by Brian DeChesare Comments (331)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Tell us about yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Networking at LSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know As Much As Possible About Bankers

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

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

Be Nice to Assistants

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

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

Have Interests Outside of Finance

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

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

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

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

Ask for Referrals / Find People You Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asset Management Meets M&A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other people who have worked here have gone onto:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: No problem.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

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

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by Brian DeChesare Comments (257)

The Investment Banking Cover Letter Template You’ve Been Waiting For

The Investment Banking Cover Letter Template You've Been Waiting For

A long time ago I said that we would never post a cover letter template here:

“I was tempted to post a Word template, but I don’t want 5,000 daily visitors to copy it and to start using the same exact cover letter.”

But hey, we already have resume templates that everyone is using, so why not go a step further and give you a cover letter template as well?

Plus, “investment banking cover letter” is one of the top 10 search terms visitors use to find this site – so you must be looking for a template.

The Template & Tutorial

Let’s jump right in:

Investment Banking Cover Letter Template [Download]

And here’s the video that explains everything:

(For more free training and financial modeling videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.)

And if you’d rather read, here’s the text version:

Do Cover Letters Actually Matter?

At bulge bracket banks, people barely read cover letters.

Cover letters matter 10x less than resumes and 100x less than networking.

But there are a few special cases where they’re more important:

  • Boutiques and Local Banks – Sometimes they actually read cover letters.
  • Unusual Backgrounds – If you’re NOT in university or business school at the moment, you may need to explain yourself in more detail.
  • Outside the US – In Europe, for example, some banks pay more attention to cover letters, online applications, and so on.

Similar to grades and test scores, a great cover letter won’t set you apart but a poor one will hurt you – so let’s find out how to avoid that.

Overall

Keep your cover letter compact and avoid 0.1″ margins and size 8 font.

With resumes you can get away with shrinking the font sizes and margins if you really need to fit in extra information, but this is questionable with cover letters.

Go for 0.75″ or 1″ margins and at least size 10 font.

With resumes there were a couple different templates depending on your level – but with cover letters that’s not necessary and you can use the same template no matter your background.

1 Page Only

Ok, maybe they do things differently in Australia (just like with resumes) but aside from that there is no reason to write a multi-page cover letter.

If you actually have enough experience to warrant multiple pages, do it on your resume instead and keep the cover letter brief.

Contact Information

List your own information – name, address, phone number, and email address – right-aligned up at the top.

Then, below that you list the date and the name and contact information for the person you’re writing to, left-aligned on the page.

If you don’t have this information you can just list the company name and address and use a “Dear Sir or Madam” greeting.

That’s not ideal – especially if you’re applying to smaller firms where cover letters actually get read – but it’s all you can do if you can’t find a person’s name.

If you’re sending the cover letter via email as the body of the email, you can omit all this information and just include the greeting at the top.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

This is where you explain who you are, where you’re currently working or studying, and how you found the bank that you’re applying to.

Name-drop as much as possible:

  • Impressive-sounding university or business school? Mention it. Even if it’s not well-known, you still need to mention it here.
  • Your company name, especially if it’s recognizable, and the group you’re working in, especially if it’s something relevant to finance like business development.
  • How you found them – specific peoples’ names, specific presentations or information sessions where you met them, and so on.
  • The position you’re applying for (Analyst? Associate?) – especially for smaller places that are not well-organized.

This first paragraph is all about grabbing their attention.

Example 1st Paragraph:

“My name is John Smith and I am currently a 3rd year economics major at UCLA. I recently met Fred Jackson from the M&A group at Goldman Stanley during a presentation at our school last week, and was impressed with what I learned of your culture and recent deal flow. I am interested in pursuing an investment banking summer analyst position at your firm, and have enclosed my resume and background information below.”

Paragraph 2: Your Background

You go through your most relevant experience and how the skills you gained will make you a good banker right here.

Do not list all 12 internships or all 5 full-time jobs you’ve had – focus on the most relevant 1-2, once again name-dropping where appropriate (bulge bracket banks / large PE firms / Fortune 500 companies).

Highlight the usual skills that bankers want to see – teamwork, leadership, analytical ability, financial modeling and so on.

If you worked on a high-impact project / deal / client, you can point that out and list the results as well.

This may be your longest paragraph, but you still don’t want to write War and Peace – keep it to 3-4 sentences.

Example 2nd Paragraph:

“I have previously completed internships in accounting at PricewaterhouseCoopers and in wealth management at UBS. Through this experience working directly with clients, analyzing financial statements, and making investment recommendations, I have developed leadership and analytical skills and honed my knowledge of accounting and finance. I also had the opportunity to work with a $20M net-worth client at UBS and completely revamped his portfolio, resulting in a 20% return last year.”

Paragraph 3: Why You’re a Good Fit

Now you turn around and link your experience and skills to the position more directly and explain that leadership + quantitative skills + accounting/finance knowledge = success.

There is not much to this part – just copy the template and fill in the blanks.

Example 3rd Paragraph:

“Given my background in accounting and wealth management and my leadership and analytical skills, I am a particularly good fit for the investment banking summer analyst position at your firm. I am impressed by your track record of clients and transactions at Goldman Stanley and the significant responsibilities given to analysts, and I look forward to joining and contributing to your firm.”

Paragraph 4: Conclusion

This part’s even easier: remind them that your resume is enclosed (or attached if sent via email), thank them for their time, and give your contact information once again so they don’t have to scroll to the top to get it.

Example 4th Paragraph:

“A copy of my resume is enclosed for your reference. I would welcome an opportunity to discuss my qualifications with you and learn more about Goldman Stanley at your earliest convenience. I can be reached at 310-555-1234 or via email at johnsmith@fake.com. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.”

Unusual Backgrounds

These examples cover how to apply to a bank if you’re in university, business school, or you’ve been working for several years.

If you have a more unusual background (e.g. you went to med school, graduated, started your residency, but then decided you wanted to be an investment banker), then you might need to add a few sentences to paragraph #2 or #3 explaining yourself.

Resist the urge to write your life story because no one will read it – interviews are a much better venue to prove how committed you are.

Email vs. Attachments

If you’re emailing your cover letter and resume, do you create a separate cover letter attachment?

Or do you make the body of your email the cover letter?

I think it’s redundant to create a separate cover letter and attach it, so don’t bother unless they ask specifically for a separate cover letter.

If you’re making the body of your email the cover letter, make it even shorter (4-5 sentences total) and cut out the address bits at the top.

Optional Cover Letters?

If you’re applying online and it says “Optional Cover Letter” should you still upload one?

You might as well because it takes 2 minutes once you have a good template – it’s not the end of the world if you don’t include one, but you never know what everyone else is doing and it’s not terribly time-consuming.

Cover Letter Mistakes

Remember the role of cover letters: great ones don’t help much, but poor ones get you dinged.

The biggest mistakes with cover letters:

  • Making outrageous claims (“I’m a math genius!”) or trying to be “creative” with colors, pictures, fonts, and so on.
  • Going on for too long – 10 paragraphs or multiple pages.
  • Listing irrelevant information like your favorite ice cream, your favorite quotes from Wall Street or Boiler Room, and so on.

If you think this sounds ridiculous, remember the golden rule: do not overestimate the competition.

For every person reading this site, there are dozens more asking, “What it’s like to be an investment banker?” at information sessions.

Sometimes you hear stories of people who write “impassioned” cover letters, win the attention of a boutique, and get in like that

…And I’m sure that happens, but you do not want to do that at large banks.

If you do, your cover letter will be forwarded to the entire world and your “career” will be destroyed in 5 minutes.

More Examples

As with resumes, there are hardly any good examples of investment banking cover letters online.

Most of the templates are horribly formatted and are more appropriate for equities in Dallas than real investment banking.

Here’s a slightly different but also good templates you could use:

More questions? Ask away.

Still Need More Help?

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Specifically, here’s what you’ll get:

  • Detailed, line-by-line editing of your resume/CV – Everything that needs to be changed will be changed. No detail is ignored.
  • Your experience will be “bankified” regardless of whether you’ve been a student, a researcher, a marketer, a financier, a lawyer, an accountant, or anything else.
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  • The 3-point structure to use for all your “Work Experience” entries: simple, but highly effective at getting the attention of bankers.
  • How to spin non-finance experience into sounding like you’ve been investing your own portfolio since age 12.
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  • How to avoid the fatal resume mistake that gets you automatically rejected. Nothing hurts more than making a simple oversight that gets you an immediate “ding”.
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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 (116)

From Non-Target and No Finance Experience to 2 Full-Time Bulge Bracket Investment Banking Offers

From Non-Target and No Finance Experience to 2 Full-Time Bulge Bracket Investment Banking Offers

“Help, how can I move from PWM / asset management into investment banking?”

“I have no time left and need to find an internship! What do I do?”

“How do I get internships with no finance experience?”

I love this interview because this reader accomplished all of the above.

Plus, you’ll learn about:

  • A ninja trick to find names and contact information for local banks
  • How fraternities and sororities can help you – even if they’re not business-related
  • Good “not quite banking but pretty close” options for summer internships

Let’s get started.

Introductions

Q: So how’d you get started breaking into investment banking?

A: Most of my friends and family were engineers, so I started out like them, intending to major in engineering – but after my first semester I realized I didn’t want to spend my life doing that.

I started looking into business and finance, and there were a few finance majors in my dorm, so I got interested like that initially.

At the end of my first year I made the switch over to our business school, and then at the end of my second year I applied to the finance track.

Once I made the switch to finance, I spent the rest of my time after that going after internships.

Q: So did you do a finance internship after your 1st year in university?

A: Nope – I did some technical work for my family’s business and it had nothing to do with finance or business.

Q: Ok, so you have this engineering to finance background and you don’t have a business-related internship after your 1st year in school. How did you get any banks to take your resume seriously when you applied for internships the next year?

A: Mostly by joining related student organizations – a student-run investment portfolio, a business consulting group, and I served as a mentor in a trading group.

I also learned some financial modeling, basic DCF skills, comparable company analysis, and more by working for the investment portfolio and learning to value companies there.

All of this helped, but I realized it wasn’t enough by itself to land interviews – I needed to get leadership positions, so I focused on that and moved up within each organization by my junior and senior years.

Last-Minute Networking

Q: So you have this engineering to finance background, you have a couple relevant-looking student groups on your resume now, and it’s your 2nd year in school. How did you start looking for an internship?

A: I waited until the last minute – the spring – and suddenly realized that I needed to find some kind of finance internship ASAP to have any kind of chance at the all-important junior year summer internship.

I knew that asset / wealth management internships were easier to get, so I focused on those and cold-called around 20-30 different places in my area, with only months to go before the summer.

Q: I get a lot of questions on how to find contact information for these local firms. How did you do it?

A: I went to Google Maps and typed in “asset management,” “finance” and other related terms along with the name of my city until I found the names and websites of different firms.

This may sound silly, but it worked very well and it’s much easier to sift through search results on a map vs. Google’s main search engine.

Then I went to their websites, got the numbers and contact information from there, and started cold-calling the front desks – those were the only numbers I had in most cases.

Q: Wow, I never thought of using Google Maps like that before. How did you get around the gatekeepers when you were cold-calling? I’m assuming you ran into a lot of resistance if you called the front desks.

A: I called and asked if they did internships, and then asked to be put in touch with whoever was in charge. I would usually say, “I’m a sophomore at ________ and I’m looking to get some experience for the summer – do you have information on internships?”

A lot of it had to do with who the receptionist was rather than how great my “technique” was – sometimes they were helpful and connected me, and other times they were completely useless no matter what I said.

I tried each place at least a few times, but if I kept getting a “Sorry, I’m not sure, why don’t you call back later”-type response then I would put the firm lower on the priority list.

Q: And how well did this work?

A: Even though it was last-minute, I got an internship lined up with a wealth management firm with 10-20 employees, most of whom were financial advisors.

The internship itself was pretty standard for PWM – the same type of work you’d expect, with screening funds and investments for clients, creating P&L reports, and analyzing their existing investments.

Even though it wasn’t amazing, it was exactly the steppingstone I needed to move into something more closely related to banking the next summer.

Leveraging PWM Into Leveraged Finance

Q: Ok, so now you’re back at school in your 3rd year and you have this PWM internship on your resume, which is a huge improvement over nothing. How do you move from that into something closer to banking?

A: My first step was “bankifying” my resume to make it look more relevant to finance and what bankers actually do.

I highlighted everything I had done at the student investment group in terms of DCFs, multiples, and valuation, and made sure all that was on my resume.

I figured that the screening and P&L work I did at the PWM internship would be most relevant, so I focused on that – even though I didn’t spend the most time on those tasks.

M&I Note: Yet another example of how you need to re-adjust the focus when spinning your way to success.

Q: Right, so that explains your resume. But how did you get access to financial institutions in the first place? You were at a school where hardly any banks recruited for front-office roles.

A: I couldn’t use on-campus recruiting because there was none at my school – so I had to network through my fraternity, alumni, and other sources.

Another source for names and contact information was a program at our school that set up graduates with alumni who worked on Wall Street – they brought back lots of alumni and we could contact them directly.

This is one of the advantages of going to a large school – even if not many banks recruit there, there are bound to be lots of alumni and other students interested in finance.

Q: You mentioned your fraternity – I’ve gotten some questions on the value of business or social frats for networking purposes. What was yours like, and how did you use it?

A: It was a social fraternity. When I joined as a freshman, there were lots of seniors working in front and middle office roles at banks, so I got to know them when they were still in school, and then reached out a few years later after they had already graduated.

A lot of times they put me in touch with recruiters directly, and I could get inside information on the recruiting process, how many students they wanted to take, and how to get an interview.

Q: So is that what you used to get your next internship?

A: Yup. I applied to a bunch of places, but ended up with an offer in the Leveraged Finance group of an independent financial services and lending firm – not a bulge bracket or middle-market bank.

I got it via networking with an alum from my fraternity, and then went through the standard interview process with them.

Interviews were definitely more technical than what I faced for the PWM internship, though they didn’t go too far beyond the “How do you value a company?”-type questions.

Q: So what was the day-to-day work like as an intern in this Leveraged Finance group? This was after the credit crunch and financial crisis had struck, so was there much activity?

A: There were actually a fair number of deals going on because we were working on smaller transactions rather than the multi-billion dollar debt offerings that stopped once the crisis happened.

I worked on a couple “big picture” research projects, screening companies in different industries – but I also got to jump on live deals whenever they needed help.

Since the group was small – fewer than 20 people – I worked closely with the Analysts and Associates on LBO models, pricing models for debt offerings, due diligence work, due diligence calls with CEOs, and I got to listen in on a lot of conference calls with bankers.

This experience was actually better than what I would have gotten at a bulge bracket, because we had real deals to work on and because the team was small.

2 Bulge Bracket Offers

Q: It sounds like your internship went pretty well – were you tempted to stay there and take advantage of a return offer rather than going through full-time recruiting?

A: That wasn’t an option – at the end of the summer the firm told all interns that they couldn’t extend offers due to the state of the economy and market conditions, so I had to find something else quickly.

Q: So how did you approach networking once you found out you wouldn’t be getting a return offer?

A: I used 3 main strategies:

  1. Alumni from my school, via the Wall Street organization I mentioned before.
  2. I continued going through contacts from my fraternity.
  3. I spoke to my superiors and actually got some referrals to bulge bracket banks from them.

Q: Wait a minute, you didn’t get a return offer from your internship and then you turned around and asked your bosses for referrals to other places? How does that work?

A: It wasn’t that difficult, because no interns received return offers – they liked me, I had performed well, and they knew that market conditions were the only thing stopping me from coming back.

They had extensive backgrounds in finance, so they had no problems at all referring me to their contacts at bulge bracket banks.

Q: Nice move. So how else did you get interviews at bulge bracket banks?

A: Primarily through alumni – all my first-round interviews at banks were via alumni, some from the organization I mentioned before and some from my frat.

Q: By the time you were going through full-time interviews, you had the PWM internship as well as a Leveraged Finance internship.

Both of those are good, but you also didn’t have a brand-name firm or school on your resume. What kind of reaction did you get in interviews?

A: The question of my school and why I didn’t go to a better-known place did come up a few times, but interviewers were generally not demeaning.

It wasn’t a totally unknown place – interviewers had heard of it, but they didn’t hold it in high regard all the time, so the questions were more like, “Why ________?” rather than “Couldn’t you have gone to a better school?”

I usually answered it by talking about the extensive resources and alumni network they had, and how I wanted to do engineering originally.

My lack of “brand-name” internships didn’t come up that much – they were more focused on what I did as opposed to why I hadn’t worked at bulge bracket banks.

The interviews themselves were not much different from what you’d expect in any investment banking interview.

Q: Great. So you ended up with 2 offers at large banks – how did you decide which one to take?

A: I went with the firm that had a better reputation – the 2 groups were not that much different and I didn’t have a strong preference on the people or teams, so I had to narrow it down by reputation.

The other advantage is that even though I’ll be placed in a specific product group, I’ll get to explore a few other groups in my first few months there – and I’m really looking forward to that.

Q: Awesome. Thanks for your time.

A: No problem.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

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

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