by Brian DeChesare Comments (408)

Stuff Investment Bankers Don’t Like: The CFA, Your Activities, Your Ph.D., and More

stuff-investment-bankers-dont-like-cfa-activities-advanced-degrees-2

NOTE: This is a really old article. Please see the revised version here and leave a comment on the new version instead. Our views on everything here have changed significantly!

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately: many readers have the wrong idea of what will help them with investment banking recruiting.

Thinking that they need to do “something” at the last minute to boost their chances of getting into the industry, they come up with all sorts of “creative” – yet marginally effective – ideas.

Read on to see exactly what not to do to get noticed in recruiting.

NOTE: This is a really old article. Please see the revised version here and leave a comment on the new version instead. Our views on everything here have changed significantly!

1. The CFA

I must get more comments about the CFA than any other topic (yes, even you, models and bottles).

There are hundreds of reasons the CFA (any level) is a waste of time for getting into investment banking (note those highlighted words carefully, and read to the end of these points before leaving an angry comment), but here are the top 3:

a. It’s not necessary for advancement and the majority of investment bankers don’t even have it.

If you want to be a portfolio manager, go ahead… but for the rest of us it’s marginally helpful at best.

b. Studying for the exam requires an obscene amount of time – almost 1,000 hours according to the website.

Think about how much networking you could do in that same amount of time: let’s assume 900 hours of study time for the CFA (300 hours per level).

Assuming you can plan and conduct 1 informational interview in 1 hour total, that’s nine hundred new contacts.

Which do you think will be more useful: a single line at the bottom of your resume, or almost 1,000 people who can help you get interviews?

c. There’s almost no correlation between the CFA and what you actually do as an Investment Banking or Private Equity Analyst / Associate.

Last time I checked, the CFA curriculum did not cover administrative work, due diligence, pitch books, and the financial modeling specific to banking.

Please, no more email or comments on the CFA. Use those 900 hours and do some networking, learn another language, or go on a trip around the world – any of those would be more helpful for getting into finance.

Clarifications to the Statements Above: In some situations and geographies the CFA can be useful – for a full discussion, please read this newsletter article on the pros and cons and when you should think about the CFA.

The reason why I made such strong statements above is this: most comments and questions I get on the CFA are coming from people with low grades at lesser-known schools with no experience who think that the CFA will magically get them into Goldman Sachs investment banking.

It won’t.

It may help, and it is certainly more useful in other fields such as equity research, portfolio management, and (some) hedge funds, but it will not “replace” low grades or limited work experience.

Here’s more on degrees and certifications in investment banking.

2. Your Activities

“But wait,” you say, “I thought it was really important to be ‘interesting’ in interviews?”

It is – but bankers pick resumes mostly based on work experience and whether or not they know you.

Now if you’ve done something truly impressive – like starting a non-profit that built 1,000 schools in Southeast Asia – that can actually help you.

But let’s be honest: many activities are just resume padders, and having 1 name or 50 names won’t make a difference if that’s the case.

If you have absolutely NO finance experience and nothing even related to business on your resume, then you can play up your activities – but otherwise avoid it.

3. That Investment Club You Started

If you can’t get a real internship, start an investment club or student-managed fund instead, right?

Actually, this logic is not terrible: it’s certainly more helpful than the CFA, and in the absence of real business experience, it looks better than being a lifeguard or working at a restaurant.

But no student-run investment club is going to put you on par with the guy who did 2 summers at Morgan Stanley.

You should only do this if you can’t find a part-time, school-year, or summer business-related internship of any kind.

4. Your “Internship” Waiting Tables

Truthfully, being an investment banking analyst is much more similar to being a waiter than it is to most “real” internships.

You need to multi-task, you’re always running around, you have to deal with annoying clients all day, and you have to do a ton of grunt work.

But bankers themselves don’t see it that way and won’t acknowledge this type of work experience as equal to a “real” internship.

You don’t want to write about any of this unless you have nothing else to point to.

5. Bloomberg / FRM / CPA / Other Meaningless Certifications

Similar to the CFA, most other certifications are also useless – although on the up-side they don’t waste nearly as many hours as the CFA.

Some of these certifications – like the FRM and CPA – have nothing to do with investment banking, while others – like Bloomberg – are somewhat relevant but useless compared to, say, calling 5 alumni.

Remember, the only part at the bottom of your resume that most people even read is what’s in the “Interests” section.

Bored office workers always want to meet interesting people, but no one wants to meet well-certified people.

6. The GMAT

While getting a decent GMAT score is important for business school admissions, it’s less relevant for getting into investment banking at the MBA-level. And it’s even less relevant at the undergraduate level.

If you had to take it for business school anyway and earned a good score, you can list it if you want – but if you don’t have room, cut it.

But if you haven’t had to take it for any reason yet, don’t do it in hopes of getting a good score and using that to propel your way into finance: your time is better spent elsewhere.

7. Non-Native-Speaker-Level Language Skills

Ok, this one is not 100% true.

It helps to have some language ability, even if you’re not native speaker-level – something is better than nothing.

But unless you’re at an extremely high level (i.e. you could watch a university-level lecture on economics, understand everything, and then write a brilliant 10-page paper about it in that language), you can’t leverage language abilities to move to offices in other countries – there’s too much reading and writing required.

There are some roles – like trading and certain back and middle-office positions – that don’t necessarily require language mastery. But if you’re reading this site, you’re probably more interested in areas like investment banking and private equity, both of which require a lot of communication and reading/writing.

8. Your Ph.D.

After the CFA, this might be my #2 question received via email:

“Will a Ph.D. help me get in? Do banks care about my quantum physics skills? What if I’m the next Isaac Newton?”

First off, if you’re smart enough to write the next Principia, you should not be in investment banking because you’re going to get a lot dumber. Go write a book about your discoveries and win a Nobel Prize.

The math required in finance is VERY simple. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division if you get really fancy.

Most of what you do in M&A is administrative: sending emails, keeping track of different buyers, and updating Word documents.

So the only reason to get a higher degree is if you want better access to recruiting channels at a more prestigious school – and even then, stop at the Master’s level rather than doing unnecessary work.

9. Financial Modeling Courses

“Wait a minute, you just RELEASED your own financial modeling course, and now you’re saying that banks don’t care whether or not we’ve gone through them? Are you crazy?”

No, I’m just being honest.

The *knowledge* you gain from these courses is very helpful, especially if you don’t have a finance background or you want to prepare before you start working.

But listing the course itself on your resume – no matter which one it is, or whether you invest $100 or $10,000 – doesn’t guarantee you anything.

The bottom-line is that if you want to prepare for interviews and for work itself, these can be a good option – but they fail as mere resume padders.

Wait, So What DO They Care About?

Easy:

  1. Work Experience
  2. Educational Background (more applicable if you’re a student)
  3. How many people you know at their firm and how much they like you (networking)

But there’s a problem if you’re trying to use any of these to boost your chances at the last minute: each one takes years or months of effort – you can’t do it overnight.

But It’s the Last Minute and I Really Need Something!

It’s pretty much impossible to add anything substantial if you only have a week left before interviews begin – but if you have a few months, here are 2 quick examples of how you can make some impressive-sounding last-minute additions:

  1. Study abroad program / some kind of international experience. (doesn’t need to be 3-4 months – something shorter is fine)
  2. Summer, night, or part-time program at a well-known school.

Any type of study abroad program is also great to talk about in interviews, especially if it’s to a completely random country or region. Going on a trek to Antarctica stands out more than going to Paris.

Doing some type part-time or summer program at a brand-name school is more helpful if you’re not going to a well-known school right now – anyone scanning your resume quickly will say, “Aha, I recognize that name.”

Last-Minute Standout?

Of course, none of these tactics will make up for a lack of solid work experience or lack of contacts in the industry.

But if you’re struggling to stand out with only a few months left, you don’t have much of a choice – you have to take what you can get.

NOTE: This is a really old article. Please see the revised version here and leave a comment on the new version instead. Our views on everything here have changed significantly!

M&I - Brian

About the Author

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

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Comments

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  1. So I currently work in M&A in a small boutique. They are offering to finance a course of my choosing to help my professional development.

    What qualification do you think is best to go for? Something that will either help me get into bulge bracket or will just be good for my career and worth my time? They won’t support an MBA.

    I understand just working hard here and building experience help’s, just talking about the icing on the cake.

    1. If they won’t support an MBA, then, honestly, there isn’t much worthwhile that will help you get into a larger bank. The CFA is the only other useful, widely recognized course/certification, and that isn’t even too helpful for IB.

      So… I don’t know, maybe financial modeling courses such as the ones offered here or in-person ones, or something more general like management and leadership-type classes.

  2. Hi,

    Do you know if companies would be willing to offer internships to individuals who are not currently enrolled in school?

    I don’t have IB internship experience. I did a summer internship at E&Y and after undergrad, I worked in commercial banking for a little over a year before starting a brokerage for aircraft parts with another partner. I did just complete an MSF (not from a top school) to help with financial knowledge in the meantime as I knew I wanted a career in finance.

    Is it uncommon for non-students to apply for internships to get acclimated in IB? Thanks

    1. Banks usually do not give internships to non-students and non-recent graduates. So I think it would be tough to pull it off here – you would probably have to go for full-time roles in complementary groups instead (think about aircraft leasing in addition to traditional IB).

  3. Is it impossible to get into investing bank with cfa degree?

    1. Did you read the follow up? https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/stuff-investment-bankers-dont-like-2016-edition/

      The issue is that yes, the CFA helps you a bit (and it’s not a “degree” – it’s a certification), but it makes a small difference next to having a top-tier university, business school, and internships on your resume. So, yes, you could do it, but it’s not going to magically get you into Goldman Sachs if you’re coming from an unknown school and you haven’t had relevant work experience.

  4. Dear Brian,

    I’ve read some articles you wrote about investment banking and I found it extremely insightful compared to other websites. I also love that you reply to everyone.
    Here’s my situation:
    1)I am graduating in May, at RMIT offshored in Singapore (this isn’t a top tier school), and I am expecting to get a 3.2 GPA for this bachelor’s degree in Business Management (I also have a minor degree in Finance).
    2) My only work experience related to finance is financial analyst internship in Laos at a French commercial bank, where I helped them analyst client’s credits, visited their factories, discussed their plan and so on. I earned a recommendation letter from the head of corporate department here is the link: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AuLqv9gAbCWdmTykLicn2NhfOzSw
    3) In 2017 I stopped my education to build a restaurant using my sibling’s fund, it is now running profitably, and its cash flow adequately covers my living expenses as a student. You can find out more about my restaurant journey in the following link: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AuLqv9gAbCWdlTO5g6L_lgOWx734
    4) I have also written some relevant reports such as industry analysis, equity analysis, excel financial modelling, which can be found here: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AuLqv9gAbCWdgj-g5pGmpSLps7-B

    Do you think I can get an internship from any big investment bank?
    If not what else should I do to increase my chances to land an internship at investment banks?

    Thank you in advance Brian, I hope you have time to reply

    1. First, you should be really careful about posting your real name and information online… what if a recruiter Googles you and sees your questions in the future? It wouldn’t reflect too well on your job search and interviews at the company. I’d strongly recommend deleting those links ASAP.

      I think it will be extremely difficult to win an IB internship, especially in Singapore, if you graduated from a non-top school with a 3.2 GPA and only have 1 internship experience at a commercial bank. Your best bet is probably to complete a Master’s degree and then move in from there, or to take some other job, such as at a Big 4 firm, independent valuation firm, consulting, or something else in professional services first, and then move into IB from there. See: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/how-to-get-into-investment-banking/

  5. Hi Brian,

    I got accepted into a target MMS. I have close to 1 year Financial Advising experience, but no IB experience. Will I be able to get a FT time IB role?

    1. Potentially, yes, assuming you complete the required networking and self-study.

      1. Thanks for the response Brian. I’m going to take a look at your courses and start networking now. Apart from those two things, is there anything else I should do to best prepare myself for FT IB recruiting?

        1. Maybe an internship before/during the program that is more relevant

      2. Thanks for the response Brian. Apart from the required networking and self-study, is there anything I could do to best prepare for FT IB recruiting?

  6. Hi Brian,

    I’ll be enrolling in the MSc Finance at LSE beginning September 2018. I have an IB internship under my belt and will have had a full year of working at a central bank by the time recruitment comes around. I intend to go through IB recruitment at LSE.

    My technicals could use some work so I figured writing the CFA level 1 would be a worthwhile way of acquiring a solid foundation in corporate finance, accounting, etc. I’m now considering just studying the material which would be relevant for IB and not writing the CFA I exam. I think I know the answer to my question, but would you say that focusing on the relevant material and spending more time on networking would be a better method of preparing for summer/fall recruitment?

  7. Hi

    What about CFQ offered jointly by ICAEW and CISI. Their curriculum has been recently reworked with the aim to be more practical and useful for individuals working in CF/IB. I have seen few positions advertised recently that specifically require ACA followed by part-qualified CFQ so I just wanted to get your opinion on this one. I feel it may be more relevant to UK/EU market than USA? They also claim to have a large pool of alumni and frequent networking events (though you have to pass Certificate level to gain access to these)

    1. I don’t know it, so can’t speak to it.

      1. Dear Brian,

        May I ask you something about CFA designation. If you are not have a Bachelor’s degree in Finance but you actually gain work experience as financial reporting analyst, what would you suggest instead of CFA for breaking the world of investment banking?

        Thank you very much.

        Jim

        1. *P.S. Let me clarify to you, I am totally understanding the best way to break into, is networking. But if you have not any credential for proving your desire or knowledge about investments and finance what would you suggest?

  8. Is CFA level1 and BIWS financial modelling course sufficient to land an analyst job in M&A Division of investment bank?

    1. PS- I am a LAW graduate with in depth knowledge corporate law, securities law and IPR

    2. To learn the technical side required? Sure, but it also takes a lot of networking… you need far more than just the technical skills to win the job.

  9. I think it is an interesting article, but i have a question. What about an undergraduate degree in economics? Most of bankers prefer this degree, even when it is useless. For example in M&A you never use advanced econometrics, macroeconomics or microeconomics. Also, many of them think that if you know more math you are better in everything, so you have better opportunities if you have a physics or math degree even when it is useless too.

    1. What about them? Accounting is the most relevant subject to study in undergraduate, followed by finance. Economics is relatively useless. Physics/math degrees can be good as well, but you’ll have to learn the accounting/finance somewhere.

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-major/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-major-best-2015/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/stuff-investment-bankers-dont-like-2016-edition/

  10. Regarding #6 The GMAT, I’ve heard the opposite regarding the importance of your GMAT score during the interview process. I actually found this out during one of my MBA campus visits as I was networking with several student current entering the recruiting process who wish they knew in advance how much emphasis was placed on what your GMAT score was. One particular student shared how they decided not to retake the GMAT after scoring a ~650 because along with the rest of their application it got them into the school. That said, it drastically hindered this person’s chances during the recruiting process. In one example the student was on a phone interview and after he disclosed his GMAT the conversation quickly came to a close. Another student told me that for many of the banks he was applying to the application asked for your GMAT with a suggested minimum of 700, just like many school applications suggest a minimum of 3.0 GPA.

    I spoke with a admissions counselor at a T15 school that said many already admitted students spend a great deal of time trying to raise their GMAT simply for their IB applications.

    This came as a surprise to me during my visits as I found out that not only did I need the GMAT to get into the school, but I needed the GMAT to get the job.

    Anybody care to elaborate?

    1. I’m not going to respond to that comment in-depth because it’s addressed in the new version of this article, which we linked to at the beginning and end of this article:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/stuff-investment-bankers-dont-like-2016-edition/

      (Yes, the GMAT can potentially be helpful in certain situations)

  11. What do you think about a Masters of Science in Finance degree, and what do you think about a well known school such as Johns Hopkins University (new business school) vs Villanova University (well established MSF program but school isn’t ranked). Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      JHU is probably better given its network and brand name. The MSF degree can be useful, but more so if you need it for re-branding / better access to recruiting (see our article on Master’s degrees).

  12. I come across this link and find the discussion interesting. In my personal opinion, I feel that the qualifications such as CFA and FRM is extremely useful in my work as it provides the foundation knowledge in producing coherent thoughts. One will only appreciate if a person has gone through the program.

  13. Hi Nicole, my nephew just finished graduate school (an institution that merges with cfa curriculum), he is 24 years of age,strong educational background with a strong passion for IB. What advice would you render considering he is an international student. Would he be better chanced working at bulge bracket banks.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, bulge bracket firms have higher probability of sponsoring your nephew’s visa, but your nephew should also have one-year work authorisation post graduation (please check with his career centre) so he can technically work at other banks too. Please go to https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/international-student-non-target-networking/ for more details.

  14. Hi Nicole, I am reading your content and posts on IB. They are very detailed and targeted, thanks. I have always been interested and passionate about finance. I have a bachelors and masters in computer science and an MBA. I have 15+ years of experience in technology – software, hardware and cloud/SAAS based business models. I am currently working as a technology executive and have executive management experience to close to 11 years. I always wanted to get into IB and thought now is a good time to break into it. On reading more of the web, technology IB would seem to be a good transition channel for me. I was thinking of going back to school and get more advanced in finance and financial modelling and maybe get some certifications as well (CFA, CPA…). But, like you suggested, this may not the right approach to break in. I have a decent network with many years of experience in the industry because primarily it has been in financial services, but don’t know of anyone in IB. what would you suggest I do? any recommendations on school, programs, certifications? I have for the advanced financial modeling certification from wall street prep five years back, but again is not something I can leverage to get in like you said. Any ideas you can suggest? Thanks for your help!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your comment. I wouldn’t suggest that you go back to school. I’d suggest that you connect with people in the industry via LinkedIn, set up a few meetings to gain more information on the industry.

  15. Your website has been invaluable. Thank you so much.

    I am a corporate attorney (second year) who is in his late twenties. HYS undergrad (with PBK) and top 10 law school. I’m trying to make the switch to IB. I’ve read your great article on how to break into IB from corporate law. I’m also about to begin your modeling courses. My question is this: should I do CFA level 1 or series 79 as a signaling mechanism pre-interviews? I know networking is most important. But aside from a corporate finance class in law school I don’t have finance experience. I’m wondering if the 79 or part of the CFA would be useful given my background. Would deeply appreciate your advice and rationale.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think a CFA can potentially be useful if you’re interested in the buy side like asset management etc. Otherwise, I think gaining real work experience in finance is probably more useful.

  16. Avatar
    Birchenall

    Considering the CFA is useless when following the tradition route to IB, what about the extremely less traditional route?

    ie: Liberal arts degree, no finance internships, junior, non-target.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say without the relevant finance experience at a non-target can be challenging.

      1. Avatar
        Birchenall

        I do not doubt that one bit, specifically as a non-target w/o a finance degree, would the CFA level 1 demonstrate that I have quantitative abilities and also help land an asset management internship?

        Appreciate the feedback

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes the CFA can potentially help you for buy-side roles.

  17. Avatar
    Raymond

    Hi Nicole,

    Would you happen to know if the Quantitative Finance Program offered by Stanford University in Hong Kong would help me break into investment banking? I have been an employee of Deutsche Bank for 6 years doing Sales Support and Cash Management for both Institutional and Corporate Clients of the Bank. Appreciate your response. Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Raymond, I am not 100% sure about the program. I think it can potentially be useful for quantitative roles but not necessarily for investment banking roles per se. If you really want to do a Masters/another degree, I’d suggest that you explore target schools abroad like UPenn, Harvard, Stern, LBS given their network and credibility in the industry. You can also use the advanced degree as a tool to rebrand yourself.

  18. Sorry that’s either taking the Bloomberg offer or going for the Msc, btw I landed the offer by reading your interview guides so thank you very much!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You’re welcome! I’d go for the Msc assuming its from a target school.

  19. Hello

    I was wondering what do you think is a better route into investment banking, I am currently sitting on an offer from Bloomberg (sales and analytics) and completing an Msc in Finance from targeted school (LSE). I’ve completed an internship in an energy company and another one in investment management but my background is in chemical engineering.

    Thank you

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Perhaps IM is the better option but you’ll have to translate your investment experience to deals.

  20. I was at a networking event recently (GS) and I spoke to one of the visiting VP’s. Being a level 1 candidate, I was curious and so I asked what effect being a candidate/charterholder would have on landing a job at the firm. The VP said that there have been times in the past where job candidates with borderline GPA’s were offered positions, partially because they had earned charters or were close to earning a charter.

    So, at least in my experience, a charter seems worthy of pursuit in that respect. Also, the material is actually really informative and applicable to a wide variety of scenarios in the industry.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your input.

  21. Hi nicole,
    Im currently working in a big 4 bank in australia as a unit pricing analyst wealth management division. From your experience. Do you think a cfa charter is necessary if i want to get into investment analyst role?(beside networking). I do have to admit that cfa is not that popular in oz. Not many job advertise cfa as a requirement..ca or cpa are more highly advertised although its two different field.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No, not necessary, especially if it is not popular where you’re from.

  22. When insulting the intellect of another party one should ensure one’s insult is free from spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s just a matter of credibility.

  23. I am a student of chartered accountancy(2nd level), I want to know what should I do to increase my chances to become a investment banker

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Gain work experience; transferring to TAS maybe the best way to do that in your case: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/big-4-valuation-advisory/

  24. Thanks Nicole,

    I forgot to mention that I’m also enrolled in the Chartered Business Valuator (CBV) program. It’s offered by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators (CICBV) as a distance learning program through York University. Its main focuses are Business Valuation and Corporate Finance.

    I’ve completed the first level thus far. I had chosen to do this instead of the sort of default MBA option because I wanted to differentiate myself and my skill set. Also, there are currently less than 3 CBVs in my country (generous estimate).

    Hopefully I’m making the right choice. I haven’t completely written off the MBA as yet. I’ll be joining the bank at the Associate level.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Congratulations! I am not familiar with the CBV though it can potentially be useful. Please keep us posted!

      1. Sure, The CBV Program of studies is 6 courses (with 6 exams) followed by a membership qualification exam that will get you the CBV designation after 1,500 hours of practical experience in the field of Business Valuation and Corp Finance.

        https://cicbv.ca

        Maybe you guys can provide your take on it in an article one of these days :)

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Thanks for your information. We will keep your suggestion in mind, though unlikely we will include this topic in the near future. Thanks for your input!

  25. Investment Banking in my country is more debt finance raising for infrastructure deals than typical M&A advisory in developed nations. M&A is fairly scarce here and equity-related issuances here are also quite infrequent.

    I have 1 year of Commercial and Corporate Lending experience, 4 years of equity research experience(International equities), a bachelors in Finance and a CFA Level 1 pass.

    I’ll be moving into Investment Banking (finally) from next month where I’d like to stay and progress. What qualification(s) do you think I should pursue for Career Advancement? I had sort of put the CFA to bed after deciding that I’m not interested in a career in investment management.

    Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think you need further qualifications. A top tier MBA from a target school may help you, especially if you want to move outside of your country or to management roles within an IB.

  26. Avatar
    Laith Alkhalili

    I read this 2 weeks before my CFA Level 1 Exam, and …….. I’m …. Shattered .. hahaahah :D :D :P

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Don’t worry. The CFA is still useful for buy-side roles

  27. In regards to point 3, is an investment club really not that useful?

    I work in middle/back office of a top tier investment bank but I’m really passionate about investing. As a result, I started my own fund and have expanded my investor base at a reasonable rate. In terms of my “story”, I was hoping that this venture of mine would help me with exit opportunities, and I can talk about valuations, my portfolio and the profits made, etc.

    Sure, front office experience would be ideal but to break into it, do you think it would hold much weight if I can say that I sourced capital for my own fund, did the valuations, and outperformed the index by 15% (hopefully)?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you have ” sourced capital for my own fund, did the valuations, and outperformed the index by 15%” then you should focus on that. Your experience is useful to firms, and as long as you pitch your story in the right way, you should have a good shot.

  28. Hi, I am a recent graduate studying on Accounting; After working on IT consulting in a big 4 audit firms for 4 months, i found a back office contact in financial market at scb. I am considering whether to take CFA too, since i want to find a job at the front office or at a private equity after the end of contact. Should i network more with the people at the firm to look for internal transfer or Should i take the CFA to increase the possibility of getting hired? or do both? Thanks for your advice.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d do both.

  29. I AM CURRENTLY EMPLOYED IN AN WELL KNOWNINDIAN NATIONALISED BANK AS AN ASSISTANT MANAGER IF I WANT TO GET INTO THE INVESTMENT BANKING PORTFOLIO WHAT TYPE OF PROFESSIONAL EDUCATIONAL QUALIFICATION REQUIRED ? CAN U SUGGEST ?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you want to be in Asset Management, not Investment Banking, you may want to do a CFA. It isn’t necessarily, though good to have. https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/value-investing/

  30. Tips on networking?

  31. Avatar
    Goher Shah

    I am done with my BS (Hons) Business Accounting and Finance and am job less. I wanna know is CFA appealing in the developing countries?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes you can say so.

  32. Hello,

    Thanks for the blog, its great insight.
    I’m a sophomore at the University of Colorado. My school offers a Quantitative Finance Certificate (rigorous math curriculum, and other courses). I was considering pursuing this certificate along with a minor in math.

    My question, is in regards to breaking into one of the top firms-
    I know UCB isn’t an Ivy League so what is my best option here

    should I just major in plain Finance (receive a better GPA due to less rigor in courses) and strive for internships every summer.

    or

    Should I receive the quantitative finance certificate and math minor. And forgo the chance at an internship my sophomore summer, and a less impressive GPA.

    Thanks.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Work experience matters most so if you can get a high GPA (above 3.7) I’d just do Finance. Otherwise, the 2nd option is good but I wouldn’t forgo relevant finance work experience

  33. Avatar
    Mukul Arora

    Hi,
    Thanks for the blog, really helpful.
    I keep reading throughout the blog about the importance of networking, but how can a person in early twenties dreaming to enter into this career possibly network with bigshots already working in the industry.
    Kindly share your views.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Confidence, right positioning (pitch), great credentials (schools, grades and work experience), and network

  34. Hi,

    I am interested in Equity Research and investment management, I am currently doing a MBA-Coop program (28 months with 1 year integrated work experience) here in Canada. I plan to major in Finance and I will be sitting for CFA Level 1 exam in December. Prior to this, I have completed a PhD in molecular biology and 2 years work experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Based on my details, how best do you think I can break into equity research positions, thanks.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Your CFA will help you. I’d suggest you to keep up with the markets, pick 1-2 stocks to follow (for your stock pitch), read equity research reports if you can get a hold of them through your school, online sources or friends, and start contacting research analysts for informational meetings. Given your background, you may want to focus on healthcare stocks.

  35. I used to be a professional tennis player. Should I include that in the top of my interests?

  36. Hello,

    Thanks for a really great and informative site. I’ve recently graduated with a high 2.1 Law degree from a UK university and I’m considering a Masters (MSc in Finance and Investment Management that includes CFA Level 1 certification) as I currently have no relevant work experience to IB. Would I be better to network and do the masters or to consider Corporate Finance at a Big 4 firm and transition to IB that way? Would the masters improve my chances of getting into IB at analyst entry level? Thanks in advance.

    1. It depends on how well-known your university was. If it was a top school, I would do corporate finance at the Big 4 firm and move into IB from there. Otherwise, if a brand-name school would be a big addition to your CV, I would consider a Master’s program at a top school in the UK first.

  37. Hi Brian,

    I am an international student from Korea currently attending a university in California. Due to my citizenship I would have to serve the military for 21 months, which I was planning on doing so after my sophomore year and before my junior year before the recruiting season starts. I was wondering if I should include my two years of military experience on my resume. Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes I think you should list your experience. Focus on leadership/teamwork experience.

  38. How would you recommend approaching the job application for someone with a fresh PhD in a filed like government or politics?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Perhaps you can look at roles that require you to have an understanding of govt policies like credit research/macro research or even roles at the World Bank

  39. I’m a contributor (financial news and politics) to a VERY SMALL – we never really get more than a few hundred hits – sponsored blog. How relevant is this?

    1. I would list it, it can only help

  40. In High School I placed 4th Nationally as a Soloist at the National High School Drill Team Competition, and I’m not the student coach for my universities ROTC Drill Team – worth putting on my resume/how much will that make me stand out? I know that guys who are nationally ranked in other sports stand out, but mind is a bit more unknown – although I am listed in a couple websites/magazines.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Sure, this is an interesting point to note at the bottom of your resume.

  41. Hi,
    I am an international student who is about to graduate this semester from a non-target school in US, have not yet networking enough and secured a job in IB due to time manners. I am thinking of pursuing a PHD degree here in US after my undergraduate probably at schools around New York area so that it would be easy for me to travel there and make my connections. If success in securing a job, then I would leave the PHD program. I dont want to pursue MSF or MFE due to budgetary issue. Do you think it is feasible? Will I have a shot in getting into BBs in this case? By the way I am a majoring in economics, and had an internship with a boutique in the M&A advisory.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Your chances are decent, though you will have a higher chance if you have had some sort of experience in IB because you will be competing with candidates who have had experience interning at a BB. Your PhD experience is valuable, though not as valuable as real work experience.

  42. I have a superday coming up for MM IB and have already signed up for CFA Level 1 in June. Should I avoid bringing up that I am planning to take the test?

    1. You can still mention it, my point in this article was just that you shouldn’t spend 500 hours on it solely to boost your profile for IB.

  43. This article is so true. It also shows why corporate America is falling apart. It is about who you know and not what you know. As indicated by the 2008 crash. Paying 50k for an MBA works best even though you dont come out knowing a damn thing. Eventually the system will change though; it has to.

    Cheers

    1. Hah, yeah, very true. Doing my best to make online education replace (“supplement”) traditional MBAs!

  44. hi, I am presently in my final year of my undergrad program in sciences , i have done couple of interns in finance (quant analysis on trading strategies and in a broking firm )i am developing my networking with people already in the sector , will CFA help me get in to the buy-side as a research analyst (investment management, in emerging markets)
    I would later want to get a MBA in finance after a few years of experience and go over to the sell-side.

    Can you please advice me on this choice and its feasibility.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes I believe a CFA helps if you want to break into the buy side

  45. Hi, will passing actuarial tests useful for getting into financial field?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Not really. CFA would be useful for buy-side roles though (asset management, wealth management, research, S&T)

  46. Hi,

    I am currently a financial analyst for State Street and I am debating the merits of an MBA or a CFA. I think eventually I would like both, but that’s a decision to be made later down the road. Due to financial reasons the earliest I could start an MBA progam would probably be Winter 14′ so I was thinking in the meantime maybe I’d try my hand at the CFA. I don’t really want to get into portfolio or investment management, I’d rather stay in analytics or even consulting. Would you recommend the CFA to someone in my situation? Also, will I be disadvantaged given that my undergrad is in HR Management?

    Thanks

  47. Hey Brian and Nicole

    I am a a 20 yr old senior at georgetown university finishing up my bachelors in neurobiology with an ok gpa. However, Im interested in going into finance and pursuing a financial analyst position. I was planning on taking the CFA level 1 since I thought it was a good compensation for having no background in finance, but after reading your article and others like it, Im a bit hesitant. Any advice on where I should start?

    Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      A CFA is useful if you want to work in the buyside. I’d still take it in your case to demonstrate your interest in finance. Join GUSIF. Learn as much as you can about the industry. If Al DeRosa is still teaching there, ask him if he has an internship opportunity available for you ;) I’d also look for finance roles in DC too – there are plenty firms there, not as many as in NY but enough!

      1. Hey Nicole thanks for the advice. I honestly hadn’t realized that you went to Georgetown too! My traditional Ethiopian parents really wanted me to study medicine/law as well, but I’m just not interested in that. Unfortunately, DeRosa is no longer a professor here, but I will definitely look into GUSIF and somehow look for internship opportunities in DC. Hopefully it will work out. Thanks again!

      2. Avatar
        Yaffet Menna

        Hey Nicole, thank you so much for your advice. I joined GUSIF and was able to land an IB internship at a small middle market firm for the summer. Unfortunately, they told me due to their budget, they most likely won’t be handing out offers to any of the interns which means that I need to get ready for full time recruiting in the fall. However, they have offered to sponsor me for the series 79 exam and said that it would look good on my resume. Is it really worth taking the series 79 as an intern?

        Thanks

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Sure, it is useful, though I’d really focus on landing yourself a full time offer first and this should be your priority in the next few months.

  48. Hi Brian/Nicole,

    I’m currently in a PHD in international political economy and comparative political economy of China (with mandarin fluency) and is heavily quant work.

    If interested in financial analysis or working in an IB, do you think I need to go after a CFA?

    I was considering to review for test between quarters if so.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      In the buyside it is good to have your CFA. For IB roles you don’t really need your CFA.

  49. Hi Brian/Nicole,

    I am in emerging markets (China) where you said CFA would be useful. However, I failed the lv 1 three times and I am in financial advisory (Big 4) industry. Do you think I should continue studying for CFA program? or just go for a MBA (I’ve already read your article on this)

    Thanks,
    Zoe

    1. Depends on your level of work experience. If it’s 3-5 years, MBA is better at this stage. If it’s less than that, continue networking.

  50. Brian,

    I am currently undergoing a ‘management associate program’ in a commercial bank (will graduate in 6 months). However I would like to switch over to IB, any suggestions for me on how to do so?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It can be challenging to do a lateral switch to another bank unless your bank has an IB arm. If you are serious about breaking into IB, you might want to do an internship with a bank first and see how that goes

  51. hi

    i want to get into investment bank.. i have completed my graduation in 2011 n given cfa level 1 in this june.. n also doing course on financial modelling i dnt have any work experience plzz suggest me were to apply as nobody takes graduates..

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You can apply online through banks’ websites

      1. suggest me which bank should i apply plzz name some of it…i hav tried applying in many places but dint get any response

  52. From reading your article I understand networking is essential in landing an entry-level finance position. Do I have to network with Managers in Finance or can I reach out to recent graduates that hold finance positions?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Network with both, though having the relationship with senior managers who have the hiring power will help you a lot since they are the one who drives hiring decisions

  53. The Ports are an important part of our transport infrastructure and they need to be operating as productively and efficiently as possible.

  54. This article is pure nonsense.

    1. I wrote this article 3 years and stand by it. And it’s one of the most popular ones on the site. Education, Work Experience, and Networking are still far more important than anything else above. Yes, certifications etc. can help you sometimes but you should not spend the bulk of your time on them if you want to get into IB/PE. In other fields it varies, do a search for “certifications” for more coverage.

  55. Hello. What do you think of a CFA designation for someone that works in the Emergente Market, like Brazil? I´m a bachelor in Economics and for 10 years I´ve worked as an auditor/consultant in the financial market. Inside of banks (but no IB) and investments funds. So after the financial crises of 2008/09 I was one of the hundred of employees that a worldwide bank had to dismiss, I spent 6 months trying to find a new job, a different one, and this process was not easy. I got a compliance officer position in a brokerage insurance company and after one year and a half I got a new job, different of all the things that I´ve done (now in a IB, not that only this type of bank was my target, I was just looking forward to work again for a bank again. I like the bank businesses), but at the same time in a job where I could use all my knowledge of products and risks analysis. This just happened due my networking, so I fully agree with you about the networking. Today I work coordinating the product approval process in a IB and I really like my job. My intention is not be a trader, but maybe someone in the FO side to help in the organization of products, other possibilities that I have in mind are the Syndicalization and Debt Restructuring areas. I will take CFA level I as a form to give more consistence for my CV in this market and zlso because I don´t have a MBA yet, in fact I want to do a Master in Economics in the future.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’m not quite familiar w the market in Brazil though the CFA is useful for roles which are related to the public markets (i.e. buy side roles etc). If you want to learn more about the various financial instruments/products, the CFA and the CAIA are useful

  56. I am currently doing my undergrad. And was considering CFA or actuarial science after my bachelor degree. I want to consider a line of finance and am inclined towards financial management and analysis. What do you recommend will be the most helpful for me?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think a CFA would be useful if you are interested in the public markets and want to get into the buy side. I’m not sure what sort of financial analysis you were referring to.

      1. Avatar
        Devanshi

        Thank you for the reply. I was referring to mainly from the Capital raising and financial mangement point of view. I am actually in my first year of college. So am yet in the deciding phase. And would like to keep my options open.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Sounds good.

  57. i have completed CA,wrkng fr a commodity exchange as of now..would like 2 know wat course can i pursue as i feel in india its education that matters & takes you to a higher level along with work experience.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Maybe try to get into a top tier MBA program. That might boost your chances.

      1. any other alternative to mba?? do u suggest ful time mba or part time ..any other course that u know abt that can help me

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I’d suggest you to attend the MBA sessions and check out which ones suit you the most

          1. if i want 2 get into risk,can i consider PRM/frm..which one is better

          2. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            I’ll leave this question to readers; they may have better insights

          3. Just learn FRM. Because of 90% overlap and time flexibility of taking PRM exam, you can even take both of it.

  58. I commented on one of your blog, I am a Geophysicst who want to break in Oil and gas side of finance…Current pay is 90k$..but, I dont know much about finance except I can read financial reports of companies..I spend hours after my work doing that….So dont you think CFA is requirement for me for breaking in….what are your views on garp ERP course
    http://www.garp.org/erp/erp-program.aspx

    Thanks

    A

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think the CFA can be useful in your case. I don’t know much about the garp ERP course so readers may be able to comment on it better than I can

  59. Hi Brian,
    I am a QA in an IB and have 5 yrs of work ex . i want to move up in the role and become a BA. Do u think going for any certification like CFA wud help me to get a job as a BA instead of a QA ? If not CFA then what else could be an option for me ?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you’re in research/asset or wealth management/private banking, a CFA would help. Otherwise, I’d suggest networking lots and excelling at your role; make sure your whole team likes you…

  60. Hello.

    I am finishing my PhD in material physics and I want to explore other careers outside academia.

    Would banks consider me for Analyst applications rather than quant?

    I should be 24 when I finish btw.

    Thank you

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes. However, it will be useful if you have some sort of work experience in IB and knowledge in finance.
      Quant funds like guys w PhDs so you might have a better shot there but yes if you position yourself well banks might consider you for IB roles too

      1. OK. Do you know if one could do internships in IB whilst on a doctoral course, rather than undergraduate course?
        Would you suggest boutique banks rather than bulge bracket?

        Thank you

  61. Avatar
    moritzplatz

    hey!
    I am interested in investment banking but my problem is that i don’t have ANY work experience.
    before going to uni in oxford i thought it was fine (noone in my country has work experience (apart from the ones who decide to start working at the end of high school) when 19 or 20…)
    but now here everyone seems to have done something already!!
    i tried the spring internships but i got rejected by all (3) of them, i should have applied for more..
    what can i do about this problem (work experience) now?
    p.s. should i put in my cv that i am in the development squad of the oxford univ rowing team?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Continue networking and even try unpaid internships. Don’t give up.

      Sure.

  62. Avatar
    Ihab Nasr

    A better heading to your article could be : “Why the financial industry is in the dumps”. Most of the reasons you mentioned are exactly why I think there is no hope for this industry.

    Hiring people based on who they know instead of what they know and what they can do is really concerning. But chances are the trend will not change, and also, you probably don’t need to know a thing about the economy, markets, stocks, risk, interest rates, etc to get into an investment bank, you just need to meet the right people which makes 1000 hours of networking more valuable than 1000 hours of studying something that might actually help clients and the industry.

    End result: The best people in finance are without jobs while those agreeable,”like-able”, and less knowledgeable folks are in charge of managing people’s money.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Ihab, thanks for your input. I would like to make a point though:

      “Hiring people based on who they know instead of what they know and what they can do is really concerning” = This occurs in all industry, not just in finance. And no this won’t change because human beings are social animals and we tend to want to work with people we like. However, hiring people based on who they know does not necessarily compromise the “quality” of the people you hire.

      Anyway, I just wanted to state my point. Don’t have much more to say on this topic.

  63. What about these ‘breaking into Wall. St. courses/webinars on the right hand side of the article. Will these help me procure a top line position at an IB/PE firm? Curious in Columbus.

  64. Hi Brian!
    I just sent you a tweet yesterday so here’s the follow up.

    I would like to ask for yor advice, As well as anyone reading;
    Should I pursue an undergraduate degree at Peking University Guanghua School of Management? I have been offered a position due to start in September. My other options would include National university of singapore and other US colleges.

    Personally I feel that if I should do so, the international experience, especially from China, would benefit me greatly in exposure to greater markets, as well as perhaps looking good on my resume?

    However I feel I’m wading into uncharted waters by taking a contrarian approach to my career education.

    How do you feel about a degree in Beijing? I intend to pursue a MBA in the US after my bba so I would have a well-rounded experience.

    And yes I am a huge IB wannabe! Haha

    Thank you!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Which other US colleges? If they are target schools, I’d attend those instead.

  65. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the information. I am a CA in Canada and I have been interested in pursuing either equity research or investment banking for quite some time now. Since I already started in the CA Path, I felt it would be a good idea to finish. I have interned with a mid-sized CA firm and then moved to KPMG as a full time. I am a member of the board of directors of a local charity as well. Do you think there is a way for me to use my CA designation to become more marketable? I am trying to get in touch with my contacts in the investment banking world. What else do you think I should be doing to improve my chances? I will take as long as needed to better acquaint my self with the industry before applying.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Network a lot. Familiarize yourself with valuation and modelling. Know why you want to switch and pitch your story well.

  66. Avatar
    Steve Johnson

    Listen to Brian!

    I have a passed the CFA level 1 exam and it doesn’t help getting into an I-bank(at least entry-level analyst/associate). If networking came as easy as the CFA level 1(and it is hard, only 40% pass the first level), I would have a job at a bulge bracket already.

    Selling yourself is more important than any intelligence you have. That is why someone with an average GPA can beat out a high GPA, or a non-target can beat a target, or an easy discipline can beat a hard discipline.

    I took the CFA to combat my OK GPA(and to challenge myself). I wish I would have found this website my Sophmore/Junior year in college.

    I unfortunately have a huge uphill battle to get into an I-bank now that I graduated(and no internships due to my company match 401k).

    How hard is it to get into an I-bank at mid-level positions(3-5 years of professional experience)? How hard is it to get into it from a different sector in the financial services industry(financial adviser, client representative, etc)?

    Sorry for the length. Thank you.

  67. Hi. I’m exactly the type of people that you mentioned in your article. I have finished my CFA level 1 and on course to CFA level 2. I also completed CAIA level 1. Can you share your thoughts regarding how to break into Finance Analyst field? I have worked three years as business analyst at a biotech company, so you can say I have no prior experience. Any comment on that will be appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Networking with people in finance will be a start. I’d also look at analyst roles in funds that invest in the biotech sector

  68. If i am interested in IB and also PHD would it make sense if i got a few years of experience in IB say till associate or senior associate level and then go back to getting a PHD (assuming i go into IB after getting a masters or an MBA)

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It doesn’t make sense to me. However, if getting a PHD after your IB works for you, you should go ahead and do it.

      1. well then when should one go for a PHD , should it be right after the masters or after a few years of research in companies or few years of work ex

        1. i am of course talking about PHD in finance not quantum physics or instrumentation

        2. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          It depends on your preference, I can’t say

  69. How important is an applicant’s GMAT score in securing a job in investment banking (IBD)? I am matriculating at an Ivy League MBA program next year but my GMAT was only a 680.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think GMAT scores matters that much in your case, but then again it depends on the firm

  70. Hi, I have been doing MMA and brazilian jiu jitsu for a while now. Is that something to write on my resume or keep it off? I know it might sound weird but I dont want bankers thinking stereotypically of me and somewhat over-aggressive or the other negativities associated with martial arts.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think its awesome and cool. List them on there. This might make you stand out

  71. Hi I recently created a new website focusing on notifying consumers of sales prices. On the resume how would you write it down? Would you write it under professional along with internships or under activities? Would you write the title as “Website Name” or www.”Website Name”.com? Thank you nicole!!!

    1. Just position it as a “company” you started and say that you’re the Founder and have achieved XX so far (visitors, pageviews, etc.).

  72. Hi! I did a summer internship at this very small ibank with like 3 bankers. most of what i did was administrative though it was in banking related things like spreading comps. should i write this on my resume? i am afraid the bankers may think i know a bunch of stuff and then proceed to ask me obscure questions. with knowing just the basics, would it be better to write it on the resume and be tested on things that i may not know or not write it so that i get easier questions? thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes and only write about things you know. If in doubt, either educate yourself or don’t write it down

  73. What about the CAIA? They seem to cover PE, Hedge Funds, Commodities and Real estate. Also there’s a lot of focus on due diligence. Won’t it be helpful in investment banking?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      That might be helpful if you want to work in the alternative assets industry or even Prime Brokerage but I don’t know if it is useful for IBD roles

  74. Are there any articles on how you can break in through commercial/corporate banking? Most results in searches are for CPAs, PE, MBA and hedge funds.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      We don’t have any as of yet but I will let the team know of your suggestion!

  75. Hi Brian,

    Any advise for someone looking to break into IB sales or trading side for a developed asian market like Singapore?

    What are the criteria that is needed for a fresh grad with a basic bachelor degree in business to get in?

    Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Passion for markets, good grades, good attitude, strong network, knowledge of finance, etc

  76. Hi. I just moved to Boston.I use to live in Geneva,Switzerland for last 9yrs. Completed my Masters in Finance over there. Had done an internship at Hottinger Bank. Worked for a finance company before for 2 years in Switzerland but now the company doesn’t exist anymore. I have a total of 4 degrees – 2 in engineering (Undergrad) and 2 Masters 1 in finance and 1 in engineering. I speak French and Italian plus I am an Indian by origin which helps me know 4 more major Indian languages.

    I m 31yrs old. And now when I m looking for a job in Boston…The companies which I m scanning to apply for a job ask for a CFA Preferred and so on.

    For me, its a big change and I really don’t know what to look for.Is my age a problem? Am I over qualified? Pls Help

  77. Hi have done BA Economics (CGPA 2.8)in the top university in Uganda in 2007. Have graduated with a Merit in MBA from Sunderland University (UK). Have completed my MSc in Finance and Accounting awarded by University of Wales in Cardiff (UWIC)- Attended through college in London. My first semester mark was fine with distinction in Corporate Finance moduel. 2 semester my performance wasn’t good as I was stressed cause I was on the verge of loosing my part time job (as international student this is very very important). Am currently doing work placement with one of uk accounting firm.
    My question, regards to my academic performance do you think I can be admitted to the Top 4 investment bank in the UK. What advice do you have for me thanks in advance. (Am currently 28 years old)

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d suggest you to obtain an internship w an ibank first. Network intensively. Don’t think your university is a target; not quite sure if your academic performance alone will allow you to be admitted to top 4 ibank

  78. I am concerned about my situation and I really need your point of view.
    I am a non native speaker and I earned a bachelor degree in math overseas in africa. now as I wanted to become a cfa I started a new undergrad degree in finance because I don’t really know the differents step I am suppose to follow.
    please help me with your advice so that I won’t waist my time. by the way I am 23 years old.
    thanks

  79. I am a junior applying for banking internships and the deadlines are all around December-January. I plan on taking Corporate Finance next semester. Can I put it under relevant course work on my current resume? Thanks for your recommendation.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes

  80. I’m trying to break in to I-Banking or PE. I have a Math degree from an unknown state university and have worked the past 4 years as a broker. I’ve worked for all rather reputable companies (on broker terms). I am preparing for an MBA, I initially naively believed this would be a 1 year process, come to find that it is a 2-3 year process. I’m working hard to get into top 10 schools hoping that this will propel me in the right direction. I do have good contacts in the industry, cousin works PE at GS, friends work I-Banking at boutiques and BBs. I don’t care about the time, I’m young I have time to earn it. My question is 1. Does broker experience translate for IBers? 2. If I can’t get into top 10 schools, should I reevaluate?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      1. Not necessarily but depends on how you pitch your story and your experience
      2. Yes.
      And why don’t you use your network & break in?

      1. I would love to use my network and I have kept in touch with everybody in IBanking, unfortunately I was a bit of a partier in college and came away with a gpa a bit lower than 3.0. I’m not getting a lot of eager participants to throw my name in the hat right now. Especially since I am at the 4-5 year experience mark where they aren’t sure whether to put me in an Analyst or Associate role etc. So I guess the best route that I can foresee is MBA.

        Also about reevaluating the MBA if outside of top 10, I’m runing into a lot of B-schools out of top 10 that are advertising that a large portion of their class went to Finance, I know they broadly categorize finance and so some of them may even be bank tellers right now for all I know, but isn’t there still a good chance I could get into I-banking if I’m outside of top ten? Say Carnegie Mellon for example.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          CMU is good. I wouldn’t say it is a school that banks would make a point to recruit at but I’d still say give it a shot because it can improve your “credentials”

  81. Hello there,

    Thanks a lot for your website.

    I’m a final year student at one of the three best business schools in France.

    Last year, I have interviewed for internship positions at Goldman sachs, Morgan stanley and JP morgan. I got three rejections.

    Do they keep track of the rejections? are my chances over? I am planning to apply for a full-time position, is it a waste of time?

    Thank you

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No I don’t think they do but some people who reviewed your app and are still working at the firm might remember you. I don’t think your chances are over. Figure out why you didn’t get in and work around your weakness. Apply again full-time. I’d also look at other banks too

  82. Avatar
    Paramjeet Kaur

    Hey,
    I wish to enter the field of asset management.After starting my career as an asset manager,can I grow to the role of a portfolio manager?Is a portfolio manager the pinnacle position in the asset management world?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Depends on your performance. You can say so

  83. Avatar
    Middle Eastern

    Hey man, I liked the way you stated the facts; you’re a frank and a direct person and i like that.

    First off, I am 25 years old middle eastern (lebanese) guy who got a masters degree in finance from one of the best lebanese universities (I was top of class). I know, lebanese universities or not like those of the US, UK and Europe so that’s why i m asking you if it s too late to join top banks like Goldman, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and chase and others in the Gulfe, Europe.

    I am a CFA level 3 candidate (ok, it’s not the right choice for IB as you wrote above), but still, do you think I can join these banks as an equity researcher , trader …?

    I have two years of exp in a lebanese bank as a financial controller, and as a credit risk management. I had the opportunity to work as a trainee in big 4 as auditor …

    what do you think is the right choice ?

    Regards,

  84. Hey, just a quick Q. JP Morgan apparently recruits at my school (8 interns last year 5IB & 5IB Risk) which is a non target business undergrad. They often email me about events coming up, and they’re doing a “J.P. Morgan: Investment Bank Valuation Workshop” (according to e-mail subject. Do you know anything about these? How should they be handled, IE like an info session? Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Havent heard of the valuation workshop but I’d imagine its a great way to network.

  85. Hi..I am from an engineering background with final year in college in India…Will my appearing fir CFA Level I be helpful or atleast an addition to get into I- Banking?

  86. For me, being an Investment Banker in the past and now a hedge fund manager in Asia. I agree some points of yours, but I disagree your whole attitude to deny modelling or financial knowledge from CFA on the iBank and PE! Certainly many of the topics are useful and could be applied to Private Equity and Investment Banking! Yes, it is not definitely designed for Investment banking or PE and expensive somehow (which I really disagreed the high price), but it doesn’t mean it is totally useless in those area! Many peers of mine are highly recognizing this designation and efforts. I think your point is just like denying Philosophy subjects are totally not useful for the Law study? Pitchbook or Case study are all the requirements and communication skills you gathered from your general study and knowledge from different academic disciplines and business working experience. For example, if you don’t know how to look-through the hidden profit or business model of a company, you still won’t having a nice pitchbook. Pitchbook is not difficult at all if you really want to be an iBanker, it is just a trivial daily job. Finally, I would tell it just depend on how you value and use the CFA and Master knowledge in your real working experience! And, your stance is something like Don’t get CFA or Master degrees, but BUY your products, if you want to get into iBank or PE. I really know what kinds of investment banker you are! Be fair dude, I would tell those people who really have great interest of being investment bankers or PE, you should try to study and work hard both ways. And you should always know “What you are doing right now!” But I do agree is that Personal networking is always the GEM in Business world! However, knowledge will never fade in your mind!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Johnson, while I might not see eye to eye with you on certain things, I appreciate your input –of course knowledge is valuable! Please don’t take the below or our articles personally.

      I do have to clarify that we never tried to “manipulate” people to buy our products by telling people that a CFA or Masters degree is not valuable. I don’t even see any “inverse relationship” between our product and a masters/CFA degree. As a matter of fact, our products are not mutually exclusive from a degree.

      Such degrees’ value differ according to different people’s perspective. We expressed our opinions on our website based on the interviews we conducted, our experience, and our conversations with people in the industry. You can disagree with us on our perspective re the usefulness of a CFA/masters, but please don’t make an assumption that we are trying to “manipulate” our readers to buy our products. As a matter of fact, the quality of our products speaks for itself and our customers are very happy– there is no use for us to bash a degree to promote our products.

  87. Hi,

    I was a Political Science major and graduated from an Ivy League school. However, I got a job at a public finance firm and now I am in love with the field. However, I am torn between an MBA and a Masters in Finance.

    Are both degrees on an equal level playing field?

  88. Hi Brian
    I was graduated from Uppsala University in Sweden Master degree majoring Computer Science

    Currently I’m working for a leading Financial Brokerage Firm in Qatar. I have been working here for 4 years not in IT but in the filed of Operations. I am looking to increase my skills in the filed of Financial Brokerage Services and Investment Banking and make a step forward but I don’t have a solid finance background as my study in IT.

    Does CFA right choice for me to improve my career?

    Please give me any other suggestions you would like.

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      CFA wld work for buyside/research related roles. I’d suggest you to take it if you are interested in those fields and in investing.
      I would also network extensively w bankers in your area to see how your skills experience and background can add value to them

  89. Hi Brain,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Inv Banking. As somebody who is trying to get into Inv. Banking your blog is very helpful.

    I am currently about to start my MBA from a top school in U.S. Prior to this, I was working as a Buss. Analyst in a major IB in US but was on the front office IT side (Business Analyst hence was exposed to a lot of Financial products etc.. but no hardcore Technology technical stuff).

    I want to get an opinion from you as to what I should do to maximize my chances of landing up a good internship next summer (for which the recruitment starts this Dec)? I read a lot of articles on your website today and know that CFA is something that you don’t suggest for IB. What else should I do which would show my interest in Banking and help me get shortlisted for an interview. Also I am an international student.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Network like a ninja. Learn the modeling skills we teach on BIWS. Practise your pitch on why you want to be in IB and what you can do to add value. Look into which banks can sponsor your visa — this is important since not all banks like to sponsor int’l students. Attend as many on campus recruitment events as you can

      1. That’s the best answer by far! Thanks for contribtiung.

  90. Hi Brian,

    I was graduated from the top university in Indonesia majoring Computer Science (my Bachelor Degree, got it in Jan 2005) and a-not-very-well-known university in South Korea majoring Economics in International Commerce and Economics (my Master Degree, got it in Aug 2011).

    Currently I’m working for a leading Korean bank in Global Business Department. I have been working here for 5 years now but my company’s goal and my career’s goal doesn’t seem match. I was rotated to several departments (I was in On the Job Training for 1.5 years, branch for 2 years, Credit Review Department for 6 months) which gave me a broad experience but not specialized. For an extra, I’m also active in Toastmasters (I mentioned this as it might help).

    If I want to break into Investment Banking especially in US, I wonder what the first step I should take. I don’t have background in Finance (at school) and I was not graduated from the US university.

    So my questions are:
    1. Is it possible for me to get hired in US?
    2. Should I go back to school for MBA or Master in Finance in US or just keep applying for jobs in Investment Banking?
    3. Please give me any other suggestions you would like.

    Thank you in advance.

    1. 1. Yes but it’s extremely tough if you need a work visa.
      2. An MSF would probably help.
      3. To really have a good shot you need to be there in-person to network and meet with recruiters… so an MSF program at a top school would be a good first step.

      1. My next question is, would you please explain me more about why you suggest me to take a MSF program instead of MBA? My consideration is I already have a Master Degree (although it isn’t in US)..

        Thanks again for your respond.

        1. MBA requires 3-5 years of work experience so MSF is usually better in terms of time and expense and gaining access to recruiters without that much experience.

          Actually I see you have around 5 years experience so an MBA might actually make sense in that case (lost track of the comment thread since there’s no easy to view it all internally). But I would only bother if you can get into top programs.

          1. Right.. You made the point about the top program. Thanks a lot for your response.

  91. Hi there, thanks for posting this.
    I want to ask abbout the math you need to do the job of banker. I always here that you have to be good in math and so on but you say its just simple basics one needs to make it…

  92. Now I know exactly what is the un-educated person.

  93. I interviewed for a Structured Products Analyst role in the Global Markets entity/Department at a Bulge Bracket Asset Manager. They said they were looking for candidates pursing or have passed the CFA and or graduating from an Ivy League school (i.e. Harvard).

    1. I know you are probably going to reply saying that Asset Management is for the CFA. However isn’t structured products part of investment banking?…during the interview topics like deal origination, structured transactions, underwriting, securitization, structured deals were brought up.

  94. When I was a portfolio accountant (back office role), I spoke with a Chief Investment Officer & Executive Vice President in the Global Treasury Division at a Bulge Bracket Asset Management Co and he advised me to pursue the CFA.

    1. For asset management and related fields yes, but for IB/PE no, do a search on this site for “CFA”

  95. Avatar
    BBDreams

    So I am going to be applying for IBanking roles when I go to LSE this fall for a MSc Finance, but am kind of worried about my GMAT score (660, very high quant though).

    I’ve noticed that some banks ask for this information in the online application forms (you apply online in the UK).

    Do you think it would be a good idea to retake and shoot for a 700+? Would I get dinged just for my mediocre GMAT score?

    1. For MSc you shouldn’t need a GMAT score so just leave it out. Otherwise if you do need it, yes I would retake it.

  96. Hi Brian,

    Read your blog and found it really helpful. I just need a piece of advice from you. I am currently working as an IT auditor for one of the big 4 accounting firms and have graduated in MIS from the London School of Economics with a Merit classification (gpa b/w 3.6 – 3.8). I have been working for the firm for past 2 years and now want to switch my career to Finance. I have no background in Finance and wanted to ask you about the best way to switch my career path.

    Thanks!

  97. Hi Brian,

    Read your blog and found it really helpful. I just need a piece of advice from you. I am currently working as an IT auditor for one of the big 4 accounting firms and have graduated in MIS from the London School of Economics with a Merit classification (gpa b/w 3.6 – 3.8). I have been working for the firm for past 2 years and now want to switch my career to Finance. I have no background in Finance and wanted to ask you about the best way to switch my career path.

    1. CFA

    1. See the accounting –> IB article

  98. I have a BA in Economics and Finance plus an MBA concentration Finance. I haven’t been lucky to find a Finance Job. I’m currently in a Forecasting type Job but would love to break into Finance type Jobs and i don’t mind whether it’s Investements coz thats part of Finance.
    Is worth it to take CFA or better to try something else. What do you reccomend i do to increase my chances into the Finace world?

    1. See everything under Recruiting, the CFA is only helpful for specific roles… the key is networking

  99. You touched on this in your article. Given no direct finance experience and an undergraduate degree in economics, would a university Certificate program in Finance/Investments yield any benefit in the workplace?

    Much thanks.

  100. You’ve mentioned in the Banker Blueprint that the CFA is ideal for someone interested in Portfolio Management. Have you covered an article on PM? What is the pay like? And bonuses?…also is there an ‘Analyst’ position start off with etc….

  101. Hi Brain,

    I read your article and it cleared the sky some what for me. I did my MBA in Finance,from India(from not so recognized B-school) so I could easily relate to what ever you wrote. After doing my MBA I joined a counsultancy who do Corporate Restructuring small and Medium size companies and once a while for large companies as well. I’m a fresher and just being put to the team for doing all activities that are required in restructuring. Its a bit difficult for me to understand the language at this level, but I always wanted to become an I-banker. So is my decision for getting into consultancy right and what else should I pursue on sidelines to actually compete with CA’s and big time industry experts.

    Please help me on this.
    Thanks

  102. Hi Brian,
    This website is great, thanks!! I wanted to get your advice on getting into BB M&A after 2 years at a Corporate Bank, when up against several other with IB experience already? So far my CV hasnt even been rejected; I just dont even get a response – even though I’ve had alot of good people read it (unfortunately none of these have good IB contacts to assist the situation further!)
    Thanks!

    1. You really need a pre-MBA internship and a few more years of work experience to make that work; 3-5 is preferred. See the MBA articles here: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/exit-opps

  103. Avatar
    Sam Goyal

    I graduated from Berkeley engineering with an average 3.0 GPA. Since I was an international student it was exceptionally hard for me to get a job there during the crisis in august 2009. After that I am doing my MBA from a very well ranked, but would qualify for what you call an “Unknown” school in India, which is further just known for its operations and technology courses rather than for finance. I managed to get an internship at Citibank in the operations and technology group. I have been looking for online courses and certifications to increase my knowledge of finance so that I can show an interest in finance on my resume and thought that CFA would be a great way to do it. You say that CFA is not really that helpful for getting into IB. What could be my best move here? A masters in Finance? A second MBA from a top-tier school? How should I go about trying to get an interview with an bank? Banks like JP Morgan, HSBC, Citi, Standard Chartered and Deutsche do come to our campus but they only offer operations profiles. How can I go about on my own creating an IB opportunity for myself?

    1. If you already have an MBA you can’t do too much beyond networking…. maybe try to get a 2nd degree from a better-known school but that’s extremely expensive, so alumni networking is your best bet

  104. I totally disagree with your point of view towards the disadvantages of the CFA. You might base on the American banks’ recruiter’s viewpoint upon the CFA. However, I rarely could find out a US bank which does not appreciate a CFA holding candidate (I’m studying in Los Angeles right now). If you think CA is no longer desired by the bankers, please point out a specific statistics to prove it (ie. # of banking job-requirements does not take CFA as a plus for candidates). Other thing, please remember CFA is from the US. How come such an American academic institution can be established and then go on the opposite way to the US labor market ? They’re not killing themselves as what you’re talking about.

    1. I don’t feel like getting into an argument over the CFA again as this article was written years ago and this point has been debated to death on this site and elsewhere. If you want to read more about it, see: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/cfa-investment-banking/

      The general verdict is that CFA = not useful for M&A but it is in ER, portfolio management, maybe a few others.

  105. Avatar
    Ent2Banker

    Hello Brian

    First off, kudos to you on this website. It’s been extremely informative about a sector with minimum public information.

    I am looking to transition in to the industry myself and wanted your opinion on my profile. I will be matriculating an MBA program this Fall (Top 30, regionally prominent in the South). Although the school is non-target for IB, the finance curriculum is comprehensive and around 5 student do end in BB-IB’s every year. Just wanted you opinion on how I would be perceived as a candidate. Here’s my profile:

    Intl. student, Engineering Undergrad, Work experience consists of sales and 4.5 years of entrepreneurship. I’ll try to get in atleast a 1 month IB internship (not necessarily BB) BEFORE my program commences and will extensively network/cold-call to land a summer internship for 2012. Thanks!

    1. I think you’d be competitive but their main objection would be “Why leave your own business to become a paid monkey at a bank?” So you have to spin it a way that doesn’t sound like your venture failed and that’s what caused the switch.

  106. 3 things that stand out after browsing the article/comments: Travl. CFA. Australia.

    So how about studying for CFA while traveling down under?? Although we know your general opinion of CFA, think this would be feasible or just take any enjoyment out of travel?

    Just browsed a bunch of posts after reading this one – great site!

    1. I think it would take the fun out of travel, plus you could end up spending a lot of time studying for the exam and then not even pass it… making it useless. I would not bother at all if you want to work in the US or UK or most other developed markets.

  107. HI Brian,

    Something interesting, Goldman Sach in Australia acctually pays for you to complete CFA as you are working.
    Hence, do you think it would help in Australia if I have completed some CFAs before I apply for positions?

    1. I still don’t think it’s a great use of time vs. getting internships, networking, and earning high grades. But it may be more useful in regions such as Australia (if you do a search here for “CFA” you will find further discussions on the topic).

  108. Hey,
    I’m going to have to largely disagree with this piece on the usefulness of the CFA. I worked in IB at one of the largest banks in the world and as an analyst found that it did a lot for me. Yes, it is a lot of work and yes there are some things in the curriculum you won’t ever need (more a reflection of that fact that it covers a broad range of asset classes and in reality, most ppl only tend to specialise in one) but I found it was a good investment and here’s why, (in no particular order):
    1) BROWNIE POINTS – It impressed my Director that I had the initiative to find out about and to pursue the CFA. Set me apart from the other graduates and passing each level earned me a lot of good will and increased the team’s confidence in my abilities. In fact, they agreed to finance all 3 levels!

    2) NETWORK – When I first started people were skeptical, but by Levels 2 and 3, I had analysts/associates from different desks being referred to me (sometimes by their managers) so I could coach them and tell them what to expect. I thought it was a great way to be visible and build contacts at the Bank.

    3) TALKING POINTS – I worked in various Trading and then Sales roles, and I found that having the CFA made it easier to get better quality information from the research analysts (because now you can ask them more in depth questions about their assumptions, calculations etc because, well, it’s part of what you’ve been studying!) and to anticipate your clients’ concerns, quite a number of whom will also be familiar with the CFA. Sure, you learn these things by experience too, but the CFA was my substitute for that experience, particularly at the early stages. It set me on the right path and got me asking the right questions sooner.

    4) NEGOTIATION TOOL – I’ve never been in an interview where the interviewer didn’t make a positive comment about my completing the CFA and I don’t just mean HR, I mean interviews with members of the team too! It’s widely recognised and largely respected, and can also be used as part of your a justification for a higher salary :-)

    Now I’m in complete agreement with building your CV through extra-curricular activities and the rest of it, but I think doing the CFA doesn’t hurt either. If you’re smart enough to get into IB, it probably won’t take you the 900 hours they say it takes and the great thing is that it builds on itself! Level 1’s the hardest, Level 2’s the same basic concepts but a little more technically involved and Level 3, well, that’s where it’s the most fun because you get to “apply” it all! The CFA was a great investment for me, maybe not directly in the way I first imagined, but a good decision none the less.

    1. I don’t really want to get into a debate with you because this topic has been covered extensively elsewhere on the site – yes I agree that sometimes it can be valuable but for 99% of the people who ask me about it (low GPA, unknown school, no networking) it is not.

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/cfa-investment-banking/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/degrees-certifications/

  109. Brian another question for you!

    After coming out of your two year i-banking analyst program, it is clearly essential to distinguish yourself from others coming from BB and MM banks into private equity, wouldn’t you consider an additional distinction, for instance, a CPA, another advantage over someone with similar qualifications and no CPA?

    Thank you Brian,

    1. It might make a marginal difference, yes. But having an interesting experience (work, study abroad, volunteer work, group) would make a bigger difference and set you apart more than a certification.

  110. Hi,

    I’m a 19 years old University of Melbourne Graduate majoring in Marketing & Supply Chain Management. I spoke three languages ( Indonesian, English, Mandarin) and now after half year of job hunting, I just changed my mind and would like to pursue an IB position. I haven’t have any significant work experience in big4 or finance field at all. However, I have list of extracurricular to prove that I’m very well-rounded and used to won Math competitions.

    Do you think will the recruiter hire people like me?

    1. Internships would help… I think in Australia its a bit different and depends more on your university and grades though and work experience does not matter as much at the undergrad level

      1. Avatar
        Caroline

        Well, I’m looking to apply to Singapore. You said internship, would they still hire me because in one of your topics you said internship is only available for students. I did graduate quite early, would you recommend me putting my age on my resume or not? Will they usually take it as an asset or liabilities? Knowing that I dont have finance background either. Thank’s Brian!

        1. Yes usually internships are only for students. You can list your age (I think that’s more common in SG? Kind of forget right now) but most places will still not go for it unless they’re small and really need someone at the moment.

  111. Hi Brian,

    I’m currently studying in Melbourne, but I have had the chance to talk several investment bankers in Asia and they all recommended me to take the CFA examination (and I’m studying a commerce and engineering double degree, so it’s not like I’m not from a finance background).
    So, I’m just wondering, is your view on the CFA examinations from an American recruiter point of view?
    And would you happen to know much about the Australian IB recruitment process?

    Thanks for your help !!!

    1. There’s some truth to the CFA being more useful in other markets, but it’s mostly emerging markets (India, South Africa, etc.) where that happens. From what I understand of the Australian IB recruiting process (https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-australia-edition/), it’s more important to have a finance background / major to begin with.

  112. Hi,

    I am a junior student in Economics with the CGPA of 3.2. Could you please tell me if it’s worth to go to school for another year to minor in finance and boost my GPA ?

    if i dont stay in school for another year for the finanace minor, how can i show that i actually know some finance in the resume? (this was the reason i was going to study for CFA, but your article changed my thought.)
    and what would be the best way to study finance???
    (i pretty much know nothing about it now)

    1. If you can get it up to 3.4-3.5 then yes. Otherwise think about summer or extension classes to boost your grades, an internship is the best way to prove you know something about finance.

      1. are you recommending another year more because of CGPA than minor in finance!?
        also, what do you think if i take a leave of absence from school to find and do an internship that’s not in the summer?
        thank you very much again !
        -M33-

        1. Yes it’s more about the GPA. Taking a leave of absence may work, but you’d be more limited to internships at smaller banks that don’t do exclusively summer recruiting.

  113. Hi,

    Your articles and guide “Breaking into Wall Street Guide” is most helpful. I currently work for the public sector on a financial inclusion project right and have had a non-traditional career for the past five years in microfinance in developing countries.

    I recently got into London Business School and considering attending because I want to switch careers into finance because I want to move from project management into a more analytical career such as finance. Do you think it makes sense for me from a non-traditional background to try to break into finance with an MBA?

    1. Yes, that makes sense

  114. Hi. I have done a 2-month PE summer internship + 10 month internship in M&A at a BB bracket. I would like to move to trading and, given that there’s no longer prop trading at BB banks, I would like to find a job at a HF. I am using your PE CV template, and I have a question regarding “certifications & training”. I have no CFA (given that I only did an internship), and have no idea of what can be added in there. I also haven’t attended any analyst 2 month training in NY, as I was only an intern. Would you mention something like “Morgan Stanley Investment Banking University” in skills and certifications? (I dialed in on most of their sessions during my 10 month internship). Thanks!

    1. Just leave it off if you don’t have anything

  115. I would think a Ph. D in a science (read math) discipline could get you places these days in S & T, especially in the realm of algorithmic trading? While its not M&A, it is another side of ibanking isnt it?

    1. For quants, yes, it may be helpful but most people reading are going for IB/PE

  116. Hi Brian,
    I am a student at one of the leading engineering schools(top 5) in India. The traditional procedure is followed at my school for recruitment ( assessment centre, case studies …) .I am from an engineering background but want to start my career in Investment Banking and some 5-6 of the top 10 IBs come here for recruitment. Is CFA really helpful here in India to get me the job. If not, can u suggest any other certifications/courses. I hold some key positions at the university level and have a gpa of 7.5 on a scale of 10.
    P.S: I am a penultimate year student.
    Thank you.

  117. I am currently in penultimate year doing Actuarial Science & Finance double majors with CGPA of 3.6. My problem is I am trying to push my GPA over 3.8 but my actuarial courses (which are pretty tough) are pressuring my GPA. Should I drop Actuarial Science & focus on Finance (single major) while graduating with over 3.8 and one semester ahead? In addition, I have secured an IB internship which I can shift it from summer to winter if I want to, while currently securing another one (most likely in S&T) in summer, provided I convert to Finance single major and graduate one semester earlier.

    One reason for still holding onto Actuarial Science is to indicate my quantitative ability which will be handy when applying to S&T internships/jobs. Everyone is doing Finance, so I thought maybe an Actuarial Science major will stand out from my rest even though I know bankers don’t give undue respect to actuarial grads/actuaries.

    Look forward to seeking your opinions. Thanks.

    1. 3.6 vs. 3.8 doesn’t make a huge difference. But getting another internship is valuable so maybe switch to a single major due to that. https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-major/

      1. What level of quantitative ability do I need to demonstrate for a job in S&T, say trading and structuring? Is a finance degree with course work in derivatives and portfolio management sufficient? Will S&T employers value my actuarial major?

        1. That should be fine. S&T doesn’t care about actuarial majors too much.

          1. Thanks a lot for your replies!

  118. Hi brian,what r ur views on the following M&A professional certifications. Are they worth it? better than CFA for aspiring M&A professional??

    Certified Merger and Acquisition Advisor (CM&AA) from The Alliance of Merger & Acquisition Advisors® (AM&AA)
    http://www.amaaonline.org/

    Certified Merger and Acquisition Professional (CMAP) from The Middle Market Investment Banking Association (MMIBA)

    http://www.mmiba.com/

    1. Those are more useless than the CFA because they’re not at all widely recognized

      1. I totally disagree, the Certified Merger and Acquisition Advisor (CM&AA)is taught by industry leaders and pinpoints true M&A skills.

        1. That may be true, but is it widely recognized? It might get you a bit of added benefit, but no banker would look at it and say, “Aha! Now he’s on par with the guy from Goldman Sachs investment banking!”

          1. Gold

  119. Hi Brian-Just read this article and found the GMAT information. I’m from a non-target school with 3.6 cumulative/3.8 major (this is a little low I know ’cause most non-target students I know get 3.8s). I plan to take the GMAT to sort of make up for that GPA, but after reading this I’m pretty hesitant. My priority is still networking hard, but in your opinion will taking it help my case at all?
    Thanks a lot.

    1. The GMAT would help but don’t spend a lot of time on it because your grades are fine to begin with. If you can do it in 20-30 hours or less it might be worthwhile.

  120. Hey,
    Long time reader thanks for all you do. This is somewhat related to the above comment; I am a Paralegal in an M&A at a major corporate firm on Wall St (all front page wsj type work) and I took this job to see whether or not I would want to go to law school, with in the event I didn’t go on to B-School or into finance.

    Past internships are finance related, though in brokerage not banking. My current M&A job is a 2 year gig but I already know law isn’t for me and its time to start compiling an excel file of the bankers who I work on the transactions with as potential networking contacts. I also have an offer as a corporate banking analyst at a big 4 bank. Should I take the corp banking gig, do the credit emersion to boost my relevant analytical skills and then wait a couple years to purse investment banking? Or, Do you think this M&A law side experience could be helpful in flipping my career to the investment banking side right off the bat?

    Any advice I REALLY appreciate. Thanks again!

    1. I would speak to a couple of your contacts now and see what they say. Law experience can be helpful but as a paralegal it’s less helpful than as a lawyer so the experience may not carry over as well. I would probably lean toward taking the corporate banking position but run it by some of your contacts first.

  121. Great site.

    I’m not sure if you’re entertaining any new questions on this but here goes. I recently graduated from a prestigious law school in Canada, and am thinking about switching to ibanking. I have a business undergrad, but did not entertain IB at that point. I have no finance work experience, but am good at networking. I was told through networking that it might be helpful to do Level 1 CFA just to show that I’m serious about finance and that I have the quant skills. What’s your take on that? And if it’s a waste of time, what do you recommend I do to show that I’m serious?

    And do you think there’s not a hope in hell for someone of my background?

    1. CFA Level I is arguably helpful if you have a law background so in that case it might make sense. Plenty of lawyers get into IB but usually after doing corporate law first.

  122. Hi, Brian

    I am from HK Chinese, I studied in UK for my high school, I went to Uni in Beijing and in HK. Also, I was awarded with a small amount of scholarship to study Spanish in Spain. I worked for an Indian Diamond company for a year as a Sales Executive. Now I am back to school again for a MSc in Eng., I am thinkiing about PWM sales jobs in Ibank. So, try to get more relevant experience, I have 3 choices in front of me: 1) Citi bank franchise control in HK, 2) Compilance department @ Daiwa Securities in HK 3)Intern @ PwC Mexico city for 6 months, advisory chinese desk. Which would look more appealing on my Resume?

    Btw, your site is great and Thankssssssssssssssss

    1. Citi has the best name in banking out of all of those; PwC would be better if you want to do investment banking rather than PWM.

  123. You mentioned that extracurricular activities don’t really matter, but does it hurt if I don’t have many? My activities are pretty scattered and I don’t hold any leadership position in any them. Plus, I’m not part of the finance club because it sucks here (non-target LAC so not many people are interested in finance and banking). So during interviews, can I just say I tried to join, but it wasn’t very organized? Sounds a bit negative I guess?

    1. Don’t say anything negative, just talk briefly about a few things you’ve done and leave it at that. It doesn’t matter much.

  124. Hi Brian,
    I just spoke with an alum and they told me that accelerated recruited is over. I kind of feel like I missed out and may not get an offer now because most of the positions are taken.
    To what extent is that true? Approximately what % of open positions are filled by accelerated hires?

    1. Usually accelerated recruiting finishes in August before FT recruiting begins, while people are still at internships, so that is probably true; when the economy is bad most spots are taken by other interns but if things are better then you can still get in via the normal process.

      1. Is the economy ‘bad’ right now? Weren’t banks going to pick up their hiring for the next year? I was under the impression things were getting better.

        Also, would you recommend not working in certain regions due to lack of deal flow (if things aren’t good)?

        1. They were, but there are signs that everything slowed down in the second half of 2010 so it’s not clear anymore. Still far below 2005-2007. I would recommend working wherever you can get an offer – can’t be too picky in an uncertain climate.

  125. I did not participate in a study abroad program, but I have traveled to over 40 countries around the world…including some very off the path destinations

    Examples:
    Vietnam, Russia, Zimbabwe, Zambia etc

    Should I include this on my resume even though it was for pleasure?

  126. Hi Brian,

    This site is very helpful. I am in a dilemma. I am working as an analyst in a MM boutique I Bank in India. Most of my time is spent in modelling, ppts and word reports (preparing as well as editing). I have done my MBA. But its a non branded b-school anyways. The pay i am getting right now is not that great. I have two questions.
    1) Is growth (monetary as well as designation wise) in I Banking dependent on the relative brand of B School?
    2) If not, then will doing a course like CFA will help me climb the career ladder? (Here my objective is not to break into industry, but to fetch better I Banks and climb the career ladder)

    1. 1) No, it’s merit-based once you’re in.
      2) No, the CFA is generally useless once you’re already in the industry – it might be helpful in certain markets for breaking in, but it’s of minimal use once you’re already in.

      1. Thanks Brian for a very quick reply. But the pay i am getting now does not come anywhere near to IB pay. I see that bulge brackets hire only from branded colleges. I have seen people from top ivy league colleges and branded ones around d world getting recruited in BB banks.

        1. As I said, a brand-name helps you break into the industry *initially.* Once you are actually *working* in the industry, it is more about merit.

          1. Thank You Brian.

  127. Hey M&I,

    So I’m doing my MBA at the top Business School in Asia. Got all that 99.99 percentile and all that stuff that is required to get one there. Have a reasonably good profile overall, especially for consulting, which is where I opted to do my internship, basically because I had no idea of where I wanted to be, and this seemed to be in line with my resume. I had got interview offers from various banks, including all the top ones (GS, MS, JPMC, BarCap, Nomura, BoAML, Deutsche and so on), but I did not interview with them, as I thought I wanted to do consulting. Interviewed with the top consults, and finally landed up in a niche consulting firm. So that’s as far as my internship goes.
    Now, after wading through finance based courses, and after listening to the experiences of colleagues who had an Ibanking experience, I do have an inclination to finally settle in a finance career. I have registered for the CFA, level 1, just as a signalling mechanism, nothing more. I have a good 8 months before I graduate, and apply to the firms of my choice. Considering I have little financial background, and also keeping in mind that I did not exactly deliver a stellar performance in academics at Business School, what do you think I should do to land myself the job I was being offered a shot at during internship recruitment in Investment Banking? I am currently not averse to either a trading role, or an analyst role at an I-bank.

    TIA

    1. I would just go back and contact those banks again, indicating that you are interested in doing banking and that after doing a consulting internship you no longer want to pursue that. Cite some of the things you mentioned here, CFA, friends in banking, and so on, and say that you’ve realized it’s a better path for you.

  128. Hi M&I,

    I have earned a PhD in a hard science from a top university (think of Cambridge, Oxford etc.). Although I know that such a background is rather typical for people who want to enter more quantitative roles in S&T, I have decided to enter Banking.

    Being said, I managed to receive an offer for an analyst position in M&A at a 1st tier bank (think of MS, GS, JPM etc.) in continental Europe.

    I have some experience in business/finance through internships in management consulting at a 2nd tier firm (i.e. such as Oliver Wyman, Booz, Monitor etc.) and on the trading floor of a regional bank.

    My actual question: do you see any chance to leverage my experience and background to turn my analyst offer into one for a higher-ranking role, e.g. associate, or at least 2nd/3rd year analyst instead of 1st year analysr. How willing are the BBs to enter such negotiations? Would I jeopardize the offer by doing that?

    Thanks a lot for your advice

    1. Honestly, no, probably not. Maybe if the market were better you could do that, but if things are only OK or are quite poor then banks will typically not bump you to 2nd/3rd year, especially at a bulge bracket.

  129. Avatar
    IB Intern Abroad

    I’m currently doing an internship at an IB in the Middle-East and have a week left before I get back to Canada. I got the job at the last minute through a family contact.

    However, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how I would actually “prove” that I did indeed do an internship abroad. It just seems to me that an internship abroad is the type of thing people would put on their resumes bcuz they expect it would be hard for recruiters to do background checks on it, especially if from a non-English speaking country. I know that the process is actually quite common with students in my b-school that came from a certain country where basically every single line of their resume was fake. I also read in the Economist that that country was getting a reputation for academic fraud and falsified claims on candidates’ resumes so I would assume that recruiters are increasingly become skeptical of any type of “foreign experience”.

    So basically my question is twofold: a) how then do I prove my internship? Would a letter with the company letterhead and a contact suffice? and b) do recruiters actually conduct a background check for foreign-based internships and try to contact someone at the company? Thanks.

    1. I don’t think you can “prove” that you did something, at least on your resume itself. Maybe have someone there ready to back up your story and explain what you did if they are contacted, but that’s about all you can do. Usually background checks on foreign firms never go anywhere, especially if English is not widely spoken in the country – but for the situation you described they may actually do a background check.

  130. Well, I can’t find another job and apparently I have everything wrong:
    – I have the CFA
    – I speak 4 European languages
    – Two master degrees
    – A 700 GMAT (needed for the English master)

    but nearly no network.

    Although I am CFA, I totally agree with this article. Instead of the CFA I could be yachtmaster and speak japanese (or learnt playing piano). It cost me a lot of time (despite never having to take any level twice) and still cost me £300 a year for annual membership. CFA is a terrible cash machine…for the CFA institute, not me!

    1. Avatar
      WhiteCoat

      Hey M&I,

      I’m making up my mind what kind of college I should attend after I finish med school (at 21 y/old).

      I’m based in Europe so there are no general colleges like in the US, but you really pick a quite specific field (like a masters in the US). Now what I’ve heard (from people not actually in IBanking but also in finance (London based)) is that the amount of people from math/engineering/physics backgrounds are on the rise at the cost of BA/economics/finance students.

      Could you comment on this?

      I’m now faced with a dilemma:
      – Attend brand name (Top 5~10 business school in Europe; #1 in country by FAAAAAR) Business Administration (BA) faculty
      – Take up technical physics/engineering
      One important thing to note is that the business college gives out high GPA way easier than technical physics etc.

      I would enjoy both, but the networking (yes you love this, I know) opportunity would definately be better for BA.

      Judging by my own logic I would pick BA at the top BSchool and finish with a ~4.0GPA/First Class Honours or whatever you want to call it (I think I can do this with some decent preparation).

      The downside of this BSchool is that banks don’t recruit here. That’s not because it’s a crappy school, but because there’s no/minor investment banking activity in my country. All of the other top firms (McKinsey, PWHC, Deloitte etc. etc.) for accounting/consulting DO recruit here.

      I could definately not do physics/math and score a 4.0GPA, since the Universities in the country I’m based in make tests so hard they’re assured at least 50% of attendees fails the test.

      1. I’m not sure I understand your question – if banks don’t recruit at your school, then your major won’t fix that. If you want to break into banking, the better option is to go to a business school / program elsewhere where banks do recruit. Physics / engineering can be helpful but more so in trading than banking… otherwise the risk of getting lower grades is too high.

        1. Avatar
          WhiteCoat

          I wasn’t to clear about the recruiting thing I guess.

          They do recruit here, it’s actually one of the top seeders for IB in Europe. I actually have a contact who went to school here and now works at Goldman.

          It’s just that they don’t come here actively like they would at Harvard in a “Hello please come work for us??” fashion. (Even that’s not entirely true because MS/GS/JPM/UBS etc. do have a special recruitment tour for high-flying students which have a pretty high yield)

          My question was whether I should pick Business at a target school or Physics/math/engineering at a non-target school with lower grades probably, but a higher “hardcore quant” value.

          (I was in doubt because I heard all these rumours from people inside finance (not IB but related) that there’s a shift going on in favour of “hardcore math/analytic” students)

          I think I kind of answered my own question. I’ll be going with the Business college because of the plus sides:

          + 4.0GPA/First Class Honours can be achieved by hard work
          + Strong international student body (70%)
          + Exchange projects with Wharton/SciencesPo/LSE/OxBridge
          + IB recruitment events

  131. Hi Brian,

    I’m actually enrolled in the CFA because long term I want to be in asset management. However it seems that students with IBanking internships are always given preference for interviews, so to that extent I have been pursuing IBanking internships. I have an interview coming up, and I wanted to know, will taking the CFA actually hurt my chances because it is on my resume and I may be asked about it. I was asked about it at a previous interview along the lines of ‘ If you get into Ibanking, are you still going to pursue the CFA’ and then I said ‘I would complete the first level since I have covered most of the material, and the financial accounting material is more advanced than what I have learned so far (Im an econ major), but I would not pursue it beyond that’. Is that a good reply? If I’m asked this question again how would you reply?

    Thanks

    1. A CFA won’t hurt your chances, but I wouldn’t talk about it much in an interview. Your response is ok but I would probably just say something like, “During my internship my priority would be working here – afterward if I had the time I would complete my studies and complete the material I had planned to finish.”

  132. Great site. I am addicted!

    I have 2 or so years left in an engineering PhD at a top school (MIT/Stanford). Although my scholarly output of patents and publications will be pretty competitive, I think I will miss out on the big-time faculty positions. With this in mind, I believe I have four options:

    1) Middle-tier faculty position. Crap for salary, but still very interesting work with supreme security after tenure review. Heaven help me if I miss tenure…
    2) Big Oil. ~100-200k. Little room for R&D engineers to advance.
    3) MBB.
    4) Finance. This is where you come in.

    My field is not as math-heavy as EE or CS, so most quant positions are probably out of the question. For whatever it is worth, I do have an interest in business and finance and the long hours would not be a shock as I already routinely pull 24hr workdays in the lab. Given that my remaining time in school is limited, should I put any effort at all in networking for finance positions or taking relevant classes? Or would my ROI be better if I focus all of my “sell-out” efforts on the more welcoming MBB advanced degree path. Thank you!

    1. It will be be tough getting into finance if you already almost have a Ph.D. – and if you do it at all, it will probably have to be in a quant role. I would start doing some networking now and see what the reaction is – you need a really, really good story about why you’re making the switch. They actually care more about your story vs. how good you are at math, because everyone from top schools is good at math.

  133. You mentioned informal internships, how would one land one? I’ve been asking everyone I know for any type of entry-level finance position but desired an IB position the most. I too thought about taking the CFA which brought me to this site.
    I graduated from Rutgers (Dec 08) with an Econ Degree. What really hurt me was that my GPA is low.
    What should I do to make my resume more appealing?

  134. I am in NY right now between jobs and have been looking for something productive to do during unemployment that will help me break into IB. A bit of background: Finance degree from a well-known state school with 3.5+ gpa, did Business Valuation at a Big 4 out of college for 1.5 years before getting laid off.

    Here are my thoughts:

    1. CFA Level 1 – Figured anything was better than nothing, but from your article it looks like it wouldn’t help with IB
    2. GMAT – Scores only last for 5 years, no idea when I’ll be going to b-school so I wanted to save this for when I have a better plan
    3. NYU SCPS – I’d be able to add a well-known school to my resume, but i’d probably be taking a Certificate program, which you mention is useless
    4. Modeling courses – I suppose the knowledge gained from these would help supplement the modeling I did in my Business Valuation group

    What do you think? Any other options?

    1. NYU is probably best, but not sure how helpful SCPS would be. Also consider finance/business organizations, starting a group yourself, traveling/volunteer work… all that is assuming you don’t want to “work” right now even at a small boutique.

      1. I do want to work; a small boutique would be fine for me. I’ve been gaining a bit of traction lately with interviews but I still want to start something on the side so that in case they all fall through, I will have something to show for myself.

        What would you recommend I pursue at NYU?

        1. Informal internship would be best (the one you’re already pursuing) but if you do NYU, think about either a Master’s program or maybe just 1-2 isolated classes if it’s possible… at least that way you could write NYU on your resume and have something to show for it. I’m not familiar with all the options at NYU but the only relevant ones are one-off classes unless you can commit to a Master’s program or something similar.

  135. Hello M&I:

    If I don’t have a finance background, and instead I have an ENG background (You may remember me from another Blog), but would deperately like to break into Finance to do M&A, IPOs, PEs, Hedge Funds, Corporate Banking, Investment Banking, Raise Capital, Venture Capitals and etc, will pursuing the MBA and CFA I & II help my chances at all?

    I mean I read your comments about CFAs, but for those without the work experience and educational background, CFA is something to show that I am dead serious about it, correct?

    Also, I spoke to a Hiring Manager of an Investment Bank at an MBA sessions, he said it’s critical to have the CFA if you want to make his shortlisted candidates for interviews, so I think CFA is a requirement. Please advise. Thanks.

    Regards,

    1. Hahaha that guy was clearly lying, HR at banks don’t know anything anyway.

      99% of bankers don’t even have the CFA, so how is that even possible?

      Rather than spending 500 hours studying for the CFA, why not get an informal internship or some type of other finance experience instead?

      Bankers value practical experience over all else.

      1. Thanks M&I, you’ve been very helpful…

        BUT wouldn’t CFA Level I help just to show I have the ‘heart’ and ‘ambition’ to break into this indutry? Would IB HRs look into or value that?

        Also, it’s good knowledge too, right? I mean if I pass CFA Level I & II, then it will show I am capable of doing the switch to Finance, will it?

        I understand you emphasized it several times that it’s the experience that they all and only care about, but I have no experience….

        Based on your advice, the only way that a person like me, with a different background and have already worked as an Engineer in the Public Sector for 5 years, the best bet is to:

        1. Do an MBA from a Top-tier B-school, concentrate on Finance
        2. Start in a small Boutique Bank
        3. Work my way up – CFA I,II & III or other specialized area such as I-banking, M&A, IPOs, Equity Sales, Capital Raise and such…

        So that seems to be the ONLY way……????
        THANKS

        1. Go ahead and do it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

          Here’s the thing: if you’ve already worked for 5 years it’s going to be a freaking hard getting into the industry no matter what you do. You basically need a top MBA at this point to have a shot.

          The reason is that banks want people who can be easily brainwashed / molded into working 100 hours per week, so they prefer naive students / recent graduates.

        2. Thanks M&I… you’ve been very helpful… and I value your advice… so please don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t trying to challenge you. I was just in doubt because my impression is that everybody in Corporate Finance / I-banking has the CFA, and if one wants to break in, you’ve to show interest and show you are desperate and you really, really want it… BUT… I was amazed when you said: banks want people who can be easily brainwashed / molded into working 100 hours per week, so they prefer naive students / recent graduates…. so with good grades, good b-school, and I show as a naive but hard-working student, it’s probably easier and worth a lot more than spending 500 hours to study… also, lots of networking and LUCK……

          I guess switching careers is not easy at all – like you said: I’ts freaking hard getting into the industry regardless…….. To be honest, I am a little upset and disappoiinted by what you said.. but honestly, Nothing is easy… if I want to make the dough, I’ve got to work hard no matter what………

          Again, thanks for your advice…

        3. Well, I don’t like to sugar-coat anything. I’m an incredibly blunt person, sometimes to the point of offending others.

          It’s not that you can’t break in – I am just being honest with you that it will be difficult, and that your best shot is a top MBA program.

        4. Avatar
          Kenneth So

          Thanks M&I… don’t get me wrong…. I appreciate your honesty and be incredibly blunt when answering these kinds of questions. I value your opinion and advice. You are exactly right, you shouldn’t sugar-coat anything. You are great at providing direct-to-point advice.

          I was disappointed and discourage BUT this is the truth like you said….. very difficult to break-in no matter what and best shot is Top MBA program….

          I’d rather listen to you instead of some MBA/CFA Marketeers out there and I end up wasting my time+money…

          Thanks again……

          Cheers,

  136. And of course thanks for your help and insights on all these matters

  137. Hey,

    Wanted to first say that I posted a while back about whether to accept an accounting offer from Rothstein Kass or go for the SA banking interviews. Followed your advice went for IB and got my top choice for SA at a top BB, which Im stoked about. So thank you for that

    My question now regards these designations discussed. I know that you said you would spend your time doing something else such as networking, however I have already landed the position that I want and am kinda playing the waiting game until the SA starts.

    I am in a Master of Accounting program and have already met the requirements for the CPA. Do you think it would be worth my time to take the CPA. Or do you think it would be worth my time to begin the CFA process. OR do you think it would be worth my time to do something like the WSP for OIl & Gas before I start.

    I currently have a light course load and will be graduating in December after the SA position, so I might not even be starting FT till June/July next year. This means that before starting full time I could either A) get the CPA done B) get CFA levels 1&2 done C) do A&B (not sure if I want to study that much) D) take the WSP oil/gas before my SA to make me better prepared E) spend my time reading about the oil & gas industry and maybe the PE/hedge fund players in the industry or F) relax and work on my golf game.

    I am curious to see what you recommend and do you think any of that stuff will help me later down the road for hedge fund/pe if I decide to go that route.

    1. I would recommend G) None of the Above to fill your time between graduating and starting work – see this article for more:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/full-time-investment-banking-offer-now-what/

  138. CFA post-
    Glad to have found this. My finance teacher who is a complete idiot is certain that the CFA is something I NEED in order to succeed in IBD.

  139. What if you had a PhD in finance from a top school? That would be worth it right?

  140. Hi, i have completed a Bsc in Mathematics ( which has allowed me to develop those hardcore analytical skills which employers seem to like) and am now studying for an Msc in Accounting and Finance, which covers all the main bases: Financial theory, investment management, accounting, international finance, corporate finance, ethics etc.

    Ive looked at the CFA program and it looks relatively similar to the above, so i think its relatvely pointless for me to do. I do though want to get into the finance profession and get onto a grad scheme, im thinking about doing ACA or ACCA accountancy as these seem to be sort after and applicable skills in all areas of finance. Do you think thats a good direction to go?

    1. Honestly I wouldn’t bother… getting into finance is all about work experience.

  141. Okay, so in the past week all the impressions I have had about where the CFA designation can take you…I am a CFA level II candidate with a law degree. So tell me in as simple words as possible, what areas of finance the CFA designation is most useful if not investment banking. I have been told that it is mainly structured for asset management and equity research. and looking at the curriculum, that makes sense.

    Also, would companies, favor a multi-disciplinary background. eg, qualified lawyer, with MA in International business (and MBA in Finance) coupled with the CFA candidature.

    1. CFA is most appropriate for portfolio management. Possibly applicable to asset management and equity research as well but not necessary.

      Your background would help somewhat, but again for banking the MBA is what really counts, not the CFA.

  142. I am a 30 year old African that is base in Europe and about to invest my life savings in the analyst exchange programme. I have an Engineering degree but did finance as minor, also skill in some analytical application like matlab, spss etc.

    I want to have your opinion of the anticipated move, wise or foolhardy?

    1. Um, I think putting your entire life savings into anything is a really bad idea. With your experience it’s difficult to move into banking without going to business school first.

  143. I was wondering whether the analyst exchange programme is good as for it offers you a guaranteed 4-week internship at a hedge fund/ private equity /venture capitalist.

    1. It’s a good program if you can afford it

  144. Avatar
    John Smith

    Hi, I’m fluent in Japanese, used to own a business, am graduating with a degree in Economics and worked a job for a year where I picked up Japanese girls on the street(I live in Tokyo) and talked them into visiting my club. There I seduced them into buying $5000 bottles of Cognac and $1200 bottles of champagne to drink with me – of which I made 35% profit from (sold $20k a month in booze working at a host club).

    After quitting this ‘male escort’ job, I’d like to ditch the marketing job I’ve been doing since then and become an investment banker when I graduate soon.

    Am I interesting enough? If so, I’ll accept interviews…

    1. Hahaha well I’d certainly interview you over some random nerd with no social skills.

  145. I have been networking with people at like 40 different banks, simply to ensure at the very least I have an analyst position at a small boutique when I graduate next year.

    It’s hard to keep track of all of these people and develop quality relationships, while making sure I ask for there help with something, have good conversations, and follow up appropriately.

    I’d assume the best way to keep track of everyone i talk to is with a spreadsheet, so can you give an example of how I’d set up this spreadsheet? Thanks

    1. I would keep it pretty basic and include name, email, position, last contact, “temperature” of the lead, and relevant facts in a separate column.

      One point is that it’s usually not worth following up / staying in touch with hundreds of people – I would focus on the ones that are most receptive, because otherwise it gets to be insane.

      Also keep in mind that you don’t need to follow-up THAT often… and try to make it as specific as possible when you do.

      These points will be covered in more detail in a Networking guide being released next month.

  146. Hey, love the site.

    Was looking for a bit of advice. I came out of college and didn’t know what I wanted to do so took a job in Finance at a CPG firm (More of a marketing/finance role but also a Fortune 50 co.). Part of the reason was I was trying to become a professional poker player but didn’t pan out.

    I recently moved into a Credit Analyst at the CPG firm and now want to get into banking. If I went back to school after 2 years as a Credit Analyst, do I have a decent chance at getting into I-Banking or would I best be served trying to get a new job in banking and then going back? Thanks for any advice

    1. I think that’s a good background to get in with after business school – I would probably try to do something at a bank in the summer before you go first, though.

      1. Thanks for the thought. Very well done site!

  147. Avatar
    Rising senior

    I have been networking with all sorts of people at the bulge brackets in New York. Since I am going out to New York to meet people in a month, someone at one of these banks told me that I should make my meetings there my ‘final interview’. Bulge brackets in NY are not coming on campus. They said I should directly ask for a phone interview and if they like me then do my final interview conveniently while I’m out there. ‘The easier you make it for them to hire you the better’.

    That being said, who has the authority to give a phone interview and how would that get set up. If I’m talking to a VP in a certain group and an analyst in another, how do I get a firmwide 1st round phone interview, without being overeager about it. Since I already have an internship now it should be easier. I’ve developed a lot of contacts at these banks- I just want to make sure something happens considering they aren’t coming on campus. Can you give me some clear guidelines on exactly what I should be saying if I want this to pan out?

    1. I would follow-up with them and say, “I wanted to reiterate my interest and see how I could best position myself for an interview with your firm.” and make the ask very directly – this is fine as long as you know them.

      I would go to the VP rather than the Analyst if you want interviews – there’s no telling whether or not you can go from phone interview to final interview, but the key is follow-up every 3-5 days, especially since you’re so close to recruiting right now.

      1. Avatar
        Rising senior

        Since analyst recruiting outside the summer program is less common, is the process much more formal than summer analysts (at NY BB)?

        SA’s will get offers this week and I’m sure if some don’t accept they will know of openings in the next few weeks. Is there a chance I could get an analyst offer while I’m in New York in September, even though most recruiting usually gets done in Oct/Nov? Since it will be so limited, I figure it might be informal but is this reasonable considering the bureaucracy of a BB?

        1. Yes I would just push for accelerated interviews and say you have a deadline – they know how it works. And in that kind of situation you don’t need to follow the formal recruiting process.

  148. Avatar
    Summer Analyst

    Just a general response to people’s comments (one’s that are disagreeing with some of the things on this article):

    I think what most people are missing here is that what M&I is recommending is sort of like how you would do your work in ibanking.

    Of course it’s great to have CFA, CPA, PhD in some rocket science, 100% in GMAT, or what have you, but in terms of time/effort/efficiency (which is the three key things you should look at while tackling any type of work in banking) there are smaller/better things you can be doing to improve the chances of getting an interview/offer.

    Getting into banking is not so much about listing/telling a laundry list of things you can do outside of ibanking work (again: monkey business), but showing them that you pass the basic requirements (attending/graduating a decent university with a decent GPA) and that you are healthy enough of a monkey (personality-wise, work ethic wise, knowledge-wise) to work enough hours and produce generally error-free work. You just have to push the right buttons to get in. And, like M&I is trying to say, showing them that you can do a LOT of OTHER things is really for undergrad admissions, not ibanking.

    1. Well said.

      That’s what people don’t get: TIME is a scarce resource, and is more valuable than money because you can never get more time.

      So yes, the CFA might help you somewhat… but could you use those 500+ hours for something more productive? Of course.

      BTW, I’m actually glad so many people got pissed: being boring would be FAR worse.

      1. Brian,

        What you fail to realize is that most HF’s love the CFA designation. In fact 12% of CIO for Long-biased funds are CFA charterholders.

        TIME is a very scarce resource, but if you choose to go into investment banking, then you have chosen to not value your time. I work for a $270MM fund here in NY, and came from a BB bank here in town, and I cannot emphasize enough how impressive it is to see a kid who passed his level 1 or 2 of the CFA, while in school or IB.

        I think if you are busting out OVER 80 hours per week, then you could probably use the study time to sleep, or go out, but if you work LESS than 80 hours per week, I think the CFA is invaluable. But…I am biased.

        1. a) Most people reading this are not interested in going to hedge funds directly – they’re doing banking first.

          b) Yes it may help, but let’s be honest: getting into a top bank helps and doing a 2-year analyst program helps a lot more. CFA is only useful if added to already-impressive experience.

          c) Maybe at the C-level it is helpful, but you certainly don’t need it to get into top hedge funds, or any hedge funds for that matter.

          d) I value my time highly, that’s why I left IB and now have a better income and lifestyle than 99.9% of the world. :)

        2. LMAO…so many people here love the CFA.

          But you make excellent points about how to invest time, a non-renewable commodity.

          How people choose to invest it depends 100% on their career goals. I think it’s best left at that.

  149. Avatar
    Summer Analyst

    lol. PhD in quantum physics… Folks who ask that question clearly don’t know what ibanking means for juniors.

    It’s literally monkey business! Let me highlight the monkey part again…

    1. SHHHH don’t tell anyone!

      1. Avatar
        Summer Analyst

        And for seniors… it’s orangutan business… They just graduated from being a monkey to a chief orangutan. In finance, there’s always going to be a ladder of monkeys crapping at monkeys below you. Even the MD you meet at your last internship with a $4,000 suit (that you looked up to) has to go out and beg for deals.

  150. Hi Brian – Awesome article, as per usual!

    Just finished my trading internship at an asset management firm not too long ago and thanks to your awesome tips on internships and networking, I was able to land a return offer for another internship at a macro-hedge fund in the firm. I’m surprised I got the offer since they typically intern only MBA’s, not undergrads (where I’m at). Thanks again!

    1. Congrats, glad to hear

  151. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for your article. I was wondering if you could give me some pointers on the ‘Why FIG’ question.

    Also, are valuation methods different for banks as compared to other industries.

    Thanks.

    1. Why FIG: very dynamic right now given consolidation / bankruptcies etc., good place to learn a lot of very specific skills since valuation/modeling is different for fin. institutions, also say something about the people there.

      Yes, valuation is different: you use P/E and P/BV rather than EV/Revenue, EV/EBITDA and you use dividend discount model rather than a DCF. This is all because Interest is a crucial part of banks’ revenue, so you need to approach valuation differently and make sure you actually include it.

  152. Hi Brian,
    Ok. So I am non-target with no banking experience. I just got an interview with a bulge bracket for a full time position. I have been networking my ass off but didn’t really expect anything this early (actually I didn’t expect anything at all).

    I know this is incredibly speculative, but given the fact that I have an interview, am I now on the same footing as everyone else(if we ignore the non-target thing)?

    Also, is it a good idea to tell HR’s at other banks that I have an interview(I am going on informationals with these other HR’s).

    Thanks.

    PS: I still can’t figure out how/why I got the interview (not that I am complaining)

    1. Yes, once you’re in an interview it’s all up to you, the same as everyone else.

      I would not tell HR that you’re going through interviews unless they specifically ask… more helpful to bring up in actual real interviews with other banks.

  153. Avatar
    Analyst wannabe

    If I’m talking to boutiques that specialize in a certain industry, what if I research information on each industry before speaking with them and then act like it’s ‘the’ industry I am passionate about. Can this backfire?

    1. It can backfire if you don’t know what you’re talking about… so I’d make sure the research is thorough

  154. I generally think your site is great, however, I think you got the CFA thing completely wrong. When I was recruiting for PE jobs, they were very impressed that I passed the Level I WHILE IN BANKING. I would definetely give an edge to who ever is studying for the CFA over someone else.

    Also, the FSA part of the CFA is VERY RELEVANT to M&A modeling.

    1. I think you’re completely missing the point of what I said:

      We’re talking about the best way to use TIME here… time is the most limited resource.

      If you’re trying to get into PE, do you spend hundreds of hours studying for the CFA, or do you use that time to network with people in PE instead?

      Unless you just happen to have connections everywhere, I would say network every time.

      Yes, there are a lot of things that may help you and passing the CFA while in banking is impressive – but is it worth the hundreds of hours that you spend studying for it?

  155. Agreed with most of what you said.

    Add:

    – Varsity athlete. Especially if in an Ivy League. Why? because these kids work pretty hard, have to deal with hours of practice everyday… and lose games all the time = they learn to deal with shit. Shit happens a lot in banking.

    – International experience. Top banks are filled with foreign nationals, and these guys will go crazy if they see the resume of one of their countrymen, or if you’ve dealt with his/her country (internship, study abroad), even if he has an average GPA. Top bankers who want to stick around and go MD/Partner track usually rotate through 2-3 international offices before coming home. Stress: language and international experience.

    Disagree:

    – Modelling. I was on the recruiting panel for my school. Modelling class was not a deciding factor of course, but it shows that the kid planned to go in the banking direction, especially if he’s a non-finance major.

    – GMAT: if you got an 800 or smth a bit below, put it. It’s still impressive.

    1. Right, but we’re referring to last-minute additions here… if you’ve already had varsity athletic experience, a modeling course, or the GMAT, sure you an add them in and they may help (more so with #1 than the rest).

      But trying to do any of those things at the last-minute is both marginally helpful at best and impractical at the very least… not a good use of time to study for the GMAT just to make your resume look more more impressive

  156. I’m a proud veteran of the U.S. Marines and now I give back to the military by volunteering at the VA hospital (1000+ hrs), expecting 5,000 hrs evenings and weekends (demonstrating banking hours) before finishing my undergrad at a private regional. I’m on a Technology Committee of the CFA Society (practicing YOUR networking STRATEGY). My GMAT practice scores are good enough. (My internship for my jr and sr years is accounting though).

    STRENGTH: I’m in a unique situation insulated from the economy in which I expect to launch and manage my own ETF (fund) before finishing my undergrad and apply to the top 20 MBA’s. After I launch my ETF, I plan to regularly attend high-price networking events in Manhattan.

    QUESTIONS: Will launching and managing my own ETF (or mutual fund) thru the SEC and tax regulations differentiate me from the herd of aspiring bankers? I’m not going for the entire CFA designation, but will passing CFA level I help me get into a top end MBA?

    Thank you for taking a moment to reply. I highly appreciate how busy you are and your vast experience on the subject.

    With warm regards,

    D.

    1. CFA does not really help with MBA admissions, but managing the ETF will help set you apart. There are quite a few ex-military people in finance, but these days competition is tough unless you have some kind of previous finance experience… too many laid off bankers going back to school.

    2. There’s no secret: if you have a friend at the bank from the same school as you, he can get you in. If you don’t know people, try to network not by going to some NYC event, but call up your friends, family, is anybody an analyst or asociate at a bank? You gotta have that link between you and him/her, an NYC event will not give you that. I was part of the recruiting team for my school, if someone said “I know him he’s a good guy” that was an automatic interview. Work towards that.

  157. If I email bankers at other firms about analyst programs while I’m in the office, will the bankers I’m emailing realize I sent it at 3pm and think “he must be slacking on the job for sending emails like this.”

    I’m worried banks will realize I’m emailing them and calling them while I’m in the office and this could reflect poorly on me. What should I do?

    1. I would try to send it through Gmail if possible, if not just go through your work account… I don’t think emailing in the middle of the day matters and they won’t think anything of it

  158. Will it help me get an interview if I put CFA on my resume?

    (just kidding, sorry heh)

    I’m really glad I read this post just now. I definitely need to make a ton of adjustments to my resume. Thanks!

    Also, I’ve beent thinking about doing an i-banking internship in the spring instead of the traditional summer program. I first got this idea when I saw that JPMorgan has a spring internship opportunity, from January to March. Do you know if any other major banks have these kind of spring opportunities, or where I could find them if they do? I’m also keeping in mind that this might not be the most realistic idea…

    I already know that I can find out more during on-campus information sessions, but I’d like to try to get a head start before I return to school this fall. A spring internship would work out much better for me than a summer one for next year.

    1. I think some other places do, I would just check on their websites or ask around… don’t think there’s a comprehensive list.

  159. Hi,

    This is out of topic but I would like to know what your view is on the exit opportunities for a career in Loan Syndication under an investment bank? Does it provide a good stepping path for mba/private equity careers in the long term?

    thanks.

    1. Assuming you have to do at least some debt modeling / LBO type models and can therefore make it look appealing to PE, yes, it’s a good option… for business school honestly they pretty much think all bankers look the same so it doesn’t matter too much which field you’re in.

  160. Is study abroad experience something one would work into an interview, or something to be included in a resume (where would it fit)?

    1. Both, on resume put it under education

  161. I know it’s not your specialty but what about CFA in for IB in Canada? I remember reading that there is a disproportionate amount of CFA/candidates in Canadian finance.

    If anyone is in the position of having the chance to join an student managed investment fund, look up their history a little. The alumni from the fund at my school (non-target) turned out to be great contacts that broke in firms like UBS, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, etc

    1. I still don’t think it makes much of a difference… it’s definitely not a requirement or even particularly helpful. Not sure why there are so many in Canada.

      Yes, student funds can be good for networking but they don’t help you stand out much in resume selection

  162. I know it’s not your specialty but what about CFA in for IB in Canada? I remember reading that there is a disproportionate amount of CFA/candidates in Canadian finance.

  163. Hey, couple things, should I comment the most recent post or where its relevant? I never know how new/old a post is.

    Should I put a 1340 SAT on my resume? I never considered it. I figure most competition from top 20/ivies have at least a 1340. But that may be above average for my school. Do I need activities & interests on top of 2 student org positions?

    Also, Im going to be a sophomore in the fall. I have had two internships but still have my year as a bus boy on my resume, is that okay? I feel like I should have more than two summers worth of work exp on my resume, and I dont have too much else to put. Plus its a hard working job.

    Love the site, Thanks!

    1. I would only include SAT scores over 1400

      I don’t think you need to list a ton of activities/interests on top of 2 other positions

      Bus boy is ok but I would spend most of your space on the 2 internships

  164. How do bankers view management consulting experience when they screen for SA positions? Is it better than accounting or wealth management?

    1. Yes definitely better than accounting and probably better than wealth management too

      1. Why is wealth management / investment consulting regarded relatively lowly?

        1. Not sure exactly why, but I think mostly because the pay/exit opportunities are not the same as banking or consulting…

        2. Right, I can see why most people regard it relatively lowly because of those reasons, but I mean prospective employers in I-banking? For I-banking, you can’t get much better than having an I-banking internship, but I’m just confused as to why a WM / Investment consulting internship wouldn’t be regarded as highly as a management consulting internship?

        3. Partially, it’s because consulting internships are usually harder to get than WM / investment consulting ones… so they assume you must have been more qualified in the first place.

          Honestly I would not dwell on this, what’s done is done, focus on how you can spin it to look better in the future…

  165. Avatar
    Anonymous

    “Think about how much networking you could do in that same amount of time: let’s conservatively assume 200 hours of study time for the CFA. ”

    That statement 1) shows how ignorant you are & 2) somehow manages to state your case.

    Most people in banking don’t have the designation and therefore don’t understand it and don’t value it. You’re also right that Bankers just need to bang out pitchbooks and play with models. CFA goes way above the skills needed to be an IB Analyst.

    1. Most people that read this website want to get into I-banking.

      If, as you agree, CFA goes way above the skills of an IB analyst, then you DON’T need the CFA to be in banking. That is not to say that the CFA is not important, it just not important for banking. Therefore, your time is better spent netowrking (which WILL help you get into banking) as opposed to studying for the CFA (which WON’T).

      Cheers,

      J

    2. What J said… you can spend 5,000 hours studying for the CFA and get all the designations you want, but it’s still not going to help you get into banking.

      Most people reading this site have no interest in portfolio management or anything “beyond the skills needed to be an IB Analyst” because in the real world, that’s where most of the pay/advancement opportunities lie.

      And yes, I’m aware that you need more than 200 hours to study for all the levels, which is why I said “conservatively” under the assumption you were just studying for one level and already knew something…

      1. If portfolio and investment management offers the most pay and advancement opportunities lie, why would someone NOT want a CFA? Did I misread your statement? Sorry for the stupid question…

        Disclaimer: I do want to get into the asset/portfolio management part of finance, so the CFA does matter for my future career path.

        But I would agree that getting a CFA designation does nothing for an aspiring banker.

        1. I meant the opposite – that IB is where the pay/advancement lies, so most are not as concerned with other fields.

          There’s a TON of misinformation about the CFA so I really wanted to clarify it… just because something is expensive / time-consuming doesn’t make it useful.

        2. Oh, OK…

          thanks for the clarification.

          But I was under the impression that after a 2-year analyst stint, people left to secure a buyside position (PE/HF), which typically pays more (from what I’ve seen). Do these opportunities not offer potential for more pay and advancement than IB? Or does it just depend on the firm?

        3. Right, I was grouping IB/PE/HF all together because the structure/advancement etc. is very similar and saying that asset/wealth management was somewhat different. It’s really difficult to say which field specifically pays more/less because the higher you go up, the more variable it is – especially at hedge funds, which have been known to collapse…

        4. Ahhhh, yes…I see now.

          Thanks!

          But I think that those out there should know that if they plan to switch to a primarily equity-focused hedge fund (i.e., long-only, long/short) after their analyst stint or after their undergrad/grad, the CFA does have its advantages. Hedge fund investors in particular seem to like seeing “CFA” after at least one person’s name on the PM team. Haven’t seen as much emphasis on CFA in PE, though unsure if it’s something to do with the field or the particular funds I’ve come across.

        5. There are a lot of things that could help you… yes, the CFA helps more than it hurts, but we’re talking about marginal benefit here.

          Would you rather spend 500 hours networking, or 500 hours studying for the CFA?

          It may be more helpful with hedge funds, but it’s just not worth the time commitment unless already have to take it for some reason.

  166. Brian,

    I am an undergraduate and I have been trading with my own money for a few years in a brokerage account that I set up in high school. Should I include this in my resume, under interests or hobbies, or would the interviewer think I was making it up? Thanks for your help.

    1. I would include it but be careful what you say because overly bold claims may backfire on you

  167. My focus has always been on gaining work experience, networking, and becoming interesting. I suspected that certifications and activities could fall into the resume padding category, but is this also applicable to the “technical skills” portion on an a resume?

    I am in no way thinking that technical skills will ever compensate for the lack of a brand name education, solid work experience, or killer connections. If you really do have technical skills shouldn’t you just be working in the IT department. Aren’t the skills of a banker pretty much limited to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Access at best?

    Given two hypothetically identical candidates with the exception of Candidate A being more interesting, and Candidate B knowing VBA, PHP, SQL, Hyperion… … … would Candidate A still win out and be welcome by a staff more than willing to teach him/her the technical skills that they currently lack?

    1. You never need to use VBA, PHP, SQL, Hyperion, or anything “technical” in banking – they really don’t care either way, so I think Candidate A would definitely win out

  168. Avatar
    Anonymouse

    Brian,

    I’m an undergraduate physics and math double, although I’m not planning to get a PhD. I realize you don’t need amazing math skills to do the IB work like you said, but truth be told, you don’t need a 4.0 to do the work either – but it helps a lot to get in.
    That said, I still haven’t been able to hear from anyone inside IB how bankers view a physics/math double compared to, say, a finance/business major. Do you think it could give me an edge, and knowing how bankers think, how would you go about leveraging it? I really appreciate your insights.

    1. They understand that your major is more difficult, but I don’t think it would give you much of an edge – the increased difficulty is counter-balanced by them possibly worrying about how much you know about finance

  169. M&I,

    I networked my way into an informational interview with the corporate banking side of a JP Morgan/Wells Fargo/Bank of America/Bank of New York banking division. During the Q&A the head recruiter mentioned their may be room in their IB division and also Sales and Trading that may have some openings in the Spring.

    How do I approach him about these other jobs with out sound like a flake (i.e. appearing to want any job they offered me)? He told me to call him in October, but do I say I’m interested in anything you have openings for?

    -Summer IB Intern

    1. “I wanted to find out how I could best position myself to interview for the investment banking opportunity you mentioned was available when we last spoke”

      Assume it’s there and that they will give it to you… obviously should be longer than this but that is the gist

  170. Studying abroad should be *required* imo. It was such an eye-opening experience for me and I don’t regret having gone at all. I’ve talked about my study abroad experience in Australia a few times during my interviews, but that should not be the only reason for people to go abroad.

    1. Yeah definitely agree on that one

  171. Hi Brian,
    So if I have taken a financial modeling course, do you suggest I take it out (I am a non-fianance major)?

    Thanks for the articles.

    1. You can leave it in, my only point was that merely by listing a course on your resume you won’t get into Goldman Sachs

      I get so much email about this it’s crazy, people somehow think that ordering a course will guarantee an instant $200K per year job

      1. ha ha ha. Yea, I definitely don’t think that.

        I was actually considering leaving it out just to not get any really difficult questions on it. I mean, I did take the course, but that doesn’t teach me everything I will ever need to know about modeling.

        Do you think I should leave it on and try to explain that it was basic stuff in the interviews or should I just not take the risk?

        Thanks.

        1. You can leave it on but I would just list the name rather than giving a long description of what you did

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