by Brian DeChesare Comments (85)

Investment Banking from Russia: With Love?

Investment Banking RussiaWhen I was traveling in Europe a few years ago, everyone thought I was either French or Russian.

And, of course, I knew neither language so whenever someone attempted to speak to me I stared at them blankly and used hand gestures to explain my ignorance.

I have the same reaction when readers ask about investment banking in Russia: blank stares followed by “It’s on the list” and “I want to cover it soon.”

That ends today with a new interview from a reader who works at a top investment bank in Moscow – here’s what you’ll learn inside:

  • The recruiting process in Russia and the types of candidates they’re looking for.
  • What the finance industry in Russia is like – industries, deals, dominant banks, and more.
  • Hours, work, and pay and how it compares to what you would earn in NY or London.
  • Exit opportunities – the legal kind.

Let’s get started:

Q: Can you tell us about your background and how you broke into the industry?

A: Sure. I moved to Moscow about 5 years ago to study at a top Russian university, and before that I had lived in Siberia for my entire life.

Q: Wow. That’s intense. I guess you had no trouble proving that you could handle the rigors of banking if you lived in a place like that.

A: Yeah, the weather is a little exaggerated but it certainly helped.

Anyway, I completed a Bachelor’s in Finance degree in Moscow and during my study I did several internships:

  • Year 1: Commercial banking (sale of credit cards)
  • Year 2: Russian antitrust regulator (M&A deal approvals)
  • Year 3: Investment banking internship

And then I started working full-time as I was completing my 4th year.

I worked for a “fund” that was owned by a Russian oligarch and did private equity-related work there, and after that started as an investment banking analyst at one of the leading banks here.

Q: That’s quite a lot of experience, especially in your first few years… how did you accomplish all that if you arrived in Moscow and didn’t know anyone at first?

A: Recruiting is a bit more random here, so I went through an extensive networking effort as soon as I arrived.

I went to events sponsored by business clubs, followed job posting sites, spoke with headhunters, and leveraged a lot of those connections to win internship and full-time offers.

It was definitely a gradual process, which is why I didn’t do anything directly related to IB in my first 2 years, but it got easier over time partially because the finance community here is very small – networking is more manageable when there aren’t thousands of bankers.

Russian Recruiting

Q: Right, I think that happens with a lot of other markets as well (I’m looking at you, Canada).

What is the recruiting process like in Russia, especially compared to the UK and Europe? Do you still see assessment centers?

A: The bulge bracket banks still use similar recruiting tactics – assessment centers, numerical tests, online applications, interviews, and so on.

The process takes a long time and you usually interview with the entire banking team, or at least 60-70% of them.

One big difference is the length of the internships.

Instead of a standard 8-12 week summer internship, most banks tend to organize off-cycle internships which could last 6-12 months or even more without necessarily offering promotion to a full-time analyst position.

Imagine working investment banking hours with a miserable base salary and without a bonus for 1-2 years – but some people are willing to pay this price to get into the industry.

Large banks here might have 10-15 people dedicated to the region – that gives you an idea of how small the region is in terms of banking activity.

This is why it is crucial to know someone from the bank’s team – even if you pass all stages of the assessment center you cannot be absolutely sure that you will become a banker unless someone at the bank can say: “Yep, this guy/girl is good enough, he/she can do investment banking”.

At regional banks, they don’t use assessment centers – you just go through interviews and sometimes have to complete valuation or deal-based case studies, either on the spot or on your own time.

Obviously, networking is even more important there.

Q: So it sounds like the overall process isn’t much different from what you see at other banks, but what about the details?

Are there any differences on CVs, or with networking and interviews?

A: No huge differences with CVs. Typically they are written in English even though the official language here is obviously Russian; you still shouldn’t write more than 1 page and you should be as concise and clear as possible.

Really, the main difference here is that competition for investment banking positions is ridiculous.

Each bank may only hire 3-4 people per year, and sometimes only 1-2 people; and there are only around 10 – 15 investment banks where you could conceivably work.

Sure, competition is tough in the US and UK but at least in those regions there are plenty of tiny boutiques that might offer unpaid or trial internships, and big banks hire hundreds of people each year.

You don’t see that as much in Russia, so it’s significantly harder to stand out.

Q: So how do you stand out?

A: I know you’re going to laugh, but despite standard things like high GPA and relevant internships, the CFA is actually helpful here because recruiters need to screen people somehow.

So completing at least the first level of the CFA can be good way to get past that screen and set yourself apart, simply because other people may not take the time to do it.

Q: You mentioned the CFA, time to ban you from the site! (Kidding)

Yeah, I think you actually see that in other emerging markets as well – when the industry isn’t so developed, they sometimes place more emphasis on certifications.

Circling back to my original question, any differences with networking and interviews?

A: Networking – no, not really. As I’ve been saying, the industry is tiny here so by the time recruiting started I had already known pretty much all the key bankers at the major banks because there are so few of them.

And I attended plenty of information sessions and other events where banks booked hotels, invited people, and held talks.

Interview questions are not much different. The big banks will still ask you to walk through a DCF, how to link the 3 financial statements, calculate Beta, and so on. It’s not as if valuation methodologies or financial modeling techniques are different just because we’re in Russia.

And don’t forget about the brainteasers!

At boutiques here, the questions are similar but a few friends reported that they can be more difficult on the technical side, and they may care more about industry-specific questions.

Admittedly, I didn’t have much experience interviewing at smaller firms so that’s all based on what I’ve heard from others.

Q: Ok, that makes sense. So what types of candidates are they looking for? Is it even possible for foreigners to break in?

A: It’s pretty difficult for foreigners – most foreign bankers here are at the Managing Director level and got in because of their connections and reputations elsewhere. Everyone else is mostly Russian.

When the free market first emerged in the 1990s and early 2000s and when the investment banking industry hadn’t developed as much, you saw more foreigners here because the local people didn’t have the skills that banks were looking for.

Banks used to prefer Russians who had been educated in other countries, but that has changed over time and now they just want people who can win clients for the firm.

I don’t know if it’s quite as bleak as the situation for foreigners who want to work in the finance industry in China, but it’s definitely gotten harder over time to break in as a foreigner.

Q: Going along with that last point, I’m also assuming that language skills are critical?

A: Yes. You need to be a native speaker, or very close – many clients do not speak English at all, and Russian is the working language for most teams here.

It’s not necessarily impossible to come in and learn the language well enough as a foreigner; I know people who came from other countries and could speak well after a year of studying it.

It’s definitely not easy, but again I don’t think it’s as bleak as the situation for foreigners in China.

The Banking Oligarchy?

Q: Awesome, thanks for sharing all that.

You’ve mentioned a couple times now that the Russian IB industry is very small. Why is that, given that they’re in the top 15 economies in the world?

A: The main reason is that the free market economy hasn’t existed here as long as it has in Western countries; it only began in the 1990s (Gazprom first went public in 1996). Prior to that, there had not been an investment banking industry at all.

Another reason is the mentality of Russian companies – many of them have the attitude: “We don’t need investment bankers, we can just go to a commercial bank and get a loan. And we don’t need M&A advice because we can just grow organically.”

Q: So it sounds like you don’t do many M&A or debt deals, either?

A: Exactly. Most of the deal activity here is not with M&A or debt financing deals, but with equity capital markets deals such as IPOs instead.

At most banks in “good” years around 70-80% of their fees are from capital markets deals, and only 20-30% of the fees come from M&A advisory.

There’s a lot of political pressure with M&A deals as well – many companies are controlled by the state or oligarchs rather than institutional investors and individual shareholders, and negotiating with them and finding solutions can be very, very difficult.

More often than in other regions, politics frequently ruins otherwise good deals here.

On the other hand, there are a huge number of promising private companies here that might go public in the future – so M&A is still difficult, but capital markets activity will only get better as the economy grows.

It does vary by year, of course; as we’re speaking, the capital markets have been closed for much of the year. But anything could happen in the future.

Q: You mentioned how foreigners are quite rare in the Russian finance industry – what about foreign investment banks? Is the industry dominated by local firms or do the global banks have a significant presence there?

A: VTB Capital (Russian investment bank that’s part of VTB Group – the second-largest Russian commercial bank) dominates deal activity here; they started fairly recently and hired lots of people from bulge bracket banks to build a strong franchise.

Since firms here have worked with commercial banks so much in the past, VTBC leveraged their strong commercial banking presence to win clients and roles on IPOs, M&A deals and so on.

Another example of a major state bank entering the investment banking industry happened when Sberbank acquired one of the leading domestic investment banks – Troika Dialog.

In Russia, the model has been more like, “Commercial bank becomes even bigger and offers wide range of services, including investment banking.”

Outside of that, in the top 5 banks here you see lots of global banks: Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and Credit Suisse are all very strong.

The top 15 banks are mostly global, and you see more names like UBS, BoA ML, and BarCap joining the list.

Local firms have more of a presence on smaller deals ($50 – $100 million USD) that the bulge brackets don’t focus on.

Such banks as Renaissance Capital, Alfa Bank, Gazprombank and Xenon Capital Partners (fast growing boutique established by former JP Morgan’s team) have been performing on par with bulge bracket banks on smaller deals in certain sectors.

Q: Ok, great… so #1 is a Russian bank, but most of the others are actually global firms from the US or Europe.

What about the dominant industries? I’m guessing it’s all about natural resources?

A: No! You might think that since oil & gas are a huge part of our economy, but that’s not the case because it’s already a consolidated industry.

There aren’t many smaller, private companies there waiting to go public or be acquired by other parties, so there isn’t as much deal activity as you’d expect.

You actually see more activity in the consumer sectors because those industries aren’t quite as consolidated.

Deal activity here is fairly evenly split between mining, TMT, consumer goods and retail, financial institutions, and other industries.

In terms of trends by industry:

  • Retail and Consumer Goods: You see more M&A activity here because few companies are big enough to go public, and the largest companies are in the process of consolidating the market.
  • Financial Institutions: Pretty much the same situation – there is a high number of small banks and insurance companies, so the market is relatively hot in terms of mergers and acquisitions.

It is also important to mention that many industries (e.g. power & utilities) are over-regulated by the state and investment banking activity there is entirely driven by political decisions.

A Day in the Life at a Russian Investment Bank

Q: Great, thanks for the detailed information on the banking industry there.

What’s an average day in your life like? I’m guessing the hours are still pretty intense even though it’s an “emerging market”?

A: It’s pretty standard – in the morning I typically try to find some time to read major newspapers and news sources online to understand what’s going on in Russia and worldwide.

Then, we have lots of internal and external conference calls for projects discussing deliverables, what the client wants, and so on.

You have to make sure you schedule and complete all the calls before 6 PM because employees of Russian corporations usually don’t sit in the office past the end of the standard work day.

One difference here is that analysts start working on models and “real work” very early on, so we get more responsibility compared to 1st year analysts in developed markets.

It’s not just about creating WGLs or editing presentations.

In fact, you almost need to have some modeling experience and some exposure to Bloomberg coming into the job here because you’ll be expected to know those from the very early stages.

For the overall split of work, I’d say it’s about 20% administrative, 50% PowerPoint, and 30% Excel and modeling.

As a junior analyst at large banks elsewhere, you may only spend 10% or less of your time on technical work and analysis. So comparatively, it’s a much more technical role.

On the hours, “busy season” generally starts in February or March and runs through the spring. 80-100 hour workweeks are common.

The flow slows down over the summer, especially in August when people go on vacation, and we might only be working 60 hours per week then.

Overall, it’s still banking and you won’t have much of a life – but there are more relaxed periods as well.

Q: Great. I don’t think anyone reading seriously expected a 40-hour workweek, but hey, only 60 hours per week for one month of the year is not bad.

What differences do you see with deals, the work itself, and financial modeling?

A: Capital markets transactions are pretty standard. Sometimes we need to get more regulatory approvals, but the overall process is similar to debt and equity deals in other regions.

The M&A process can be very different because of how Russian clients act, the legal system here, and so on – a single deal might last for 1-2 years or more.

On one deal last year, I was the third analyst to work on over the course of several years because it takes so long to negotiate, win approvals, and close transactions here.

There are almost no public-to-public M&A deals here, which makes life difficult because public companies all have clear financial statements and defined regulation.

Most M&A deals consist of a public company acquiring a private company, or a private company acquiring another private company – which makes analysis more difficult because private companies often have poorly organized financial statements or poor record-keeping (see: more on private company valuation and analysis).

And then there’s the questionable corporate governance and Russian style of business.

Most managers in Russian companies have come from the USSR era, and it can be really difficult to deal with them – they are used to relying on their seniors and the same applies up the ladder.

This makes the decision-making process as well as negotiations in Russian companies really difficult.

Also in Russia, private companies do not keep consolidated financial statements: Russian accounting standards require accounting for each subsidiary separately, so we find ourselves doing lots of manual accounting work to combine all the financial statements properly.

This is interesting at first, but can get really boring after you’ve done it 15 times.

Valuation and financial modeling are both similar; you still use the same methodologies and model types, but you may need to adjust items like WACC to take into account country-specific risk.

Q: Awesome, thanks for the detailed overview.

Now let’s get to the question everyone really wants to know about: how does the compensation differ from what you’d earn in London?

A: The base salary is pretty much the same, but the income tax rate is only 13% here – so the after-tax payment is significantly higher.

Bonuses tend to follow bonus numbers in the UK, so they might be anywhere from 50% to 100% of your base salary for first year analysts (for the top tier) and increase at relatively the same rate as you move up.

1st year associates might earn up to 1.5x their base salary as a bonus.

Those numbers are for global banks – at most of local boutiques, base salaries would be a bit lower and bonuses would be around 50% of what you’d earn at a large bank.

Q: I’m surprised that pay is so similar. Any idea what senior bankers in Russia would earn?

A: I can’t speak to that directly, but it’s always very performance-dependent.

One point that makes it particularly difficult for Managing Directors here is that clients can be… “complicated” when it comes to paying fees.

It’s not as straightforward as sending over an invoice and waiting for the fees to be wired over – sometimes you need to chase down the client and wait a long time to get paid.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if average MD pay is lower than in London, but again I can’t speak to it directly – that’s just speculation. And don’t forget about that 13% tax rate…

Got Exit Opps?

Q: Thanks for pointing out that issue about clients paying on time…

After pay, I think exit opportunities are important for many people – what are your options in Russia?

A: Private equity is still in its very early stage of development here – there might be around 10 PE firms countrywide that actually hire people.

And some places won’t hire anyone for 2-3 years at a time, so it’s still a very limited field and not too many bankers go into PE.

I’ve seen a few bankers move into private equity after 2-3 years, but it’s definitely not as common as in Western countries.

There are some companies which also could be classified as PE firms, but which are actually owned by oligarchs and do non-market PE deals.

Lately, bankers have been getting hired by these companies because the pay is similar and the hours are much better.

And at the senior level your compensation may even be higher than at global banks.

Despite that, lots of people actually just stay in banking and move up the ladder.

If you don’t want to do that, corporate development is always a possibility since companies value the investment banker skill set and are always looking to do more deals internally – remember what I said earlier about the attitudes of most Russian companies.

Q: So nothing much in terms of hedge funds or asset management?

A: Very little. A few asset management firms here do invest in public stocks, but it’s not a typical exit opportunity for investment bankers.

There may be a few hedge funds here, but it’s not yet a sizable industry and the biggest global hedge funds don’t do much here.

Q: Yeah, I think that’s a common trend in emerging markets: not as many exit opportunities since the industries haven’t developed quite as much yet.

What’s your plan for the future?

A: There are several options – moving to private equity or corporate development if there is a good opportunity, or even starting my own business or applying to MBA programs.

But at the moment, I am going to stick around for more time and get investment banking experience which will definitely help my future career no matter what industry it’s in.

Q: Yup, that makes sense.

Thanks for your time – I learned a ton about banking in Russia!

A: My pleasure.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

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

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.

Comments

Read below or Add a comment

  1. This post is amazing thanks for doing this!
    Anyway I’m about to finish up my second year with a non target school in the US. I have been working most the time as a technology consultant and I just started working as an assistant in a government debt reporting agency. I do a lot of bond report auditing and interact with people in public finance.

    Despite still being a student, im hungry, my mind is always on and i want to start learning more about the business.

    I would love to work an internship in Russia. Is it possible for a US citizen or have they been primarily selecting from the Russian student pool?

    Also my Russian is limited to brief conversation. My wife calls it elementary. Is that a big deal? I do want to get better but have a hard time practicing in the US.

    Any information is appreciated. Thank you.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes it is, though it maybe best to do an exchange program in Russia since you’re still an undergrad and try to find a role while you’re there. I am not 100% sure – some firms may prefer people who speak fluent Russian, so you may have to sell skills and experience in public finance.

  2. Hi,
    Thank you for this great article!
    Brian, Nicole, is there any chance that you could try to put me in touch with Alexey? something that Andrey and Alexei asked for in the comments above. I would really appreciate any kind of help!:) I am just setting out on the journey of breaking in and judging by everything on this site it seems like a great place to start. Thank you very much!

  3. Mark Zubov

    Brian,

    Thanks for this great resource and especially this article. When was it written?

    I am a Russian citizen studying finance at a non-target school in U.S. I know that it’s extremely hard to break into the industry when you are on a student visa. Although my goal is to stay in America, if it does not work out, I would have to go back to my motherland. Unfortunately I don’t have any connections in IB in Russia and the lack of a brand name school on my CV might make it difficult for me to get my foot into the door.
    I was wondering if you could put me in contact with some of the website readers who had exposure to IB in Russia. I would be eternally grateful.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Mark, we don’t disclose dates on our articles – https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/faq/

      I think the best way to contact readers is to leave your details on this forum, and readers who had exposure to IB in Russia will respond to your post then.

  4. Russian Banker

    Hello Brian,

    I am curious to find out what you think about the following. I am a third year college undergrad in the states interning at a wealth management bb. I would like to go back to Russia to serve my country at some point in the future, but do not know when the timing is right. My goal is to break into IB after college. Do you think it would be a bad idea to join the military at all? (I am asking this from an IB career standpoint, not whether I should join the military or not). Both are really important to me, I don’t want to hurt my chances of breaking through to IB, but at the same time I don’t want to miss my opportunity to fulfill my obligation.

    Yours truly,
    Russian Banker

    1. Generally it’s better to do your military service before graduating – otherwise you will run into issues when recruiting because you’ll already be out of school.

      Honestly, joining the military won’t really improve your chances of getting into IB so I would not recommend it unless it’s required or benefits you in other ways.

      1. Russian Banker

        I understand it will not improve my chances,
        I am just asking how badly (if at all) they will hurt them. By the way, I sent you a message in regards to organizing a speaking event at University of Miami, please respond when you get a chance. Thank you!

  5. Can I break in to Investment Banking in Moscow with education/experience in U.S., but I also speak fluent Russian, are my chances any higher?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Probably and readers can give you better insights

      1. Thanks everyone for contributing to this thread. The discussion here really answered a lot of questions for me personally.

        Although, one topic in particular was not covered as well as the others: expats educated abroad (ex. US) coming back for IB positions in Moscow.

        I myself would like to know if its possible to break into investment banking in Moscow with educational background from big 10 and experience in consulting. And, just as a side note: I did immigrate to the US at a young age, so although my Russian is fluent it might not be on the par with someone from, lets say, MGU.

        Thanks,
        G

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Readers might have better suggestions on this front!

        2. Russian Banker

          I am in the same situation, it’s all about connections really.

  6. Wow, this article is way, way off on the salaries, just like the comments.

    $600K per yr. for a regular IB VP? 1500000 RUB a month???

    Take a look at the salaries of top management (CEO, CFO, etc.) and directors of the largest Russian corporations (ie. Aeroflot, RosEnergo, RusAl, etc.) they are all within 500k to 800k RUB per month incl. bonuses. equity sharing, etc. (About $17K to $27K per month).

    This is the absolute maximum you will get as a top exec. in the Russian equivalent of Fortune 100 company.
    Obviously it excludes the millions in bribes, but you may end up in jail for those (many people do.)

    If you don’t believe me, please do your own research (you should be able to do this easily seeing as you’re in IB) Check out Glassdoor for salaries in IB in Russia, as well as various Russian MGIMO/MGU grad forums.

    In top banks (Troika, VTB, GS, MS) a 1st year will get no more than 200K RUB per month, or about $7K USD, all-in. 1st year associates get about 350K RUB, and VPs may go into 450K RUB or about $200K USD yearly, all-in.

    1. Also, please keep in mind that the average Russian salary is about 20K RUB per month ($660 USD) with senior programmers, accounting managers, top lawyers, etc. earning about 150K, maybe 200K RUB.

      Unlike the US, most doctors, professors, and scientists earn no more than 50K RUB (1200 USD per month) and even this is a seven-fold increase over the salaries from 10 years ago.

      As any expat would know, salaries are always adjusted for cost of living and taxation, and claiming that Russian IB salaries are considered to be “EMEA” salaries is silly.

      Even in Spain and France which are way more developed and have higher taxes, salaries are 10%-15% lower than in the UK.

      It is exactly for this reason, why salaries in a place like Denver or Houston may be under 70% of those in NYC, given the same work/time. It’s all about cost of living, and no bank is dumb enough to pay NYC/London salaries for entry-level (analyst and associate) work in Moscow. Especially, since 99% of their junior positions are filled with locals. Even in NYC VPs rarely earn $600K, that’s closer to MD pay ($500K to $2M.)

      1. Evgeniy, I work on a senior position in the BB IB and know exact numbers in different international banks in Moscow, including MS that you’re referring to.
        For VP and above base monthly salary in about 1/3 of total annual comp and I personally made $0.5m on my first year of VP… Probably worth mentioning that part of it is banks stock which you could sell in about 3 years

      2. I’ll have to correct you on that last part: Salaries in Denver or Houston are definitely not 70% of those in NYC. Trust me – I’ve seen the numbers and had friends who worked in those places. And I even worked in a non-NYC location (California) and pay was exactly the same as it was everywhere else. People at the entry-level in Houston make the same amount and bonuses are standardized. So yes, you save more, but you also live in Texas which has some disadvantages as well such as being far from major financial centers, making it more difficult to network, etc.

        As for the comparison to other professions and executives at companies: how is it surprising that mid-level bankers might make close to what executives elsewhere make? You see that in the US as well… look at the management team of a company like Facebook. On a pure cash basis they only make a few hundred thousand per year… AKA the same as mid-level VPs. Yes there is stock and obviously that makes the effective pay far higher, but on a cash basis it is not that much different.

        On the rest of what you said: well, about 20 people in the comments said different things regarding salaries. Can 20 people really be intentionally lying or making stuff up? I think the issue is more that salaries vary tremendously depending on the bank and group you’re at, probably more so than in places like the UK. Otherwise how could so many people have completely different numbers for salaries / bonuses?

  7. IBD, correct. No data for equity research. Probably same salary and less bonuses.

  8. ~$45-50k gross base salary + up to 100% bonus for first year analyst. Second year analyst base is $60k

    1. Thank you! It is for IBD analysts, right? Does equity research salary differ substantially?

  9. So, does anyone know anything about the difference in salary levels for junior bankers in BB and major domestic banks such as Troika, VTB? As far as I know, VTB pays the same, but what about Troika?

  10. Good article!!!

    Well seems communism hasnt still been shown the door and its not surprising since its only been 20 or so years.
    My question may sound rude , but is russia very racist? Saw on news channels people chanting ‘russia for russians’ and beating up non white people.
    Plus moscow is one of the most expensive city and its beyond normal affordable limits?

    1. I’ll let others comment on the racism point – no idea as I have never lived there.

      Moscow is a very expensive city (http://www.citymayors.com/features/cost_survey.html) so that part is likely true.

    2. In Mosow you’d spend 100£ per same basket as you would get in the UK for 50£

    3. Ok guys, let me break the myths:)

      I wouldn’t say that racism is a big issue in Russia. People are probably not so tolerant like in US or UK where cultural diversity is significant, but most people are nice, and there are very few nationalists, not more than in other comparable countries. Some tension exists between Russians and certain nations from Caucasus with high criminal activity, but I think it is smth like tension between Americans and say Costa Rica gangsters.

      As for prices, Moscow is truly expensive in terms of flat rent / restaurants, but not such a huge difference comparing to London! I didn’t live in London, just visited it a couple of times, but such things like underground or taxi are much more expensive there than in Moscow. And another great advantage in Moscow is that almost everything is open 24/7! (restaurants, pubs, clubs, cinemas, parks, etc.) So there is a way more night fun than in UK.

      And again, beng investment banker with 13% tax you will have much bigger spending ability than in many other places.

      1. So, Moscow is not such a bad thing as one can assume:) Study Russian, guys:))
        Once European debt issues are resolved, there will be a huge Investment banking activity with US$100bn+ privatization pipeline, cross-border M&As and PE/VC industry uplift. I’m probably sort of optimist, but anyway:)

    4. Fully agree with Mark about racism question. Just to clarify:
      Some russians don’t like people from certain russian’s republics (Chechnya, for example, they’re mostly muslims) due to their rude, disgusting behaviour and the crime they bring. They come from mountains and try to bring their habits in our culture. If you live here for month, you will understand.
      Anyway, they are no problems with people who come here to work, study and so on. If you’re nice, we will like you, believe me. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a black or white, from USA or from Indonesia.
      So, don’t mind about that “russia for russians” — it’s definitely not for you, expats and tourists are always welcomed here :)

      1. You had me sold when you mentioned the models…

  11. Hi there.
    My name is Alex and im really glad to see so many people from Russia who are in the industry! I have a few questions for you guys. First of all, I’ve just graduated and received bachelor of Economics degree. My future plan is to get Master’s. And then break into IB in Moscow. Therefore, in order to do all the networking and stuff i suppose that i should apply to one of the graduate schools in Moscow as well. Is there a list of specific graduate schools that will help me go through the screening process? And secondly, is there anything else except CFA (as it was mentioned in the article), high GPA and English skills that will boost my chances of getting a job offer? Finally, is there any other career paths (except applying to a top graduate school in Moscow) that may lead me to breaking into the industry? Thanks for your time guys, i really appreciate your help.

    1. I’ve just emailed you to put you in touch with someone else in the comments above – not sure of the specific graduate schools that would help most in Moscow, but I think they’re probably the same as in the rest of Europe (LSE, Oxbridge, etc.).

    2. In terms of schools, I would highlight New economic school (nes.ru) or Higher Economic School (hse.ru).

      In terms of things to boost your chances, I would recommend you the thing I personally used in preparation and put on my CV – BIWS courses:) really good thing to study excel stuff and basic valuation techniques, and it could be even more valuable and time/money consuming than CFA or even masters. But this is just my personal view, of course

      1. Time/money saving, sorry

  12. I was born and raised in Russia till age 9. Been back there a couple of times since. But nothing compares to God’s country, USA. Wouldn’t trade places with this guy if my salary depended on it. Now Brazil, that’s interesting. Looking forward to that. Would move there in a heartbeat. You wanna talk about girls? Oh my lord…

    1. Hah, good point. I will have to make a note of that in future interviews… and somehow find a way to avoid offending the females who are reading.

  13. work in BB IB for several years already (initially started at Big 4) in Moscow and London.

    Really good article 90-95% in there is what I fully support.

    few comments

    Foreigners –
    very few indeed, Russian is mandatory at junior level – never seen an expat associate, who doesn’t speak Russian. Also not many senior bankers, who don’t speak Russian at all.

    Salaries –
    On a gross basis Base and Total are very similar (if not the same) as in UK as Russia is part of EMEA region. Tax is 13% which really helps, but you should treat it as a pay for underdeveloped infrastructure, not friendly average people, bad ecology, low pension, etc…
    Analysts are paid really well – getting $100k+ p.a. as a graduate is unliklely to be matched in any of the industry. In terms of alternatives, when you get older, my school mates do more money in internet and top level management (10+ years of experience).
    RenCap used to pay more before 2008 but not now

    Hours:
    Similar to Europe, which is less in US. MS is really a kill, GS/JPM – less so. Really depends on people you work with.

    Responsibilities/deals:
    Really depends – one can spend a year on one deal and not close it. I personally closed from very begginning 2 M&As and 1 SPO in one year, when I was a junior associate.
    I wouldn’t say ECM is driving the market now (maybe before 2008). Huge pressure on fees now and much higher competition when I started 6 years ago. Also don’t forget about financing/hedging that generates a lot of revenues in banks like Citi, Barclays, DB and even JPM.

    London vs Moscow:
    My personal experience shows that job is very similar. Though you may do more simple work for Russian clients (e.g. explaining WACC) than for international

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your insights!

    2. Thanks for adding all that. Interesting that the hours differ so much depending on the bank. Which I guess makes sense if deal flow and culture are very different. And yeah, seems like “educating clients” is more important in emerging markets in general.

    3. Vasya,
      could you please illuminate on the question of salaries on associate and further levels? Thanks.

      1. approximately: associate 1 = $120-140k base + 100% bonus. You should add about $20k for each next level and bonus doesn’t change much.

        VP1 = $200-230k base + up to 150% bonus. Bonus size became more dependend on market conditions though. Add $20-30 for each next level.

        Overall, average rated senior VP should make $500-600k total per annum.

  14. It’s very funny to read this interview because I am from Rusiia, worked in bulge bracket and now in leading PE.
    In my opinion the author is incorrect regarding junior level and their responsibilities. The only work for the analyst is power point and newsrun (and some other routine acitivities). And some banks like GS and other have very few deals because as the author said Troika and VTBC are monopolists. For example, one my friend is working as an analyst at famous BB and he hasn’t closed even one deal for the last 1,5 years. The only his work is pitching.
    And of course we have Americans and other foreigners at lower positions like VP, Director or even Associates.
    And you should know English very well to get an offer although you have to work with Russian companies.

    1. And I absolutely agree with comment above that “the industry is close to dead in Russia”. But want to add that VTB is hiring now neverthless the results.

    2. Totally true.

      Also the passage about mandatory Russian is false. Funny, but even native Russian-speaking people use English in their emails between each other.

      1. Dear Alexey,
        As far as I can see you are very informed and experienced in IB field in Russia. As a matter of fact I am currently a student and am considering IB as my future career path. If its possible Id like to email you and ask a few things about the industry. Thanks for your time.

        1. I’ll contact Alexey and let you know what he says re: sharing his contact information.

          1. I’ll appreciate the possibility of asking Alexey a few question too. If he doesn’t mind, of course :)
            Thank you, Brian, for connecting us!

          2. Andrey: Yup, will contact you shortly.

        2. Sure, no problem, but we might want to do it via Brian’s help since I’m not comfortable posting my email address on a popular website :)

          1. I definitely hope that Brian will assist us on that. Thanks!

          2. Hi there I emailed both of you last week – let me know if you did not receive it.

    3. Ok. Feel free to volunteer an interview if you want. It is difficult for me to say who’s “right” in cases like this because 10 people from the region say 10 different things. A few people from different firms weighed in on this one. It may vary between different firms. The interviewee here was speaking from his experience. Your experience may have been different.

    4. Agree with responsibilities – although the split differs at various places
      Some foreigners exist – but definitely not too much at assoc/VP level (maybe 5-10 people overall at major IB teams)
      Of course you should know English very well – this is a cap thing.

      1. Interesting to hear that, thanks for adding.

        And yeah, I don’t think think the interviewee was saying that English isn’t required… just that Russian language skills are also very important, unlike places like the Middle East where the local language may not be as important.

  15. Russian IB is all about connections with government and oligarchs. There’s no free market in here and the industry is tiny-tiny.

    As for recruitment, Russian IBs are currently cutting it’s staff – UniCredit closed its branch, RenCap cut 30%, Deutsche cuts, Otkritie cuts, even VTBC reported bad figures for FY2011 so we might wait for cuts from it as well.

    More to that – MDs from UBS and RenCap have recently left IBs stating that the industry is close to dead in Russia. The only hope to earn money is ongoing privatization in the country where fees are close to zero (recently UBS announced to be consulting government for 0.5% fee for a 300 mUSD deal, no retainer) and timeframes are not set.

    All in all, there are reports that the Russian IB industry sees about 30 properly qualified bankers for 1 open spot. Having worked in IB for 4 years and working in a well-known large Russian PE firm now, I strongly recommend to readers from Russia to get real and think over your carreer opportunities one more time.

    1. Thanks for adding that. The reason we don’t write about specific banks and who they’re hiring at the moment is because the goal for all articles on this site is to be relevant for a long time into the future. I’m sure you’re correct that the industry has suffered along with the rest of Europe and it’s probably worse there.

      This interview was from a few people who worked in IB and PE there, and you did the same. Yet they said different things. So, thanks for adding your comments but it’s hard for me to say much when different readers make very different comments about a specific region.

      1. Well, the issue with Russian IB market monopolisation is an important color to the region-specific characteristics, since working in a BB in Russia doesn’t guarantee deals for you. Out of my experience, in mother Russia the real deal makers are sitting in PE and the Government rather than in banks.

        Anyway, it’s definitely impossible to understand Russian IB market (as any other) without 100 gr of vodka, so thanks both to you and that guy from Russia for the attempt ;) I would be glad to contribute to Russian IB section of M&I as well if there’s ever a need.

        1. Hah, I may have to take you up on that offer of vodka. Sure happy to speak about your experience in IB/PE if you want (will email you).

    2. Okay, what options do Russian students have if they want to make real money (excl. self-employment)? As I know, moving to PE is only possible if you have experience, especially banking.

      1. Salaries in IB are quite big in Russia in comparison with other sectors so if you want money and ready to forget about all other things and people – that’s for you.

      2. First of all, forget about big money illusion during your first decade on IB market – it’s something that Brian says over and over again here at M&I. Yes, if you get in the industry, you will make decent amount of money (well above average salaries in Russia), but it’s not the kind of money that allows you to buy expensive suits, supercars or property abroad. You won’t earn big money unless you’re at MD level and generate profit on your own – and it works in Russia the same way as it works elsewhere.

        The only reason to go to IB for a student is to get relative work experience and good background. But for these purposes, any IB-like company or department of a company is a go. In my opinion, key thing that a student should consider at his earliest steps in carreer is choosing a TEAM rather than a company…

        1. I worked in BB in IB department and I know how much money you can earn so I don’t neet to read Brian’s articles about Russia. I just said that you can earn higher than in other indusrties.
          I don’t think that in IB you can “get relative work experience and good background” because you work only with Power Point, Google and Bloomberg.
          And don’t agree with team rather a company becuase for you prospect employer in will be difficult to explain that you worked in small and unknown company only because there was a good team.

          1. Can we just play nicely with each other? There are trade-offs to any job. Nothing is perfect. And it sounds like the same is true in Russia as well.

          2. ok, guys.
            Which firm do you think offers the best career path in IB for a graduate?

    3. Cose to dead?
      As the KGB would say ‘operations are dead in the water’

  16. RussianIBD

    You have forgotten the best part about Russian IB – the girls.
    Models and bottles are so much cooler in Moscow!

    1. Haha that is a good point. I was reading another article about finance in Russia and they mentioned that!

    2. I would say that not too many bankers do M&B because there is no such a culture as in London and NY. Again, judging on my own experience. But anyway girls are definitely better than anywhere else:)

  17. Fernando Henrique Donegá

    Nice interview. I’m waiting for one talking about Brazil!

    1. Thanks! We covered a bit of Latin America before and hope to do one specifically on Brazil soon.

  18. Heard from some reliable sources that first year analysts (global bulge bracket) received around $48k (without the bonus, which was not huge at all) this year — this, even with 13% tax, is pretty much less than in US/Europe, isn’t it?

    1. Yes, in the US and Europe it’s $70K. I don’t know, the interviewee and other sources claimed that the pay was about the same. It may be lower at some banks.

    2. RussianIBD

      Don’t know which bank you are talking about, but major BBs such as Gs,MS,Db and even broke ass UBS pay roughly the same as in us/Europe(65-70K).

      1. Agree, 70-80 is the right range, so Leonid’s sources are not quite correct (judging based on my own account)

        1. BB Moscow banker

          I am working at BB in Moscow, got ~$45k in base salary + ~$60k in bonus before tax for my 1st year as an analyst

          1. That’s quite nice!
            Do you have any information about salaries in Troika?
            thx.

  19. Can you please clarify which banks are considered boutiques and which considered globals in russian reality?
    For me it’s really strange if Troika and Renaissance are boutiques, because they have very good relationships with many oligarchs, which is so important there.

    PS Yes, I read the answer about dominating banks, but in the part about salaries there’s a phrase “Those numbers are for global banks – at most of local boutiques, base salaries would be a bit lower”. For me it’s hard to believe that GS, CS, JPM, etc pay more than Renaissance and Troika.

    Thank you.

    1. I am not sure on that one – he may clarify later if he has time. But I think that the lower pay figure is more for true regional boutiques that do very small deals as opposed to Troika and Renaissance.

    2. RussianIBD

      Believe me, troika(sbercap now) and renaissance pay less than BBs.

    3. The author is incorrect because Troika and Renissance are not boutiques and the first one has much more deals then all BB in Russia together (that’s why many people at senior positions moved to Troika).
      It is known that Renissance has large problems and fired many many people a few months ago but it’s not the main theme of this topic.

      1. Agree that troika is not boutique but there is no such a statement in the text from what I see.

        1. Same for Renik

    4. You’re misinterpreting boutique definition. Boutique is a team of senior investment bankers with focus on particular deal types (say M&A boutique) with no own balance sheet behind them. RenCap for sure is a fully-fledged investment bank.

      Xenon capital partners and Advance capital are good examples of Russian boutiques. Maybe Sputnik group.

  20. johnny english

    Hours differ across banks. Reasonable at GPB & VTB, UBS, CS and BarCap, brutal at GS & MS.

    Not uncommon for Analysts 2 to do their third year in London before Associate promotion. Haven’t heard about MBA prospects

    1. Thanks for adding that!

    2. I would say VTB is also quite brutal, but MS is probably the worst in terms of working hours, at least from what I heard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *