by Brian DeChesare Comments (52)

So, What Should You Do at Investment Banking Summer Training Besides Getting Wasted Each Night?

So, What Should You Do at Investment Banking Summer Training Besides Getting Wasted Each Night?

You’ve just been through a warzone to get your offer: 53 interviews, 3 weekend trips to New York, and so much time spent staring at Excel that you’ve developed a monitor tan.

But things worked out, you accepted your offer, and you’re about to start work in 2 weeks.

You just need to make it through the training program first.

But that should be the easiest part of the entire process, right? Right?

Does This Really Matter?

When I first got questions about training programs, I was confused: it seemed like a topic that didn’t warrant much advice.

“It would be about as stimulating as all those suggestions over the years to create a recommended reading list,” I thought.

But then I sat down to think about it in more detail and started asking around, and realized that there might be some important and not-so-obvious points to make.

Why Training Programs?

They’re a combination of marketing and education: banks pride themselves on offering “the best investment banking training” – even though banks use the same companies to train you – and they want to get people from non-finance backgrounds up to speed quickly.

Beyond just teaching you about accounting, valuation, and finance, lots of banks bring in speakers from different groups and use them to introduce you to their culture and how things work.

For some inexplicable reason, a few banks really like to tout their training programs and use them as a selling point when interviewing candidates, which might just be the strangest recruiting tactic ever.

No one joins Goldman Sachs because their training program is so great – they join because of the name “Goldman Sachs.” Their training program could disappear tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter.

The “education” from these programs is most helpful if you’re not from a finance background.

You will indeed have a tough time at first if you know little about accounting, valuation, and finance – but then it would also be difficult to get an offer these days without knowing those topics to begin with.

Even if you are completely new to finance, training programs are still not that helpful because different groups have different standards and it can be hard to focus when everyone is talking to each other and chatting online.

So don’t stress too much over all the content – there are more pressing concerns during training, beyond just getting enough bottles every night.

What is a “Training Program”?

Right before you start working, the bank will fly you and all the other incoming analysts and associates to New York or London (or wherever your bank is based) and spend 1-2 months “training” you.

Translation: You get to spend each weekday in a crowded room learning all about Excel, accounting, valuation, and finance from outside training firms and occasionally internal speakers from the bank.

You follow along on your screen as they instruct you, and you keep Facebook and Gmail open so you can chat with everyone else about how bored you are and how the instructor has a receding hairline.

You may also get tests and case studies to complete, and group exercises similar to what you find at assessment centers. And then there are those fun standardized tests you have to pass – the Series 7 and 63 back in the day, and the Series 79 in recent times.

Sometimes banks also determine group selection during training, but most of the time it happens well before that – either at your sell day, or as part of the interview process itself.

You’re not working banking hours during this time – weekends are mostly free and you rarely stay late at night, which is the first and last time that will happen as long as you work in the industry.

If you’re going into an internship rather than a full-time job, you’ll get just a week-long crash-course rather than the 1-2 months that full-timers get.

Many boutique banks don’t offer training programs at all because it’s beyond their budget – you’re also not likely to go through training at private equity firms or hedge funds, because they’re small and they expect you to know everything you need once you start working.

If you’re going into sales & trading or another non-IB area at a bank, you’ll probably have some type of training as well but the material will be different and it might be shorter.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the 2 most important words in everything I’ve written above are “crowded room.”

If you’re not meeting other people and networking during training, you’re wasting your time.

So How Do You Approach Training?

Ask most bankers about what to do during your training program, and you’ll get 1 of 2 responses:

  1. “Just get drunk every night! Party! It’s the best part of the analyst/associate program.”
  2. “Study hard and take all the homework assignments and case studies seriously! Oh, and if you don’t pass those exams, you’re screwed.” (This one usually comes from students who aren’t even in the industry yet)

Neither one of these is quite right.

On #1, yes, you should go out and have fun since this will be one of your last chances to do so in the next few years.

But you need to be strategic about how you do it and also make sure you meet the right people in the process.

On #2, despite rumors to the contrary, most of the work they give you does not matter that much. Just do reasonably well and pass what you need to pass – it’s almost irrelevant next to your deal experience in your first year.

But I Heard This Person Got Kicked Out for Slacking Off!!!

Most of these rumors are greatly exaggerated. Yes, if you do something incredibly stupid – kidnap the Managing Director’s son, start drinking at work, etc. – you might be removed from training, but that hardly ever happens.

If you already have your group placement, homework assignments and tests during training aren’t important – the senior bankers at your office don’t have time to read the details of what you did and then change your group based on that.

If you’re really concerned about not knowing enough or being disadvantaged next to everyone else there, learn some material before training starts.

If you’re reading this site you’re probably a Type-A overachiever anyway, so you’ve already signed up for modeling courses before you even got interviews.

Just dust those off and start going through all the material and you can doze off during training and still do well.

What About the Series 7, 63, and 79 Exams?

These are actually important to pass because some banks won’t let you start working for real until you’ve cleared the exams.

They’re horribly boring and you’ll forget everything you learned in about 2 days, but you need to pass them anyway.

I’m never going to produce a course on these because they’re too boring even for me – but I’ve heard that the Knopman materials are good.

Do not underestimate these exams because they are more difficult than you initially think.

There’s a lot of rote memorization (certain questions will give you choices of 5 days, 10 days, 15 days, or 20 days and you just have to know which one is correct), and it’s hard to cram and learn everything in a few days.

So yeah, make sure you pass these – but don’t spend every waking moment studying at the expense of networking.

OK, So Then What About Networking – What Do You Mean by “Make Sure You Meet the Right People”?

Going out and getting bottles every night is almost a good idea, but there are a few problems:

  1. You won’t have much money yet since you just started and may not even get a paycheck until training ends.
  2. It’s more helpful to know people in different offices and different groups instead of always hanging out with the same crowd.

Let’s say it’s 2 AM, you’re working on a pitch book for an industrials company, and you need to include a case study of a deal the Chicago office did but you don’t know where the files are.

If you don’t know anyone there, you’d be screwed – yes, you could just email the entire office and ask for someone to help you, but everyone is busy with their own fire drills and deadlines so they may ignore you.

But if someone sees your name and recognizes you from training, you’re in much better shape and you might actually get the answer you need.

It’s almost impossible to get to know people from every group and every office, so focus on 5-10 analysts/associates.

Get some geographic diversity (if you’re in the US, know people in a few different cities and also a few in Europe and Asia) and industry diversity (if you’re in an M&A group, get to know people in industry groups and also ECM and DCM).

Doing this is not difficult and I would feel silly writing a “guide.”

Each day there are plenty of breaks, and most banks throw lots of events and parties during training – take advantage of these and go up to meet new people there.

Just think of it as a big information session, only without seasoned bankers. And it’s even easier than information sessions because you have an enforced time limit and everyone else is new and wants to meet others.

Does It Really Help?

The main problem is the high turnover rate in finance – by the end of your first year, at least 50% of your incoming analysts/associates will be gone.

So it won’t help you forever, but it doesn’t matter too much because your first year is the most critical anyway – do well at first and you’ll get better work and better exit opportunities, and do poorly at first and you’ll get the MDs laughing at you and bottom-tier bonus.

During training, I made the mistake of constantly going out with the same group of people and not getting to know others.

Things still turned out OK (see: this site), but there were quite a few times when it would have been helpful to know people in different groups.

It’s not a question of life-or-death, but it will save you some headaches and possibly let you get 6 hours of sleep rather than 4 hours – at least on some nights.

In Short…

So do what you need to pass everything and learn the material, but don’t take any of it too seriously at the expense of meeting other people.

If you’re concerned about not knowing enough when you start working, start preparing beforehand and learn as much as possible from classes or training programs.

And make sure you find out about your office and who makes decisions there before you start working as well.

Get to know 5-10 people well so you have contacts in other groups and other geographies when you need something and no one else in your office can help.

It’s tempting to befriend only the incoming bankers in your own office or your own group, but that defeats the purpose of training: you want to spread your net wide and meet people from all over.

And if you’re already doing all this and you know accounting, valuation, and finance like the back of your hand, have some fun and try to show up for training every day without passing out on your desk – they might actually notice that, especially if you’re in the front row.

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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by Brian DeChesare Comments (33)

The Don Draper Guide to Investment Banking

The Don Draper Guide to Investment BankingA few years ago some banker friends and I were thinking about creating a TV show.

Entourage meets The Office: all the glamor of movie stars and the celebrity lifestyle, but in cubicles rather than Hollywood.

But the outside world has never hated Wall Street more, and post-financial crisis there’s no way a drama like this could ever take off.

Plus, there’s another small problem: it would be impossible to make a show more awesome than Mad Men.

Don’t believe me?

Here are all the lessons you could learn from Don Draper himself:

1. Have a Great Name

You cannot underestimate the importance of having a name that rolls off the tongue: “Don Draper” is 100x better than “Dick Whitman,” so it’s no wonder that Don assumed someone else’s identity.

You’re judged on your name just like you’re judged on your appearance: so if your name sucks, change it or come up with a nickname or shortened version that’s easier to pronounce (just make sure it’s done officially so you can handle those pesky background checks).

Some people succeed without great names, but why take the chance?

2. Don’t Hook Up with Co-Workers

While Don has had dozens of affairs, up until season 4 he never crossed the hook-up-with-co-workers line.

And when he finally did cross the line, he hit rock-bottom and found himself more adrift than ever before.

You’re required to have affairs and random flings if you’re in finance – just make sure they’re not with co-workers or things will head south very quickly once it ends.

3. If You Do Hook Up With Co-Workers, Don’t Take the Marriage Seriously

So you just had a random fling with your secretary, suddenly decided that you’re in love, and proposed during a trip to California?

If Don can do it, you can too.

Remember that you cycle through wives or husbands approximately every 2 years in finance, so it’s perfectly fine.

With the amount of money you’ll make, alimony is almost an afterthought anyway.

4. Don’t Take Your Employment Contract Seriously, Either

Don didn’t even have a contract with Sterling Cooper until everyone realized he needed one, midway through season 3.

And even when he “signed” it, he didn’t use his real name and then broke the contract to leave and start his own firm anyway.

The role of contracts in investment banking is similar: they’re just a formality.

You could be fired at any time, or you could quit as soon as you find a better offer elsewhere – so have fun playing the field.

5. Take 4-Hour, 3-Martini Lunches

Has Don ever not gotten a hotel room with his mistress-of-the-moment after a 3-martini lunch?

You think you have to be available for clients and senior bankers 24/7, and that’s usually true…

…except for when you get that buy-side offer and are on your way out the door anyway.

Remember that no one cares about you at a bank: especially when you’re about to move on anyway, do the bare minimum to get paid and slack off as much as possible.

4 hours may seem like a long time for lunch, but if you’re leaving anyway and all the senior bankers are gone, who would notice?

6. If Conrad Hilton Calls You at 11 PM, Do Whatever He Says

And no, not just because his great-granddaughter is Paris Hilton.

If you have a high-maintenance client who’s worth millions of dollars and demands to speak to you 24/7, you better do whatever he says.

That includes getting his dry cleaning, dressing up as a clown at his kid’s birthday party, redecorating his house, and meeting him in the middle of the night just because he’s bored.

Remember, clients and work come before everything else – even if your wife is about to divorce you and your kids don’t remember who you are.

7. Exploit Loopholes for Personal Gain

So you just found out that your own firm is being acquired by a much larger company and you’d never want to work there.

Simple solution: just do what Don did and gather up everyone important and fire yourselves before the transaction goes through.

If your bank is actually getting acquired, the acquiring bank is smart enough to prevent that specific scenario with the reps and warranties in the definitive agreement

…But there are always other loopholes you can exploit.

Send out emails late at night to feign busyness, work hard during your first and last month and slack off the rest of the time – do whatever it takes to get top-tier bonus.

8. Keep Stacks of Alcohol in Your Cubicle

Bankers may not drink alcohol out in the open anymore like advertising guys did in the 60s, but if you work 100 hours a week you’re going to need alcohol and drugs – ideally cocaine – at some point.

Rather than running out to buy overpriced bottles constantly, keep a stash hidden away in your cubicle.

Once the support staff and senior bankers are gone, you have free reign to do whatever you want.

So if it’s 3 AM and your balance sheet isn’t balancing, just pull out your Jack, take a swig, and hope for a moment of clarity.

9. Don’t Lie on Background Check Forms

Don gets away with assuming someone else’s identity for years, but it finally catches up with him in season 4 as North American Aviation, a new client, demands background checks on everyone so they can receive security clearances.

And if you’ve been lying about your identity for years, background checks are the last thing you want to think about – so Don forces his company to drop the client.

You might think that’s bad – but if you lie on your own background check forms, something much worse will happen: you’ll get your offer rescinded and you might even have your career destroyed with the right chain reaction of forwarded emails.

10. Think on Your Feet

So the government has started telling everyone that cigarettes kill you – and your top client is Lucky Strike.

They put you on the spot in front of everyone else and ask you how to address these claims and market the product.

Simple solution: avoid the issue altogether. “It’s toasted.” – everyone else’s tobacco is poisonous, but yours is special.

Remember that investment banking is a sales job: it’s less about analysis and more about selling, relationships, and thinking quickly.

Even as an analyst you’ll be put on the spot all the time when your MD or VP ask about your work or for specific numbers – so you better be prepared.

11. If You Get Arrested for Drunk Driving, Get Your Most Trusted Friend to Bail You Out

After indulging in alcohol yet again, Don finds himself in a wrecked car and in police custody along with his “female companion” of the moment.

So he does what any reasonable businessman would do: he calls Peggy, the one person he can trust to bail him out without telling anyone else at Sterling Cooper.

You should also have a “designated friend” to bail you out, because you’ll probably be arrested for drugs or alcohol at least a few times.

Just make sure it happens after you’ve already gone through background checks.

Got Don?

While you don’t want to follow everything Don does (e.g. sending a major announcement about your firm to the NY Times without consulting anyone else first), you can pick up a lot from him.

Advertising in the 1960s was just like finance in the 2000s: the most prestigious and highest-paying industry.

And if Don were in business today, he’d surely be a Partner at a bank or PE firm – so watch Mad Men and take notes the whole time.

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

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by Brian DeChesare Comments (54)

Investment Banking: Italy Edition

Investment Banking: Italy EditionContinuing our series on finance in different regions of the world, today we go to Italy and hear from a reader who completed an MBA program there and then had an internship this past summer at a local Italian investment bank.

We cover a broad set of topics, including how he decided to study in Europe, how he applied and got into a top MBA program there, and then how he used that experience to land his banking internship.

He also had some very interesting thoughts on networking, especially when you’re going for international positions – something on many of your minds these days.

This interview turned out to be quite long (over 3,000 words), but it’s full of insight so I decided to keep the entire transcript intact.

1. Walk us through your resume.

I grew up in the Midwest of the US and completed a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from a state university there.

When I was an undergraduate, I studied abroad in Rome and became very interested in eventually working/living there. Rome wasn’t a great place to find investment banking jobs, but it was a great place to live – plus I was half-Italian, so I already had a connection to the country.

After I graduated, though, I put my plans to work abroad on hold and spent 1 year as a credit analyst at an automotive financial services company.

That was ok, but I eventually found myself bored and wanted to be closer to the markets – so I moved to an asset management firm, where I spent 1.5 years as an Associate.

That was better, but it was a very sales-oriented job (you better enjoy cold-calling) and not exactly my cup of tea.

I wanted to move into something more analytical within finance – and I felt 2.5 years experience was “enough” – so I decided to apply to MBA programs.

Completing an MBA in Italy

How do you go from thinking about an MBA to getting into a top program? Let’s find out:

2. Right, I think a lot of readers are in that same position right now. But most of them are probably thinking about going to business school in their own countries rather than moving overseas – what prompted you to consider and apply to programs in Italy?

I was interested in getting an MBA from a non-Anglo-Saxon culture. I felt having that experience and getting to know another language and culture would be a strong selling point and an amazing opportunity on its own merits.

I was admitted to one of the top business schools in Italy – whereas in the US I got into good, but not top schools, so I figured going abroad might be a wise idea.

And I had already lived in Italy, loved the country, and was interested in working in Europe in the future, so it seemed like a wise decision to go to business school there.

3. How did you find out about and apply for your MBA program? Was the process any different from applying to US or UK business schools?

I learned about this specific program by going to events like the World MBA Tour in Chicago. They can be a great way to learn about foreign universities, meet people who know about the different programs, and decide which international schools might be a good fit.

It was really helpful meeting representatives at booths and exchanging contact information – sometimes those relationships even became early points of reference for the admissions office.

Another takeaway I had from going to these events was that my school was very well regarded and had a great reputation in Europe. Some Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Swiss schools were also quite strong, even though we don’t hear much about them in the US.

The application process itself was the same as for US/UK schools – it’s more focused on the qualitative aspects such as essays and recommendations, compared to something like law school which relies mostly on GPA and LSAT scores.

4. Ok, so you were set on going to Italy and applied both to programs in the US and Europe – were there any language requirements for studying at a European business school?

No, the top MBA programs in Europe are taught in both the country’s native language and English. The most “prestigious” programs are actually 100% in English, and the trend is toward all English.

5. What about paying for school? Business school is an expensive proposition, so did you get loans or did you also work while attending school?

First off, note that while the standard US MBA program is 2 years, in Europe it is 1 – 1.5 years tops. That automatically reduces the price because you’re paying for fewer credit hours, and you get back into the market more quickly.

Just like most other students, I had to borrow to go to school – there is some financial aid, but not enough to cover everything at the MBA level.

There was no time to work or even be a bar-tender – most days in my program I was working or studying from 8 AM to 10 PM.

Business schools have developed the reputation of having easy curricula and not requiring much work, but at least at my school it was like drinking from the fire hose.

6. What is the perception of an MBA from a non-US/UK university? Do banks and other firms still respect it, or is it “less prestigious”?

The degree is not as “portable” as a degree from a top US school would be. In Europe there’s no problem because the top business schools are widely recognized and respected – but outside this continent my school is unknown, so it doesn’t help me too much unless I’m interviewing with someone from Europe.

However, my overseas investment banking internship helps make up for this lack of transferability by giving me a unique selling point.

Recruiting & Networking, Italian Style

Got into a top MBA program… check. Now, how do you go about recruiting and networking into finance in a different country?

7. Ok, so you’re studying in Italy at a top MBA program there – how does the recruiting process work for local banks? Did you have to do a lot of networking?

I relied on on-campus recruiting. All the banks and consulting firms came to my school to recruit, so I didn’t have to be too proactive.

Overall, the recruiting process was less rigorous, at least for internships. My interviews were less focused on technical questions and more case study-oriented. I only had to pass one step before they made me the offer, but that might have been unique to my bank.

The case study itself was based more on the “strategy” and logic behind the deal rather than modeling or technical details – it was almost like a consulting case interview rather than a typical investment banking interview.

8. You didn’t have to use much networking to secure your internship, but these days many readers are thinking of going abroad to network, or using networking to find international positions – any tips for doing that?

Yes, leave no stone unturned. Think of friends, relatives, former co-workers, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, and in particular think of anyone with an international background.

Did you meet someone from a different country while studying abroad? Does your friend have a dad who works at a bank in Switzerland?

Don’t be shy about why you’re contacting people – the common thought process is that you have to dance around with someone, go to coffee, and get to know them before you can ask for help.

In my experience, though, people are too busy with their own lives just to “get to know” someone better before they’ll help them. I have tried both approaches before, but have found it very difficult to develop a relationship with a complete stranger.

If you have an uncle who knows a guy in London that he used to work with, then ask your uncle to make the introduction via email or to just give you the contact information straight-away.

Then go right after the guy: “Hi, my name is X, I’m a friend of your colleague X, I applied for a position at your company and I was wondering if you could do me the favor of getting my CV in front of the hiring manager. Attached is my CV for your consideration, thank you… etc etc”

In Europe in particular, if you know someone, he/she will DIE to get you in touch with people who might be able to help you. It is very “family-oriented” and friends and acquaintances are much more willing to help you than those in the US would be, at least in my experience.

One final tip: you really need to go there if you’re serious about working in whatever country you’re interested in. I’ve found that networking via phone/email is only minimally effective when trying to find a job overseas, so studying abroad can be a great way to begin networking.

9. Those are some great tips. Let’s say that you’re going to be in a country for only a few weeks – you’re visiting family, “on vacation,” or doing something else that is not officially sponsored by work/school. What’s the best way to network if you don’t have any immediate connections upon getting there?

Use the Internet to find relevant business/networking groups, then go to their meetings. Don’t be shy about “not being a member” – just find the groups and meeting times, get out there and start introducing yourself.

You can also get referrals from anyone you know there, but these days it’s pretty easy to find groups on social networks and even through random Google searches.

M&I Note: I used the same tactic when traveling to Asia – posting a simple announcement on this site resulted in meeting with 20+ readers throughout my trip. The Internet is amazing.

10. What about the logistical and legal side of recruiting and working abroad? As a US citizen, was it difficult to get the appropriate work visas?

Yes, work permits can definitely be an issue. If you’re just going for an internship, it’s not too much of a hassle since you’re only there for a few months – but anything longer than that and you run into problems.

I’m looking for full-time work here now, and as a US citizen I’m having a difficult time convincing local companies in Italy to sponsor me. The bureaucracy is very difficult to navigate and not worth the time and trouble.

To get around that, you need to be creative and try strategies like working for American companies with Italian subsidiaries, or for a US company that just bought an Italian company.

If you’re not from the US you’ll probably have an easier time getting sponsorship in Europe, but there are no guarantees.

11. What is the typical “path” that someone in finance in Italy follows? Does it differ at all from elsewhere in Europe, the UK, or the US?

The “path” is very similar in all those places – a business/finance/economics degree, finance internships, then full-time work.

However, keep in mind that in Europe most undergraduate programs are 3 years, and most people do 2-year Master’s programs afterward – they’re the equivalent of 4-year programs in the US, but on paper it looks like banks hire primarily Master’s students.

Everyone at top schools goes for internships – they might be a bit less common than in the US, but it’s not as if everyone spends their summers sitting on yachts in the Mediterranean sipping wine.

Italian Banking

Now that we know how he became interested in Italy, got into a top MBA program there, and went about recruiting, let’s move into what the Italian banking experience was actually like:

12. What was your banking internship like? Structured? Informal?

My internship was very unstructured. I was anticipating getting crushed with work and staying until at least 11pm every night – instead I found myself reading my Corporate Finance book half the time and waiting for the boss of the “execution” (modeling) department to leave at 9/10pm every night.

I did the same stuff they do at bulge bracket banks, just not as much of it – modeling, valuations, pitch books, multiples, info memorandum’s, the whole 9 yards.

The upside to having a somewhat “random” and unstructured internship was that I got exposure to many different deals and industries.

Also, none of the summer Associates did any marketing work (pitch books) – they just used us for execution (working with clients).

The undergraduate interns (Analysts) handled most of the pitch book and marketing-related work.

13. Everywhere in the world has been hit hard by the recession – were there any differences in Italy in terms of deal activity or overall economic impact? Did you get to work on many live deals?

I don’t know anywhere where deal activity didn’t drop off at least a little bit. Italian banks tend to be very conservative, so they didn’t get tangled up in the CDO mess or anything.

However, the overall economic conditions and credit availability have forced them to cut back on lending, slowing their business model just like at any other bank.

When I was there last summer, most of us hadn’t realized yet how bad the economy was – but when I speak with my former co-workers there now, they constantly bring up how bad things are and how little M&A activity there is.

Hiring is definitely down and they did not give out too many full-time offers this year.

14. What was the culture of your bank like? Did it have more to do with the bank itself, or was it because you were in Italy?

The culture of the bank was amazing. It was a very flat organization with almost none of the traditional investment banking hierarchy – Analysts were working side-by-side with VPs to get deals done and they were fixing models together.

I think this just reflects the culture of local Italian banks – international banks here are better organized with a more rigid hierarchy.

Overall, I really enjoyed that type of environment – people were not overly aggressive or climbing over each other to impress their superiors.

In terms of hours, most people showed up between 9 AM and 10 AM and the office was busy until around 9 PM at night.

We had occasional weekend work, mostly when we were swamped with live deals.

As an intern, the latest I stayed was 11:30 – and that happened just a few times over 2.5 months. I only came in once on Saturday.

15. What about your bottom-line?

Pay was modest compared to international banks, but still very good for southern Europe.

16. Models and bottles?

All you do in Milan is models and bottles.

That’s just the night life – it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a banker. You get a table, overpay for everything, and try to hang out with models.

We didn’t exactly go to Club Armani every Thursday night, though – it was more about casual happy hours.

We also had many, many coffee breaks during the day as well.

M&I Note: I’m sure their coffee was better than the Starbucks blend that US-based Analysts live on.

Future & “Plan B” Options

So, what do you do after spending a summer in Milan banking by day and bottling by night?

17. Back when you were getting interested in finance, what other options were you considering besides banking?

The usual suspects: private equity, venture capital, management consulting, and corporate finance positions.

I’m also really interested in renewable energy, especially in southern Europe.

German companies, in particular, have been expanding rapidly in southern Europe with renewable energy projects and it’s a big growth area.

If I can’t get into private equity right now, I’m thinking about getting some experience in the renewable energy sector and then joining a PE firm focused on those types of investments.

18. What’s next? How will you leverage your experience in Italy?

I’m still in Milan, looking for a job in Europe. I want to gain experience in a non-Anglo Saxon culture, develop additional language skills (which I still believe are important, even if everyone knows English), and take advantage of my location to travel.

The sponsorship issue and the recession have made things more difficult, so my backup plan is to return to the US and do a lot of networking. These days you don’t get noticed by blindly sending out applications, unless you’re at the top of your class from Harvard/Yale.

For anyone curious, I’ve found that where you got your MBA from matters less than having it in the first place, at least for networking purposes.

M&I Note: These days, even if you are at the top of your class from Harvard/Yale you still won’t get noticed with blind applications…

19. Any parting words of advice for someone looking to complete an MBA program or finance internship abroad?

For the MBA, start doing your research early and start preparing for the GMAT today if you’re even considering it – schools like to see the GMAT score together with the application.

For finance internships, you really need to be in Europe if you want to work in Europe – and the same goes for any other region. You need to go to events or school in the country of your choosing, or find other in-person channels to have a good shot at getting in.

I would recommend doing a Master’s or MBA in the country or continent where you would like to work – then you have the resources and network of the school to leverage, not to mention an amazing experience. And once you start making contacts and talking to people, the size of your network will grow quickly.

The job/internship search process will take a minimum of 6 months end-to-end. There’s some type of career fair happening in almost any city worldwide, so you should seek those out – especially anything sponsored by a bank, by recruiters, or by professional associations.

One final word of caution: As I mentioned above, Americans require sponsorship from the company to work almost anywhere in Europe – and this is usually the deal-breaker for US citizens. Sponsorship is a time cost to the employer and a potential liability, so you need to find a company willing to sponsor you or be more “creative” with your efforts (as explained above).

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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