by Brian DeChesare Comments (331)

How to Network Like a Ninja in London and Break Into Finance with Low Grades and a Non-Target School on Your CV

Investment Banking London UK“You’ve written so much about networking, but it doesn’t work outside the US. No one in my country responds to cold calls or emails – what do I do?”

It’s one of the most common objections I get to the networking advice on M&I.

There are dozens of interviews disproving the old complaint that everything here is targeted at Ivy League grads with high grades – so let’s turn our attention to showing that networking does, in fact, “work” in other countries.

In this interview with a UK reader, you’ll learn:

  • How he went from low A-levels and a non-target university to over 1,000 finance contacts in the UK and a top Master’s program there
  • How he used a non-finance degree to boost his chances of breaking into banking
  • Whether or not traditional networking “works” in the UK and how it’s different from the US
  • What it’s like to work at a combined M&A and asset management firm

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: Sure. Growing up my family had a lot of health issues, so my academics back in secondary school suffered quite a bit since I was in the hospital constantly and had to take care of myself. To give you a rough idea:

Although my grades were poor, my family situation forced me to think about how I could survive on my own and so I started investing and building up my savings at a young age (a unique finance “spark” that I could use in my answer to the “Walk me through your resume” question).

Anyway, I had no chance of getting into a top school with that kind of performance, so I ended up going to a non-target university in London. I studied politics there and earned a 2:1 – not spectacular, but at least better than my performance before that.

More importantly, though, I completed a dissertation on an emerging market, which made me more interested in the region and gave me something I could speak to in my “story.”

Q: OK, so did you actually complete any banking or finance internships while at university?

A: No – it was a non-target school so it was completely off the radar of banks. I did a few internships in media, politics, and for non-profits and got exposed to well-known names like that.

You might brush off media internships as “not prestigious,” but I gained access to lots of CEOs, MDs, and other important people since their database had direct lines for everyone.

I figured out midway through university that I wanted to work in finance, but I was going to a non-target school and only had average grades, so I knew that I would need to get out there and pound the pavement.

I’m not sure how it is in the US, but in London if your applications are not perfect you will not get interviews.

Q: Right, so can you walk us through how you went about networking and how you leveraged all those connections from your media and politics internships?

A: Sure. Through those internships I found a few mentors who were not directly in finance, but who were extremely well-connected in the UK – that made it much easier to get past gatekeepers.

I went out to literally every finance-related event in London and met everyone there, asking for referrals and getting introductions along the way. I even cold-called plenty of firms – plenty of places said no, but a few were open to it and told me to come in and talk anyway. I even networked via a part-time retail job I had and managed to meet bankers there.

What drove me was how plenty of people said I wasn’t “good enough” – not all bankers are brutal and malicious, but I met quite a few who were. So I wanted to prove them all wrong.

Q: Yeah, I think Sylvester Stallone was driven by similar forces back before the first Rocky movie was made. What was your strategy in terms of which level of banker to contact, and what was the result of all your networking?

A: I didn’t discriminate much by level – I met lots of VPs and MDs, and found they still made time for me even though I was coming from a lesser-known school. I even had lunch with CEOs of well-known firms in related industries.

I took the usual informational interview approach and pretty much everyone I met said that I’d have to network harder and be fierce about wanting the job more than everyone else. They also helped a lot with rewriting my CV, and through all this networking I was getting lots of interviews.

But this was also at the height of the recession and the interviews weren’t converting well – so I decided to take a different approach and applied to a Master’s program at LSE instead.

Networking at LSE

Q: Quite a step up from the non-target university you attended. What did you do when you got there, and how was the networking environment different?

A: The program helped me re-brand myself, and my networking efforts exploded since I now had much easier access to CEOs, MDs, and Partners.

I’d meet someone who came in to give a talk, get their card, and set up a meeting immediately afterward – I was averaging 4-5 meetings per week and met senior guys at banks, PE firms, and even media companies.

One thing that surprised me was that most LSE students were pathetic at networking.

Even people who had interned at Goldman Sachs and other top banks had no clue how to talk to people at events, request a follow-up meeting, or anything – some of the students were impressive but overall I learned that you really shouldn’t overestimate the competition.

The average student there has attended private schools his/her entire life so he/she is “well-trained” but not necessarily effective in the real world.

LSE also runs the annual LSE Alternative Investments Conference, which costs money to attend but is worth it 10x over if you use it properly and get solid contacts there. The focus is more on hedge funds and private equity, but everyone knows bankers and there’s a lot of overlap.

Even while at LSE, I still got rejected quite a lot but then things turned around after exams and I landed over a dozen interviews right before I accepted my current job at a combined asset management / M&A firm.

By that time I had amassed over 1,000 contacts from the past 2 years of networking.

Q: Wow. Normally I tell readers that once you go beyond 50-100 it’s hard to even keep track of everyone – how did you manage to get that kind of Rolodex?

A: I could go on for hours about networking, but we don’t have that kind of time so I’ll summarize my tips as follows:

Know As Much As Possible About Bankers

I spent a lot of time getting to know people and writing down literally anything important from each meeting and logging it on my computer. Even in my current job I’m still going through these connections, which impresses my bosses quite a bit.

I also created a Google News Alert for every contact I met – that way if someone closed a deal I could send a congratulatory email or phone call. It takes 2 minutes and people really appreciate it.

Be Nice to Assistants

When you’re requesting informational interviews, always email first and then call to follow-up – you will likely speak with their assistant, and she will give you a list of dates they’re available.

If you’re rude to the assistant none of your emails or calls will get through. If you’re extremely nice to them, you will have a much higher hit rate.

Have Interests Outside of Finance

Yes, everyone wants to be the next big rainmaker and make the Financial Times headlines but you better have at least one thing you are passionate about outside of finance when you meet people.

You never know when the guy you’re meeting might be a keen deep sea diver outside his day job – so pay attention to “throwaway comments” that bankers make and latch onto them.

I would even ask CEOs if they were married or had kids and how they balanced work and family time.

I was passionate about non-profit and charity work so I always brought that one up when I met with bankers and used it as my “interesting fact.”

Ask for Referrals / Find People You Know

After every meeting I would always ask if there’s anyone else the person thought I should speak with – and before I got official interviews, I combed through the entire firm site and looked for anyone I knew personally, and then found out who interviewed people there and so on.

I also used websites such as that covered financial services companies – sometimes they had the details of brokers there and I would call directly to see if I could speak with them.

1,000 contacts is a lot, but I always thought of it as networking for the long-term and not just to get a job. It does get very difficult to maintain relationships with that many people, so they’ll definitely be less personal if you want that many contacts.

The most connected woman in the UK has 40,000+ contacts and is doing well, although she also has a team of 8 managing her network.

Q: A lot of readers believe that networking “doesn’t work” in the UK or in other regions outside the US because the recruiting process is more formal elsewhere. Your story disproves this one, but I’m guessing there are still some differences when networking in the UK – what are they?

A: The tactics are not much different – just follow everything I described above.

This is purely anecdotal, but I think the main differences were what they looked for in candidates – they wanted someone who had:

  1. Completed A-Level Mathematics.
  2. Studied something other than economics or finance.
  3. Outside interests and solid work experience.

#2 surprised me but a lot of bankers mentioned that they preferred to look at people with different academic backgrounds; in the UK A-Levels are huge so I definitely found #1 to be true.

Overall I just treated networking like socializing and talked about as much non-finance-related stuff as possible – these guys work so hard that they’re happy to shoot the breeze about the latest football game or go for a drink.

I also avoided pissing people off – if someone said no, I left. I didn’t go back to leads who were not going to help because there were plenty of others who would. Finding one person to be your “mentor” is also a great idea because then his/her entire address book is open to you.

Q: You mentioned that you completed a Master’s program focused on an emerging market rather than the usual choice of finance, accounting, or economics. How much did that help, and was it effective even though you didn’t study abroad there?

A: It made me stand out a lot because it was an interesting degree and people always asked, “Why?” Plus, I could talk all about that region in-depth and that was way more interesting than being just another MSc Finance guy.

There’s a lot of academic snobbery over what you study, but if you go to a place like LSE and want to do banking, it doesn’t matter much – as long as you don’t pick gender studies.

Studying abroad would have been cool, but as you’ve written before, you can’t just waltz in and start working in a country, and you need to be a native speaker in most cases to use a language for business.

Asset Management Meets M&A

Q: Can you tell us about your new role at the asset management / M&A firm? I’ve gotten tons of questions on asset management but haven’t been able to give solid answers about the work itself and day-in-the-life accounts. What do you do each day?

A: My role is much closer to M&A than it is to asset management – we work with a lot of asset and investment management firms, though, so I do get to spend time talking to fund managers at those places.

I spent time on the usual tasks you do in M&A: pitch books, writing monthly fact sheets and investor reports, cold-calling / sourcing deals, financial modeling, and so on. I go to around 3-4 client meetings per day with our sales guy.

In addition to this we’re building a giant database in order to comb the city for future investment. I’ve already at this stage worked on raising several million pounds for the firm and I’ve only been here a few months.

I also do some investor relations work and build up the image of the firm, and go along with the CEO when he speaks with Bloomberg or FT.

Next year I may go abroad for the roadshows since we’re thinking of expanding in places like HK, Zurich, and NYC.

Q: What about the perpetual questions of pay and exit opportunities?

A: Without giving specifics, pay is slightly less than what the usual banking graduate schemes offer due to the nature of the firm and the specific deal I have set up – it will change in the future, but that’s where I’m at right now.

As far as advancement and exit opportunities, there’s very little micro-managing here so I have a lot more control over my own fate than the typical investment banking analyst.

Other people who have worked here have gone onto:

  1. Other finance companies – equity research, private wealth management, hedge funds.
  2. INSEAD, LBS, or Barcelona for business school.
  3. Other industries altogether.

Q: You mentioned that your firm does both asset management and M&A work – how does that impact the work environment and the pay/advancement opportunities? Did you aim for this type of firm for a specific reason?

A: The work environment is nice and there’s plenty of room for advancement since it’s a relatively small firm – AUM under £1bn, with a goal to expand upwards of 10x.

I didn’t pick a combined asset management / M&A firm for a specific reason, but I wanted more of a “family”-style office because I wanted a life outside of work. I knew that at a bulge bracket bank or a mega-fund like KKR or Blackstone I would never get that.

The CEO here plays tennis all the time and everyone does something outside work, so it’s easy to hear about interesting stories from everyone here. They also acknowledged in interviews that they respected personal ambitions even if they’re unrelated to finance.

So I didn’t really “aim” for this type of firm, but it turned out to be the perfect fit for me.

Q: What are your future plans now that you’ve defied the odds to break into finance? Are you planning to stay there for a few years or move to another industry?

A: I’m planning to stay at my current firm for the long-term – my colleagues are great and I have no reason to leave since the working conditions and hours are quite good.

I will probably stay here for 3-4 years, and then maybe move somewhere else in finance such as a middle-market bank in an Associate role. At that point I might move up the ladder or go to something else like VC until I reach the MD-level. Then I’d want to set up a charity such as ARK (Absolute Returns for Kids) and focus on solving social problems and improving social mobility in the UK.

Of course, I also want to do a lot of traveling as well and see the world.

Q: Great. Thanks for your time – learned a lot about networking and how the London scene is different from other countries.

A: No problem.

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. Nice article , I am moving to London in September for an MSc Finance at Cass Business School. I hold a BSc Economics (2.1) , solid quant score in the GRE, diverse extracurricular activities and volunteering. I have a genuine interest in corporate finance and strong technical knowledge however, I have no prior internship experience. I have followed many of your guidelines and manage to spin my CV into something (hopefully) much better. Already working on networking mainly with Cass alumni through LinkedIn. Results are really good and i am thinking of asking for informational sessions when I arrive. Going to apply REALLY early for summer internships as well as off cycle roles across the street. Do you think this could work for getting at least some interviews?

    1. Yes, please see some of the other UK-based networking stories on the site for more tips (quite a few have been published since this article).

  2. I am a New Zealander who has recently moved to London to try and get into banking or asset management, however I am struggling to make any progress. I have been trying to find a mentor or network opportunities however due to my lack of knowledge of London I am struggling. Also as New Zealand doesn’t do A levels I feel that my cv is not being considered. And suggestions or assistance would be greatly appreciated.


    1. We’d need more information to advise you… what level are you at? University student? Graduate? What does your previous internship experience look like? How have you been networking so far?

  3. Insightful article, I still believe it holds, even for trading.

    He’s defo right about London and perfect applications. The recruiters will not be forgiving if you lack certain credentials. For those of you in London, there’s now an explicit requirement from many junior jobs in finance for you to have a degree from a top 20 university.

    I’d like to comment on the interviewee’s anecdotes:

    – Completed A-Level Mathematics: extremely true, a lot of junior roles even outright specify that you have A-Level Mathematics at grade A to be considered. Granted this could be with recruiters only, however, I’ve found that institutions will look for this especially if your degree is irrelevant or if you went to a non-target or a non-top 20.

    – Studied something other than economics or finance: he’s wrong, for the most part. If you studied something like PPE from Oxford, perhaps. Even then this is only as mitigated with respect to you university rank. E.G. you’ll have a far easier time getting interviews if you have a degree in biology from Cambridge than one from London Met.
    Though, I find more business focused subjects still seem to make up most hires, especially for trading. The exception with trading being if you’re in engineering or a quanty degree with some evidence you’re into finance.

    Having said that, the only non-finance/business/economics guys I’ve seen get through are the ones who networked effectively. Even then it isn’t as common which highlights how difficult it is. The quant degrees have an easier time for obvious reasons, but not as easy as the finance/economics guys for even more obvious reasons.

    Mind you, simply being in the economics/finance courses is golden opportunity to network with your peers who’ll either know some solid networks or will be solid networks. Especially if you’re in a target.

    – Outside interests and solid work experience: defo true. Though, they look for how much value your interest has. However, I’ll agree the more interesting you are, the more it helps. Solid experience is a given.

    The only potential thing I can think of adding is the IMC, which from what I understand unlike the CFA/CISI, has more chances of helping one land a FO role and it is easier to obtain. Assuming I’m not mistaken?

    1. Thanks for adding that. I’m not sure if the IMC really helps for investment banking roles.

      1. IBD, defo not. Though “investment related roles” like trading or research analyst, it can help. Similar to how a CFA can help in some areas like you’ve mentioned in some other articles.

        In my opinion, the edge that the IMC has over the CFA in this regard is it is easier to obtain and grants you the same events the CFA would. Which I reckon would be helpful to those who’re more cash-strapped and don’t have the time to spend hours on all the CFA exams.

  4. Hi Brian, I’m pursuing a Master’s degree in finance in a Top 10 French business School. I’m currently an intern at a Private Equity Firm in a North African Country and I’ll soon move to London to study there in my school’s London campus. I already started contacting Alumni and I’m planning to start cold-emailing as well in order to secure a 6 month internship in investment banking this summer. My question is: What are my chances of success and what can I do to improve them?

    1. It’s tough to say without knowing your full stats, but you have a decent chance if you’re at a top 10 school. You may want to see this article for more tips:

      1. Tank you! actually last year (my final undergrad year which is called “license” in France) I didn’t get good grades because I was affected by the death of a loved one, BUT i did really well in finance related courses (18.5/20 and 19.5/20). And before that I was in preparatory classes where the grades are notoriously low for everybody (but I did really well since I was the First of my class)

  5. Hi Brian/Nicole, my case might be a bit unusual. I’m a early 20s brazilian on last year of LLB from a top five law school in Brazil. I have already taken a one year internship on arbitration but want to move to IB.

    I want to break into investment banking in London and am unsure what would be my best option.

    Right now I can foresee basically three paths that I could take:

    1- take an internship in a Brazilian law firm into the field of mergers and acquisitions or securities law, working two or three years as a lawyer, then taking an MBA in Europe.

    2- take an internship in a Brazilian law firm into the field of mergers and acquisitions or securities law, straight after graduation take a masters in either finance or management. I really liked the Two year Master in Management from HEC.

    3- after graduation from law school pursue an undergraduate in either economics or finance in London.

    Given those scenarios which do you think would be my best option. Would you suggest any other alternatives. Could the CFA be of any help for me?

    Thank you very much.

    1. 3) is probably best, but think about a Master’s degree instead. The CFA might be helpful but should not be your top priority.

  6. Hi Brian. I want to secure a role in investment banking in London. Right now I am a last year LLB student in a top 5 brazilian law school. Will probably secure an internship in M&A or securities law next year. Would you recommend applying for a Masters, MBA or an undergrad in London?

    1. Maybe? It’s tough to say because I don’t know your previous background. A Master’s degree is most appropriate if you already have an undergraduate degree and no work experience.

  7. Hi Brian, Good article. I am currently a final year student at a non-target school studying economics. i am on track for a first but i failed to secure an investment banking internship last year.

    I was wondering what my best route to secure a Investment banking role would be.

    I am 25 so i assume doing a masters may make me to old to hire as an analyst. Also i do not have much relevant work experience. would it be beneficial to still apply for internships in hope that i get hired at the end of it full time.

    Many thanks

  8. Hello,
    I was just wondering about the differences in investment banking between London and NYC. I am currently an undergrad at a target school in the US, and was wondering if applying to M&A positions in London is possible for Americans. In addition, what other differences in banking work and life are there in London as opposed to the US? Do I need to know a Euro language? Thanks so much for your time.

    Also, I was just wondering if youd consider Northwestern a target school for investment banks.

    Thank you so much for your time and help.

  9. Hi Brian/Nicole!

    I’m brazilian, and really interested in breaking into investment banking in UK, but because of my unusual background I’m having a hard time trying to find out the best way to do that.

    My background:

    – Graduated in a target Business School in Brazil
    – 4 years of Full-Time experience in Structured Finance (specially Securitization and Real Estate Project Finance) in an important local boutique (worked in some big deals, begin to end)
    – Just passed CFA Level I exam
    – European citizenship

    Trying to choose between:

    A) Move to London and try to break in with some help of connections I have there (some few friends working there as analysts/associates)

    B) Applying to a Masters in Finance in a target school in Europe or US (Stockholm School of Economics is a good choice because it’s almost free for EU citizens an seems to have good placement for London jobs)

    C) Applying to a Full-Time MBA in a target school in Europe or US

    It would be nice staying in Structured Finance/Project Finance because of my previous experience, but I am considering any IB jobs, or even something on the buy side (structured finance products investors).

    It’s important to consider that unfortunately I’m almost 100% iliquid (I made some RE investments last year, but right now the market is horrible to sell), so if a choose for a master the SSE program would be the best option.

    I would really appreciate if you could help me!!

    Thanks a lot!

    1. I would say B) or C) are your best options because with 4 years of full-time experience, you’ll almost certainly need some other degree to get into IB at this stage. C) is probably the most realistic option because most firms won’t hire you as an IB Analyst with that much experience, but they also wouldn’t be comfortable bringing you on as an Associate.

  10. Hi

    I was wondering about something. When you list your A level grades do you have to put your AS level results and your A2 level results on application forms or do they only want to see your overall A level results?

    1. Just list overall A-level results.

      1. Thanks for that. There was one other thing in my mind. When they ask for degree classification if you have graduated do you have to put down your module marks or should you just put the overall score? Or does it vary between banks.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I think it varies, but I’d just include what you’re comfortable with (i.e. what looks best) unless they have specific requirements

      2. Thanks. One last thing do you have to put your degree breakdown by listing all your module marks if you have graduated or can you just put your overall results.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I’d say overall results are fine unless they specify otherwise

  11. Hello,

    Really enjoyed this topic. I have a few questions regarding entering into IB . I am a Criminology Graduate (2:1), wishing to go into finance. I was considering doing a PG diploma in Finance at Birkbeck University and then potentially doing Msc at a better university (E.g UCL). Do you think that this route could work? Also, I haven’t done any internships, what should I do now?


    1. Potentially, yes, but it’s easier to just go directly into an Msc at a better university. Please see this article for what to do with no internship experience:

  12. Networking in London, apart from going to formal networking events, how would you go about doing it?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d most definitely use LinkedIn.

      1. How about does the process go? Just message people on it in the department you want to work in?

        Is there an article that details how to just LinkedIn?

  13. In my university this banking recruiter mentioned something about banks not waiting till you to get you if you’re on a Bosch programme.

    How much weight does a Bosch programme hold with banks?

    I read your article on how things have changed over the 5 years.
    Has banks’ view changed about CFA, CIMA and ACA programmes? I ask because the other day I was on job sites and a sizable amount of vacancies did ask for a professional qualification such as the ones I outlined. To add perspective, these are analyst positions.

    1. Yes some roles look for such certifications but most IB roles don’t; they prefer candidates with deal experience from target schools. I am not 100% sure about the Bosch programme so I’ll let readers answer this.

  14. Hello guys, I have been reading your helpful articles for the past months and I wanted to say that I admire your passion and work discipline on how you respond to comments and try to help everyone.

    I grew up in Turkey. Currently, I am a final year BSc Finance student at a non-target university in UK. I had an internship in Corporate Finance at KPMG Turkey this summer and had 4 other internships at different financial services firm in Turkey, the past summers. I’m planning to study a master’s in finance degree next year at LSE/LBS/HEC/UCL or MIT. I’m interested in going into investment banking and advising companies on deals in the TMT sectors.

    After reading this paragraph from the article;
    “A: It made me stand out a lot because it was an interesting degree and people always asked, “Why?” Plus, I could talk all about that region in-depth and that was way more interesting than being just another MSc Finance guy.”

    I wanted to ask you as a BSc Finance student, should I apply to MSc Finance or MSc International Management program at LSE. (or another exotic program like MSc China in Comparative Perspective)

    And same questions for the other universities which have MSc Finance and MSc Management degrees. (LBS/HEC/UCL)

    As an investment banking (M&A, Valuation etc) career focused person, I would prefer not to study extra-quantitative modules like fixed-income, security valuation, econometrics, etc…

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say LSE is a great school, and MSc in Finance is probably best for finance roles. LBS is probably one of the better ones amongst the 3 you list. I’d suggest that you contact LSE re. the MSc Intl Mgmt program and see if banks hire from that program. Best to speak with LSE’s career centre.

    2. No matter what anyone says. I’ve found that you’re always going to play a risky game doing a non finance degree. Particularly at post grad.
      Even the speaker’s post graduate degree was in finance just not as broad.

      Notice he said “not another MSc finance guy”, that means a lot of them approach. The quest to be interesting is risky. Finance post grad might seem “boring” but pair that with other aspects of yourself like hobbies or experience and you’ve got it down. You’ll skip the “why finance” filter.

      IMO without serious networking with those who have decision making power and lacking relevant skills (see job specs), you won’t get far.

      Like one gentleman said, the industry gets more competitive each year. Nowadays you need skills like SQL or VB to be considered for a lot of analyst roles which aren’t graduate roles. Guess what’ll be your backup if grad schemes don’t work out.

      Basically assess your situation and the story you could tell before trying to look “interesting”.

  15. Hi! I’m about to start undergrad Econ at one of the target unis and have good A levels etc. However, I would like to get a head start on networking and setting up meetings but ,unfortunately, have no real idea where to begin. Any advice would be much appreciated.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d make sure you set up your LinkedIn profile and connect to people especially your alumni in the industry via LinkedIn as well as email address. I’d start attending on campus recruiting events to get a sense first, and start having coffee with alumni to better understand the industry.

  16. Hi M&I, I currently study accounting and finance in my foundation year of a 4 year degree at a non-target uni. I have worse GCSE’s and A-Levels (BBBBCC and 1 A-Level at grade D) than the interviewee due to mitigating circumstances, and after almost giving up on academia I began an introductory course on the financial markets that I loved and found a 4 year degree that accepted me. I have been doing some networking and starting to build up my contacts and I also work at a brokerage firm but its starting to become difficult to balance studiying and working. How much experience is needed to make up for my lack of A-Levels? And will experience at a trading and advisory brokerage firm help with trying to gain a spring week/internship at an Investment bank?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes your experience at the brokerage firm can potentially help you. I’d say if you’ve built up some track record, this will really help you.

  17. I am applying for university now in the UK and i was wondering of you could tell me the top target universities in order of priority?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say LSE, Oxford, Cambridge (not in order of priority). Others like University of Warwick is also a good school.

    2. Assuming you mean undergrad, the top 5 Uni’s, in no particular order, are: LSE, Oxbridge, Imperial, UCL and Warwick. IB’s recruit at those Uni’s (target). After that it comes down to how badly you want it!

      1. Avatar
        M&I - Nicole

        Thanks for your input!

        1. Dear Nicole,

          I am a student at a top 20 LAC, and will be studying abroad at LSE next year. This is my junior year of college, and my career center told me that it would be the same applying for NYC banks in London as it is in the US. My main question is, what can I do about superday? Would the bank in question pay for an international flight back to the US? My first LSE break is from December 9th to January 3rd, would this be when superdays are held?

          The main reason why I am against applying for banks in London is because I find the process to be a bit more convoluted and because I want to work in NYC after college as well.

          Thanks so much!!!


          1. These days (2016), the bank would probably not pay for the flight if you’re that far away, but you never know. Superdays are generally moving up to be earlier and earlier, but yes, many are still held in that period. My best advice would be to apply very early and push for Superdays in the fall or attempt to finish the whole process remotely.

  18. hi guys, I am a economics graduate from a top 5 uni who is trying to get into trading/investment management. During my final year @ uni I found out I was dyslexic and as a result graduated with a 2:2. I have been able to land a few interview in accounting and finance, but I really am struggling to get into trading as well as investment management grad programmes. What should I do? I have done internships at UBS and Barclays, although these were insight programmes.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      The best way to break in with a low GPA is to network/cold-call a lot, go to a top Master’s program and do well there, or go wait a few years and go to business school. should help you.

  19. Btw, the D is in general studies.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Then it depends on the firm’s screening process. But I don’t think it is a big deal if you already have 3As. should be useful.

      1. Do you think I have a shot with my grades listed above? I’m actually in the process of applying spring program to Morgan, Goldman, JP and DB. I read that most BB ask for 3As and I qualify In this aspect. Do you think this makes me a strong candidate? If possible, can you list your email so that I can email a few queries? Thank you

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes I think you should be fine. In terms of your competitive positioning, it depends on your work experience.

          If you can please list your queries on this comments forum, this maybe more effective and other readers can also benefit from your questions.

          1. I was the track and field captain back in high school and joined the country flying club(yes, I have a student pilot license). Work experience: I intern at the ministry of trade and industry in my county and did high level economics research work. Also intern at another government ministry to do new trade policy.

          2. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            In that case, I’d suggest you to get some experience in finance first. Perhaps an internship at a boutique bank may help you.

        2. Jenny, I am not really sure where to start..Can you seriously be asking whether you have a shot at an IB spring program with an LSE bachelors degree on your CV? It’s a good thing LSE don’t interview applicants…Your question doesn’t even merit a response however, as an alumnus I am willing to offer some advice. Long answer short, don’t write down your C and D grades on your CV. Secondly, do your research. Lastly, you don’t need prior work experience.

          I have to ask, do you even know why you want to do a spring program? It seems to me that you’ve clearly panicked and jumped onto the LSE bandwagon…

          Also, this is clearly not the correct thread to post on. You have achieved high grades, you do attend a target school and you obviously won’t need to do much networking.

  20. Hi, I’m a overseas student studying in LSE right now. My A lvl grades are AAACD. A is actually the highest grade for the A lvl in my country and these set of grades got me to LSE since LSE ask for 3As. I’m wondering if my A lvl results are good enough for internship? Will the grade C and D hurt my application? I’m thinking Id these grades are good enough for LSE, it should be decent for internship? Can someone enlighten me please. Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes the C and D may be challenging for the internship process, though your As may compensate for that. You may find this article useful:

  21. Does anyone know how a BSc in Banking and Finance from University of London will be perceived by the banks? Having tried to contact HR from various banks over this topic most have been very vague. Clearly not the same as on campus LSE but how would it sit in the overall picture?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      UCL is decent. I’d say LSE is probably more prominent, but again this is just my perception and I may be wrong.

      1. Thanks for your comment Nicole. Just to be clear, this is a distance learning degree awarded by the University of London but with the syllabus and exams set by the LSE. Is this likely to have any value to the banks?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          This can be somewhat useful but the key is to take advantage of the on campus recruitment programs.

  22. From my research I meet all the criteria for grad requirements. From work experience to uni grades to even his therell well I can pitch my “story”.

    Alas (like some of the comments here) my A-Levels are a bit short off the mark.

    Now I know some people were definitely not talking from experience with grades seeing as everyone KNOWLEDGABLE and UPDATED with the financial sector tells me that as far as A-Levels are concerned: first sitting = first attempt at that particular A-Level.
    That is you circumvent the system if you do something like this (pre graduation/masters).

    Now that is out of the way, my question: is it worth sitting a separate a-level (while working in the most relevant role I can land, of course) prior doing a finance masters in a target?

    The way I see it. There is absolutely no point of me networking in an age where regulation is prominent nor is there a point for me going to a target for post grad IF I’m going to be filtered out over my a-levels.

    I understand applying for a role via networking or as you would like a non grad position is a viable alternative. BUT that’s a more longer term plan.

    I.E. is it worth sitting an extra a-level (a quant heavy one) as a means to secure grad schemes?

    1. One of the best ways to break in the industry is via internships/placements that are relevant/interesting.
      If you are dead set on landing internships (IMO networking in your case will not land you internships) I would suggest that you sit the A-Level. Like you said, it will be your first sitting of that A-Level.

      Some banks don’t even look at your degree if you meet the minimum requirements. They probably just look at your A-Levels and other aspects of the application to see if you can be filtered out.
      Sadly even the best talent would be out if they don’t meet the mark, the A-Level mark for example.

      You’ve got 2nd tier banks like Rothschild who want 340 UCAS points which is at least AAB. Often times they’ll take your best three first sitting A-Levels. The A* grade is plausibly considered, I imagine.

      If your grades are like ABC (about 300 points IIRC), or lower (like ACC, or BCD etc) then I might recommend probably sitting Math and another (Further Math, or Pure Math, even both if you have time). If and only if you never sat the A-Level(s) before (it needs to be your first sitting).

      Personally if you’re planning to take time off prior going to a target masters, then you might as well get some work experience (as relevant as you can). You could do the A-Level and work exp if your degree was very quant based (so 90% of the stuff will be easy and you can spend time doing productive things like networking).

      Don’t make it look like you just study all the time, as that large arguably unproductive gap could say a lot about you as a candidate.

      NB: I’m assuming they will not count your AS level grades, which some may do. However they may very well do, but you probably want to cover yourself.

      I assume you have a lot of time (any reader is free to agree or disagree with what I’ve typed), as such you need to carefully consider if your time is well spent meeting the A-Level requirement or trying to get in the industry WITHOUT internships.

      Neither way is necessarily ‘right’, there are several avenues to break in.

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Some people may think this is a good idea. I am not 100% sure but if you have the time and confidence to ace the exam yes you can do that.

      1. Thank you, Harris and Nicole!

        I just keep hearing that the banks WILL NOT budge with their UCAS requirement. So no matter how I hack it, I’ll need to do said A-Level/s anyway to circumvent the system. Besides the person in the interview in this blog was right: they want someone whose completed Maths. Some grad schemes explicitly ask for a UCAS requirement INCLUDING an A-Level in Maths at grade B (some even want grade A!).

        My quantitative skills have become very strong during my degree and will be even stronger during the final year of university (my work placement further strengthened it). Looking at the math specs, I can pretty much do 95% of them without worrying too much, so I reckon I’ve got time for a mere 5%.
        So IMO the time and confidence factors are defo sorted.

        However taking your advice on board, I’ll use that year to network/get some relevant work too.

        Thanks again!

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Good luck and let us know how it goes!

        2. Very interesting question. To be frankly honest, I am not entirely sure. However, and please correct me if I am wrong, I assumed banks look at your first sitting AND at the same time? i.e. when everyone sits their 3 A levels in ONE go i.e. at the end of A2. This is the case for a couple of the Big 4.

          Good luck and I would be very interested to learn if this is the case or not!

  23. Avatar
    Naman Goel

    hey M&I,
    I have been asking around a lot with this question in mind, but havent found an answer from a credible source. I hope you can help me out with this.
    I am a student from India. I have recently been offered a place at LSE for MSc in Accounting & Finance for 2014/15. I am also pursuing CFA, and will have completed level 2 before joining LSE. My intention is to work in the UK after completing my MSc, but I hear that its “almost” impossible for international students to get employed there. I am looking for either a core finance job preferably at an IB, or at the big 4.
    I do not have any prior work ex. I completed my bachelors in July 2013. Can you please give me some insights into my possibilities given the current job market AND the reluctance to employ international students??
    I’d be really greatful.
    Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      in your case, yes it can be difficult because you don’t have the relevant experience and you need a sponsorship.

      However, you’d still have a chance if you network intensively and have a rock solid pitch. I’d rely on your alumni network and start early. Worst case scenario, you’d still be likely to get a good role at an international firm in India (because connections in LSE may be able to help you get jobs around the world, if visa sponsorship is an issue)

  24. Some banks are telling me to list my top 3 A-Levels for the application process. However I don’t get some places because I’m short by some points.

    Would it be worth sitting an A-Level (Maths) to improve my chances? (Should I get a high grade, that would count as one of my top three A-Levels.)

    I speak more in perspective of graduate placements.

  25. I am a sophomore majoring in Finance and Computer Science at “Washington University in St. Louis” in the US. Couple weeks ago, I received a newsletter from Brian with a recommendation to apply for the UCL Finance Conference, which he described as a good opportunity to land internships. I took the chance, and to my surprise, was given an invitation to attend on January 24.

    However, I currently have a couple concerns about attending this conference:

    1) I am a sophomore at a school that is considered top tier in the US but internationally lacking name value. Keeping in mind that the primary reason for attending this conference would be to land a summer internship, I was wondering if my current status as a sophomore would hurt my chance of landing an internship this summer. Could I ask you for your opinion and thoughts on my chance of landing an internship?

    2) Unfortunately for me, another reason that makes me hesitant about attending the conference is my tight budget. I’m working part-time throughout the school year and am living check by check to pay for my off-campus rent. Though I really want to attend the conference, realistically speaking, it would make sense for me to go if there is a good chance that the experience would lead to an internship. So based on your answer to my first question, I was wondering if you would still recommend me to go to the conference.

    I know you are very busy, and appreciate any help you can give me about these issues. Thank you so much in advance.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes most established firms take juniors as interns so you may want to focus on smaller firms. I think attending the conference is useful but not necessarily. If you can’t afford the event, I may focus on networking online via LinkedIn instead.

  26. The article is useless when you get into LSE

  27. I know in the US you can generally work as an analyst for 3-4 years then take 2 years off to go to Business School. Then come back as an associate, or go into something like PE/HF/S&T etc…

    Does the same rule apply in London?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, I believe so

  28. Is it true that the hours tend to be better in London?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Again it depends on your team so I can’t say. You can say that most Europeans are generally more relaxed and like to enjoy life (and take vacations) vs. corporate culture in America. However, this is a generalization so it depends on your team

  29. Hi,
    I’ve been reading your blog and I really appreciate all of the valuable information you have to offer.
    I am wondering if I even have a shot at an investment banking job. Ideally I would like to focus on healthcare investment banking.
    I have a 4 year degree in Biology and currently work as project manager in a health company. I have about 5.5 years of professional experience and will be receiving my MBA next year (but may delay one year as a poster had mentioned). I am a part-time MBA student from a local college (partially employer sponsored).
    My thoughts are that I should start networking and then plan to make a trip to San Francisco if I am able to make good leads. I would be quite happy to join a lesser known firm. We have done several acquisitions at my current company and I really enjoy analyzing these transactions. This is what really got me interested in investment banking.
    I just want to make sure I am on the right track here.
    Thank you for your feedback

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, start networking and make a few good leads first. Once you do that, take a trip to SF. I think you’ll have to demonstrate some sort of finance/valuation knowledge and experience, and be able to articulate why you want to move from biology to healthcare IB.

  30. Hey,

    I am an applied math major in Johns Hopkins University. I am also minoring in Econ and Entrepreneurship&Management. My GPA is 3.7. Next year I will be doing the LSE-General Course, mostly to enhance my employment chances in London since I want to start my career there. I am doing a summer internship in Istanbul, in Corporate finance dep. of Deloitte.

    My question is, does this background make me a strong candidate for a summer analyst internship in London? Or since I am a Turkish citizen and not coming from a UK institution, would this hinder my chances of landing an IB internship over there?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes your background helps though you will be competing against people who have had IB experience in London before. Not having a UK work permit may affect your chances

      1. Thanks!
        Yet I know that my Tier 4 visa would work as a work permit during my internship. That should not be much of a problem.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Cool, then I wouldn’t worry too much about your work permit for your internship then. However, you’ll still be competing against people who have had IB experience before so you’ll have to demonstrate your passion and knowledge in finance to stand out.

  31. Hi, Thank-you for sharing this article.

    My current situation is that I have BCC at A-levels and a first class finance degree at a non-target uni. I have built up a years financial services exp at a IFA.

    I am due to start a masters in finance at St. Andrews but am looking to network a lot between now and September. Do you know of any sites that advertise networking events in London as I haven’t had much luck in finding any upcoming events held before Oct; And these tend to be career fairs which are very close to application deadlines.

    Also what are my prospects + best steps for breaking into a boutique bank? I participated in several EC’s and have held various committee leadership positions at uni.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think people would publicly advertise IB events to be honest. Most events like these are pretty exclusive. Its also the summer time now so most bankers/financiers will probably be on vacation. I’m not surprised that events aren’t till Sept. You chances can be increased if you went to a target school and gain experience in finance because you’ll be competing with people who have IB experience and are from target universities. The EC is good, but you’ll need more than that to stand out.

      1. Ok thank-you

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          You’re welcome!

  32. It’s really good to see the way this website is helping people with their professional lives. I need some advice too, please. Do O-levels/GCSEs count in the recruitment process with the bulge bracket firms? Also, how does a Bsc. in Actuarial science, Business Mathematics or Statistics degree from a target school like LSE weigh against the traditional Eco,IR, Accounting & Finance etc. degrees? What should a first year Uni student in London do to gain a head-start/know-how about the finance game?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for visiting. I believe they may count for more UK-based firms, I’m not sure about the ones in the States. Your degree is fine. I don’t think the degree matters as much as the rest of your application. It would help if you have taken some accounting/finance courses. I’d network a lot, and read as much as you can about finance – our site is a great resource!

      1. Yes, I see your site has a lot of valuable detail. Keep up the good work! You talk about the rest of the application, what else is important? Would it be possible to land an internship in London as a first year student at a target school? If so, then at which tier firm? More importantly, do you recommend it? Or would it be wiser to concentrate on studies and socializing? I have heard IB is a rigorous uphill journey, getting into a good uni is just the start.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Thanks your comment. Rest of the application – your essays (firm’s application), grades, relevant work experience, interviewing skills.

          Probably not because not many banks take first years. I think its wiser to concentrate on studies and socializing. Yes, getting into IB is a rigorous uphill journey!

  33. Hi, I’m just finishing the first year of university.

    I got one of my module grades. Three of my four modules are expected to be firsts or 2:1s, however this one module is a 2:2… .

    Will this one module be a hindrance or does the overall grade count more than individual module grades?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I believe overall grades count more the individual module grades though I may be wrong.

      1. Thanks for the reply. Though is it possible to find out if it would count against me? (Assuming it will.)

  34. Anyone who knows about the recruitment process in London: would my first year results be a factor which determines if a bank takes me or not?

    This is mainly for internship programmes, I’m thinking about.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think your first year results will be a determinant though it does play a part. Perhaps you can try to obtain better grades in your 2nd year to compensate for that.

  35. Can any London people (or anyone who knows about how it works in London) add some perspective to this, as that’s my ideal target (though if you can some perspective on other parts of England will be okay too)…

    I’m in first year in a very quantitative degree, with my A-Levels all being very qualitative. I’m 20 if that means anything.

    I may defer a year for legitimate personal reasons (will this disadvantage my application?), if I do this then I may use part of the year off to get A-Level Maths (I heard that’s a big requirement, even the article and some comments here support that).

    Though I’m unsure if getting it at this age will help my chances, so I need some perspective on that too. I may even get it a year after I graduate if needed, though I hoped to use that to prepare for a GMAT test as unis like LSE demand you apply for their MSc programmes with it otherwise its auto-rejection.

    So really in short I’m wondering if my year off and the age I may get A-Level Math will disadvantage me.

    1. I am not based in London, but I think the A-Level Math could only help you… the year off may be a bit of a disadvantage but it depends on how you spin it. If you can spin it into sounding like something productive, it could actually work in your favor.

      1. What if I had to take a year of absence due to extenuating circumstances?

        1. Ah, it just came to me! “Depending on how [I] spin it”.
          From IBs’ point of view would a year of personal reasons (that I don’t want to make public) count if I took A-Level Math and temped with various finance/accounting firms count as productive?

          As a means to show my interest? Though I could remove the mitigating circumstance bit to make it sound like I wanted to get a feel of the environment any way I could before I resumed my studies?

          Any pointers if I’m going at it all wrong?

          Thanks in advance!

          1. Potentially yes but you should focus more on work experience than classes.

  36. I have a similar situation.
    My grades are:
    Sociology AS Grade B, A-Level Grade C
    English Language and Literature AS Grade D and A-level grade D
    AAT Accounting (160 UCAS Points at A Level – Hihger than A*)
    Altogether I have 300 UCAS Points (BBB)- first Time sitting
    I have an Accounting AAT Full Membership( I am an Accounting Technician)
    I am currently at a top 50% university in the UK(Non-Target) studying Economics currently getting a 2.1. In my 1st year.

    How do I network to get into Equity Research?
    I feel insecure because the profile of Equity researchers are very different from mine.

    I know a few people at Citi Group and a GS Executive D. Risk Mngmnt.

    I am currently applying for a Spring progam 1 week which could potentially lead to SA. (Citi, Nomura, BNP, UBS)

    What are my chances of getting in with this sort of profile?
    I need your help please and opinion!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think your chances are not too high given the stats you listed though I may be wrong.

      1. Should I carry on with my Spring Applications of leave them as I’m wasting my time?
        Do you think HR will immediately cut me off? Should I rather network?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Based on numbers alone, yes you may not pass the first round. Networking may be time better spent. However, I’d suggest you to perfect your pitch and be able to articulate why you want finance and your passion in the field.

          1. Thanks very much.
            What are the elements of a great cover letter?
            Should I start contacting boutique banks and mid tier ones. Are my grades going to make a cut in mid tier banks if I’m impressive?
            Visiting this great website, I’m very aware that if I don’t try & start working my a** off to break in ASAP I’ll have to do an MSc.

            I should think I’ll ignore my applications and focus on networking since my grades will let me down.

  37. Nice article , wanna know about this topic more

  38. Hi there,

    I have been following several treads and messages on this site for a few months now. I am a recent MEng Chemical Engineering graduate with a 2.1 and ABB at A levels. Over the past year, i began to learn more about the financial servies industry and i am really passionate about getting into corporate finance or structuring. I do not have any work experience with this field, just internships within an engineering research company and sales company.

    I am currently working at the moment as an account analyst for a small financial services firm but considering applying for an MSc programme in financial engineering 2013/2014. I was wondering if you had any insight on how best to secure a job within this field? Do you think i should pursue the Masters or push hard with networking? I am a little worried mid tier companies or big banks will feel i do not have the experience. I have applied to several mid tier corporate finance companies and big banks but no luck thus far. Any advice?!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d network a lot and apply for a masters too. If you get into a target school, please feel free to post on the comments page again and we can give you more pointers then!

  39. Avatar
    Soul Provider


    I’m a first year undergrad student in London, and met a VP of a bulge bracket at my uni’s careers fair. We spoke casually and I guess I impressed him when I talked about what I wanted to do…so he gave me his card without me asking and told me to drop him an email when I submit my application for spring week. Should I email him before? I should also mention that this guy is from my top choice bank. Thanks so much in advance.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, email him and tell him you will be applying. Ask him if he has any insights..

  40. Hi,

    I am a MSc Finance and Investment student at a non target school in England. I am meeting the recruiting team(including head of ibd recuitment) of an investment bank on Friday. I didn’t achieve my preferred grades during my undergraduate degree and I do have extenuating circumstances for this. I have got the experience of working in a bank(commercial and central), part time job at university, community service and sports.

    I have networked with a few other people from IBD within this bank.

    Any possibility of me securing a first round interview? Please let me know what actions I can take to secure the interview. Or is there no hope?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Network a lot with hiring managers (NOT HR) and convince them to hire you (at least give you a first round)

      1. If I do manage to convince them to give me a first round. Will I skip be able the numerical and verbal reasoning test? Or should I inform them after I’ve submitted my application?

        Thanks in advance.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I think they may still ask you to do the numerical and verbal reasoning tests even if you convince them to give you a first round because I believe its the firm’s policy for all their new employees to pass the tests. If you don’t pass the tests, you may not be able get through to first round. I may be wrong though.

  41. “Studied something other than economics or finance.”

    This got me thinking. Would it still be a safe bet to do something other than one of these topics (economics/finance) for under/post-grad?

    Does this also apply to those who studied topics other than economics/finance for A-Level?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think your chances of breaking in may be higher if you studied Finance though that is not a guarantee.

  42. “Blue chip work experience

    Interesting Extra Curriculars”

    Blue chip exp as in experience from any blue chip, or finance/accounting related firms?

    When you say ‘interesting’, what counts as ‘interesting’? Do you mean extra curriculars which aren’t finance centric?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Blue Chip – Experience from top, famous, big companies (ideally in IB)
      Yes – like Skydiving

  43. Does networking in England work in the same way as it does in The States?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Networking works similarly across countries. Of course, you need to take account of the cultural differences. I’d still email and cold call people the way I would if I were in the States. Of course people might be more receptive to you if you have stellar credentials

  44. Grades are only part of the application folks.

    1. If you do not have the grades/uni you will not get past the filters?

      The banks receive 10,000 applications per year. What makes you think if you have below these grades you will get to interview?

      1. I didn’t disagree with you. O.o
        I just said grades are part of the application, not the least important.

        There seems to be a bit of fixation on grades here. They are very important, but you even said yourself (I think) that if you have grades and nothing else… well as I said “only part of the application”.

        1. If you have only grades yes you will find it hard to get interviews.

          My point is this you will compete with people with both grades & work experience. Then it becomes a lottery. The smaller firms are a bit more lenient but then guess where all the top candidates will apply as back ups? the smaller places.

          If you do not hit the high standards you must network and do relevant work experience and perhaps doing the accounting exams. People try smirk but those exams are EXTREMELY hard and you’ll find a front office position in a few years with an ACA/CIMA and I know this for fact because lots of people have done it. It is very popular for say ER/IBD but not so much for sales or trading.

          1. Thanks for the insight, I didn’t know about the accounting exams. Though don’t you still need things like high A-Level grades to pull off the accountancy exams-to-front office approach?

            Would you say accounting work experience would count as ‘relevant’ work experience?

  45. I hope someone can clarify the following.

    I had got ACCc (320 UCAS points) for A-Levels. However with my degree (finance related) I’m on track for a First and doing A-level Math on the side (so far I have an A in the AS level- meaning I now have 380 points). The uni. unfortunately is a non-target.

    Would it be worth improving my ‘C’s into A/A*s (its a matter of literally taking one paper per C). (I did have extraneous circumstances occurring during my A-Levels, should that mean anything.)

    The only worry I have about re-taking said papers is what I’ve heard: apparently only your first sitting counts. Is this true?

    My issue with my search thus far is the contradictory information alongside the lack of it. Contradictory in that every message board I go into (including some comments here, boards like the studentroom and Wikijobs) have their own ideas of what entry requirements demand.

    As for the lack of it: so far I’ve only seen the sites of banks like the HSBC and Barclays lists what their minimum requirements are (340 UCAS points is the most I’ve encountered). Everywhere else its a pain in the backside as it feels impossible to find and just leaves you with a vague “good academic background” which alludes to university performance (examples include banks like Goldman Sachs).

    Finding the switchboard for some of these banks has also been extremely hard – but with little success.

    Or should I forget resitting altogether and focus on getting into a target uni via a Masters programme?

    1. @Joseph – You do not have the necessary grades unfortunately. Re-sitting won’t make a difference either. I am sure you have extenuating circumstances but please have some perspective

      1) Banks received >10,000 applications a year, many for front office positions

      2) The pool of people who hit every requirement they like is very high as well

      3) Given point 1 and 2 it is going to be very difficult for a bank to consider you as an applicant

      Just get a 1st class/2.1 and apply for an MSc at a top school. Please be aware that even with an MSc from Oxbridge/LSE et al you may still not land a place.

      In the mean time network quite aggressively and try find internships/grad roles at boutique places.

      I have stipulated grade requirements about 100x on this thread already.

      Banks will want


      2.1/1st class from a TOP university

      Blue chip work experience

      Interesting Extra Curriculars

      After this it is up to you to perform at interview. Please realize this is what they want. If you fall below this cut off point you will need to find another way in to the industry.

      1. Avatar
        M&I - Nicole

        Thanks for your insights!

      2. Thanks, Mike.

        Though I do have one question regarding A-Levels. If (going by the A-Level standard) if I fall below the A-Level cut off point, why wouldn’t resitting help?

        1. Graduate recruitment in the U.K/London is based on first sit A levels. The interviewer (I assume you are talking about proper investment banks not boutiques) will know you re-sat just from the dates on your resume and the background checks will highlight all of this.

          If you go for smaller places they obviously do not check anything.

          1. Thanks again! I was considering carrying on with the maths as it us technically my first sitting (my original ACCc) didn’t include A-Level Maths.

  46. Thought u might like this

  47. A level grades.

    You are competing with kids with 10A’s at A level. If you are getting below AAA+ then you are not really going to hit the top of the resume pile. Thats how competitive it is in London. Lots of people have an Oxbridge/LSE 1st/2.1, so they’ll look back at A levels and in some cases, the snobbiest employers will look at your school.

    Whether you want to agree/disagree thats fine but you do need to ideally have AAA+ including A level mathematics.

    As for networking, identify where each bank is in London and visit the local bars, you will easily bump into markets people. i.e Goodman Steak House, Coq D’Argent, The Anthologist.

    Think about where people socialise and go where they will go. Also try talk to brokers, they have direct relationships with traders.

    1. Are you essentially saying that unless you have all As at A-Level, you’re pretty much out of luck? Or that’s the ‘ideal’ set of qualifications you should have when applying, but you wouldn’t be totally “screwed” without them?

      1. There seems to be some confusion let me clarify this

        1) If you do a liberal arts degree it needs to be from a Target Uni in the UK.


        2) If you do a liberal arts degree it would massively boost your chances by doing A level Mathematics and getting an A grade for it. Bonus points if you also do Further Mathematics

        3) If a bank sets a min requirement I can assure you they do not go by this. If they say 2.1 + AAB A levels this will usually mean they want above this. The HR teams and the desks do not have time to debate whether someone is on the borderline or someone is good enough. These places will give your resume 30 seconds and it is literally yes or no.

        4) These days so many kids have a 1st/2.1 + AAA+ and several internships/extra curricular activities and the right “pedigree” behind them. Whether you think this is fair or not is a totally different argument. The industry gets more competitive each year.

        5) Anecdote, the very few friends/colleagues I do have who have not been let go/left the industry have told me something a bit like this:

        “We find it incredibly hard to pick people for interview because all the resumes look the same. You have kids who have sailed around the world and done internships at Blackrock, World Bank & Morgan Stanley applying for a graduate level job. In some cases, we’ve had people interview who are working in HFs part-time during school”

        To stand the best shot you will need:

        1) Excellent High School Grades
        2) Excellent University/Grades
        3) Interesting Extra Curriculars
        4) Solid work experience at Blue Chip firms
        5) Luck (you can get interviews with GS but get rejected by HSBC)

        The carve out to this is obviously if you can meet someone very senior or someone at the mid-level with some clout in the recruitment process. Those are the only candidates I’ve known to bypass the traditional route.

        1. So in a nutshell (unless you know someone senior) you more or less have no chance without excellent grades?

          1. Pretty much you need to know someone if you do not sparkle on paper. Banking is after all a people’s game.

          2. Bro, I’m sure he said “to stand the best shot you will need”. So it means to have the best shot you would need what he listed. He did not say “meet this standard or give up”.

          3. With your in-depth (arguably ‘insider’) knowledge am I right in assuming you are currently in, or used to be in, the industry?

  48. Avatar


    A quick question regarding A Levels and their importance to banks. I took an exam broadly equivalent to A Level – the benchmark most banks set in the UK is 340 UCAS Points (AAB). Because I took more than three subjects, my grades meet the benchmark in terms of points, according to the UCAS website. However, I only have one A Grade, the majority are B’s and a couple of C’s. Do I still need to list all subjects and their respective grades or would you recommend just listing the points score? While I took more subjects, I am reluctant to list ‘C’ grades on my CV, as it could be a cause for rejection. For reference, I subsequently graduated top of my class in my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees (non-target).

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      A levels are important for banks in UK. I believe you should be fine as long as you meet the benchmark (assuming other aspects of your application compensate for your grades). You can choose not list the Cs on your CV though some banks may ask for your grades.

    2. As long as you meet the minimum UCAS requirements then you’re good to go.

      Though if A-level results get to you — if you’re certain AAB will boost your chances — then you’re welcome to take an extra A-level in your spare time.
      Unless they state it, they don’t care when you sat the extra A-level, so long as it was your first sitting. In other words, you can fail AS, but defo not A2.

  49. Dear All,

    Before I start I just want to express my gratitude for such a useful and informative website! (I have come across a few where commenters simply criticise one other)

    My story…

    A-levels: Economics (A), psychology (A), Geography (A) and English at AS (B).

    University of Birmingham, BSc Economics (first class honours).

    This September….
    University of Cambridge, MPhil in Economics (currently trying to change to MPhil Finance and Economics).

    I understand my A-levels are not in the best subjects, however at the time I was completely unaware of my future desired career path. Having said this my degree has been rather mathematical in nature and I have excelled in quant subjects (econometrics etc..)

    I am extremely interested in Asset Management and would love to land an entry level grad position as an equity research analyst (probably not going to get into IB’s Asset Management as lack internships).

    Unfortunately I didn’t obtain any internships, however did manage to network my way to a week long placement at a boutique investment management firm.

    Please could you offer any advice with regards to career prospects and what I need to do to break-in?

    I also didn’t get involved at University as much as I should and lack the standard ‘treasurer of XX society’ however I am going to try and turn this around at Cambridge.

    Thank you for any help in advance!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Just try to gain finance experience and join an investment club (or something similar) at Cambridge.

      1. Thank you. I will join the finance and investment club but concerned I won’t be able to get as involved as I’d like given I’m postgrad.. With little time. But experience is really really important… Wish I had realised all this in my first year!
        Will keep updating.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Thanks. Yes experience is crucial.

  50. How does one cold call when getting the contact number of the banks is extremely hard?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No, online resources are sufficient for you to find the main “switchboard” number of the bank. As long as you know the name of the contact you want to be in touch with you can find his/her name via such resources

  51. Great article, but I’m puzzled about something regarding networking. You keep recommending networking everywhere but I feel bad networking with people who are in finance mainly because I feel it’s a bit like using them. Is networking like befriending someone, or less ? What is the appropriate level communication for networking ?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No, networking doesn’t mean you are using people in finance. It means that you are networking and hoping to develop a genuine connection w them while asking them to help you. Also think from the perspective of giving versus taking

  52. Avatar
    Mike Vancarter

    I cannot find any networking events in London! Please suggest ideas where I can find bankers, I know I have to network, but its so difficult, there are no locations or websites that talk about where bankers will meet up, or when? Cant find anything on networking please help

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I haven’t worked in London before but I presume they’d hang out at places around Canary Wharf…..

  53. “Completed A-Level Mathematics.”

    Does this mean that students that want t o have a career in Europe need more mathematic skills than those who want to start their career in the states?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      What gave you this impression? No I don’t think so but I may be wrong. I think certain areas in finance like structuring may demand stronger quantitative skills than sales.

  54. If you want to go where bankers are in London:

    1) Canary Wharf

    2) London Liverpool Street

    3) Bank/Canon Street/St. Pauls

    Mayfair is usually hedge fund land

    1. Thanks!

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks Mike!

  55. Jamie – I can tell you with almost absolute certainty and this is based on the experience of over 10 people I know in Ibanks who are the ones sifting resumes.

    1) A level mathematics is extremely important. If you want to do something like vanilla equity sales its still important. Lord help you if you want to go into Fixed Income which is quant heavy.

    2) Everyone wanting to go into banking in London will do economics, finance, business etc and this does not make you interesting amongst 100 resumes. If you combine History/Geography with Mathematics then this helps alot.

    The above are ‘general’ observations I have experienced personally from sifting c.v’s and remains constant with friends I have in Global Markets/IBD at GS, MS, RBC, RBS, HSBC, BoAML etc and so forth.

    Can people stop moaning about the quality of teaching at places like the LSE as well. Like all Universities, it has its problems. Teaching is one of them, yes it is bad, but the fact is the top 5% of students are going to study regardless. Plenty of people do almost no work all year and graduate with 2.1/1st class because none of the work for the year is assessed. So its pretty easy.

    You also benefit from recruiters from ALL the big companies swarming campus during the Michaelmas Term so you’re benefits are going to happen after you leave University. And yes everyone is privately educated, so what, don’t any of you realise wealth/academic merit is extremely positively correlated?

    In terms of A levels. Given the competition you need to be getting AAA+ including A level Mathematics. You will need to be getting a 1st/2.1 to even land an interview. On top of that having some work experience/spring weeks/informal internships that are finance related/F500 company help that most.

    The carve out to all of this is networking ferociously and getting people to give you an opportunity to break in as an intern/junior analyst. Then it will solely come down to the quality of your work.

    There are only 5 target universities from banks – Oxbridge, LSE, UCL, Warwick, Imperial. Then it is a massive gap and its everyone else. Other graduates from other universities even the worst ones such as London Met get in every year but thats if you bust a nut trying to break in.

    1. “2) Everyone wanting to go into banking in London will do economics, finance, business etc and this does not make you interesting amongst 100 resumes. If you combine History/Geography with Mathematics then this helps alot. ”

      How many people in finance have degrees that would class them as “interesting” (such as history/geography with maths) compared to those who would do subjects like economics, finance, business- degrees along those lines?

      1. Avatar
        M&I - Nicole

        It really depends. I don’t have a survey so I don’t know. A lot will have background in business though many will also have background in liberal arts, engineering, maths etc

        1. I’m curious as I was actually *discouraged* from doing anything that wasn’t business related by someone in the industry who asked several of her colleagues prior discouraging me.

          They mentioned that the overwhelming majority have degrees with a business background. This coincided with another article I read here – “Investment Banking Math”.
          Namely this quote:

          “Yes, there are bankers with liberal arts backgrounds as well but bankers in categories #1 [Business background people] and #2 [quant subject people (engineering etc) who moved to finance] outnumber them [Liberal Arts background people].”

          Even then, with other aspects of the site – and others – I’ve been people been advised to go for anything more related to finance if given the choice.

          The only time I’ve seen (in this site) a liberal art degree being beneficial was in the “Investment Banking Private Equity Recruiter Interview” where the interviewee said the pro of such a background is that you could tell your story well… But I see that as a benefit you can get if you did some Liberal Arts topics as your A-Levels.

          In short: I was questioning the notion of how successful the “interesting degree” people are in getting into finance as if (from what I gather at least) the very noticeable majority have a business background… would it not be a safer bet to go for a business background topic?

          Especially as the degree itself would show your interest in finance?

          1. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Honestly having a finance background/degree helps (a lot), but it isn’t a must. Some people from liberal arts break in. Choose your major based on your strengths and interests. Otherwise you may have a low GPA and this won’t help even if you were to major in finance.

  56. Hi Brian and Nicole,

    Can you give me an idea of how the 2 year FT MBA program at IESE Business School in Barcelona is perceived by ibanks in Europe? Is it considered to be among the elite/target schools for BB’s/boutiques?

    I have indeed looked at their career reports, etc. I am just trying to better understand the school’s brand name in EU.


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’m not quite sure re IESE. I don’t think so but I may be wrong. Perhaps BBVA recruits there

  57. Avatar
    James Mckenzie

    Hi Brian and Nicole,

    Thank you for this great website, My grades were pretty much the same if not slightly better in certain areas in comparison to the user you have just interviewed. 2-3times a week I am out networking at University events. I have two questions.
    1) I have run into a LOT of HR and Graduate Recruiters, some of which have given me a second chance to re-do my application through network building. However I have not met any bankers- How do I go about meeting them, I dont even know where to find them!

    2) Would you be able to disclose the name of the person you interviewed during this interview. I understand the immediate answer to that is a NO. However could you ask them, if they would be open to a few questions that will take 5 minutes of their time?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      1. Info sessions & places/events where they hang out…
      2. Probably not. The interviewee will respond to this comment if he is available to answer your questions….

      1. How do we know where they’ll hang out? :S

        Around London?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes. I presume around the Canary Wharf area.

  58. I’m in the final year of my B.Com(Accounts major)in India. I’ve applied to targets as well as the likes of Manchester, Edinburgh and ICMA centre Reading for Masters in Finance courses.

    It seems more likely than not that I won’t get any offers from the top 6 and will end up in Manchester/ICMA.

    Considering this,
    and the fact that I’ve had no experience/internships as yet,

    and keeping in mind the new UK visa restrictions which allow only a stay of up to 2 months after graduation from the course which can be extended only with a full time job of >20k GBP salary, –

    Is it possible to land such a job just by networking throughout the academic year coupled with good grades?

    Is it possible to get an analyst position directly without internship, considering my situation (an internship at the end of the course won’t be enough from the 20k pounds POV)

    Which would be more beneficial – Manchester Business School, which attracts a decent number of recruiters itself after the top tier but located, well, in Manchester
    OR ICMA centre which is located in Reading i.e. close to London but may be suffering from too many other top Schools being in the area (or is that a benefit)?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Challenging – back your story up with passion and knowledge of the industry

      Very challenging – try to land yourself an internship

      If MBS attracts decent number of recruiters I’d go for it

  59. Hey, I’ve got quite an interesting background and still want to try for IB.

    My GCSE record was worse than interviewee; I flunked the first time only getting one grade C. The second time I managed to get ABCCC. Altogether ABCCCC.

    My A levels were also worse than his too.
    AS: ABCC; A levels: ACC. (Altogether leaving me with 320 UCAS points.)

    (I have extraneous circumstances I can mention for the above to prevent filtering.)

    Right now, I’m 19 (20 this year) and on a gap year where I’m doing an AAT (accounting) course and retail related work. Set to go to a non-target (to my knowledge with some alumini in IB), to study an economics degree which is tailored to banking and finance.

    I do intend to do a post-graduate in a target- an MBA if I need to.
    However I’m a little concerned about my pre-degree experience counting against me.

    Especially with the interviewee saying “in London if your applications are not perfect you will not get interviews.”

    Would internships grill me more for my pre-degree experience, or would actual jobs and internships do so?

    Or am I over thinking this?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You are over thinking it. Try to land an internship in finance first. Network a lot, know how to pitch your story, apply for summer analyst roles and see how it goes

      1. Thank you!

        Although am I right in thinking that I could get any internship so long as it is in finance – or has a heavy finance role – as opposed to only aiming for IB?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Depends on what you want to achieve

          1. Say I want to achieve make it as in front office?

          2. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            I don’t quite understand your question?

          3. Sorry about that, I think I might’ve misinterpreted your question: what do you mean by “depends on what you want to achieve”?

          4. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Re your question–Would internships grill me more for my pre-degree experience, or would actual jobs and internships do so?–I think you’re referring to the resume cutoff selection process

            I believe if you don’t meet certain pre-degree grades the banks might cut you off before you get selected for an interview. In your case internships would place more emphasis on that though I’m pretty sure actual jobs will too

            If you want to get into FO, try to land an internship with a boutique/third/second tier bank. Network a lot.

          5. After recently checking, I found that I do meet the minimum requirements for a lot of internships and my particular mitigating circumstance (pre-degree) does carry a lot of weight.

            Though would I have to place more emphasis on networking at masters level, because the university I’ll be attending this year isn’t a target?

          6. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Yes …

        2. Sorry to be a party pooper but most places will only take into consideration your A levels (i.e. AS+A2) when calculating UCAS pts and hence, you have 280pts and not 320.

    2. I did AAT as well. What University do you intend to go to?
      Do you have any contact, cos I don’t really have any contacts & I’m looking to get into Equity Research

  60. I’m in my work year and I’m choosing which targets to apply to next year (my non-target has literally no networking opportunities).

    Would it be better for me to defo go and apply for finance masters or would it be fine if I applied for economic masters?

    Is one preferred over the other?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It depends on your interests though I’d choose choose finance

      1. I’m leaning towards finance, but I guess my question is would someone with a Masters in Finance get preference over someone who did a Masters in Economics?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Not really. You might get more interview opportunities but after that, it is fair game.

          1. So to be safe – the interview opportunities – its better to opt for a Masters in Finance?

            (Would internships help, or would the Masters in Finance still possibly rake in more interview opportunities?)

          2. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            I think the internships in IB would help more.

          3. So the internships would help more irregardless of the masters (Finance/Econ)?

            Thanks! :D

          4. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole


  61. How does the University or Durham or University of Manchester fair?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Readers will have better insights

    2. They’re both have one of the top business departments in the UK.

    3. For undergraduate they are ok but you should really try to get yourself into the very top universities.

      1. I actually transferred from a top 5 school for personal reasons at those universitys are closer to home.

        I also have a BB internship under my belt so would going to either make such a difference vs other top schools?

        1. From what I’m told, by connections in the HSBC and their friends from other banks, going to ANY *well known/good* business school at the very least, will put you in good stead. (Academically speaking.)
          In Britain, at least.

          If you’ve got the school (top 5, as you say)to put on your CV (e.g. XYZ top uni from 20XX-20XX), you should be fine.
          Plus if you went to a top school and got into one of the better unis of England, you should be fine. Esp. with the internship.

          So I doubt you’d be at such a disadvantage.

          The only thing competition from other ‘top’ schools may have is networking (try to start, alumni (from both schools if you can), linkedin..).
          Or do what a lot of people in my uni. are doing and go to your careers dept to ask about what I’ve just mentioned – networking.
          Some of my mates were even put in touch with professionals!

          Then there’s the obvious unique stuff you should have to distinguish yourself from the competition (work experience such as your internship etc).

          To my knowledge, IBs don’t discriminate a – target – uni by what level of study you do (undergrad/postgrad); unless you go to LSB or Insead where they’d have to for obvious reasons.
          (For any ‘non-targeter’ reading, my sources tell me you’d need a 1st if you don’t plan to do post-grad.)

          But be forewarned, particularly around university reputation in Britain, you’ll get differing opinions. In regards to what makes a good/’top’ uni.

          1. Well this transfer could be seen as a step down. In fact, it will definitely will.

            I know its reality but I would hate for my CV to be dinged based on the university I went to consider the experience.

            Even at the target, I networked my ass and I still have those networks. I would just be pissed if some recruiter thought I was bs’ing the SA internship like people who turn a week long internship into a summer one lol.

            I wont lie, the target which provided good links had terrible teaching. Its the same with people who go to LSE. I am yet to hear of an LSE student rave about their professors and teaching.

            For example, Manchester has a great Business school but because it’s not Oxbridge/LSE/UCL etc, you only see 1 or 2 interns in each SA class.

          2. Though from my questioning do long as you’re at a top business school, you should be fine. At least, that’s what I’m told.
            They don’t go “he went to LSE, but them Durham… hmmm I’m not sure…”; Durham is quite reputable. And if I recall correctly has similar entry requirements to LSE.

            Which is why you can sort of argue that banks are a tad more lenient with letting ‘targets’ in with a 2.1 and look more favorably at a non-target wit a 1st; the uni (c.f. entry requirements) usually tells you the calibre of the student.

            Looks good for you as you went form one top standard to another top standard, more so if you still maintain a good academic performance!

            Oxbridge/Imperial/UCL/LSE only have networking opportunities within campus over the others. That’s really about it. So there’s no chance you’ll be dinged because of the university you went to.
            Non-targets usually stand a chance if they have financial experience (something those sort of unis don’t even get provided with usually); though ideally they’d need a 1st if they lack the networking benefit.

            Needless to say, I must stress that your university – name, but more importantly grade – is only one part of the application, remember that.
            For example, you’re not going to have an easy time if you get a 2.2 from LSE.
            Further, there is more emphasis on internships/financial experience – work experience.

            If you have good skills like advanced Microsoft Word/Excel/etc skills (and the specific software banks may use), that’s giving yourself another edge.

            Rather than think about the uni name (one compared to another) – something which is unreasonably stressful – think of it as a part of your application.
            Try home in on gaining/improving on other criteria {grades; experience; particular skills and what have you}.


            Also I doubt they’d say you BS’d about the internship, I imagine they’d check it out. If they do then they’d know you’re not.

            I guess another thing to consider is that people from other business schools – such as Manchester – may not choose banking?
            For example, a lot of friends of mine aren’t opting for banking due to it downsizing. Plus traditionally Oxbridge/LSE/UCL etc types traditionally tend to be interested in banking- may possibly explain why they’re more of them.

            So its not necessarily the case that the Manchester guy doesn’t get in because he isn’t a UCL guy, for example.

            As I mentioned before those unis – Oxbridge etc – have the in campus networking factor; you’ve actually got and maintained those networks.

            So long as you have those links, keep using them- keep in touch.
            (Follow the basic networking ‘rule’; this site has some good tips.)

            In all, I’d say you’re good to go.

            Try not to stress about Durham too much, its pretty good.


            About the ‘terrible teaching’ part.
            You could consider that perhaps those sort of universities tend to attract the ‘top’ pupils, they expect them to ‘self-teach’ more?

            For example, I recall a noticeable number of LSE pupils were privately educated. So their teaching experience was probably similar hence their ‘raving’.

            Mind you, this is just my opinion.

          3. Thanks for the advice Vick.

            Those small things + age at graduation had me a little worried.

          4. No problem.

            Brian has an excellent article on age. Though I find its more in with the US; some banks such as the HSBC – perhaps others – explicitly say age has no bearing for them.
            (Though I’d give Brian’s article a look along with other sites such as efinancial careers.)

            I assume you’re fairly young – below 30 – so you’ll be fine.

  62. Hey M&I,

    Just wanted to let you guys know that I have successfully broken into the BB SA program from a complete non-target. My success can be completely attributed to your work – without this site, the BIWS guides and your tireless efforts, none of this would have been possible. Please feel free to e-mail me and let me know if there’s anything I can do for you guys, and thank you for all your help.

    1. Awesome! Congrats and glad to hear it. Let us know if you want to do an interview in the future.

    2. HEY VIK. could you please just provide me your email address please!.

  63. Good Afternoon,

    Firstly thank you for the excellent website, article and replies it has proved most valuable.

    My situation is a little different from the normal and I was hoping for a little advice. I am aiming for a career in Investment/Asset Management.

    My story starts when I flunked college. I failed at AS Level with 3 U grades and one C (Computing). After dropping out I completed an apprenticeship with the UK government graduating with a Foundation Degree in Telecommunications Engineering in 2006. Since then I have been working for the UK government in the IT field. Parallel to this I started an Economics degree part-time at a non-target uni where I hope to graduate in 2013.

    I know that I have some options, firstly a Masters at a target university, secondly a MBA, and thirdly to network like a ninja (in your words) and try to land either an internship (probably unpaid) this year and/or job after graduation with a small firm and work my way up.

    For my situation, how do you think it is best to proceed? I am leaning towards a masters and a lot of networking but given my lack of A-Levels and that I am currently at a non-target university I don’t know if this is the best solution.

    Any help you can provide will be most appreciated.


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      A Masters or MBA would help you but your task is to make sure you get in

  64. Thank you for your replies, I think cold calling is my best option now. I do not graduate until the end of July, would it be too early to call?

    My careers centre advised me to just apply online anyway and try apply to mid tier etc.

    I have not received many replies from alumni over linkedin but then not too many are working as traders.

    Some of the other universities hold special events to network with traders but are exclusively for their own students which require some submission of CV, student login or ID check.

    1. I wouldn’t say so. Keep cold calling, till you get something.
      But in my opinion, I think you would have better luck applying after you actually have the Masters.

      Though, cold calling is one of your best shots, don’t limit yourself to it if you’ve got the time for other things i.e. networking.
      If I were you, personally, I’d try my gamble with other people in the profession – no matter if they’re alumni or not.
      What’ve you got to lose?

      Also perhaps trying networking with people in other positions could help? (One of the site managers would be better to answer this as networking isn’t quite my thing – I hope to say ‘yet’ eventually. :P)
      Like a “put in a good word with me” sort of thing?

      Well with the ‘going to other unis’ thing, if you can somehow circumvent those barriers go for it. If not, then if you’ve got a mate or two within one of the universities; hope they’re kind enough to share details.
      If not, then you can’t.


      The only reason I say you may have better luck with your masters is because at the moment you have the actual degree.
      They haven’t a clue what your actual Masters grade will be after you graduate; no-one does. So they’ll – assumingly – screen you as you were a candidate with a undergrad degree.

      If you can… you could provide evidence of ‘mitigating factors’ to explain things like your A-Level results, assuming you can? That sort of thing can help immensely. But you’ll require proof.

      In all, I’d agree with your career adviser and say keep applying and trying to add some work experience if you can.

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No. Still try calling!

  65. In a similar situation but have yet to graduate from my masters, this interview gives me hope that it is still possible.

    Did slightly better with my GCSEs but only achieved CCD at A level while running an online gaming business. I went to a non-target studied finance got a first, ran a society, two internships wealth management and trading which were not easy to get… on top of a whole bunch of ECs.

    I am now on my masters at Cass business school with a scholarship but this has not really helped with me online applications this time round either (did not get past the first stage of any). Networking has really been difficult, It is rare that traders turn up at events, I assume they are usually quite busy. I recently started trading and have been successful but I feel I do not get the chance to talk somene who understands.

    I think it is impressive the James was able to get into LSE with a 2.1 with a scholarship. I have also attended many events but not had much success, I’m not sure what I am doing wrong, maybe I am no good at networking.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Have you cold-called people in the industry you want to work for? If not, start doing so

    2. “I am now on my masters at Cass business school with a scholarship but this has not really helped with me online applications this time round either (did not get past the first stage of any).”

      This part should tell you why you’re not having luck, possibly; more so this part: “did not get past the first stage of any)”.
      Only when you combine it with your A-Level and GCSE performance.

      Mind you, I’m speaking for internships which usually require GCSE Maths and English to be at grade A, at least (HSBC) and others require 280-320 UCAS points (dependent on the bank you’re thinking of).

      Applying to these internships – if you are talking about that – won’t yield much luck even if you have a masters at a target like Cass.
      They still use GCSE/UCAS points as a filter.

      So if its types internships you’re talking about then my advice would be apply to smaller banks. Then try to move into big names; assuming you were only applying to the big names.

      Now if its job applications and network opportunities in general you’re talking about:

      Although a target, Cass isn’t like LSE, UCL or Warwick where bankers usually frequent.
      Even more so, since 2008 (the recession), those big name targets have been losing out compared to Oxford (Said Business School), Cambridge (Judge Business School) and Imperial Business School.
      Bankers do visit those six (Warwick, less compared to the other five) a lot more. Than other targets and universities.

      A friend of mine was in your position. The advice he got was to go to the careers dept of your university. They’ll give you more tailored advice, and to try and contact alumni from your university that are in the industry and network from there; Cass should have a few of those.

      Also two things you need to know:
      – doing a Masters in a target will help once you’ve got the actual qualification as opposed to studying for it at the moment.
      (However you still need other things to boost your employability to stand out.)

      – if traders/bankers don’t come into your uni, it may be worth while to try to see when they’ll go to other universities. Then as one of Brian’s articles say: play ninja. Go in and try your luck there.
      — Assuming there are career fairs in the future, you’re allowed to go to them (in the UK, iirc) as they’re open to *all* institutions (universities).

      HOWEVER all this should be inclusive to Nicole’s advice.
      You want to catch the fish with all the possible ways you can, so to speak.

      Now here’s my 2 pence on this:

      Also remember, banking is downsizing as an industry. Competition will be more fierce; doesn’t mean you should overestimate the competition, however. :P

      Britain, if you know, has this chip on its shoulder about young people from universities not being as employable or not having some relevant skills etc- if you can so some side courses (only if it won’t be detrimental to your work now), that could help.

      Worst comes to worst and you don’t get something after your Masters.
      Get whatever office experience – at least 3 years of experience according to to most university entry requirements; the targets – you can then try for an MBA/executive MBA at targets.

      Also, I would urge you to absorb all that Nicole and I have told you (jot it down if you must). Then take this to Cass’ careers service to get advise tailored to your situation.

      (Don’t neglect the cold calling; every little helps.)

      1. I do apologise for that lengthy read. :P

  66. “1. Completed A-Level Mathematics.
    2. Studied something other than economics or finance.
    3. Outside interests and solid work experience.”

    Also being in the UK, I respectfully disagree with the ‘solid facts’ these may propound.

    Firstly, with the IBers, finance and economic fellows I’ve spoken to: A-Level Mathematics isn’t always a be-all end all. If your degree/post-grad is has a mathematical nature, then its not a desire. A-Level is level 3 education and each year of university it goes up a level, so we can guess why.

    Secondly, I dunno… every single one of the fellows I mention who have been/are in IB always stress the importance of those ‘relevant’ degrees. For example, I was about to do an unrelated degree (Human Geography) – at a non-target – but a lot of bankers/people in finance actually *discouraged me* from doing so, saying that my chances of getting into banking, or finance, would actually be very slim.

    Only a very few said people without ‘unrelated’ degrees were in their offices. However, most of them said their floor only contained people who did said degrees. I
    But I’m guessing that’s where the desire for A-Level Maths comes in: their degree would possibly lack the quant element, so that A-Level in Math could compensate, somewhat. Possibly why I was discouraged, as I lack A-Level Maths.

    I know the article clearly said its purely anecdotal, but I thought I’d toss another experience out there.

    As for #3: that I can agree with you. *Especially* the part about work experience, which around here is actually bigger than A-Levels, which are possibly under threat against International Baccalaureates and Pre-Us. At least from what all the fellows (some HR depts included) I’ve spoken to have told me; backed up by what careers advisers told me.

    In short: I’m a little shaky with #1 and #2- but doubtlessly agree with all aspects of #3.

  67. Hi I was talking to a guy on my rugby team who plays rugby and told him my alevels were BBC with maths and accounting and english he told me i would defo need a mba in a finance related field to get anywhere. Are alevels that important.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I believe A-Level scores are important in Europe though I’m not quite sure if I agree with your friend

    2. It depends, manny.

      A-level grades seem to matter only if you have at least 280-320 UCAS points (vague on whether or not your AS-level, you’d normally drop after year 1 counts; but that’s dependent on each bank).

      The points act as a sort of filter for internships/online applications. (If you don’t meet the points, generally don’t your A-levels on your CV if you’ve got under/postgrad degrees.)

      You’ve got 280 points with your 3 A-levels. You could still do internships at smaller banks, but any internship helps I guess. Of course if you have what’s called ‘mitigating factors’ to explain why you didn’t bag an extra 20-40 points (such as acting as a carer while studying, parents divorced around the time etc) then they may give you the benefit of the doubt. Only if you have proof though.

      That’s assuming you’re worrying that your A-level grades would let you down due to the competition’s possibly higher grades.

      That’s not to say A-levels aren’t important in all cases: if you’re doing a qual degree and not a quant degree, then your two quant A-levels could possibly save you.
      But if you’re doing a highly quant degree, then the A-levels were merely stepping stones.

      Now, don’t be retaking any A-level exams! Every top bank will demand you tell them what you got in your first sitting, making retaking a waste of time.

      Your friend may be wrong (depends on your position): if you’re at undergrad level, try to apply for MA/MSc in econ/finance degrees at ‘target unis’.
      Really, any top business school in the UK, if you plan to say here such as Oxbridge, Imperial, LSE, UCL. There are others like Durham, Warwick, Cass etc.

      Though if you’re already working then think of getting an a type of MBA.

  68. Hi M&I,
    I have a unique path to my university, and am wondering whether or not to share it with firms I interview with. Before transferring to my school, I was a terrible high school student and attended a community college. I graduated with a 4.0 and was named valedictorian. Now I am a junior at my college with a 3.7, good extracurriculars, and impressive work experience. Should I tell firms about my experience in community college and high school? Will this add anything positive to my “story,” or will this be a red flag?
    Thank you for your help!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No red flag. Your college experience shd be sufficient. Not sure if your HS experience matters too much at this point.

  69. Hey,
    thanks a lot for sharing your experience! I also had serious health issues in my youth so that I performed poorly in school. However, I avoid mentioning this to future employers since my health issues could come back again and I’m afraid that this could deter them to hire me. Did you and if so how did you address this topic?

    1. Can’t speak for the interviewer but I would just avoid mentioning these issues altogether unless it somehow comes up in a background check – just say you weren’t as focused early on but became much better and improved afterward.

  70. Hi Brian/Nicole,

    I am currently pursuing a PhD degree in the U.S. I’m interested in getting a full-time investment banking position in London but also want to get a taste of what it’s like working in New York. Is it not very productive to pursue a summer internship in NYC next summer since that’s probably not where I want to work full-time? My other question is that for U.S. students to apply for summer/full-time positions in the UK, should we apply through our school’s resume-drop or the company’s global application portal?


    1. Probably better to do an internship where you want to work full-time, so no, not the best idea but much better than no internship at all. Apply through the resume drop assuming that you’re going to a top school, but you may want to check with the bank on that specific situation.

      1. Thanks a lot for your help!

  71. I’m a sophomore at a top target school, but I did very poorly freshman year–but last year I took really tough courses (organic chemistry and multivariable calc) and my study skills were nonexistent. Additionally, I walked on to the varsity crew team and that took a huge amount of time (16+ hours a week).

    I am taking easier and more interesting courses now (changing from Chem to math-track Econ) and I am hoping to get about a 3.3-3.5 this term but that won’t really help me in the near term since the recruiting process is approaching in the next month or two. My GPA is 2.3–we have grade deflation, but it’s definitely awful.

    I did some business-related extracurriculars last year including logistics for a high-profile student conference in NYC and I coasted through a top boarding school in England (A+ unweighted GPA, 2400 SAT, valedictorian, A-levels 4A* 2A, AS-levels 8A, GCSEs 9A*1A).

    I will be going to the on-campus recruiting events but I’m thinking about maybe waiting till next year to actually apply given my bad GPA. What about MM/boutique banks? I was also considering London since my high school record will count for more (and maybe GPA for less?) and I lived there before. If I can’t get anything finance-related I will probably work in medical consulting this summer.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Charles, most IBD’s resume cutoff GPA is 3.5 so if you make that you should be fine, if not, at least try pulling a 3.0. 2.3 is stretching it. London banks have a different recruiting system though they do look at GPAs too. You will also have to pass the analytical & qualitative test they administer for all candidates.

      If I were you, I’d network intensively w bankers and try to land an internship through my own connections. If someone likes you in finance, they’d give you a chance if they have the hiring power. IBD guys tend to focus more on GPA but S&Trading guys are not as much so. If you are good at Maths, good at thinking on your feet, like to take risks and have a passion for the markets, I’d suggest you to look at trading roles. Some traders don’t have high GPAs but they are great at trading, maths and thinking out of the box. they are passionate about the markets too. Salespeople are good at dealing w clients (interpersonal relationship skills key here).

      In my opinion, IBD & S&T attract different types of people. Some traders I’ve interviewed with appreciate athletes a lot since athletes have multitasking skills, discipline..value team work..these are traits people look for in trading. From what you’ve told me, I’d hammer on your varsity crew you are trying to balance your grades & extra-curricular activities..and if you really want to get into finance, start trading..start reading up about the markets. .learn about hedge funds..:)

  72. hi i want to get in finance ie Junior equity analyst but ive no experience in AM or IM but ive worked as a treasury intern at a local municipality with no credibility in the eyes of bankers. what can i do to present myself better.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Network and try to land a job at a mid tier AM/IM firm. Focus on the financial knowledge you’ve gained as well as your passion in the markets.

  73. hi,

    i am new to this site and new to the world of investment banking. i was introduced to investment banking in july while i was away on vacation this summer and i really got interested. i got back to nyc and i ended up networking like a ninja since then and managed to get an internship offer from Barclays wealth in nyc. i am currently a sophomore at St. Johns university and have only taken liberal arts courses freshman year. i am an accounting/finance major and i am starting to take accounting courses this fall semester. i have no prior experience in investment banking nor any accounting/finance knowledge so i was wondering what i should learn/know in advance before starting my internship at Barclay’s wealth. your advice would be greatly appreciated.

    thanks and i love your site. it has really changed alot for me and i thank you for this.



    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your support!

      Don’t worry too much. Read the articles on the site so you have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Familiarize yourself with basic financial theories (CAPM, DCF models, P&L statements etc) and I think you’d good to go. And yes, manage your EQ – I think being like-able is more important the the technical stuff.

  74. Hey Brian, I think this is an old article so hopefully you will see this comment.

    I am looking for advice for my current situation. I go to a non/low end semi-target (we got 5 BBs for OCR last year and get all the MMs like BMO, HLHZ, etc). I slacked off my freshman year and as such will be going into recruiting this January with a 3.1, with a slightly higher econ/business GPA of 3.5. Despite my obvious grade weakness, I have legitimate investment banking experience from this (my sophomore) summer that I got through cold calling/emailing. I also had a freshman year internship that was not at a financial firm but was heavily analytical in a data analysis position.

    This summer I’ve had informational interviews with 30-35 alumni, so I’ve made some decent connections. I am wondering what you think my chances are at various places, and if there are any suggestions you would give me to improve my odds going forwards.


    1. You have as good shot at smaller places but bigger banks will be tough without a good alumni network and/or higher GPA. At this point all you can really do is continue to network and maybe make a weekend trip or two.

  75. Hi there I have a few questions that I want to answered. I am student in the UK, I did not do fairly well in schools but I got back into education and so far I have been consistent in getting the highest grade that I possibly can acheive. I currently doing a BTEC Extended National Diploma in Business (which is equivalent to three A Levels), and so far I have achieved a distinction in every single unit; I still have one more year left. Starting from this september I will be doing my second year of this course, redoing my GCSE Maths and English and making sure I get at least a B in them and doing a part time AAT accountant techniacan course level 2.

    How do my prospects in going to either a semi or target University look like and does it really affect me getting into IB. I have started in networking as I just recently made my first contact who worked in private equity. Also I am 20 this septemeber. My first also has friends who work at Citibank, Morgan and Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

    I currently also planning to start my own e-business in selling clothes and electronics and anything else I can find, to show that what i have learned I put into context.

    1. I really don’t know enough about the UK system to answer properly and certainly don’t know enough about the university system there, but I guess you have a decent shot if you can get solid A-level scores.

      1. If you want i can give you a brief overview. The BTEC National Diploma is vocational qualification which is equivalent to 3 A levels, Im also thinking about doing the traditional A levels like Politics, Physcology, ICT and Econimics as an extra, but I will only be doing the first year and the go straight to University.


      1. Avatar
        gaurav roongta

        no bro;
        investment banking is supposed for engineers!

  77. Hi, does the networking ninja toolkit work in London ? I am LSE student as well

    1. Yes networking is still the same there

  78. Hi Brian,

    I see a lot of mentions about GPA, my question is do most firms (boutique or bb), almost always take a look at your transcript? Or is it like 100%.

    I can understand how GPA is important in banking but what about in S&T, do they look at your transcript as well?

    Also, the articles about having a sub-par GPA helps a lot, thanks!

    1. Really depends on the bank… it is probably more common at large banks and not as common at smaller places. In S&T it is still common but maybe not quite as much as in IB.

  79. Hi Brian,

    A couple of questions. I was fortunate enough to land some IB experience for two summers at a boutique and a few weeks at a bulge bracket bank in 2007 and 2008 (London). I was generally liked and made some good contacts (Yes, I stayed in touch). I have recently begun adding people to my LinkedIn account and have considered adding the Global MD to my account. He is a HUGE player and liked me a lot when I was there, putting me in touch with HR and giving me a good recommendation. Do you think it would be appropriate to add him and drop him an email…or just email?

    Secondly, I am meeting up with some of my IB contacts at the BB mid year that will be putting me in touch with some of the higher up people. My problem is that my transcript is awful. I used the study allowance while not attending to fund my sporting career. (I was a Division 1 athlete and had to pay my way.) I am getting A’s at Uni now since I have retired and will list them on my CV. Will I need to provide my transcript if I have already graduated? (I am from Australasia where your transcript is rarely asked for.) I can sell myself well and have a huge passion for finance. I have ticked all the boxes and more…except for that.

    I can’t thank you enough for this website, especially the CV template.

    1. Sorry, I am a Finance Major as well and not looking to do a MSc or MBA.

    2. Um sure add and email him. Not really sure about your transcript in Australia but some places may still ask for it, there really isn’t much you can do so I would not spend much time thinking about it.

  80. Hi,

    Can anyone give me any info on how useful it would be to study MSc Mangagement at LSE for breaking into investment banking? My undergrad major is in English and I am 25 at present (if that is at all relevant)

    1. If you did not go to a top undergraduate university (Oxbridge and then most of the other top 10 or so) then it will be very helpful, if you already have the top name it doesn’t help as much.

  81. Hi,

    I am aiming for a Back/Middle office role in a BB, I am trying to pad my cv with good ECs and so far for my ECs I have:

    -grade 5 guitar
    – dance and drama (both beginner level)
    -volunteer ‘store treasurer’ of a Barnados store
    -fundraising for PETA

    I have now been offered a position as another ‘deputy treasurer’, this time of a WWF branch. If I accept this I will have 2 identical volunteer positions at 2 different charities, will this work for me in my favour when the banks look at my CV, or will it weaken it? Am I better off looking for an alternative position in the WWF? (e.g. administrator)


    1. I don’t think it will matter. 1 great experience is far superior to 5-10 ones where you didn’t do much. You don’t even have time to go over that many different experiences in your story.

  82. Hi i live in the UK and i was wondering what the top 5 UNIs are for investment banking? Also how good do my GCSE and A levels need to be and what degree should i do?

    1. I don’t rank universities but Oxbridge and LSE are the top ones for banking followed by a few others

      GCSE and A-Levels not really sure but I would assume much better than the interviewee here to have an easier time of getting in.

  83. Avatar
    Yibang Chen

    Hey Brian,

    I am currently sophomore in a non-target school (you can tell from my e-mail add). I am admitted to the study abroad program in University of Oxford, England in my junior year, with a Math and Econ concentration. I finally decided to go mainly because of the school name, environment, and networking, but I am very concerned about how this experience will affect my career.

    My final goal is to work in an IB in the US. How do you think I should take advantage and eliminate disadvantages of the year abroad? Could you give me some advice about the junior summer internship?

    Thank you!


    1. Basically you will have to apply for and interview for IB summer internships while abroad, or think about working in London instead. Interviewing while overseas is tricky so I would actually lean toward interviewing in London and thinking about interning there.

  84. Hi.

    Starting last fall I followed a very obvious and maybe naive approach to summer internship applications. I went on sites like Milkround, Prospects and Target Jobs, and spent hours submitting them only to be rejected a week later. As it looks, I won’t get an IB internship this summer, big disadvantage. With exams coming up I’ve got a busy schedule, and haven’t got much time left to do applications, cover letters etc. What do you reckon my best strategy is now? I’m a 2nd year econ student at a UK university; I’ve got no related experience, no relevant network. What are my chances, and should I spend more time trying to get a job? Not only am I pessimistic because I’ve got a busy schedule ahead, and I haven’t got much time to do the applications and building up a decent network, but from what I know most of the placements are already gone – especially at the larger companies.

    Anyway, I’m still hoping to get onto a graduate scheme when I graduate in 2012. Now I know to use the proper tools, and allocate a lot of time – hopefully I’ll start preparing just as soon as the summer is over. Do you think it’s possible despite me not having any previous experience?

    Thank you!

    Best regards, Matt

  85. HI

    I wanted to ask some questions , i really enjoy your blog , its funny. I have completed a degree in civil engineering at a expoly university , and now want to enter Investment banking. My Alevels are rubbish basically , should i redo a BSc in order to increase my employability with finance industry?
    I have previously seen very good Msc courses as well – should i just study a masters?

    Also i have thought about studying accountancy and then entering an Analyst role via that path- is this a better path to follow. Hope you are able to help , i am So confused atm.


    1. Answered this on Twitter but I really think you need a degree from a top university to have a chance… maybe ask someone in the UK to be more certain.

      1. hi

        I did have a feeling that either i may try to enter through re-taking an BSc in another course finance related- but this is very risky as i may still not be able to enter an investment bank.
        I may need to retake BSc and also MSc , i was considering taking another second degree part time, in order to gain some actual experience.

        Any Advice please?

        1. I would just recommend getting a Bachelor’s degree from a top or at least well-known university and not worrying about the Master’s for now.

          1. This is what i thought would be the best route ,i wont get into the door with a masters degree if i had a bad BSc ..

            Is 29 too old to enter as an analyst , when most enter at 23/24/25?

  86. Hi Brian,

    I’m a soph in college and I’ll have a BO SA internship this summer at a BB. I’m going to try to get a IBD SA the year after, but I’ll be studying abroad in London during the fall. I go to a non-target so I’ll have to network while studying abroad. I’ll probably end up buying your networking guide and go all out on networking…any particular tips and suggestions on how I can successfully network while abroad?

    1. I would either network locally in London and leverage those contacts to meet people in the US when you return, or just do phone/email while you’re there and then move to in-person when you get back.

  87. I disagree.

    Lets take the top 4 guys at my firm

    1) Partner – Degree in english, masters in east indonesian anthropology
    2) Partner – Degree in history, mba, cfa
    3) Head of Operations – No degree. This guy built the biggest mutual fund in the UK at the age of 22.
    4) Head of Sales – maths degree, cfa

    Furthermore, here is a quick rundown of some of my contacts

    PWM CEO – Zoology degree
    Ibank CEO – Politics degree
    Head Trader – Philosophy Degree
    Asset Management VP – French degree

    Thats a handful. Sure it may help but on the job its pretty useless. No degree is preferred. None, except maybe a maths degree for structuring but then this site is all about M&A. My CEO still uses the calculator to do 10+13. Why on earth do you need maths, especially when excel does everything for you.

  88. Hey James,
    This was a really great article for me since I live in London and all of the articles on this site have been from the American perspective of Brian – who does a great job by the way!

    My question is regarding what you said about not doing an Economics/Finance degree because bankers prefer people from different academic backgrounds. However, I’ve heard that Economics/Finance degrees are preferred by investment banks. Will NOT doing such a degree impact your performance as a banker as you lack the relevant understanding that Economics students have?

    Also is an Economics degree more relevant to Trading than Investment Banking?

    Thank you for your time.

  89. Hey Brian,
    Quick one.
    Manage to send my resumé to a top BB with a high (management level) entry point. Got an email from HR (experienced hires) about a chat. This is not in the US.
    I ‘applied’ for a short-term S&T gig (not a permanent position) but it looks like based on my resumé (risk consulting/due diligence) I’ve been fit for IBD. Is this normal?
    What should I be preparing for? I don’t know if this is a “formality, we’re not taking him”, or what the interest level is.
    Thanks! Could definitely use some help here :)

    1. Oh, by the way… the reason I’ve posted on this page is not London, but the educational background of the story subject. My resume is fairly strong – I’ve got a legit shot at a top 5-10 b school, but “that” is the part that could keep me out.

    2. Not sure but I would assume that they only want you for IBD so prepare for that.

      1. God, that was weird. I wasn’t “pre” slot in for IBD, but the interview dove immediately into what directly relevant experience I had – as a total career switcher, I knew I was in trouble. There was not a single “fit” question. I tried several approaches with the few chances I had; nothing worked. The whole thing was over before it began. I just don’t have much luck with this region…

  90. Hey Brian,

    This is a great article! A few similarities to me in fact! I have bad A Levels and am a non-target uni in London but I have yet to graduate yet – due to in 2012. I am currently interning at a reasonable mid-market M&A advisory firm until May 2011. It has ca. 200 employees around Europe and deals range from £50m-£500m. It’s been a great experience so far but I have been applying to summer internships for BBs and I cannot get past the initial screening of online applications. I’ve got no interviews and not even got past the first stage of applications. I am guessing it is because of my academics (I have circumstances but I am assuming they are being ignored) because I have good experience – this M&A internship and one other finance internship.

    In order to get into the BBs or more well known boutiques, will I have to take a Master’s at an LSE, Oxford etc in this article? What else do you recommend?

    (I find it very frustrating because I have been to a couple of bank events and I see students from the best unis and they have no clue about investment banking and ask the most cringeworthy questions a la Harold&Kumar but yet these are the guys that get the interviews!!!)

    1. It comes down to networking a lot as this person did or a top Master’s program.

  91. Some additions:

    *Go to conferences with your student/alumni ID, they’ll usually let you in (it works!)

    *If you get interviews (which you will), look up the background of the person that you are interviewing with and take note if they spent significant time at BCG or McK or a bank prior to going into PE or VC), and READ THE WETFEET GUIDE FOR THAT ORGANIZATION FRONT TO BACK in addition to this website. I say this because a week and a half ago, I had my a$$ handed to me at a top PE firm which I scored an interview with (starts with a t) Afterward, I realized I should have prepared for it like a case interview (oddly enough)

    Prepare prepare prepare prepare!!!!!: from around the web (and from that experience), if you’re lucky enough to score an interview, great, but it’s yours to lose from there… so don’t lose it!

    1. Yup good tips, thanks for sharing.

  92. Brian,

    Do 1st and 2nd year analysts receive the same all-in comp in a Chicago BB vs. a NYC BB?

    Also, if ultimately I want to work in PE in Chicago (GTCR, MDP etc…), which route would be best: a top Chicago MM bank (Blair, Baird) or Chicago BB?


    1. Yes, same compensation. A bulge bracket bank is always the best for PE, even in Chicago.

  93. Brian, the other thing. On my c.v do I write the actual (Acquisition target’s) name i.e. worked on potential acquisition of [name] or [broad/vague term to describe the firm/industry] followed by a series of bullet points on what exactly you did?

    I’m just mindful of not breaching confidentiality etc and so forth.

  94. Brian,

    went through 1st round interviews (full time) with some firms, and I didn’t get to superday – I plan to delay my graduation and get some banking experience prior to securing a full time role so I`m planning to apply for upcoming summer internships.

    Do you think I should still apply externally through the firm`s website? Or should I propose to the ones that interviewed me and say “I’m interested in securing a summer position to build upon my existing experience to better leverage myself into a full time role” of some sort to demonstrate that I have that initiative and drive to work in banking… Do you think that would be a better approach or bankers would typically advise me to just apply thru the website? I thought I might have some sort of advantage because I met some of the people that interviewed me during that time?

    1. Applying through websites is never a great idea… maybe submit your application there but you always have to network as well and approach bankers on your own or else your chances are very low.

  95. Hi Brian,
    How do you follow up or network with higher level people? I recently went to a school event where a Vice Chairman and regional CEO of a BB gave a speech. I asked 2 questions and he thought they were great and we interacted well, but obviously the organizers wouldn’t give any time for personal networking. Is it ever possible to utilize this? Like write a cold-mail to him?

    1. It’s the same. If you do not have his contact information all you can do is cold-email him or get his information from someone else you know at the firm.

  96. Hey Brian,

    is it possible to make an MBA programme at any Ivy League/UCLA/ other excellent American University with a economics degree from a target university (for IB) in Europe? Or do you have to study BA in order to be considered for such an MBA programme?

    Thank you

    1. Yes you should be able to do that, plenty of people from Europe do MBAs in the US.

  97. @Mark – Not uncommon to get a phone call on the way home from the superday has happened plenty of times to friends.

  98. Hey Brian,

    Would it be safe to say after that i-banks would call successful candidates RIGHT AWAY after the superday? ie. couple hours after on that same day even with they say they’ll notify the successful candidates 2 weeks after? Is it normally that the notify the 1st successful batch, give them 2 weeks to decide, and call the 2nd batch of people who is going to step up and take some of the places that the 1st batch didn’t accept?

    Do you know if commercial banking works this way as well? ie. they say they’ll notify successful candidates next week (though i know all the interviewers got together on the same day to make the decision). So, if I didn’t get informed right away, on the same day, then I’m most likely the 2nd batch if successful at all?


    1. Agree with Michael, not uncommon to get called right away if you’re successful. I’m not sure about commercial banking – might be a slower pace there.

  99. Great article, the interviewee has a great story.

    I’m working in M&A right now and wondered when you apply for associate roles in pe/vc/banking do they check all the stuff you wrote on your resume is true? ie. deals you worked on etc

    1. It’s almost impossible to verify, so unless it is an obvious lie or something questionable they don’t do much to verify.

  100. This is a question for writing about transactions on a resume for an analyst with limited experience looking to lateral:

    It’s been mentioned for experienced analysts to be able to talk about how they helped generate revenue. What are potential ways an analyst contributed to bringing in $, without sounding like they did deal negotiating, since no one at the junior level would be doing that.

    1. Say that you contributed to something the senior bankers did or used in actual negotiations. For example, if you created some type of analysis that you didn’t present directly but which the senior banker looked at before negotiating with the client, you could write “Completed xx analysis, which was used by senior bankers in negotiations for [$xx] increased value for client” or something like that.

  101. @James – Do you have time for a few quick questions regarding LSE? You are very knowledgeable and I would like to get your input on a few things. Just reply here and let me know how I can reach you or hit me up on


  102. Avatar
    Xinghia Liu

    how come you see less asians in investment banking industry (US) than anywhere else?

    and do asians especially ones with accent face much greater uphill battle against native-born americans?

    1. Um I don’t think that’s really true, there are tons of Asians in the US. Maybe less than Asia, but what do you expect. As with other regions you are always at a disadvantage if you are not from there… so yes, if you are not a citizen and not from the US originally you are at a disadvantage next to the natives.

  103. Food – is a HUGE topic. The reason so many people in finance get fat is b/c alot of people aren’t massively active due to the hours being worked and sitting down all day plus the type of food people want to eat and enjoy is far too rich and isn’t particularly healthy esp in London. Plus people always want to dine out at somewhere expensive/luxurious.

    1. Yup good one. Wine too if you can find someone who likes to pretend to know a lot about it.

  104. Skiing – BIG thing with finance professionals. Actually anything thats related to holidaying abroad, st.tropez, hiking, extreme sports etc ALOT of bankers/financiers take part in these things.

    Sports – another big area i.e. Rugby, Football, Cricket etc are huge in London. The U.S not so sure about, can’t comment.

    Women – though I’d tread carefully, may be easier to do if your networking with the younger professionals in finance, not such a good idea to do with an MD esp one with a wife/kids. However, if you’ve developed a r/ship talking about picking up women is always fun and having stories is always great.

    1. Yup good one. I don’t think sports are quite as big in the US but a lot of bankers are into baseball / north american football there. Women would be interesting, but more so if both people are already drunk.

  105. I can totally confirm what has been said here.

    Personally as an outside interest or topic of conversation skiing is unbeatable!

    Also my experience in a F500 style company’s structured finance division (>15 people) gave me incredible exposure to banks. As an intern I was attending meetings with MDs at every BB bank and able to attend LMA conferences/events. So if you can’t get into a bank for an internship corporate finance is a very good option (that said I did luck out massively).

    1. Yup skiing is a good one. I guess if it were still 1987 we could include also include racquetball thanks to Gordon Gekko…

  106. Hi Brian,

    I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. I have always been one of the lazy A students who never really lived up to their full academic potential. I basically breezed through HS by acing exams but not doing HW and going to class which did not put me into the range of schools I wanted to go to. So I basically went to a small LAC, busted my butt off and got straight As but life got into the way and I had to take a leave of absence and take time off. Instead of coming back to my school I applied to other schools as a transfer student. I was doing a history major at former LAC but wanted to pick up a business major this time around.

    Since I took a lot of credits at my LAC, a lot of the targets do not want to accept me as a transfer. However, I did get into Columbia University School of General Studies, Wake Forest University, and am waiting on Emory University. I was wondering what you think of Columbia GS and what my chances are if I get As there. GS is an undergraduate college at Columbia and you take the same classes with Columbia College & engineering students. The catch is that the admissions requirements are a bit different since this gives a chance for non-traditional students (military veterans, those who took time off etc) have a chance of getting their foot in the door of a school like Columbia. However, with some people GS gets a bum reputation because people tend to assume its an “extension/continuing education” program even though it is not. The diploma will say Columbia University but it won’t be in Latin like the Columbia College diploma is. Nonetheless you are taking classes with Columbia College kids and are being taught by the same professors and being held to the same high standards. Can you tell me if it is worth it to attend or am I better off going to Wake Forest or holding out for Emory. There are just people who say that Columbia College is superior and won’t view GS on the same level even though its the same education minus a couple of core classes.

    Thanks for your time,

    1. Honestly I don’t know the specifics there but Columbia is 10x better than Wake Forest or Emory even if you study something stupid like gender studies. So it might not be as good as the real university but way better than the alternatives.

  107. Hi Brian,

    The recruiting period is over and I have no offer. I am a senior from a public school with GPA between 3.0 and 3.5.

    I am now building list of banks with transaction history of ~100m. Typically these banks have one or two offices.

    I am planning to cold-call MDs at these banks and explain my situation that I am looking for a potential tryout with the firm upon graduation (June 2011) for 6 months to a year (unpaid, full-time). They can evaluate my performance and decide whether to give me a full-time offer or not at the end of my trial period.

    However, I do not have a good idea of how to start cold-call and explain my situation as I feel like this is only marginal at best.

    Also, I feel like MDs will only transfer me to HR and HR will shut me or only transfer to MDs.

    Could you please give me little insight on this issue?


    1. Look at the networking podcasts and networking ninja toolkit here…. be concise, give your situation in 2 sentences and say “I’m xxx from xxx university, wanted to find out how best to secure an investment banking analyst position at your firm.” Take it from there, if they object, do not relent until they put you through to the person in charge of recruiting… if it’s an issue of cost offer to work for free.

  108. Hi,

    I send cold emails to companies where I would like to work for and oftentimes their email is not available so I just guess it’s usually; I ask about opportunities that might be available and tips and hints on how to break into the industry. I usually get my email forwarded to their HR, then they say nothing is available or whatnot. My question is how should I word my emails better so I can get some sort of conversation going with the VP or MD or whoever he is. Where I’m living I don’t really have connections already but establishing some has proven difficult.

    I just feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results – the definition of insanity.

    1. Find out where people from (company) drink/socialize, people are far more open to talking after a few beers and alot merrier.

      I’m sure if you’re based in a major city there will be networking events at Universities or other well known institutions populated by finance professionals. Also try talk to people in related industries who could connect you i.e. Bloomberg etc.

    2. What James said. You need to be more aggressive / go to events in-person. There are examples of what to say in the other networking articles/podcasts and the networking ninja toolkit offered on the site.

  109. Hi Brian,
    would you pick Columbia or Wharton for a senior person who wants to get into investment banking (pref in NYC)?

  110. how about other regions?
    like Asia?
    I’ve been networking but bankers here are not very responsive. Guess it’s the social hierachy.

    1. In Asia it is arguably less effective than the US / Europe, but it depends on the specific country there. I’ll see if we can interview someone from HK and see what the scene is like – might have one upcoming with someone from Singapore.

      1. that’ll be great! i’m from singapore myself.
        Thanks for all your efforts.

  111. just out of curiosity, what Master’s degree did the interviewee complete at LSE? is it a MFin. focusing on emerging markets or a totally different Master’s degree?

    1. Completely different and strictly focused on that emerging market – not a MFin degree. From what others have said here, it seems that other programs at LSE may be easier to get into as well.

  112. @Frenchgraduate – No, they admit well trained private schooled students or in some cases politically connected students. I was shocked to find this actually happened in the U.K system.

    As for intelligent, well, yes generally people at LSE are quite clever but the vast majority I still scratch my head to this day how they got into the LSE.

    Real example from this year from an exam: The student in question revised only 3 topics for a 3 question exam. Unfortunately, the 3rd topic the student revised did not come up on the paper. Innovation at its finest followed. The individual in question, proceeded to NOT make an attempt at another question. Instead, the student MADE UP A QUESTION and answered the question. Unsurprisingly, this student failed the exam.

    In addition to a point raised above, I don’t agree that getting into LSE for a non-econ/finance course isn’t that difficult. It actually is v.competitive if you look on the prospectus it even shows the applications/offer ratio. So its not exactly a walk in the park by any means.

    1. Avatar
      gaurav roongta

      LSE is now your typical U.K mill chruning out tutty-fruity post grads who are supposed to manage other`

      1. Avatar
        gaurav roongta

        to manage other`s money.i personally konw 2 relatives there;who went;won 2.1 and came back to where they belong.with the current economic scenario prevailing ;i thank my stars a kazillion times i rejected the offer for an admit.god bless.

  113. Avatar

    I was going to ask the same question as Andrew: how did you manage to get into a graduate program at LSE? They usually admit top students. That’s actually the most impressive part of the story to me.

  114. To Andrew above,

    getting into LSE for many of the non-finance/economics degrees isn’t that difficult. You just need a 2:1 and the money to pay the fees…

    1. One point here is that he actually won a scholarship so it was less about just paying the fees. I didn’t get into the details of how he applied in the first place since it’s not quite related to the topic of the site, but he did have very good looking internships / experience and a good personal story despite the average grades.

  115. 1) Getting into LSE is largely about the following: meet the initial entry requirements, have the money to pay upfront and having some sort of solid work experience and a kick-ass personal statement. Internships are fine as long as they are high quality but many people will be older and have several years. It is a masters after all. Thats all its about.

    2) Questions – ask about their general working day and latch onto anything personal revelation they tell you as best as possible. Also ask something along the lines of ‘you sound really passionate about [finance topic discussed at interview/other] is there anything else outside of finance that you’re passionate about?’ if you word it correctly, you’ll get the interviewer to open up alot more.

    @Igor,Respectfull, I have to disagree with you. You can have an interesting life and still get hot grades, countless people I no did not do much academic study during the year at Uni and left with top percentile grades and had a very good time. Plenty of LSE MSc kids treat the MSc year as a summer camp and take plenty of opportunities to travel, in some cases I saw people visit 15-20+ countries. Those experiences are going to be useful later in life and could be used at an interview, esp if the person has visited said countries. Also, those holiday-ers ended up with v.good grades i.e. merit/distinction. It can be done, being personally happy and enjoying life isn’t mutually exclusive from being super intelligent. It doesn’t have to be a trade off.

    1. That is true, but in this case the interviewee actually won a scholarship there so it was less about just paying the right price for him. Still, it is worthwhile to point out that getting into Master’s programs can often be easier than getting into the equivalent undergrad program.

      Thanks for your insights on the rest.

  116. Thanks for the insightful and inspiring article!

    I agree that’s it’s important to have interests outside of Finance – it makes you a more interesting person and gives you more topics for conversation. But it’s important to realize that it could be a trade-off between higher grades and being “more rounded”.

    I was wondering if you could elaborate on what are some good questions to ask bankers on the non-business side and what’s a good way to transition from firm-related questions to “do you have kids” type of questions?



      Just start asking about their background, casually ask what they do for fun outside work if and when they have time, and so on. You don’t really need to transition between anything as you don’t want to start off by asking about business in the first place, unless they bring it up first.

      And I agree with what James wrote below – your time is more limited if you want to get the best grades but you can still find at least 1-2 interesting things to do, even if they do not take up that much time. It’s all about how you spin it.

  117. You talk about graduating from a non-target with a 2:1 and then going to a graduate program at LSE. Do you have any tips to getting in to LSE, you make it sound like it wasn’t that difficult.

    1. I didn’t want to get into that because the topic of the site is about finance, not Master’s programs or admissions. As others have pointed out, it’s not necessarily that difficult with decent grades and solid internships at brand-name firms. The same applies to top Master’s programs elsewhere, often it is easier to get into those vs. getting in as an undergraduate.

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