit you, sign up – but don’t let them take precedence over networking, internships, and so on.

Don’t spend 40 hours a week learning financial modeling – it’s nice to have, but it’s not as important as landing banking internships or earning good grades.

Have fun, and good luck learning financial modeling.


Mergers & Inquisitions
Breaking Into Wall Street

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