by Brian DeChesare Comments (147)

Investment Banking: Dubai Edition

Dubai SkylineDubai: the hottest emerging market in the world? The best place to work in finance?

Or is it all just a mirage in the desert?

The truth is somewhere in between, as you’ll find out in this interview with a current investment banking analyst who works in Dubai.

We cover this reader’s background, what the investment banking industry in Dubai is like, how you break in, and the all-important exit opportunities.

In the Beginning…

Q: Can you tell us about your background and how you got interested in Dubai?

A: Sure. I’m from the Middle East originally, and was studying at a university in Europe a few years ago.

As part of my school’s requirements, we had to complete internships – most people opted for Paris or London, but I was interested in more exotic locations.

I was from the Middle East and had been reading a lot about Dubai, so I decided to apply for internships there instead.

Q: Ok, so you’re in Europe but you want to work in Dubai. How do you actually apply for these internships? Was it just through on-campus recruiting?

A: One difference between Europe and the US is that when companies come to campus here, no one takes resumes or does interviews – they just come for informational and networking purposes. Then they tell you to apply online, go through numerical tests, assessment centers, and so on.

I went to all these networking events and also did the online applications afterward – in addition to both of those, I contacted alumni and searched for people with similar backgrounds to me on LinkedIn.

Q: You said “similar background” – what do you mean exactly, and what kind of response rate did you get?

A: I looked for others who were from the Middle East, had studied in Europe, and then gone back to the Middle East to work there.

Surprisingly, I got a higher response rate from people I found on LinkedIn than from alumni.

This was probably because we had a shared background, and because most other students in Europe were not thinking about working in Dubai.

Q: Wow, very surprising. So what were the results of your internship search?

A: I got a 6-month internship at a bulge bracket bank there – in Europe it’s common to have 6-month internships vs. the summer internships you see in the US.

Then I went back to school the next year to graduate, and accepted a return offer from the same bulge bracket bank.

The State of the Market

Q: So is Dubai amazingly awesome? Is it the end-all-be-all or are people drinking a little too much Kool-Aid when they talk about the finance industry in the Middle East?

A: Dubai is overrated. When most people think of it, they look at all the huge buildings and the media stories about construction projects here, and all the oil barons using it as their playground.

The truth is a bit different – while there’s a lot of growth here, most of the companies we work with are outside Dubai.

We’re responsible specifically for MENA (the Middle East and North Africa), which consists of about 20 countries.

We cover all industries and all products, but most of our clients are sovereign wealth funds, financial sponsors, and other holding companies.

They’ve definitely been on a buying spree, so from that perspective it’s interesting.

When it comes to actual deals, though, we often manage the relationship and then the industry team from London handles the more technical details – especially on larger deals.

Q: Interesting – so is the finance industry there dominated by other bulge bracket banks that leverage their presence in London? Or are there local boutiques as well?

A: Regional boutiques do exist, but they’re limited to smaller IPOs and smaller deals in general – anything large is handled by bulge bracket banks based in the US or Europe.

Wheeling & Dealing

Q: You mentioned that the London industry team often handles the more technical details. So do you get to do much modeling work? Or is it all qualitative?

A: We get exposure to both. The London team has more of a presence on larger deals – they argue that they have more expertise and that they should control all the models as a result.

For anything smaller, we do the valuation and modeling work and they’re less involved.

If it’s an intra-regional deal – both the buyer and seller are from our region – then we’re also more involved and the London team doesn’t do quite as much.

Overall, though, it’s a lot different from working in a large group in London or New York because there are more “random” tasks and the teams here are smaller.

Q: You mentioned smaller deal teams – how are they different from what you’d find in London?

A: Our entire team is less than 30 people, and there are fewer mid-level bankers. We have a bunch of Analysts, a few Associates, and then some Directors and MDs but relatively few VPs.

So you get to work more closely with the MDs, and it’s not unusual to work directly with a Director or MD as an Analyst – which would be unusual at a bulge bracket bank in New York or London.

Lifestyle & Culture

Q: So how much do you work each week? Is this still banking or do you work fewer hours because it’s a regional office?

A: It’s still banking. I was working about 100 hours a week for the past 2-3 months, but like any other banking role there’s downtime and slow periods as well.

The average hours aren’t much different from what you’d expect in banking, but there’s less face time and they care more about work getting done vs. staying in the office late every night.

One part unique to the Middle East is that the entire region shuts down in the summer – CEOs are traveling and on holiday, so August is our slowest month (also due to Ramadan coinciding with the summer this past year).

M&I Note: The same is true in the US, though not to the same degree – lots of executives and bankers take their vacations in August.

Q: What about the culture? Do you hang out with your co-workers outside work?

A: There isn’t too much interaction outside work, even when we have free time – as an intern it was much different and Analysts / Associates would usually spend time with each other.

We might have dinner together, and we do have “team events” every few months to build camaraderie.

The Bottom Line

Q: Let’s talk about money. How much do you get paid, and is Dubai more lucrative than London?

A: Base salaries and bonuses are both the same as what you get in London… BUT we have no taxes here so effectively you make almost twice as much.

We also get a housing allowance of $30,000 US Dollars per year, which is also untaxed.

Normally it’s a bad idea to go into banking for the money, but if you work in Dubai you will make more than in other regions.

M&I Note: This trick doesn’t work 100% if you’re a US citizen – you still have to pay some US income taxes even if you live abroad.

You can deduct taxes for up to around $100K in income – which saves you a lot – but your taxes won’t be exactly $0.

Disclaimer: I am not an accountant / lawyer. This is not tax advice – please consult a professional.

Q: Wow, I’d move to Dubai in a heartbeat if I didn’t have this annoying US passport. What about exit opportunities?

A: Unlike the US, a lot of people here actually go into banking and plan to stay in it for the long-term. The whole concept of “Do this for 2-3 years and then jump to PE” isn’t as prevalent here.

Part of that is just a cultural difference in Europe and the Middle East, but part of it is also because pay at sovereign wealth funds and private equity firms here isn’t significantly higher than what you would earn in investment banking – so many people don’t see the point in leaving.

If you do want to move elsewhere, the 2 main options are sovereign wealth funds (SWF) and private equity firms – both local funds based here and then international ones like Carlyle and KKR.

One appealing aspect of SWF is that you get a high salary with great hours – one of my friends leaves at 6 PM every day and makes banking/PE pay.

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but one perk in my program is that I can choose to move to another region after 2 years, so that’s an option as well.

How You Can Work in Dubai

Q: Working at a sovereign wealth fund in Dubai is starting to sound good to me. What advice do you have for anyone looking to work there?

A: If you’re already in banking, the path of least resistance is to ask for a 1-year rotation to Dubai.

I’ve had friends who have done exactly this – they did internships in the US or Europe, got return offers, and then asked about switching to Dubai instead.

It’s tough to come here directly if you haven’t done an internship or you’re straight out of school – I would not recommend just showing up here and saying, “Hi, I want to work here, who will hire me?”

Q: So you wouldn’t recommend just applying directly to Dubai via online applications, for example?

A: You can do that, but the process is less standardized than it is in Europe. It varies by bank and in some cases you can just apply directly online via the London career website – but overall it’s more haphazard than Europe.

Q: Right. But let’s say you don’t know anyone in the region and you’re not in the position to apply for internships or full-time jobs directly – what do you do?

A: Headhunters are probably your best bet if you really don’t know anyone and have no strong connections to the region.

Just get a list of headhunters in the Middle East and start sending out your resume and contacting them – that’s not the ideal way to break in, but outside of networking and the formal application process it’s all you can do.

Q: What about the language requirements? Do you need to know Arabic, or is it just a plus?

A: It’s not necessary – plenty of people on our team come from the US or Europe, so they don’t know Arabic at all.

However, it is perceived as a plus and if the bank is down to 2 candidates with similar credentials, the one who knows Arabic is more likely to get the offer.

At the Analyst level there are more Arabic speakers, because sometimes we have to translate documents.

Occasionally firms will also create specific positions where the language is required – for example, KKR in Dubai was looking for Arabic speakers awhile back.

Q: Awesome. Thanks for your time – I learned a lot!

A: No problem.

Coming Up Next: Even more countries, groups, and stories. We’ll also take a look at another “hot” Middle Eastern country that has been off most peoples’ radar and compare and contrast it to Dubai.

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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Comments

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  1. Hey Brian,
    I graduated from one of the top IITs in India, a month back. I majored in Materials Engineering and my GPA at IIT translates to first class honors of British grading system. I’ve completed two internships during my undergraduate years, the first in the consumer banking division of a Singaporean bank at their Mumbai office and another at the world’s largest Oil and Gas firm as a field engineering intern-where I was awarded a full-time offer.
    It was after my graduation, that I became interested in IB, and while researching about the same I stumbled upon this article. Just to add, thank you for writing this article, it was super insightful! After going through this article, I checked the careers page of many BBs and found that the applications for Dubai Off-cycle internships were open. I wanted to know if my profile is competent enough to stand a chance of bagging these internships, and if yes, could you please share some tips on how I should go about the whole process-application/networking/referrals?

    1. Sure, you have good enough qualifications to apply, but off-cycle internships usually require a lot more networking than usual. There’s an example here: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/dubai-investment-banking-recruiting/

      The biggest issue is that you don’t seem to have traditional finance experience, so you’ll have to spin the consumer banking internship heavily and make it sound closer to working on deals than it actually was. Maybe say that you were always interested in finance and wanted to combine it with engineering/natural resource knowledge so you could eventually work on energy deals.

      1. Thanks for the reply, Brian. To give you some more insight about my consumer banking internship, my work involved building financial models to project future revenues from various branches of the bank across India, and then automating the models using macros. I really hope the financial modelling aspect might be of some use in my application.

        A follow up question to my previous post – I reside in India and given the current pandemic it isn’t really possible for me to travel to Dubai and network in-person. Could you suggest how I should proceed with networking? Or is virtual networking all moot?

        1. You have to do it online for now, so LinkedIn, email, phone calls, etc.

  2. Avatar
    Ramyar Satarzadeh

    Hi Brian,

    Second year BBA student here from the Schulich School of Business (Target in Toronto, Canada). How would you go about pursuing a full time/internship IB role in Dubai?

    1. You usually have to go there in-person to network, which in the current environment with a virus outbreak, recession/depression, and travel shut down everywhere, is not feasible. If things are restored without human civilization collapsing, then get started by finding alumni and others in the region and seeing if you can visit as part of a school or academic trip and network during that.

  3. Hi Brian,

    How would you go about recruiting for associate positions at sovereign wealth funds as a EB/BB IB analyst in New York?

    1. We haven’t covered SWFs in detail before, but there’s some coverage of general SWF recruiting and tips here: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/sovereign-wealth-funds-australia/

  4. Hello Brian/Nicole!

    I am a 2nd year student in a UK-based “somewhat semi target” University (Doing BBA) here in Dubai. My GPA is 3.9/4.0. I have no previous experience of job, and no connections to start networking. What are the chances of me scoring an internship here in DIFC(Dubai International Financial Center)?

    It seems that there are major BB’s here like GS, Blackstone, Rothschild, UBS, etc. But their offices are quite small and I fear they don’t take in interns at all. And if they do, they’re from top target schools from Europe.

    Aside from HSBC, CITI and Standard Chartered what BB’s do I apply in for an internship and when? Is there any article or a guide for landing internships here in Dubai specifically.

    If I fail to score an internship here, is it best for me to transfer to a top target school in North America or Europe to slip into IBD at a BB?

    1. Please see: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/dubai-investment-banking-recruiting/

      You have some chance of winning an internship there, but you’ll have to be super-aggressive with networking and calling/emailing firms. If you are a U.S. citizen or can easily get work visa, North America is better. Otherwise Europe.

  5. Good day!
    I am a student of CA In Pakistan and I am very much interested in IB.
    What path do you suggest?
    CA pakistan has this requiremnt where u have to do an internship of 3.5 years in any of the local audit firms and the presence of the Big4(PwC, Deloitte, EY, KPMG) is a huge relief or you can join any industry you like!
    What do u suggest as there are not many specialized IB in pakistan so should I start an internship in Advisory department of any of the big4 or should I join an IB?

    Which will help me the most in my career as an IB?
    Looking forward to your reply.

    1. I don’t know much about Pakistan personally, but yes, probably one of the Big 4 or a boutique bank would be your best bet.

  6. Hi,
    I’m currently in Big 4 Transaction Services with 2 years work experience, I’m aiming to get into IB or a top MBA program (or both). At the moment the only opportunities that come my way are regional (Middle East) Sovereign Wealth Funds and PE Houses (US3-10bn AUM).
    What are your thoughts on making a move to such a place for International IB/PE recruitment or for MBA admissions.
    Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think both opportunities are useful for MBA admissions. I think the PE role maybe more relevant to your career on the buy-side (PE); less so IB.

      1. Hey Nicole,

        Thanks coming to you for advice again!

        Quick update, as mentioned previously I’m with a Big 4 Transaction Services team in the Middle East, have been offered by the firm the opportunity to move to our London office still in TS as well as having an offer for a regional (Middle East) PE house (>$5bn AUM).
        For both MBA admissions and for future opportunities in general, which do you think would be the better option and for what reasons please?

        1. The PE offer is probably better because it’s more relevant to IB and will make it easier to move back into PE in the future. Not sure either one makes a difference for MBA admissions.

          1. Thanks Brian, by doing the regional PE house role would you take a candidate less seriously than someone from a developed market? i.e. two candidates one is in BIg 4 London the other is in Middle East PE, do you perceive one better than the other based on geography? (the London guy must be better = new york vs. dallas type argument)

            That’s my worry, never had developed market experience. Appreciate your thoughts!

          2. Yes you will be taken less seriously, but some PE experience is still better than no PE experience.

  7. Hi Everyone, my name is Ali and I am from Pakistan. Currently, I am doing MBA from a local university with majors in Finance. Before pursuing my MBA, I worked for an Asset Management Company in its Marketing and Sales Department and before this I worked for a bank in its Branch Banking Department. Now I want to pursue a career in an Investment Bank. Presently, the investment banking industry is not that developed in our country so I have decided to move to Dubai for job search in coming July 2016. I would appreciate if somebody provide me an advice in this situation. Regards, Ali

  8. A BIWS customer and avid reader of M&I.com here.

    I have some questions.

    I am a Korean native and I went to a private university in the US (Top 30). Then I served in the Korean military as an officer. During my service, I happened to be deployed to the UAE (Abu Dhabi, mostly). Now that my service comes to an end, I am heading to business school for my MBA degree(one of M7 schools).

    I loved what I saw in Dubai while I was in the UAE. Do I have a chance to land a summer internship in my 1st year in the MBA program and land a permanent position in the UAE? My concern is 1)I don’t have a banking experience and 2)I don’t speak Arabic. The only working experience is what I have in the military.

    Plus, is there anywhere else I can ask some questions other than this comment box?

    Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you don’t speak Arabic, it can be more challenging. Perhaps you can speak with Korean banks in the industry, as well as branch out to other locations (outside of UAE) say London, NY, Singapore. If you have joined any finance clubs/done an interesting projects in finance, you can talk about that – The best way to overcome 1 and 2 is to discuss your experience of valuing companies, modeling, researching your own stock pitches, etc.

      1. Thank you for your prompt reply.

        I am going to Chicago Booth this September. Do you think it is a good idea to reach out to Booth alums residing in Dubai through Linkedin? I don’t know how they(particularly, local bankers) will perceive sending emails directly . My goal is to land a summer internship next year. Do they respond pretty well?

        I know British schools have closer ties to the region. How is moving from a US business school to Dubai?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes, I think it is a good idea. You have nothing to lose. Some bankers may respond to you and it is great to build a connection in Dubai. If you plan to do a summer internship, perhaps you may also want to consider Chicago/New York. Booth is a renowned school internationally so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

  9. Avatar
    Mikhail

    You guys should really get around interviewing someone working at a Soverign Wealth Fund and how it’s like in detail. There isn’t any info on the job life within that on the Internet, so it’d be great if you guys do that for the readers!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thank you for your input! We will keep your suggestion in mind!

  10. Hi there,

    I graduated with a Master degree in Applied Finance at the beginning of 2014. I did my degree at an average school in Australia, but graduated with excellent grades.
    (Distinction)
    I have been working in a financial services company, specifically in managed funds administration for a year now. I’m currently working on my Excel financial modelling skills through your BIWS course. Considering, that I’m fluent in English & Arabic, what are my best choices if I want to get back to the middle east to work for an IB , PE , Hedge fund..etc? Also, I forgot to mention, I’m now 30 years old, and I’ve got about 4 years of experience as an accountant in a large company in the Middle East, will that help?

    Many Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes this can potentially help, but having IB experience is probably most useful: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-recruiting/ maybe helpful to you

  11. Great info guys,

    I know 3 languages but my main one is English. I was wondering if you could name the countries that would hire English speakers but whose main language is not English?

    Apparently the middle-east is one such place and I have heard that English is used extensively in the Netherlands and one can get into IB there without speaking Dutch. Also Singapore and Hong Kong, though from the other article it seems you must know at least a Asian language.

    Can you think of other non-English speaking countries that hire primary English speakers?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I was about to say Singapore, HK, or even smaller Asian countries like Indonesia, Philippines

      Most non-English countries require local language skills

  12. Hi M&I,

    I would like to ask regarding the IB boutiques in Dubai. I have been offered an analyst position at such firm, with a tech in emerging markets focus, with offices on all 5 continents, but still the brand is not present in Deal Tables. All VPs, MDs, and Partners have bulge-bracket backgrounds, hence I would expect a great learning experience.
    I also have an M&A option for a 3rd tier European bank (think UniCredit, Rabobank, Raiffesen).
    What should I consider when evaluating these offers? (outside of compensation package)

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      #1: Which team you like the most #2: Whether you want to do tech or M&A. If you want a more general option the latter maybe a better choice. If you know you want to do tech the former maybe better. I think both banks’ brand names’ caliber are pretty similar so I wouldn’t worry about that

  13. Thank you sir for your suggestions and guidance………..

  14. ok got it.
    just few more questions.
    1.After how many years should i consider moving to IB ?
    2.will financial modelling helps in investment management and investment services firm?
    3.will it be easy path to switch from investment management and investment services firm to IB ?
    4.what are exit opps. for these kind of firms?
    Thank you so much!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      1. As early as possible
      2. Yes it will help, especially valuation of companies
      3. Not easy, because you’d need the deal experience for IB
      4. For IM, you can progress to be PM or move laterally https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/associate-portfolio-manager-jobs/

  15. Avatar
    MSc Student in Europe

    Hi Brian,
    I’m a european – non english native speaker – student at a postgraduate program (Master MSc) in International Business. My previous studies were about politics, even though I had some exams about financial markets etc.
    I actually decided to look into Investment Banking (particularly Corporate finance and M&A), helped by relatives experiences and the fact that studying some Corporate finance I find it quite interesting.
    I don’t have any relevant internship (in my country we don’t do anything like this before that we actually finished our studies), therefore I think that to find a good job in London is not really in my possibilities (I’m actually studying in one of the top-ranked MSc in management according to FT).
    I’ve started to think about other opportunities, such as South East Asia and.. Dubai!
    This report it was extremely interesting for me, but I still would like to ask if it’s actually a good idea to think about Dubai internship and which tips could you give me..
    Moreover I wasn’t aware about the fact that the applications end in October/November for the next year, so I’m in the recruiting process just for few banks.

    I’m actually ready to go EVERYWHERE in the world, if it’s good for my careers.. I know italian, english.. and spanish-french basic level.
    Going everywhere I would look more well-known banks..

    Thank you so much!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes if you speak the language there. I’d suggest you to arrange informational interviews and fly down to Dubai

      1. Hi Brian,
        im from india, interested in IB. since, im bcom graduate i was looking for job and i got an offer from BNY mellon .It is entry level job.
        My aim is to work for IB in few years down the line.
        1.will this work experiance help me in getting into IB(in india / middle east) ?
        2.Is BNY mellon Investement bank ?

        Thanks in advance..

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          1. Yes, it can potentially help if you don’t have any experience in the industry.
          2. No, but it is a leading investment management and investment services firm.

  16. Hi Brian,
    Thank you for your efforts in bringing up such interesting interviews ,
    what I want to now is how do I get into Ib,PE or any related activity mentioned above in Dubai even if it is a really basic entry level job.
    Let me tell you something about myself.
    I am 22 and have a very simple degree bachelor of commerce from Mumbai University which consist both Finance & Accounts(I know not a very fancy degree or from a very reputed college or uni).
    I just want to gain entry and frankly speaking I am very naive about these things but would like to add that working with number and money has been an area of great interest to me.
    And I have experience working as an accountant and as an auditor.
    If my education or experience isn’t enough what degree or professional course would be really feasible opinion winch would enable me too get a foothold in or related activities maybe a private bank or anything.
    I’d be really thankful to you if you could help me out of this dilemma.
    P.s- I am based in Dubai and was in Mumbai for only about 5 years.

      1. Thank you so much Nicole,appreciate it :)

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Anytime!

  17. i’m loving this website. I wish I had found this before…

    if I may recommend, you should do a section about Investment Banking in Brazil. I lived in Brazil for 9 years (although I was born in Venezuela). Now i’m living here in the good ol’ U.S studying Economics, but I would like to go back to Brazil one day.

  18. I’m a sophomore at a target university, and interned at a large asset management firm in Shanghai last summer. This summer, I am looking to intern in Dubai. My goal is to do ibanking at a BB when I graduate. What internship should I do over this summer (before Junior year) to maximize my chances? I have several options, including Aabraj and a couple of BBs. What should I do/should I look into any other firms in Dubai that would put me in a good position?

    1. Generally, you want to go to a bulge bracket bank and do something as closely related to investment banking as possible. But it depends on what your options are – are all the roles at banks in i-banking?

      1. Yes, all the roles I could do at the banks would be in IBD. However, I hear that deal flow for investment banks in Dubai is not great right now and they are actually pulling back a lot of the senior people to London. Wouldn’t I get more out of a private equity firm with deals right now? Or should I still do IBD in Dubai. Another option, would be to work in Saudi Arabia where I have a large network and could potentially land an IBD internship. Dubai or Saudi Arabia? BB IBD or top PE firm?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I am not 100% sure regarding the deal flows of MENA PE now. However, I believe PE groups, around the world, are having to work harder now to increase their value of investments and generate returns given current market state – http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9c369b30-405b-11e2-8e04-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2LUqh5ukG

          If you haven’t had any offers yet and you have a large network in Saudi Arabia, I would leverage your network there first. It may be a stepping stone for you.

  19. Having lived in Dubai for 20+ years with both parents working in Financial Institutions- take this interview with a grain of salt. There is not even $500m worth of M&A in the region in a given year, very little PE activity and the securities trading volumes are laughable- especially in Dubai.

    Many banks (Nomuara,GS,MS,CS) have shifted their top MD’s out of Dubai either back to London or Singapore. Its just more feasible to fly them out for a deal rather than have them there full time getting paid for doing nothing.

    If you want in on SWF management, Private Banking, Family office, restructuring, there are more opportunities in those areas, but stay away from the IB side. Look instead for institutions either in London, Singapore or Mumbai who have active MENA desks to start you off. Once you are confident and have a good client base and skill set, you can look at moving to Doha, Dubai or Riyadh.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I agree there is less in traditional IB in Dubai, but it still exists, and as the interviewee said, a lot of work is split between London and Dubai…

  20. Avatar
    Devendra P Shah

    What type of job should one apply who just did his Msc in Financial Economics from University of Oxford or any other university?
    ?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Jobs that fit your skills and strengths. Perhaps you may be more interested in a quantitative role –
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-masters-programs/

  21. Hi!

    I am currently enrolled in my third year at concordia university ( montreal) in a finance bachelor degree. I have a 2.9 GPA and was wondering if it would be an issue while applying for internships and entry level positions in dubai next year… Also would you recommend that i get experience in canada before going there?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Your GPA might be an issue to meet resume cutoffs… I’d suggest you to fly down to Dubai and check out the hiring landscape there if you are interested in that city

  22. Why Dubai?

    I’m interviewing with Dubai for an internship and will definitely get that question, not sure how to answer it.

    I have absolutely 0 relations with the country, I am not from there and have never been there.

    How would I answer the question?

    Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Because you are fascinated by the ME culture and you want to be in Dubai because it is a cosmopolitan city in the ME (something along these lines)

  23. Avatar
    Opportunist

    Those of you looking for exit ops to Middle Eastern SWFs should consider that the larger ones tend to invest the majority of their capital internationally (i.e. USA, Europe & Asia) rather than in the MENA region.

    Getting a few years experience in NYC, London or elsewhere is very relevant for these exit ops.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your input!

  24. Hello,

    I am part time student at NYU and looking to get into investment banking either here or in dubai. I tried to get an internship but due to the policies at school was not able to apply for them. My GPA is 3.4. During my struggle to get an internship I did end up talking to about 20 bankers (informational) but that was last year. I am starting to continue to talk to them for full time applications for next year but the feedback I am getting is I need some experience under my belt. I am not sure how do I get experience when boutique or large firms are only looking at full time programs. Any suggestions would be welcome.
    Do you think my GPA is an issue? (I am trying to improve it – came from 3.0 to 3.4)

    1. Start by going for local boutiques in NY instead – see the case studies under Recruiting – and then think about trips to Dubai with LSE and other UK schools (search for Dubai here); GPA could be better but isnt the main factor

  25. Hello Brian,

    Many thanks for this great site.
    I have recently completed a master’s degree in finance and quantitative finance from a top Australian University, and then I have decided to move back to The Middle East in order to pursue an iBanking opportunity in Dubai or Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, it’s been few months already and I am finding it hard to get either through an internship or analyst programme. Just to mention that I have no finance experience, few consulting and accounting/tax internships, credit average rating.
    I would much appreciate your insights regarding few matters.

    1- I heard from an HR at a BB bank in Dubai that applications for either internship or analyst programmes are usually assessed in London or some other country in Europe. That made me think if it’s worth investing much effort and time in networking while final decisions are being considered overseas. I know it wouldn’t hurt having additional connections but it’s gonna be time consuming, any thoughts on that!!!
    2- I have tried getting in touch with HRs in Dubai at BB banks either thru mails, emails or cold calls but their usual response was to refer to the online career site for opportunities and worse big banks are rarely hiring these days in that region even interns. Can you recommend any other strategies or links that may be useful for piercing this corporate veil!!!
    3- As for Boutiques, PEs and alike; it’s even harder to get in or to find any opportunities advertised. Honestly, I don’t think I have a shot as I have tried and no reply at all. That leaves me with a limited potential market made up of BB banks.
    I would highly appreciate any ideas or tips for that particular region that you may perceive valuable because even though I am doing my work but I may have been missing few things or I may be wrong regarding what I have disclosed above!!!

    Thank you again for your time.
    Regards

    1. 1. Yes you definitely need to network as not all banks in Dubai do it like that e.g. GS and CS both do everything there rather than London. Upcoming article will cover this in more detail.

      2. Yes, go to London and take a sponsored trip with LSE to schools in the region – upcoming interview on this topic.

      3. Forgot about boutiques in Dubai – waste of time as they are small and generally don’t hire at the entry-level.

  26. I’m a junior economics major at St. John’s in NY and I’m looking to get into IB in Dubai once I graduate. Since I only gained interest in the field recently I have no internship experience. Do you think it would be a better idea for me to try and land a PT/FT internship here in NYC or get a FT internship in Dubai now/after graduation?

    1. You need to go to Dubai on the ground to network/work/learn to have any shot at all of breaking in

  27. Avatar
    sunwave

    Would you write an article about investment banking in Russia, Moscow?

    1. I’d like to but no one has volunteered to be interviewed yet – all of these regional interviews come from reader volunteers. And apparently there aren’t many readers in Russia.

  28. Hey Brian,

    I’ve been doing a LOT of reading from your website and I really think that it’s awesome :).

    I’m a 21 year old, second-year Finance major studying in Dubai, and I’m thinking of going into IB. But I’ve been reading about IB on the internet and it basically says that if you did not graduate from one of the top10 business schools in the US, then getting in would be hard. My questions are the following:

    1. Does that mean that even if I do decide to go into IB, that I will have to do that only in the Middle-East region?
    2. Is it true that it’s really hard to become an analyst, and even if you do get accepted, the probability of you surviving(statistically) is really low?

    Thanks

    1. 1. You could still apply to London. The US would be more difficult if you didn’t go to university there.
      2. Yes it is hard to get in but not impossible. It’s not really about “surviving,” many people just decide they don’t want to do it and leave or realize that finance is not their passion.

  29. Avatar
    Looking for Exits Opps

    Do you know if the Exit Opportunities only limited to the MENA region or if it is possible for example to move from a BB in Dubaï to a fund based in the U.S. or in Europe ?

  30. I have a phone interview with a Dubai BB coming up, is there anything specific that I should keep in mind or will it be standard compared to US interviews?

    1. They might ask you about the market/region there and recent trends so maybe read up on that

  31. Do Jewish analysts/bankers have any problems in Dubai? Given that it’s the middle east and there could be some prejudice.

    1. Not sure about that one – it’s probably not the best place if you’re from certain backgrounds…

  32. I am going to be moving to south africa soon.

    im also interested in reading this article.

    Any idea how soon is? would like to get some information before i take the leap

    1. It’s dependent on other people, so I can’t tell you exactly when – honestly, there is not much that’s dramatically different about South Africa. The main difference is that the companies you work with are smaller, and like other regions, pay and hours may be reduced.

      1. with regards to getting in, as in GPA and competitiveness, would you say it is easier?

        1. If you’re very well-qualified, it could potentially be easier because there aren’t as many well-qualified candidates…

  33. Any idea when you can bring out an article about Africa? More specifically South Africa?

    1. There is actually a finished article on South Africa but I’m still waiting for the interviewer to get back to me with his comments and feedback… should be soon hopefully.

  34. Avatar
    Unusual background

    I’m the opposite of “Disappointed Intern” above. My professional background was dominated by managing client relationships and securing funding for government contractors in the Middle East prior to my current position with a proprietary trading firm in Chicago. It took me 2.5 years of applying and interviewing until I was finally offered a position in finance but my interest in capital markets and trading kept me fixated on breaking into the industry. I enjoy the work but the environment I’m in is by no stretch of the imagination an incubator for professional growth. Also, because of the size of the firm, I am confined to trading a limited range of fixed-income products despite conducting research in other markets with great upside potential.

    Now, I’m trying to make the jump to an institutional trading desk but am applying to analyst positions with IBs as well because I think diversifying my financial skill set may benefit me more long-term, and give me the flexibility of working on different projects that I would enjoy. Do you have any advice for someone in my position?

    1. It would be tough to get analyst positions at banks at this stage – you might want to consider smaller / more specialized firms because large banks are generally looking for fresh graduates

      1. Avatar
        Unusual background

        Is this an endeavor best approached through networking and informational interviews?

        Additionally, are there any better ways to access reliable lists of smaller/more specialized firms besides Google and university alumni databases? I do not have access to CapitalIQ or Bloomberg.

        Thanks for your help. Your website is a fantastic resource.

        1. Yes, networking. You can ask on WallStreetOasis for firm names or sign up for the Networking Ninja Toolkit which has a list of 10,000 firms worldwide.

  35. Avatar
    Disappointed Intern

    I am a rising senior, Tepper Carnegie Mellon, 3.95 with internship experience in regional boutiques in Qatar and Dubai. I wanted to pursue a career in IBanking for prestige, money and the challenging nature of work. However, after my work experience, I feel that IBanking is highly overrated. There is nothing prestigious about sitting on your desk for 16-17 hours,doing admin work or putting face time. The work is not intellectually stimulating at all and the quant involved is very basic. Now that I don’t like “Excel, PowerPoint, research, rinse, wash and repeat” business, I want to break into Sales and Trading (Derivative Trading). I dont know much about it so I wanted to ask you a few things.

    1) Is it possible to break into Sales & Trading with only IBD work experience?

    2) What are the prospects for Sales & Trading in Middle East?

    3)Sales & Trading Exit opportunities ( I know hedge funds is one option)

    1. 1) Yes, but you need to do a lot of networking.

      2) The Middle East has not been doing well ever since the financial crisis so I’d assume that S&T is faring about the same as anything else, so no better or worse than the developed markets that have also been suffering.

      3) Keep trading at the same bank or a different bank, go to a prop trading firm, or go to a hedge fund. Or leave finance.

  36. If I start at a decent investment bank in Dubai right after I graduate college and have already developed a strong network of friends/contacts at NYC banks, how easy will it be to move back after a year or 2? Would they view this as interesting that I randomly lived in Dubai? Assuming I get good deal experience there.

    1. They would view it favorably, but as with any region outside NYC it’s always more difficult to move back to NYC than it is to move to the region. It might be a better bet to start out in NYC and then move back to Dubai.

  37. Hi,

    When was this banker interviewed? (Or when was this article written?)

  38. I was told by PT admission committees that I have to re-apply FT program from scratch.
    And it is 3rd round ,usually is highly competitive .last year only one FT MBA was from 3rd round.

    Within so limited time, I have to focus on some key thing which I don’t what they are.
    Regardless, I am going to try, but please give me some direction or guild lines so as to improve my odds to be accepted.

    1. See above – with only a few weeks all you can really do is get some type of interesting volunteer / study abroad opportunity or something of that nature. Hard to make leadership / activities seem substantial if you only started them recently.

  39. I worry about the last PT application package is not good enough to carry me to the FT side. “The big weakness might be your GMAT score’, the PT admission committee told me.

    the 3rd around FT deadline is around the early of March, the decision will be made by the FT committee around May.

    Aside from GMAT(I am really not good at that), with the limited time span what else I can do to reinforce my chance to get in FT program?
    Thank you,

    1. There isn’t much if you only have a few weeks – maybe try to do some type of interesting volunteer work

  40. Confusion:
    Due to the fact that the summer internship recruiting happens at the first winter of MBA study.
    At that time, I would just finish 4 classes at most….
    In that case, how much the recruiters would expect from my side?. I gonna deemed to be kicked out unless I equipped with solid experiences to deal with their advanced accounting/finance/technical questions.

    1. As long as you’re in the FT program you should be fine.

  41. Thank you indeed.Actually I get an email from university admission committee couple mins ago.

    They told me an opportunity could offer to me to transfer from PT to FT before early March deadline. But I have to go through the full application process again. Additionally, I would need to stop my studies in the Evening MBA program and would not be able to take more classes until Autumn 2010.
    Due to the fact that I am 32 year old already. Do you think it worth for me to wait and try FT?

    1. I would still wait and try for FT – much, much better for recruiting.

  42. My situation is getting complicated here. Because the current industry I am working with has shrink dramatically since 2008, it worth praying I am still hold my current position after multiple rounds of layoffs
    .
    But last month our firm get a huge project oversea where my hometown is. My director hinted me that I should go back to lead this project otherwise I am not allowed stick around somehow.

    I talked to my family here and I decide to quit this position if my director bring it up officially and spend full time on my MBA study. My question is:
    Is this ok to bring this fact up to interviewer to explain my storey without hurting my chance? Or should I say something else to explain why I choose PT ,but end up with FT study?
    Thank you,

    1. I would not go into all the details. If they ask why you chose full-time, explain that you wanted to move onto another industry; if you go for part-time and they ask why, say you had the opportunity to lead an exciting project and wanted to do it.

  43. If the interviewer challenges me why part-time MBA vs Full-time in term of motivation and enthusiasm.
    How could I position myself to justify PT status would act effectively to contribute to my long term?

    1. Say you had other obligations / commitments and could have done FT but specifically chose PT because of family / work issues.

  44. I am part-time MBA student.should I let the target contacts know my status during the first cold calling? will this aspect reduce my chances during my first try? or had I better let them know my part-time status later, maybe at one potential informational interview?
    Thanks,

    1. I would be up-front with them… see the recent interview with a part-time MBA reader.

  45. If I am targeting to apply an internship for next summer, when do you think is the best time to execute my action. I don’t want to end up with either contacting the bank too early or running into the parade of applicants. By the way, do you still provide the service for polishing resume?

    1. I’m not offering resume editing anymore, but you can go through Management Consulted. For networking, if you’re applying in 1 year I would start contacting bankers in the summer.

      1. But…you have taught us never take “NO” for the final answer…
        So should I reflect my approach or might cold-call you in the near future? haha…..

        1. Good luck finding my number anywhere. :) You should be persistent to a point… if you spend a year looking and get nowhere, then you might want to reconsider your strategy.

        2. The phone number of M&I founders could be the most desirable good for most newbie to get through EBAY online bid

  46. If I was in TX and want to cold calling some MDs in NY.
    Should I email him/her first? or Should I say “are you available to talk just one min “first during the cold calling in case he/she is in an important meeting?

    what should I say next?
    I am XX…very interested in specific industry and admire your achievement and would like schedule a meet in NY? instead of talking the internship opportunity?Should I limit the cold calling within one min so as to not annoy him/her too much.

    Thank you share with tips for cold calling if possible.

    1. I would just say “I know you’re busy, so I’ll keep this brief – do you have 2 minutes right now?” before going into the rest of what you say. Give 2 sentences to introduce yourself and then ask “I wanted to ask about how to best position myself for an internship with your firm.”

      1. I’m sorry, but what does that mean ‘I wanted to ask about how to best position myself for an internship with your firm’. What exactly are they expected to say? It seems like a really silly question. (well in Europe anyways)

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          James, the intent of the question is to seek advice from interviewers re. their thoughts on situation and tips. Of course, this question is a bit generic so you can always follow up with more precise questions – you can find the list of questions in this article https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-informational-interviews/

  47. I am an USMBA student and has started last Sep. This year , I am targeting an internship opportunity.
    I found a fact in my class that 70% students with varied engineering background ,20% students with kind of some consulting and Finance experience, 10% with banking experiences. I am not gonna challenging your theory. But I am kind doubt that network with the 10% ex-or-current analyst is a good strategy, some of them have already perceive classmates as potential rivals under current US market condition.
    Due to the fact that banking club are filled with engineers, I figured that cold calling might be better strategy.
    What is your thought?
    Thank you,

    1. I don’t understand what you’re asking. You shouldn’t be networking with current students, go for alumni or try cold-calling.

  48. Hi brain,
    It is said that nearly 90% percent IB offers have been nailed by last year IB interns, why the IB recruiters still do the on-campus full-time recruiting at the following year? Just formalities?
    If not, what is the odd to get IB an offer at that time if you intern nowhere last year?
    Thank you

    1. To maintain relations with the school, and to recruit anyone exceptional they happen to find. It’s difficult to get an offer if you didn’t do an internship the year before, easier if the market is better.

  49. Brian,

    I’m currently a junior, target school, 3.7, previous experience at a boutique i-bank. I got 5 first-round interviews next week with big names for oncampus recruiting. Each interview has between 35 and 50 slots. I think most of them are first round, super day in New York, and then offer.

    I’m just curious, but in your experience, how easy or difficult was it to make the decision for summer hires from first round to second round, or to the final offer? Do you always have a hard decision to make? What stands out among the candidates who move onto the next rounds?

    I understand that some banks interview with different focuses on fit and technicals, but I’m just wondering how your experience was from an interviewer’s perspective.

    1. It is mostly based on gut feeling. Usually it is extremely easy to tell who the best person is – out of 10, 1 will always be the best, and then 2-3 others will be good but not that great and then the rest will be horrible.

      It’s usually a very easy decision who gets the offer or who the best one is, but it’s harder saying who should be on the wait list or who else might deserve an offer.

  50. Hi Brian,

    I work at local boutique PE firm as an intern and i dont do anything that is meaningful.

    they have both asset management team and leveraged-buyout team, as well as international team, but im placed under “special project” team that does nothing but sourcing, making few changes on the intranet (ie making quotes of the day).

    i even tried to introduce myself to people at asset management and lbo team, and they dont care.

    am i looking for other internship that is more meaningful and hope to move ASAP, but i feel like my boss wants me there to do those crap.

    if you were me, what would you do?

    im thinking about applying to everything that has to do related with finance, whether its valuation, accounting, asset management, etc.

    please give me your best advise. thanks

    1. I would move out ASAP if the internship is meaningless. As long as you’ve been there for a month or two you can still list it on your resume and discuss in interviews – I would find something else asap and not limit yourself to any particular industry.

  51. only
    New york university
    Northwestern kellogg
    ChicagoBooth
    BerkelyHass
    among TOP schools provide Part-time mba program.

    The advantage of part-time is to get you quick on aboard.
    otherwise i have to wait until next september. cause i am 32 years old now and i can’tafford to waste another two year.
    In this case which school do you recommand?
    thank you.

    1. I would go to one of the top part-time programs you mentioned above. Chicago Booth is probably best for finance

  52. do you think i made a mistake by applying late to SA positions? (a day or two before the deadlines) some of my friends who applied early heard back, and im still crossing my fingers…

    1. It doesn’t matter when you apply, they review resumes at the same time in most cases

  53. I read some previous articles in terms of internship. making less mistakes has been put in priority. So if my strategy is talking less and working more(I believe most of the mistakes originally are made by talking too much), is the strategy good enough for internship in IB?
    I know analyst will point it out to challenge me and that’s only flaw they can pick up. if I talk, they may point out two flaws of mine. That’s kind a way to lose one and win the whole. Do you agree me?

    1. I’m not sure what you’re asking, but basically you should check your work with other interns / analysts you know before presenting anything. You can talk to people, just don’t say anything dumb / use your common sense.

  54. I heard sb’s opinion: entering MBA at Columbia,Wharton and Chicago are best for entering IB, but the harvard, MIT are little bit different, Hass and Stanford don’t stand too many chances to get into IB

    1. I doubt that – its just the finance oriented people at HBS, Stanford, etc already did IB and are looking to bigger/better things like PE/VC etc and would rather not “have” to go back to an Associate position

    2. Disagree on Harvard, not sure on MIT. Haas send plenty to IB, Stanford less so

  55. If your choices were between BB ops and a struggling boutique, which would be the better choice for banking, MBA or just all-around best? I’ve heard that the boutique had laid off most of its staff and that they are struggling with deal flow. Would it still be best to go for this FO position, or take the ops job and keep networking?

    1. Boutique because “investment banking analyst” on your resume is much better than “back office.” I would take that FO position and keep networking

  56. Internship at DE Shaw as freshman — good enough for getting into top S&T places??

  57. would the us top10 part-time MBA program stand the same chane as Top10 full-time program?
    If not, does it equal to top20-30? something like that? thank you.

    1. This was covered in another article, but generally you are much better off with full-time programs. Part-time may be ok depending on school

  58. Dubai seems like a nice place. How many work permits do they issue for new bankers?

    1. Not sure on that one, but they want to encourage foreigners / foreign investment as much as possible (even in a recession).

  59. Avatar
    IB Hopeful

    I am a senior and just had an IB 2nd round interview at a boutique in Chicago. They will be deciding whether they want to hire anyone and if that would be me in the next couple weeks. When I follow up again I would assume that they will ask me if I have any offers yet (since they know I had other interviews recently and asked me this question in the interview).

    I know that lying is a risky strategy here but it also makes me less desirable if I don’t have other offers. I was thinking about telling them I have an offer with another boutique in LA or something. What can I say here other than ‘nothing yet’?

    Thanks

    1. I wouldn’t lie – just tell them that you’re still in the process of interviewing. Lying can easily backfire so it’s not worth it.

      1. Agreed remember Jeffrey Chiang – he got screwed

  60. How is the cost of living in Dubai compared to NYC?

    1. Still pretty expensive – you don’t save much on living expenses, it’s mostly due to taxes.

      http://www.justlanded.com/english/Dubai/Dubai-Guide/Money/Cost-of-Living

  61. What kind of jobs would a former-banker who just finished his MBA go into? Besides PE nad HF?

    1. IB, PE, HF, VC, corporate development

  62. Avatar
    No longer analyst 3!

    Great article with accurate insights into what Dubai is really like. I especially like the bit about how recruiting/exit opps are different in this part of the world….

    1. Avatar
      No longer analyst 3!

      p.s. for all you ethically minded folks, below is a great article offering a different view of dubai:

      http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/the-dark-side-of-dubai-1664368.html

      1. Great link, thanks for that. Just read through the whole thing, wow…

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