by Brian DeChesare Comments (188)

Money, Hours, Models, Bottles: Investment Banking in New York, California, and Everywhere In Between

Money, Hours, Models, Bottles: Investment Banking in New York, California, and Everywhere In Between

“Are you guys even in the office past 8 PM? Whenever I call no one’s there.”

“New York is hella lame, people are so much better out here.”

“If you say ‘hella’ again I’m going to make you pay for the bottles next time – and maybe the models too.”

“Fine, I’ll do some research and see what I can send over. NY is still overhyped, though.”

No, it’s not a short story or a new TV show about bankers – it’s a banker from NYC and one from San Francisco talking to each other.

And you read that headline correctly: today you’ll learn how banking differs in different regions of the US rather than going off on adventures to distant lands.

As one reader pointed out a while back, “Hearing about all these different countries is great, but what about how banking is different on the east coast vs. west coast of the US and everywhere in between?”

The Most Common – and Wrong – Arguments

Many people claim that the pay and hours differ significantly and that New York is more “hardcore” than other regions.

That makes sense intuitively: New York is the biggest financial center and the biggest deals tend to happen there.

But in practice, these differences are greatly exaggerated – pay is standardized at the junior levels in finance and bonuses depend more on your bank and group rather than the city you’re in.

At the senior levels, geographic differences become more important because certain offices have better deal flow and clients, and senior bankers’ bonuses depend 100% on performance.

New York bankers like to argue that they work way more than people in other regions, but there are no scientifically controlled surveys to support these claims.

Yes, maybe the hours are somewhat worse since more deals happen there – but we’re talking a difference of 85 hours per week vs. 90 hours per week: you still won’t have a life.

So the more substantial differences have nothing to do with pay or hours, but rather the industries covered, the cost of living, and the exit opportunities.

And yes, I’ll address the ever-popular models/bottles, networking, and a few other points as well.

Industries Covered

This is the main difference – banks in the top 5 cities for finance in the US focus on a different industry:

There is no “best” because it depends on what you want to do in the future and how certain you are of your career.

Some of these fields are more specialized than others; something like oil & gas requires more specific knowledge than tech or healthcare since energy companies play by different rules and require different valuation methodologies.

So if you’re already interested in a specific industry, it may be a good idea to start out in the region that focuses on that industry – but if you have no idea yet, New York is the safest bet.

Just as actors get typecast, you will get more and more pigeonholed as you move up the ladder, so you need to consider these options carefully.

One friend worked on a telecom deal at a small VC firm, then got placed into the telecom group at a boutique bank, and was then placed into the telecom group at a bulge bracket bank.

Effectively, he became “the telecom guy” all because of one small deal he worked on ages ago.

And it’s even worse once you move beyond banking: good luck interviewing for that hedge fund that wants people with European telecom merger arbitrage experience if you don’t have any.

But What About Deal Flow?

“But,” you rightly point out, “There’s a difference between deal flow, hours, and industries covered – even if you’re working a lot, you might just be building pitch books all day. And what if your industry isn’t ‘hot’ at the moment?”

I don’t disagree with you there, but it’s almost impossible to determine deal flow of specific offices without talking to real people.

So if you’re such an overachiever that you’re going to pick your bank and group based on deal flow and exit opportunities, go talk to people at the different offices you’re considering and see what they say – but keep a critical eye open because they’re likely to oversell you on everything.

And no, I’m not going to rank cities and groups by deal flow here since that changes quite frequently and since you’re likely an obsessive-compulsive person already if you’re reading this.

Cost of Living

In ancient times, New York was the most expensive city in terms of real estate, taxes, food, and so on.

Now, however, San Francisco is actually more expensive, or at least as expensive, due to the tech boom and the number of high-paid startup employees there (as of 2015).

So you are not likely to save much money during the year in either place; it’s also a bad idea to live in New Jersey or another location outside the main city to save money, since you might go insane in what little free time you have.

The “cost of living” ranking looks something like this:

  • NYC ~= SF > LA > Chicago > Houston

You will save the most money working in Houston because Texas has no state income tax, rent is ridiculously cheap, bottles are less pricey, and even the models are less demanding and will give your wallet less of a workout.

Cost of living shouldn’t be your top concern, but you should be aware of it.

Finance people are notorious for making millions of dollars and then blowing it all on luxury spending – so pay attention if you want to retire on more than $50K in that savings account you forgot about.

One other note: driving will be required in most of these places, especially in a city like LA where there is no public viable transportation.

So if you hate driving and owning a car, your best bet is New York.

NOTE: Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are actually changing this dynamic.

If you live relatively close to the office, you might be able to take one of those to and from work every day and gain some peace of mind in the process.

Exit Opportunities

The main problem with exit opportunities is that it’s hard to interview when you’re far away.

You need to take time off work by using questionable excuses, hope people don’t notice your repeated absences, and then visit the firm enough times to seal the deal.

Since New York to SF or LA is a 5-6 hour trek, it’s not easy to hop from banking on one coast to the buy-side on the other coast. Pretty much all the analysts I knew in California stayed there, and pretty much all the ones in New York stayed on the east coast.

So you’re more likely to stay in your first region unless you can pull off in-person trips or interview entirely via video conference (unlikely for traditional exit opportunities).

Again, people like to argue that New York has “better” exit opportunities, but plenty of analysts on the west coast and elsewhere get into mega-funds as well; it’s just that they work at local offices rather than in NYC.

One legitimate difference is that there are more exit opportunities in New York just because it’s the biggest financial center.

And you also run into the pigeonholing problem if you start out in another region: go to Houston and you’ll more than likely recruit only for energy-focused PE firms and hedge funds.

If you’re in San Francisco, you’ll be more likely to recruit for tech-focused funds, or maybe even quit finance and join a tech startup.

But aside from those differences, the actual quality of exit opportunities doesn’t differ as much as you might expect.

Got Networking?

Networking opportunities are another more significant difference, and one that people overlook all the time.

Since NYC is much bigger than the other regions, you’ll simply meet more people there and you’ll be better equipped to network your way into other roles.

Just as with other financial centers like Hong Kong and London, sometimes half the people you meet in NYC will be in finance (the other half will be “aspiring” artists or models, which is great for you as a financier).

How much does the quality of networking really matter?

It depends how certain you are of your “career path” – if you’re interested in doing tech banking and then doing a venture capital career in California, you’re better off starting in SF and networking with tech and VC groups there.

But if you have no industry preference, you’ll gain more options by starting out in New York.

How to Satisfy the Models

Ah, now to the fun part.

The main difference is that the New York models tend to be higher-maintenance, more expensive, and more demanding; LA comes close since everyone is required to get plastic surgery, but you’ll still spend more overall in NYC.

But flashing around wads of cash also doesn’t impress as much in New York because $200K is barely middle class – not enough to satisfy models who are expecting a new bag every day.

In all seriousness, you really will spend a lot more money going out in New York if you actually enjoy it.

LA and SF can also be expensive, while Chicago and Houston are more reasonable. Some also argue that people in the South and Midwest are “friendlier” but I don’t want to get into a debate over that one.

I’m not qualified to comment on the quality of men in each place, other than to say that SF is probably the worst place to find hot guys unless you’re into tech guys with a ton of money from startups.

(Yes, a female friend recently asked if there were a lot of tall, muscular blonde guys in SF and I started laughing.)

Recruiting

“Aha,” you say, “But even if the pay and hours are not much different, surely they must ask completely different interview questions in each region, right?”

Sorry to disappoint, but no, not really.

No one sits down and says, “Well, in Chicago we should ask this specific set of questions but in Houston it will be completely different.”

Once again, the main difference comes down to the industry focus: you don’t need to be an expert on the industry of focus in each city, but you should know something about recent deals and any industry-specific valuation methodologies.

It’s not really “easier” or “harder” to get into finance in different cities – there are fewer spots outside of New York, but there’s also less competition.

Other Regions

Yes, there are banks in places besides NYC, Chicago, Houston, SF, and LA – but the offices tend to be much smaller and they don’t always recruit on-campus.

Other cities with a presence in finance include Boston (similar to SF due to the industry focus), Washington, DC (aerospace/defense), Atlanta (lots of wealth management), Miami (healthcare, Latin America), Dallas (got equities?) and maybe a few others.

I can’t recommend starting out in these places if you have the option to go to one of the 5 major centers listed above.

Maybe if you’re interested in only a very specific industry, like aerospace and defense, then DC makes sense – but you’ll be at a disadvantage in terms of deal flow and exit opportunities.

A lot of boutiques are also based in other regions, so you should jump at the opportunity if you have nothing lined up in a bigger city – but otherwise, stick to the top 5 above.

Outside of IB: Sales & Trading, Hedge Funds, and More

You run into the same differences in other fields like private equity, sales & trading, hedge funds, and asset management: a different industry focus and more geographically limited exit opportunities.

Some cities also tend to be stronger in certain fields.

For example, Chicago is great for prop trading and the SF Bay Area is the spot to be for venture capital.

One downside to any type of markets-based role such as trading or hedge funds is that you have to wake up very early if you’re on the west coast because you work New York market hours.

If you’re fine waking up at 4 AM, getting off work at 5 PM, and sleeping at 9 PM every night, you might be OK; if you’re not a morning person, though, you may want to stay away.

So, Where Should You Work?

If you have absolutely no idea what you want to do and don’t mind spending more money, New York is your best option – there’s more networking, more opportunities, bigger deals, and you don’t even have to drive.

But if you have a more specific goal such as going into VC, joining a tech startup, or working in the oil & gas industry, you could make a good argument for starting out in a different city.

There may be slight differences in pay, hours, and how much you save in your first year (with bigger differences on that last one), but those don’t matter much in the long-term.

To figure out which office has the best deal flow, network with bankers and ask directly – that information changes quickly and you’re always better off going straight to the source.

And whatever else happens, make sure you don’t end up doing equities in Dallas.

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. I have heard that bankers in New York view bankers from other regions as not on the same level. Whether or not this is true or its just the New York bankers stroking their egos, I wanted to know if it is harder to move to/move BACK to New York for banking from another region given this thought by some or if it is all just crap?

    1. Yes, there is some truth to that, but it happens in all regions… bankers in the major financial centers (NY, London, HK) tend to look down on regional bankers. Yes, it’s generally harder to move from a smaller regional office into NY, but it’s definitely doable simply because the turnover rate is so high.

  2. Hi,

    I will be starting at a EB IBD role in a non-major city that recruited at my school. Don’t know anyone and can’t see myself staying long term, and was wondering if you had any advice on potentially transferring offices within a year or lateraling to a different city and how that would work while working IB hours. I will be at a top group on WS, any advice is appreciated.

    1. The general strategy here is to win support from a key senior person in your office and the office you want to move to. You also need to perform well and have a bit of luck in terms of the other office being busy and needing additional staff. So… try to work on deals that involve the other office in some way so you have an excuse to meet people there, see if you can set up a casual chat with one of the Directors or MDs, and keep performing well and making the senior bankers in your office happy. And then ask for a transfer maybe at around the 1 or 1.5-year mark.

  3. Hi Brian, can you tell me what Regional Investment Banking is? How is it different from traditional banking? E.g. JP M Regional Investment Banking coverage team.

    1. Regional teams generally cover smaller/more niche companies and work on smaller deals. Banks rarely put their best/most productive senior bankers on the regional teams. It can still be a good experience, but you run into the same issues as you do working in any regional office rather than NY/London (better lifestyle, potentially, but smaller/fewer deals and not as many exit opportunities).

  4. Brian I desperately need your help! I’m currently in my second year in Investment Banking at UBS in London. I moved to London 8 years ago to do my undergrad and masters and then after a brief attempt in Consulting I joined UBS. I’ve always flirted with a move to NY as I’ve grown increasingly bored with London (also Brexit is a concern) and being in my mid twenties I think it’s a good time for a move. I’ve recently visited LA though and fell in love with the city! I can certainly see myself living there but it would be a massive step for me. I’m still more interested in banking than PE/VC but scared of the implications in my career. I could potentially move with UBS to NY but I think it’s too similar to London (weather, corporate life etc). I want to join a US bank like MS if I move to LA. What do you think? Would really appreciate any advice!

    Thanks

    1. Banking is banking, and you’ll be in the office all day anyway, so I’m not sure if LA is much different besides the fact that transportation is more annoying. If you want to leave London, I would still recommend NY as the best place for IB in the US. A regional office might make more sense as you get older and want to have more of a life and stop caring as much about advancement. But NY is the best in terms of additional options at this stage.

  5. Avatar
    Toley Vick

    I am 23,graduate of Russian, residing in Nigeria. Investing and investment banks have always attracted me as I love human behavior and numbers.
    I plan to set up an investment company someday but would like to gain a five year experience and save up as much as possible.
    Considering the fact that I can’t afford a top school and I would like to do all these in the U. S and if worse comes to worst, Canada. What advice would you give me concerning my study and job prospects?

    1. I think you should get some work experience first and then plan your next moves. That means “leave Nigeria” and go to better-developed markets where it’s easier to find jobs. And then see if you can transfer to the US or Canada through a future job.

  6. Hi, I’m a rising sophomore and native Californian attending an Ivy and am interested in IB. I don’t have a major preference where I end up after school, but long-term I’d like to be back in the Bay Area. Being at an Ivy, recruiting for NY seems more feasible than recruiting for SF, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself in NY. Is it feasible to transition from NY IBD to SF IBD/PE/etc or is it better to start in SF IBD after school, and how would I set myself up for SF IBD from an Ivy? Could I use SA in NY to pivot to FT in SF with same bank, or does that not make sense being that the SF bankers wouldn’t have seen my skills firsthand? Thanks!

    1. It is better/easier to work in SF IBD if you want to work in a buy-side role in SF afterward. If you want to do that, you just have to network more with bankers/alumni from SF, indicate an office preference for it, and probably make 1-2 weekend trips to the area to network. Switching locations after a summer internship tends to be difficult because your #1 goal must be to win an offer at a bank in a specific location. After return offers are given out, many people try to switch, but few people give up their spots, so the odds are against you.

  7. Avatar
    Joshua Donaldson

    Hi, im a senior in highschool and would like some advice on a good school to attend to become an investment banker. I live in Orange County, so I was thinking UCLA or USC but at this point I want to go to a school that will give me the best chance of getting a high paying job. Any help would be great.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think both are credible schools. I’d look at schools on the East coast like Stern, Columbia, etc.

  8. Could you comment on how to go about transferring from a regional office to New York City as an IBD analyst?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      This is quite a broad question. I’d approach the New York office, make a few connections, and try to make a few trips down to NY. I’d tell the NY team your interest in their office and interview with them if the opportunity comes up.

  9. Excellent article. When you say that Atlanta has a lot of wealth management, is that synonyms with asset management (please excuse my ignorance)? What are the major private management firms in Atlanta?

    1. “Wealth management” tends to refer to managing money for high-net-worth individuals, whereas “asset management” usually refers to the institutional level. So they are quite different. But you have to be careful because people conflate the terms, use them incorrectly, and mix them up, so you have to read to see what they’re referring to. Not sure about the major firms in Atlanta, but I imagine you could find the main firms with Google searches.

  10. Is there a lot of private equity in Dallas, or is Houston better for that?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I am not 100% sure, perhaps Houston maybe better but I’d leave this to readers.

  11. Awesome! Its genuinely amazing piece of writing, I have got much clear idea regarding from this article.

    1. Thanks for reading!

  12. I think you need to update the part where you say that New York is more expensive than any of the other cities by a long shot. SF is now more expensive than New York.

    1. Updated for that and a few other points (as of 2015).

      I still wouldn’t say that SF is universally “more expensive” than NYC if you factor in the total cost of everything there, but it is fair to say that it’s *as* expensive as NYC now.

      1. I have lived in both my friend. SF is more that NYC and La is cheaper. NYC is where you want to be.

        1. And I’ve lived in all those places and more (Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, Melbourne, Helsinki, London, Buenos Aires, and probably more I’m forgetting) so I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove… housing is more in SF, yes, but if you look at everything together, I’m not sure the difference is huge. Yes, LA is cheaper.

  13. Do all the bulge-brackets have M&A in Miami? Or is it mostly just wealth management? How does the pay in wealth management compare to M&A?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Some do but I think mostly in wealth management, I am not 100% sure to be honest. I believe pay in M&A, in general, will be higher but then again it depends on the firm and individual performance. This link maybe useful:
      http://www.heidrick.com/~/media/Publications%20and%20Reports/Talent-and-Compensation-Trends-in-Asset-Management-Distribution2.pdf

  14. Are there job opportunities from bulge bracket banks in places like Dallas or San Deigo?

    1. *diego

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, and I believe they have a decent wealth management arm at the cities you listed.

  15. Avatar
    Jacob Woodring

    Why does he say to avoid doing equities in Dallas?

  16. Yes, a female friend recently asked if there were a lot of tall, muscular blonde guys in SF and I started laughing.)

    Must be an asian female

  17. Thanks for prompt response Nicole.

    How about asset management cities in US (is LA in the top position besides NY)? I would love to study and stay in US. So what is target MBA for these cities?

    For London, how is job prospect (in the asset management industry) compared to other financial centers in US?

    Many thanks and Merry Christmas!!!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      NY – Stern, Columbia, Harvard, Penn, Cornell
      LA – UCLA has a decent program, so does UCB.
      London – I am not 100% sure though I think US maybe doing slightly better.
      Merry Christmas to you too

      1. Thanks again,

        Could you list several top cities in US for Asset Management career? (I would appreciate if you could list them in order from Best to Worst, my guess is NY>LA>SF>Chicago>Houston>>>>Boston>Washington?)

        Best wishes from me :)

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I’d say NY, Boston, Chicago, LA, SF, Washington though readers may have better insights. It also depends on your background and firms’ hiring needs, which change.

          1. Is Houston not good for AM?

          2. I wouldn’t say “bad,” just smaller than other places. It’s better for energy investment banking since most firms have their teams there.

  18. Hi,

    It is such a nice article. SF is best for Venture Captial, so what is the best regions (I would appreciate you can give several names in order) for Asset Management career path? Also, what is the target MBA programs for these regions?

    Thanks,

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      For AM, there are multiple cities internationally, I’d say NY, HK, Singapore, London.

      Target MBAs – Harvard, Stanford, Penn, Stern, Columbia, Cornell Business School (for AM, not for others as much), LBS

    2. Boston is great at AM (Fidelity, Bain).

  19. Got an interesting issue here I’m interested in getting some feedback on.

    I just finished up playing 4 years a of college sports at the University of Southern Cal. I’m working at a buy-side advisory firm in Orange County on behalf of several decent size middle market private equity funds. I get a lot of freedom at this company, as it is boutique, and I have the unique experience of being able to source my own deals at 23 years old. However, the company is very old fashioned and not as efficiently as managed as it really should be. Analysts and Associates are underpaid, because we refuse to raise our client’s retainer, so everything remains status quo. I am a super Type A guy who just spent the last four years of his life waking up at 4:30 in the morning to lift weights, then attend class, practice, and attend tutoring sessions until 11 P.M. every night, only to wake up and do it again the next day. That being said, this inefficiency bugs me to no end and being that I am low on the totem pole, I am smart enough to voice my opinion between the office walls.
    So for the dilemma–I eventually will want to attend a top-tier business school and specialize in finance, as a money manager–say PIMCO–would be my ideal end game. Given my credentials, history, and prior dealings with college athletics, I am more than capable than selling myself in an interview, and could honestly go to many more places where I could be paid more at your typical bulge bracket IB or wealth management companies, but this ability to source my own deals at the age of 23 is so hard to walk away from.

    Is this opportunity that unique?? Or are there plenty of other places where I can do similar M&A advisory work and still be able to control my own deals at such a young age. Thanks for your feedback.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes there maybe other boutiques which allow you to do similar type of work and to control your own deals. You may want to explore that. I’d encourage you to speak with people in the industry and gain some insight.

  20. Really digging into this site lately.

    I am a rising senior at the University of Arkansas. I’m Interning as a securities analyst at a boutique Financial Advisory & Money Management firm (the best in the region) and was accepted to the schools Portfolio Managment and Fixed Income classes where we manage a few million. My principles have a few connections and I network, but do you have any advice for myself and my classmates (considering we come from what feels like an unknown school in the IB world?)

    We have Walmart, JB Hunt, and Tyson in town so most grads end up there…We also have Stephens in Little Rock, that is the only bank that recruits here and they only take 1-2 students a year (and they’re always out of the Portfolio Class, so thats good for me at least.)

    -Lank

  21. hi, i am amarine engineer. can i become an investment banker in new york? if yes what should i do?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You may be interested in maritime finance given your background. https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/maritime-shipping-investment-banking/

  22. Really appreciated this article. I’m a rising junior at Notre Dame and I was curious as to what you think of Notre Dame’s business school and it’s strengths in terms of its strongest areas of finance for its graduates and whether or not a Notre Dame would be considered a target school in NY, Chicago, SF, or LA

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Notre Dame is a great school! I spent my freshman year there. I think ND is definitely considered a target school in Chicago, and perhaps to some banks in NY. I’m not sure about the West Coast though. ND also has a very solid reputation for its Accounting program.

      1. If you don’t mind me asking, what made you transfer? Also, do you think Notre Dame is a top school at placing students in investment banking, private equity, and management consulting positions?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Haha, it was a very tough decision for me at that time. I transferred because I wanted more diversity and do a double major – Georgetown allowed me to do Finance and Accounting at MSB, but I could only major in one subject at ND at that time. I have always wanted to go to Gtown too. ND is a great school at placing students in these firms, but I am not sure if it is a top school compared to schools like Wharton, Harvard and Stern. I think location of a school matters too.

  23. I know you’ve covered networking methods such as weekend trips and so on, but how can a Berkeley student break into Houston IB? It seems like the geographic barrier would make it difficult to accomplish this, weekend trips aside.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes it can be challenging. You’ll probably have to rely on cold calling and LinkedIn at first to build up a list of contacts and then fly down to Houston after having arranged a few informational meetings there.

  24. Hey M&I, great article really enjoyed it. I’m a sophomore at UT Austin in the business school but I’m really interested in working in NYC after graduation, not Houston. Is this a realistic goal or am I bound to work in Texas?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No you are not bound to Texas. If you want to work in NYC, I would suggest you to start networking with people in NY!

  25. Hi, I would like to know if uchicago is a good target school for IB in chicago offices.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes.

  26. Also, is the pay the same across regions?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Depends on the firm

    2. Pay is similar at the junior levels regardless of location, but starts to change as you move up and become more senior due to differences in deal flow and clients. In industries outside of finance, pay may be a lot different since TX is far cheaper than CA or NY.

      1. How about pay at senior levels for finance (ex. energy banking/PE) in TX vs other places? I can’t imagine why it would be that different b/c I’m sure most the deal flow in energy is in Houston/TX anyway?

        And what about pay at senior levels in investment management/HF/PWM in TX vs the coasts? Again, I don’t see why it would be different since there are plenty of wealthy individuals in TX that need their money managed

        1. You will make a lot of money anywhere at the top levels. When I say “differences” I mean things like earning $1.2 million vs. $1.5 million, i.e. negligible at that income level anyway. By “deal flow differences” I just meant that it becomes more dependent on specific deals you bring in, so there could be good years / bad years and much more variability.

          1. Thanks for all your help!

  27. If I’m set on being in TX or SF, is it better to go to a bschool in TX/Cali or just go to the best one possible? Do SF/TX firms recruit at the East Coast/Midwest schools?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes. Go to target schools!

      1. Sorry, I’m not sure which question you’re answering yes to?

        1. It’s generally better to go to a business school in TX or CA if you want to stay and work there afterward. If it’s a case where you’re talking about a massive difference in prestige, i.e. Harvard or Wharton vs. Unknown 50th Ranked B-School, then go to Harvard or Wharton anyway. But if it’s closer i.e. Stanford vs. Harvard or Wharton and you want to work in CA, definitely select Stanford. SF firms do recruit some on the east coast, but TX firms not as much, to my knowledge.

          1. How about UT or Rice for MBA vs a top East Coast school? I really have no desire to live East Coast and would much rather work/live in Texas

          2. Those schools are both good if you want to stay in TX – otherwise going to a slightly higher ranked school would give you an edge on the East Coast.

          3. UT/Rice or UCLA/Berkley vs top Midwest/East coast schools*

  28. Answer to a question I honestly had when I was interviewing: yes, west coast offices WILL drug test you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for contributing!

  29. Hi, I was wondering if you go to a Midwest school like Northwestern and Uchicago. How can you network your way in to the NY office?? If ultimately your goal is to get into the NY office rather than the Chicago Office?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d take a trip to NY, have some informational interviews there and set up some interviews going forward.

  30. I am stuck in Kansas City and I noticed that no one really mentions anything about it. I am looking for a good place to start out at as a summer intern, and I was just wondering if there are any real opportunities for me? What are some possible banks that would allow me to gain significant experience?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think readers from Kansas may be able to offer you better advice unless you want to move to a big city!

  31. Avatar
    Navraj Singh

    So the location of your school dictates the city you will work in? For example, is it less likely for a student who goes to Georgetown to work in NYC than a students who goes to NYU Stern? I mean would attending Georgetown over Stern decrease my chances of working in NYC? I would appreciate your inputs. Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Not necessarily. Yes being in NY will help, but DC is close enough to NY so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Lots of firms recruit at Gtown so I’d say Gtown & Stern are fair game when it comes to getting a job on the Street. I think the finance program at Stern may be a bit more “famous” though Gtown has a great finance program too. Choose a school which you like the most :)

  32. Avatar
    Jennifer

    Is getting an economics degree at UC Berkeley sufficient enough to get a good entry level job and eventually go up the ladder? Or is it worth it to get an MBA from let’s say Columbia?
    Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think this depends on your ability and your “luck” within the organization. Some rise up the ladder w/o an MBA, some don’t.

  33. Hey,

    I don’t really know where else to ask this and be on-topic but I have to decide between two non-target schools. One is on the east coast, about 2 hours away from NYC and one is a 5-hour, $200-dollar plane ride from NYC. I would prefer the west coast school but should location be a huge factor in my decision?

    Thanks!!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d choose the NYC one given its location and your ability to network w firms in NY. However, if your gut calls you to the WC school, I’d follow your gut

  34. Hi is St.John’s University a target school in NYC ive me a few alumnis who work at Goldman. What do you think?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No don’t think its a target

      1. Ok thanks, would it make sence for me to leave for a school loke fordham then, i pratically a full ride to St.John’s though.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I can’t make the decision for you. Trust your gut

  35. How about other cities? like Orlando, Pittsburgh, etc?

  36. Really enjoyed this article. It answered a lot of my questions. I was just wondering how hard it would be to get a degree from a midwest school and then move out to the west coast and actually find a job in IB. I am thinking of transfering to Indiana next year (Dont like where I am right now and Indiana has a good IB program). I know that I want to end up in Los Angeles (maybe San Diego), perferably right after college, however I cant afford a west coast school or an ivy league school for that matter. Overall I dont want to get a degree and then move out to the west coast and not be able to use it. Do I have a good chance at finding a job on the west coast with a midwest degree or do banks in Cali usually grab their analysts right out of USC UCLA etc. ?
    Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think you can still apply for jobs on the West Coast with a degree from Indiana though it would be much easier if you were physically on the West Coast so you can actually meet up with bankers/interviewers etc

  37. Cornell vs. USC for Commercial Real Estate IB? I am from San Diego, currently at Cornell studying finance and real estate, loving the curriculum, but hating the way of life. The weather sucks and I am not a fan of the females. I know I want to eventually end up in Cali, so should I transfer back now or stick it out here, graduate, and then head back to Cali? Or graduate here and work here for a bit, then head back to Cali for/after MBA? What will be best as far as work experience, $$$$$, and what employers want to see?

  38. What are the chances of starting your career at one coast (West, SF) as an analyst and going off for a MBA in the East and getting a job in NY?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Assuming you have solid credentials & strong networking skills & are presentable, you have a good chance of getting a job in NY. You may already have a network in SF but you can always build it in NY too

  39. What would you recommend to someone who’s finishing up her bachelors in Europe (Bocconi) and wants to work in markets side out in the US? Do they consider people coming outside of the US without any prior experience (other than internships as BBs in London) or is it absolutely impossible to push yourself through against all the ivy league graduates? Help help please!

    1. You can do it but you really need to go there and network in person… see the info interview and weekend trip guides here. And you should find something that better matches your background i.e. something more related to Europe.

      1. Well, I am originally from the US, and recently decided that it’s better for me to be closer to family. I had just finished up a summer internship in London. Do you think I should apply for summer internships in NYC for next year as I probably have super slim chances applying straight for full-time grad program out of Europe? Thank you so much for all your advice, your site is like a bible for all of us.

        1. You can do that but I still think your chances would be higher in Europe.

  40. thanks for the reply.
    does that mean the bonuses are pretty much the same across groups? or are some groups known to have higher bonuses?

    1. At the analysts and associate levels they are very similar if not the same, with the exception of a group like ECM sometimes having lower bonuses (see the ECM interview).

  41. Hey Brian,

    what do you mean by media industry? Are you talking about Hollywood media stuff?

    1. Yes or really any type of media e.g. online stuff, newspapers, books, etc.

      1. hey brian,

        Thanks for the reply, and I was also wondering if the gaming industry is referring to video games or gambling type of gaming, Thank you

  42. what would you say is the deal flow in certain groups, how would you rank tech&healthcare, media& gaming, industrials, fig, fin sponsors etc?

    1. I really don’t like to rank groups because it changes all the time. All of those are good. FIG and fin sponsors are more related to the state of the economy, though, so more sensitive than the others.

  43. Sorry you’re so helpful I can’t help but ask one more question. Could you transfer from NY to California? Say you were working at Goldman Sachs and just asked to be transferred to their California office. Would this work?

    1. Sure but you would need to know people there first or have someone pushing for the transfer to happen.

  44. Hello Brian,

    I am a college raising junior, and I want to get into IBD, perhaps in the risk management department. Yet, since I am not from a target school and had no any related experience, I am considering to take the actuarial science exams as a back up, do you think it’s a good idea to so?

    Thanks!

    1. Not particularly, if anything you’re better off with the CFA (even though I don’t like it for banking, that’s really the only one that might be marginally useful).

  45. Avatar
    Gordon G.

    But what should I put in my cover letter?

  46. Hi I was wondering if Miami has enough investment banks. I am studying at Boston College (which by the way is it a a target school?), but have a lot of contacts in Miami and in Latin America (being a latin american myself). Is it possible to find a job here and the continue a career in banking there? I love Miami and would like to settle long term there.

    Thanks

    1. Depends what you mean by “enough” – honestly I would say no as it’s not really a finance center in the same way the others here are. Latin America could change that but for right now you’re better off starting elsewhere.

  47. Looking at Harris Williams, a MM bank with an office in SFO. any idea on how pay/bonus compares to BB?

    1. Base is about the same most likely, bonus may be a little less than BB since it’s a smaller MM bank.

  48. Great article, but more S&T (particularly trading) articles would be appreciated – there is actually so little out there on actually breaking in!

    1. Agreed. An article on Forex trading would be appreciated too!

      1. One contributor will be focusing on S&T so will see what we can do.

    2. There is more coming up as one writer will be focusing exclusively on S&T

  49. Great post, really glad to see Atlanta made the list as did a few other places I have on my map. Speaking of ATL, you mentioned wealth management opportunities. I’m guessing this would be along the lines of building a book of business from scratch through door knocking, cold calling and networking or does IB Wealth Management differ somehow.

    Also what kind of firms are we talking; specifically in markets like Houston, Atlanta, Dallas. Middle market, boutique?

    1. Yeah pretty much what you said, wealth management is wealth management. Mostly BBs there with wealth management but some boutique IBs and other firms as well. The BBs don’t do many IB deals because the other cities here have more activity.

    2. BB wealth management doesn’t involve as much cold calling as it did 20 years ago. I’m working at a BB wealth management and about 90% of our hires are hired directly onto teams: assisting an FA, or possibly a partnership. Not surprising, as maany baby boomer FAs are looking for someone to continue their business. The other 10% hired is usually from experienced hires…FAs from other firms, maybe well-connected lawyers who have a knowledge of finance…something along those lines.

      I will in DFW, and Dallas has a lot of wealth management (not surprising, as it has so many millionaires, mostly from oil). It is also big for middle market IB. Houston also has a lot of wealth management for the same reason, though its strength is Energy IB, PE, and Trading.

  50. Avatar
    Lawrence

    Hi Brian your website is really helpful, I read a lot of your articles, however I haven’t come across any article related to Singapore, another major Financial Centre in Asia Pacific. I am wondering whether you can talk about investment banking, etc. in Singapore. I think it will be great for Asian readers like me. Thank you so much.

    1. Singapore is coming up. Have a bunch of friends but they are busy so haven’t had time to interview yet. Broadly speaking it’s all about SE Asia and the dominant industry is shipping and transportation with a few others. More limited to Asia / SE Asia in terms of exit opps.

    2. I’m not sure Singapore is necessarily a “major financial centre in the Asia-Pacific”, as much as the government might try to tell you so. Private wealth management is huge there, but the capital markets? Not so much.

      M&A might be on the move, though, what with everyone looking to break into the rest of SE Asia.

  51. Do you think I can get a job as analyst by a big investment bank in Ny.
    I am studying finance in georgia tech.

    1. If you network aggressively and take weekend trips, yes.

  52. I find your posts so hilarious and they are really really useful -thank you so much for putting them up.
    I was wondering if you could give any ideas, thoughts on equity derivatives – especially over-the-counter ED sales.
    What are the pros and cons?
    Thanks a lot.
    Have a great day

    1. Don’t really know much about derivatives but will be covering it soon when more guest authors come on.

  53. I’m interested in fixed income research or trading…are these positions all in NYC, or is there a good amount of fixed income job opportunities in Chicago, Houston, LA, SF, etc?

    1. well there is PIMCO which is headquartered in Newport Beach. That’s one of the best places to work in fixed income and Newport is definitely a nice place to live

    2. Mostly in NYC but some in Chicago and other places… not west coast as much and Houston more energy-related.

  54. It’s a great post again! BTW, do you have any comments in the banking lives in Hong Kong? I guess it is some kind of like it in NYC. And I am eagerly waiting for the finale private equity sales story.

    1. Hong Kong is coming up. Generally hours are very intense and you’re a bit more limited to Asia-related opps.

  55. For cleantech banking and ignoring VC exit opportunities, is SF the better choice than NY?

    1. Debatable but I would say yes

  56. Hi Brian,

    What do you think about Minneapolis for banking? From what I hear, aside from the rough winter, there are a few strong middle market firms, and a surprising amount of PE shops for networking…

    Thanks.

    1. Don’t know much actually but I think what you said sounds accurate – lots more PE activity than banking there.

  57. Would you call Indiana university a target for Chicago?

    1. I’d say so. Stronger recruiting from UChicago, Northwestern, etc but check out IU’s Investment Banking Workshop. Every kid in that program gets an IB job with a bulge bracket in Chicago or NYC.

      1. I’m not so sure about IU’s investment banking workshop. When it was established, it was highly exclusive and competitive AND it really did place students in iBanks. Now it’s more accepting of all type of students- and although it’s necessary if you are comming from IU, don’t count on it automatically placing you somewhere.

        1. The workshop was established about 8 years ago. It is the most competitive program at the Kelley School of business at Indiana. The application and interview process is rigorous and almost identical to that of an Investment Bank itself. Typically, the workshop accepts about 25-32 students per year, depending on market conditions. Over the last few years,it continuously has had record placements, even as overall IB hiring has been declining (meaning it is gaining marketshare). It has had 100% placement rate in the past 7 years. Other schools have tried to implement similar programs based off of IU as the model, but have not come close to replicating it. People in high school, who for some reason already know they want to do banking, go to IU specifically because of the Workshop. Professor Haeberle was a genius when he started the program.

    2. Borderline, maybe someone else can comment

    3. Id say so as well. In Chicago the most common are Chicago, Northwestern, Michigan, Indiana, Notre Dame, and maybe Illinois.

      1. Working in Banking in Chicago I can say that is accurate

  58. Brian,

    On another note…I know you don’t rank banks, but how does Raymond James match up to the BB or some of the bigger boutiques? It seems Raymond James has offices in Houston and Dallas but have their main headquarters in Tampa…a city seemingly vacant of IB.

    1. It’s OK, a decent middle-market firm. Strong in the south so that’s why they have those offices.

  59. Any insight on Houston vs. Toronto?

    1. Avatar
      HearHear

      Houston for oil and gas and Toronto for metals and mining (BMO is the number 1 metals and mining group in the world). In Canada, for oil and gas you need to go to Calgary.

    2. Main difference is Houston = energy, Toronto = mining – if you look up the IB Canada article there’s more there

  60. How’s Northwestern for placing on the west/east coasts? I wouldn’t mind working in Chicago, but I’d definitely prefer to be in SF or NY.

    1. I think it’s decent but probably less heavily recruited than schools that are actually on the coasts

  61. what about charlotte?

    1. Figures somewhere around this:
      30 Investment Banks
      6 Hedge Funds
      10 Private Equity Firms

    2. You do have BoA there but other than that not much – and most deals take place elsewhere I believe

      1. Bank of America Securities/Merrill Lynch is located in NYC. But Charlotte is known for Commercial banks/retail banks.

      2. Wells Fargo Securities, Wells Fargo’s investment banking division – formerly Wachovia, which was acquired by Wells in 2008 – is headquartered in Charlotte while the overall bank’s headquarters is in SF. WFS seems to be growing in market share and dealflow and is hiring.

  62. Great article!

    I have a question about target schools. Would UCLA be counted as a target or a semi-target? (cuz I heard that UC San Diego is definitely not a target, and UCLA is not a whole lot better in terms of prestige). Thanks in advance.

    1. Avatar
      Banker Aussie

      The four main targets in California are Stanford, USC, Berkeley and UCLA.

    2. UCLA is a target

      1. What about Caltech? I know it doesn’t have a business undergraduate but it’s still the number one school in California.

        1. Not sure there but I don’t think most banks recruit, at least for IB

          1. That’s really odd because I just did some research and found out they do in fact have an economics program which happens to be ranked number 1 in California.

          2. Yes, but in practice few banks recruit at Caltech for investment banking because people there are way too smart for it. Quant roles or trading, sure, maybe, but not IB so much. Very intellectual and academic crowd, which doesn’t mesh well with bankers.

          3. Aaah okay I think I get it. Thanks.

  63. How prevalent is S&T on the west coast?

    1. Not that common, most big places are in the east. Some HFs on the west coast though.

  64. Just what this site needed. Thanks man, great article. I enjoyed reading it!

  65. maybe a stupid question, why are you advising to stay away from Dallas,

    Thanks

    1. It was really just a joke / reference to Liar’s Poker. Dallas is fine for some things but doesn’t have as much of a presence in IB as Houston or the other cities mentioned here so that is the main issue.

    2. Dallas-Ft.Worth has developed a lot since the writing of the book. While banking is mostly middle market there, they have a larger amount of hedge funds than Houston, so a lot of guys move from Houston to DFW after a few years of work.

  66. Brian,

    Glad to see this subject being discussed, thank you for that. I go to school in Texas (going into my senior year) and am extremely interested in IB after graduation, speficially in oil and gas. I am a double major in a business/sociology hybrid and english (3.4) and have interned in financial services (insurance sales), PWM with a BB, and currently corporate financial consulting.

    This summer in addition to my internship, I have been networking as hard as possible anywhere and everywhere. In my efforts I have spoken to a few alums from my university who are in Oil and Gas (unfortunately not in the IB side). In a conversation I had last night, the alum (who works for a large oil company doing MA and AD)told me that it would be extremely difficult to break into IB in an oil and gas industry group without prior work experience or knowledge on the industry. He suggested I read Anadarko, Chesapeake, and Pioneer 10-Ks, read oil and gas journal, and buy your oil and gas modeling guide (he actually mentioned right off the bat if I wanted to get into IB I should become very familiar with your site…which I can assure you I have). I have read your piece on industry interviews so I have already been reading to keep up with Oil and Gas news. My question is, as I approach my senior year and attempt to earn an internship for next semester, should I try to target a boutique in my school’s area that works in energy, try to get an internship at an oil and gas company, or just try to get something at a HF, PE, or boutique. While I am mostly interested in Oil and Gas, I am determined to break into IB anyway I can and have been casting my net wide all over the country when it comes to networking. I know that the BB and boutiques that do recruit on my campus are mainly for jobs in Houston and Dallas so I have been trying to tailor my learning in the Oil and Gas direction.

    Any advice/thoughts would be much appreciated. Thank you ahead of time for your help.

    1. Also, do you think it would be beneficial to try to work for a Oil and Gas company in their corporate finance department for a year or so and then try to break into IB industry group?

      1. Yes that would be helpful, but again I’m not sure you need to do that necessarily as they don’t expect you to have that much experience at the entry-level.

    2. I would say go for local boutiques that focus on Oil & Gas, or really anything you can find at this point – any type of IB experience will help you. I’m not sure I agree that it would be really tough to break in at the entry-level without IB experience, but it is definitely more difficult than if you had that experience. So I would still apply for FT positions in the industry and then maybe on the side also consider local boutiques as a backup plan.

  67. Lol, love the equities in Dallas reference.

    1. Yeah thought it was a good ending line when I came up with it.

      1. I agree. I literally LOLed.

  68. Do you have any recommendations for banks with strong media departments in LA?

    1. Offhand I’m not sure since things have changed a lot in recent years – I would look at the league tables and see who is dealing deals in media lately. UBS used to be strong but that was before everyone senior left and its reputation went down.

      1. I have league tables within my bank, but they’re all focused on energy. Where might I find media league tables?

        1. Look in the WSJ or better yet ask the research department or library or whatever they call it at your bank for the data much easier than searching online

  69. Would you say Rice is a target school in Houston?

    1. Yes I believe most Houston offices recruit there

      1. Hey I wanted to know If I could potentially break into East Coast investment Banking coming from Berkeley?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes, why not?

    2. Yes, Rice and University of Texas are the two main target schools for Houston. You will also see people from A&M, Baylor, TCU, SMU, and Tulane.

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