by Brian DeChesare Comments (53)

From Physics Major with Low A-Levels and No Finance Experience in the UK to Investment Banking… in India

UK to India Investment BankingWhen I first started doing interviews about 3 years ago, one question in the comments of an early interview really surprised me…

“Long time reader, first time poster, big fan of the site.

Question – how do we know that these stories / case studies are true?”

I see where he was coming from… many of the stories are pretty amazing.

But they are all true. I couldn’t make up this stuff if I tried, nor would I have the time for it.

And today you’re going to get another unbelievable, but true, story from a reader who just made an incredible career move:

  • He started out as a Physics major in the UK, with no finance experience and poor A-Levels…
  • Then, he completed a Master’s Degree to rebrand himself…
  • Unsuccessfully applied to dozens of banks and other finance firms…
  • And finally, ended up landing an offer at an investment bank in India.

In this wide-ranging discussion, we go over how he accomplished this, what helped and hindered him along the way, how a foreigner can work in an emerging market like India, and yes, even how deals and models (both kinds) differ there.

How the Universe Began: The Big Bang Theory?

Q: Let’s go back to the beginning and hear your story from start to finish… and then I’ll dig into the details.

A: Sure. I completed my undergraduate degree in Physics in the UK, after which I realized that I didn’t belong there. The people were too strange, I didn’t fit in at all, and I didn’t want to work in academia.

I tried to get a few business-related internships before even graduating, but I failed due to my poor A-Level scores (3 C’s) – which are sure to sink your chances of success in the UK.

I ended up with an internship doing headhunting work instead – much different from banking, but surprisingly I learned a lot from it that I could apply to my future job search.

Next, I decided to re-brand myself by completing a Master’s degree in Natural Resources Finance and moving closer to business. I kept applying to jobs throughout the year, but didn’t get anywhere.

I was getting pretty depressed, but then I found a job listing for an investment bank in India on my school’s website.

I contacted them, they seemed very interested, and I did a phone call with the CEO and Director there… and didn’t hear anything for 2 weeks.

Then, I decided to call back and contacted the CEO… only to catch him when he was in another meeting. But he was impressed by my initiative, and a week later I won an offer!

I moved to India and started working at the investment bank shortly after completing my degree.

Q: Wow. We’re going to jump back into that story later on because you made the entire saga sound quite simple… but I’m sure there’s more to it than that.

Why do you think you didn’t have much luck landing internships and full-time offers in London?

A: There were a couple factors working against me:

  • Low A-Level Scores: It sounds insane, but these follow you around forever in the UK and they’re harder to remove than a tattoo.
  • Lack of Relevant Internships in Undergrad: The headhunting internship sort of helped (see below), but it wasn’t enough to make myself competitive with other applicants.
  • Lack of Language Skills: Technically, these aren’t required in London but you are competing against people who know multiple European languages… so it definitely helps.

I actually won a few interviews and spoke to several banks, including both European and North American-based firms – but all of the points above hurt my chances.

Q: So what helped you win the offer? How much do you think the Master’s degree helped compared to other factors such as what you studied and did your dissertation on?

A: I think a few factors helped me win the offer in India – besides the recruiting process and my interactions with the people there, which I’ll get to later:

  • Major Other Than Finance: One of your previous interviewees in the UK also mentioned this point. I’m not sure how true it is, but it definitely sparked a lot of questions and conversations about my background since it was unusual.
  • Master’s Dissertation: I did something financial modeling-related, which helped me tell a good story when networking and in interviews – especially in emerging markets, where commodities-related deals and investments are more important.
  • The Headhunting Internship: This helped prove that I could work in an office environment, as opposed to a science lab. And while many bankers view this field in a negative light, it helped me learn how to network, talk on the phone effectively, and build up a solid list of contacts – all of which you need in finance.
  • Previous Study Abroad Experience: I had studied in the US before (Florida) and had performed well there, so I was able to convince the Indian firm that I could move somewhere else, do well, and start contributing immediately. Oh, and the hot climate in both places also helped because, oddly enough, that was one of their key objections (“It’s HOT here – can you handle it?”).

India Industry Landscape and Overview

Q: A previous interview on investment banking in India mentioned a couple key points, such as the huge number of KPOs, few real banks, how they like the Chartered Accountant (CA) designation, and how buy-side opportunities are limited and how the culture is more conservative.

What’s your take on all of that?

A: I agree with most of it. I realize the interview was from a few years ago, but not much has changed dramatically in that time, and those points hold true based on my experience so far.

Even at bulge bracket banks here, such as JP Morgan, if you land a job you won’t exactly be in the “front office” – you’ll be helping their teams elsewhere with pitch books, fixing formatting errors, and assisting with other random requests.

So a lot of people here “working at large banks” are doing more back / middle-office type work.

I’ve seen this firsthand because many people go study or work abroad, return home to be with their families and attempt to transfer to the local office… and then end up disappointed when they realize that there isn’t as much “real work” as they expected.

A few other points:

Q: That sounds pretty bleak, at least if you’re a local candidate there, you’ve been raised in the country, and you want to work in finance. How can you possibly stand out in that situation?

A: As your other interviewee mentioned, it’s still all about networking.

People will try to claim that “it doesn’t work” in India, but that’s not the case from what I’ve seen… and as you’ve covered before numerous times, it certainly works in the UK.

Another important point about networking here is that there is A LOT of “sourcing” work (finding new clients or investments) at most finance firms in emerging markets.

So if you’re great at networking and talking to people on the phone, that will actually help you with interviews and even on the job itself because you’re doing that all the time – far more so than what you’d see at firms in developed countries.

To give you an idea of what I mean, basically everyone here above the Analyst-level will place cold calls and pitch clients on why they should work with us.

Since deals are smaller (generally under 50 million GBP), you don’t necessarily need a Managing Director to wine and dine potential clients.

Q: Right, and I think you make some good points there about the disproportionate importance of networking on the job in emerging markets…

But your answer is a little too “easy” for me – everyone knows you need to network, but what else can you do to stand out?

A: All you can really do: get unique experience or knowledge that sets you apart from others… and that applies everywhere, not just in India. Examples:

  • Industry Expertise in an area where they need it – we’ll get to the top industries and deal types here in a bit.
  • Geographical Expertise in a region where they’re doing cross-border deals.
  • A Great Track Record if you’re more senior and need to prove that you can run deals and win clients.
  • Relevant Academic Background such as a study abroad experience in a certain region, an interesting dissertation or thesis, IB case competitions and so on.


Q: Thanks for your thoughts on that one – I think, ironically, many people would be better off becoming more specialized even if it seems to limit your options… because in reality, it makes you far more appealing to certain firms.

Let’s talk about recruiting. It seems like the process was quite random, but did you have anything to add over your previous description?

A: First off, I think there’s a big difference between what local candidates here go through and what I (and other foreigners) went through.

I’ve seen local people go through 8 rounds of interviews in some cases and get endless questions, case studies, and so on.

By contrast, I only went through 3 rounds of interviews:

Overall, I don’t think the questions themselves were that much different from what you see in an interview in the UK, US, or anywhere else:

  • They asked about my CV and educational background (“walk me through your resume“).
  • Standard questions on accounting, valuation, determining the NPV, etc.
  • “Fit” questions to see how well I’d fit in with the culture both at the company and in the country – this is the one part that might have been different.

Q: So let me stop you right there… how do you prove that you “fit in with” the culture in a country?

A: A lot of it is about dropping subtle hints that you’ve had experiences that match the experiences typical in that country.

For example, I mentioned at one point that I came from a big family (true), which fits in well with India and many emerging markets, where family sizes also tend to be bigger.

That may sound silly / ridiculous / inappropriate to you, but they never asked me, “So, tell us about your family” – I threw it in because I knew that the more similar to them I could make myself look, the better my chances would be.

And then there were other points that I mentioned before, such as how my study abroad experience in another culture and in a similar climate showed how I could adapt to another country.

Q: I have to admit I’ve never thought about something like that before, but then I’ve also never interviewed for jobs in emerging markets.

What about the technical side? Were there any tricky questions there?

A: Not really, but again, I’m assuming that the process and questions would be different if you’re a local candidate instead.

The “modeling” work you do here is not terribly complicated because the companies are small, data is poor, and analyses like the DCF are relatively useless when companies are growing incredibly quickly.

So they only tested basic points and ensured that I knew enough to value companies.

A Day in the Life

Q: Thanks for clarifying that. Based on interviews and discussions with local candidates in India, I think the technical rigor would be higher and that case studies would be much more likely in interviews – especially for buy-side roles.

What differences have you seen with deals and the industry focus so far?

A: The main difference so far is that “Stuff Goes Wrong” FAR more often here.

As an example, the other day one of my colleagues was working on a bond issuance deal… and a few days before launching it, one of the executives at the company got busted in a corruption scandal.

The company’s credit rating was downgraded, and now it will be much harder to get the deal done.

The political state of India is also a mess, and that creates market volatility as well. For more on this, see the “Coalgate” scandal, where the government was accused of allocating coal blocks inefficiently over 5 years.

There isn’t a particular industry focus, but the most common ones for deals here are retail, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure, telecoms, and consumer goods.

As you might expect, there’s also a ton of negotiation around valuation here. Here’s what usually happens:

  • Firm that’s advising the company comes to us and wants a valuation that’s 10x higher than what it should be.
  • We propose something much lower and say their valuation is unreasonable.
  • We haggle back and forth and meet somewhere in the middle.

You definitely see negotiation in developed markets as well, but the range you negotiate over is far narrower and no bank comes in and tries to argue that a $50 million company is worth $500 million.

Q: Somehow, I’m not surprised by anything that you just said. But the valuation point is interesting – I didn’t realize that expectations could be that far apart.

What about the culture at your office? Is it strange being one of the few foreigners there?

A: Your previous interviewee from India said it was very conservative at his firm; I think that can be true, but it’s not especially the case where I work.

People will wear sandals to work on Fridays sometimes, and they tend to be friendly at the office.

That said, when a deal blows up or something goes wrong, you see the normal “Stay until 2 AM to finish it” type of work that you’d see at any investment bank.

Language is one issue I’ve encountered so far. Yes, technically everyone knows English and English is used for business purposes…

…but Hindi is most peoples’ first language here, and it’s what they use in casual conversations with each other.

I’ve been learning and picking up more of it, but “the language barrier” has led to some awkward situations when we go out together – but people overall are friendly and try to include me as much as possible.

One great part about working here is that you get more free time than you would in the UK. There are tons of national holidays and the expat lifestyle is quite enjoyable.

In London, I would have faced an hour-long commute each way and wouldn’t have even saved much after taxes.

Here, by contrast, the commute is much shorter, I can pay for a maid, eat breakfast before going to work, and always see something interesting on my way to work each day.

Q: All that sounds nice, but don’t you also get paid way less in India?

A: Yes, that’s the major downside. At a local boutique here, you might make the equivalent of 18K GBP (around $30K USD) per year for your base salary, and maybe 50-100% of that for your bonus as an entry-level Analyst (NOTE: These figures are as of late 2013 / early 2014).

And tax rates are not even that much lower than in developed countries – the top rate here is 30%, so this is not like Dubai or Saudi Arabia with 0% taxes, or even like Hong Kong with a 15% rate.

But the cost of living is also far lower here and you can afford a really nice lifestyle with much less money than you’d make in the UK or US.

Q: So how many bottles per week can you buy with that kind of income?

A: Hah! Well, let’s just say that you can go out and have a good time for far less than what you’d pay in major financial centers.

Where I am, the party scene is focused on 2-3 areas and most expats tend to hang out with each other since there aren’t a huge number of them here.

You see lots of drama such as police chiefs shutting down clubs, arresting people, etc. so sometimes house parties are more common.

As far as the models here… well, let’s just say there are lots of “advantages” over my experience in the UK.

I’m a fan!

Q: Yeah, I think we should skip that part in the interest of not (further) offending my female audience.

Thanks for sharing so much about the work and culture there – what are your future plans?

A: Eventually, I would like to get into venture capital. I don’t mind doing valuation and analytical work in Excel, but I’m more of a people person – which is the entire reason I switched out of physics back in the UK in the first place.

I might leverage my background in physics and energy to move into something like cleantech-focused VC, or even a VC or investment fund that focuses on conventional energy.

There isn’t as much movement from investment banking to the buy-side, simply because there are very few buy-side roles. So you see people sticking around for 5-6 years or more in many cases, which is a big departure from the rapid turnover in places like London and NYC.

The good news is that as a foreigner, I’m not necessarily expected to stay here for so many years.

Previous “trainees” here have gone to work in NYC, London, and Singapore after working here for 1-2 years, and I could see myself going to any of those cities as well.

Q: Great! Thanks for sharing your story, I learned a lot.

A: Anytime!

M&I - Brian

About the Author

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

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  1. Why are no dates mentioned on the entire page ? Could you please provide dates for your posts ?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Please refer to 95% of the content here is relevant regardless of whether it’s 2005, 1995, or 2015 – for example, telling your story in interviews and networking with bankers do not change much from year to year.
      If we added dates to articles or comments, you would be biased against older content – even if it’s still completely relevant. This is why we don’t list dates on the page. However, there actually are dates on news commentary articles or anything related to current events.

      1. I was actually going to make the same request as Aditya. The primary reason (at least for myself) was to be able to adjust for inflation in terms of the compensation. In that case, I’m sure a GBP 18k (equiv.) base in 2010 needs to be adjusted upwards if I’m reading this article in 2016. But, I also agree to Nicole on the bias against older posts.
        So, if I may suggest – if you could mention the year in parentheses beside any data point that you think would be time relevant, it would be helpful.
        I, for example, came across this article because I googled up ‘IB pays in India’ (planning to move back home). Now, a GBP 18k base for an entry-level sounds below bleak compared to my current CB pay in London. So, I’d much like to find out whether it really is that bleak, or is there a time lapse between things being said and things being read.
        Thank you

        1. The salary figures here are from late 2013 / early 2014, so I doubt they have changed much since then. Maybe they’re a little higher, but not enough time has passed to change the numbers significantly.

          The basic point is that base compensation in India is still far, far lower than it is in London, NY, and HK on an absolute USD/GBP basis, but on a PPP basis it’s not terrible.

  2. Hello, I really like all the articles of your blog and I want to say thanks for sharing your posts with us….

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You’re welcome!

  3. U have just mentioned only about coal scandal . chk this out for complete list of scandals. But don’t get stunned.If i am not wrong, No powerful politician was ever convicted in the entire history of India after independence for any scandal or crime.Corruption is part of Indian culture.Indian law or Govt fosters corruption.

  4. Avatar
    Doesn't Pay to be White

    Pays to be white – Your username is ridiculous

    Yes, he is probably selected because of his ‘ethnicity’ but when you working in Bulge Bracket and deal with international clients, diversity is a value add from the bank’s perspective. Its not like white people are walking into Indian IB jobs at Indian’s expense.

    Just like how an Italian boutique may hire a German if they are doing a lot of deals with German companies. So it pays to be German?

    I interned at BB in India a couple of years ago.I can assure you that analysts are very well compensated ($40 – $80k) a year all in, which is a truck load of money on purchasing power basis.

    Hours are not that intense,usually 60-80 a week.

    Breaking into the industry is obviously 10x more difficulte than NA or Europe because population is 10X more than those places.

    1. Thanks for adding that, very helpful to read those additional insights and learn more about the industry.

    2. Read my earlier post about colonial mindset and the cultural aspects.
      And your comment about italian boutique hiring german …. is totally different from what ‘pays to be white’ i saying. I must say if any italian guy could speak german then they wouldnt hire a german guy.Hiring a german in that case would facilitate business because it would reduce the language barrier and cultural differences which is just not the same as racial bias

  5. Please delete the previous post as it was incomplete

    Hello Brain,

    Interesting Article.

    I want to clarify some of the issues.If you want the job easily at top investment banks in India, you have to have the degree from the IIMS or IITs or other top institutes.

    Reason behind CAs are not getting job at investment banks is that they don’t have relevant investment banking experience. They lack the skills required for IB. When they forward their CVs in me banks they get rejected because of that.

    In India everyone wants to get in Ibo, but they don’t know how to break into it. In India hardly there are 2 or 3 training institutes which provide practical training required in IB.
    I got introduces to IB when I attended one boot camp in Mumbai last December. Then I did lot of research. I found that in India there are hardly few institutes for ib training.

    While doing net search I found breaking into Wall Street courses. I bought the premium package in April. To my surprise I got what I looking for. Means exhaustive materials to get the knowledge about Ib.

    Even I under went 6 week exhaustive training in one of my friend boutique investment firm.
    Yesterday only my exam got over. Now I am waiting for the result. I have 2 months to prepare for the IB interviews.

    1. Thanks for adding those insights, very helpful. I’m glad that the BIWS courses have proven helpful for you, and good luck with your exam results!

    2. Avatar
      Prajwala Ghate

      HI Bhavin,

      Will you please elaborate about the boot camp, you’ve mentioned in your comment. I’m in Mumbai, working, but I want to join an IB… thus looking out for ways of breaking into one. Thanks in advance :)

  6. Yeah that’s what I was thinking. To extend the terminal year since it’ll slow down eventually. Wouldn’t an extension to 10, max 20 years be enough (not sure)? And it doesn’t seem very hard to do that in excel. Then use a perpetual growth rate to get terminal value.

    And I’m assuming the reason why forecasts are unreliable is due to the macroeconomic/socio-political environment. In which case that should be captured in the discount rate

    Pardon my lack of experience, I’ve only ever had internship experience in IB, with not much modelling. So most of my knowledge is theoretical.

    1. The problem is that the NPV of those cash flows declines to very low levels 10-20 years out so it’s almost worthless anyway, esp. since the discount rate must be significantly higher in emerging markets. So you could end up with a scenario where most future value comes from much higher cash flows that are discounted back at very rates, making the NPV low despite the high absolute numbers.

  7. A delightful post as always :) Just a quick question – Are there any significant hurdles in place to prevent the employment of non Indian citizens by IBs in India. Considering that India doesn’t have the most liberal policies, I would guess there is a huge deal of bureaucracy and red tape in place to limit the entry of foreign nationals into Indian labor market.

    I would really appreciate if somebody could shed some light over this. Cheers!

    1. Not sure about that one but I’ll see if the interviewee can explain it based on what he’s seen.

  8. Great post as always. I think there’s a reason India is less of a darling than the other BRIC nations like China and probably Brazil as well.

    Still alot of red tape and restrictive policy lying around. India hasn’t changed much at all in this aspect. This is a pity cuz in all other aspects India has comparable potential to other emerging economies.

    If I’m not wrong the total value of ECM deals done in India YTD is something like US$100+m, which is really pathetic (Not sure about M&A though). Which is why it doesn’t surprise me that the Indian offices do the grunt work for other countries.

    And can someone explain why DCF is ‘relatively useless’ with growing companies? I don’t quite agree with that.

    1. Yup, that’s very true. Government policies have limited economic growth and deal activity there. M&A and capital markets activity is much smaller in general, which explains a lot of why the industry is so small.

      A DCF isn’t helpful with fast-growing companies because you almost always get nonsensical results if the company is growing at 50-100% per year – how do you even set a terminal growth rate or terminal multiple there? If you make it in-line with historical trends, it’s way too high; on the other hand, to make it appropriately low, you have to project many, many years out until the growth rate slows down.

      The other factor is the lack of reliable forecasts in many emerging markets.

      You see the same thing in places like China – previous interviewees mentioned that the growth rates + lack of serious forecasts make analyses like the DCF less helpful.

  9. To “Pays to be white”:

    Banks (and usual international companies) do look for diversity if they deal with clients abroad, or if they simply want to bring a little cultural value and/or different ways of thinking to the team. Eventually, they hire you to bring value to the table, and the interviewee probrably proved that he could. End of story.

    If you want to take advantage of being the “different” one too, say bye to the herd & go to somewhere else in the world except for UK and US, and see if you can handle that. You might find heaven somewhere else:)

    1. Yes, agreed, but let’s not start a race war here (the US election yesterday was bad enough on that front).

      Banks always want diversity… so you can often gain an advantage by recruiting elsewhere in the world, regardless of where you’re from originally, as long as it’s a market that’s receptive to foreigners.

      1. Didn’t intend to come across like that… From my own & many friends’ experience in working abroad, I would just tell any unattached kid who would listen to look elsewhere if you face too much competition at home, the less crowded places the better. Don’t want to go into details but both pay and life style can be way better if you end up in the right place.

        I know you got loads of articles about different regions (like the brilliant Saudi Arabia banking one). I’m posting this in case it would inspire anyone like it inspired me.

    2. Avatar
      Pays to be white

      Well the ‘value’ he brings in this case happens to be his ‘ethnicity’. You could say end of story and leave it at that.

      Or you could choose to realise that there is something quite sinister with the way things work.

      Either way, unlike you, I refuse to turn a blind eye to it.

      C student from India with just a degree in Physics will have no real leverage anywhere.

      1. Avatar

        You are wrong about the pay factor.

        Most Investment banks in India (especially bulge brackets) assign salary by level – analyst, associate, VP… with minor differentiation based on experience.

        No firm would want to cause an upset by paying a 22 year old analyst from the uk more then the analyst sitting next to him or his vp.

        1. Avatar
          Pays to be white

          I don’t think they pay him more than his VP- that would be absurd, but I am pretty sure they hired him for a graduate position that an Indian with the same qualifications would NEVER could aspire to.

          Salaries for graduate positions vary immensely. The higher end being usually reserved for IIM and IIT graduates. £18K pounds would be around 15 Lakh rupees, which is at the EXTREME end.

          Rather strange that most jobs paying 15Lakh on Naukri in IB are for those with 10+ years experience:

          1. Avatar
            Doesn't Pay to be White

            I can assure you, as an intern I was paid 8 lakh per annum with only an undergraduate degree.

            First years front office analysts make 18-30 lakhs easy.

            I am talking about bulge brackets only.

          2. Avatar
            Pays to be white

            This is in response to the post by ‘Doesn’t Pay to be White’

            To those who are tuned with reality: These front-office jobs that pay over 15 Lakh+ p.a. are almost exclusively for graduates from premier institutions such as IIMs and IITs that recruit from the top 1 percentile nationally.

            Now if there is an Indian student who scored Cs at school (60% at class XII) and went to a non-target school and actually managed to bag a starting salary of 12 Lakh+ at a front-office role in bulge bracket, I have to say you are a rare breed indeed, and I would LOVE to hear how you managed it. Till then I am going to presume you are a mythical creature.

            To those who wish to remain self-deluded: Remain as self-deluded as you want if it helps you to sleep at night.

  10. Avatar
    Pays to be white

    I wanted to point out in my understanding a C grade Indian student with a degree in physics and even with a master’s degree will almost never make 18K pounds a year in India. I know people who have A grades at school and were the top students in their degrees working for less than 3 K pounds a year.

    I am convinced the reason why your interviewee got the job in spite of his grades and his qualifications is simply because he’s European born, and was able to by-pass the usual restrictions placed onto local candidates. That’s a real shame. Lets not be blind to it.

    1. Avatar
      Pays to be white

      Regarding CAs,the CA exams in India is ridiculously difficult in the name of ‘keeping standards’ but in reality to keep the numbers low so the salaries are relatively high (in an Indian context).

      Subsequently only the top 2% of candidates are successful. And that is why people place much weight onto CAs.

      By contrast becoming a CA in the UK/USA is quite common and not particularly difficult.

    2. You might be right, but everyone else at his firm also makes the same amount (or more, for more senior people). And they have varied qualifications and experience. So I don’t think the 3K pound per year number you cite is the ceiling on pay.

      1. Avatar
        Pays to be white

        £3K p.a. (1 to 2 Lakh Ruppees)is around the average salary for most Indian graduates. GE graduate engineer earns £2K a year. A salary of £18K a year in India is huge.

        Firstly, it’s not necessarily that the others in his office are paid the same. Nationality is a big determiner of pay in many countries (in the middle east- Dubai, Saudi Arabia, etc.- it is common knowledge (and a well documented fact) that a white person can expect to earn up to four times as much as an Indian in the same role).

        Further, in India nearly everyone who goes into high paying job such as in a IB have an MBA (from a top tier school), or a degree from a very selective institution such as the IITs (Which btw recruit from the top 1 percentile of high-school graduates and hence you won’t see many C grade students).

        The reason why the CA is really competitive in India is precisely because CAs earn significantly more than most graduates.

        A C grade student with degree in physics will have no chance if he were an ordinary Indian without connections.

        1. Yes, but he said explicitly that others in his office are paid the same way when I asked. Yes, some of them may have MBAs and so on but the pay rates are similar.

          I think you might be misunderstanding his story with your “C student” comments – those refer to standardized tests in the UK, not to his university-level grades. You would never land any kind of offer at most finance firms with university grades that low.

          I know you’re angry about this story, but it is what it is: I wanted to publish it to show what someone might do in this situation and what the industry in India is like.

          There are plenty of challenges the interviewee will have to face looking ahead, one of the key ones being that his experience won’t translate over well to other regions necessarily and that his pay is very low in places like the UK where the cost of living is an order of magnitude higher than in India. So yes, good for him, but it’s a massive exaggeration to think that he’s “set for life” or that he’s won a huge victory by achieving this.

          1. Avatar
            Pays to be white

            I don’t hold anything against him, and I wish him well.

            I merely wanted to point out the manifestation of what I believe white/first-world privilege lest people don’t notice.

            I am aware he got C’s in his A level, and (subsequently) didn’t go to a target school in the UK.

            It was certainly an interesting interview, and could be useful for some of your readers.

          2. I laughed quite a bit at the post , at the cultural aspects , because they are mostly true (mind you im indian and will become a CA in a year)

            I get what ‘pays to be white’ is saying.Its a cultural thing to treat white people as novelty and superior species as compared to natives here.Google ‘colonial mentality india’.The white skin is looked upon here and aryan features are thought of to be ideal.This mentality exists in all countries which were colonised like phillipines,brazil , south africa etc
            No offence to any white people , i have nothing against you but its easier for you despite being foreign in the above mentioned countries. While as its the reverse in western countries where foreigners find it a tad more difficult due to the labour laws
            So pays to be white is right though ppl may find it offensive , its a cultural thing in india

          3. Avatar
            Affirmative Action

            First of all, I am Indian.

            This is retarded. I worked at a bulge bracket (Mumbai) and probably 10-20% (max) was white. They were from good schools from the US or UK.

            Bulge Bracket = US/European Banks = Deal with clients worldwide. Therefore having some diversity in the office surely helps. Americans/Europeans (incl. Indian Americans) regardless of skin color would add some sort of additional value when dealing with foreign clients. Therefore having a few foreigners in the office is not abnormal. I am sure the author above is from a good school and has additional value add (well traveled, well informed, sales skills, unique story) to have obtained the job.

            If you are from India, yes you need to be IIM/IIT. With 200 -400 million students in the country, how else are you going to stand out?

            Blaming it on skin color is just ludicrous.

          4. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Thanks for your input. I agree with you.

  11. First off, THANK YOU for doing this interview.

    I am a fresher CA from India and have been trying to get into IB/PE/VC for over 3 months now. I have tried all the tricks in the book (your website) but haven’t made as much progress as I would like.

    Just one (kinda irrelevant) clarification. Based on what the interviewee mentioned about the partying scene over here, he seems to be in Mumbai. It’s much better in other major cities like Bangalore and Delhi.

    1. Addition:
      As I’m learning with intense regret, CA’s aren’t such hot property in IB, after all. I mean, CA’s do get hired even by bulge bracket, but luck does seem to be a big factor in getting shortlisted.

      1. Yup, luck is always a factor. All you can really do is have some unique background to set yourself apart… in India I would imagine that they might value industry expertise more than other factors, but that is just a guess.

        1. “Industry expertise”:
          I dunno how it is abroad, but here it seems like all entry level jobs start with 1+ years of relevant experience.

          I mean, there’s a huge number of jobs for which I could apply with 1 year experience, but there’s nothing for freshers.

          As a qualified CA, it’s frustrating to not being able to even get a job. And believe me, I HAVE been networking.

          But that’s another matter. I’d like to know your thoughts about this 1+ years of experience requirement trend.

          1. That objection generally means that they don’t want to spend time and money training you, and want someone who already knows how to do the work – the best way to answer it is to show how you’ve already done your own work to learn the skills (mostly technical, but also the “soft skills”) required on the job. If you go to them and say, “I understand the requirements, but I can immediately start saving you time/money because I’ve completed case studies, know financial modeling, and more – you don’t need to train me or wait for me to get up to speed” you will get better responses, or at least more receptive people.

          2. Try to get into IIM A/B/C. CAs are hotshots here and they got all the ibanking shortlists.

    2. Thanks! I have no idea about the partying scene, but thanks for clarifying. :)

      Yes, it sounds incredibly difficult from what the interviewee said. I think the previous interviewee from a few years ago mentioned months of non-stop cold-calling and networking to win his offer.

  12. Oh, Brian. I wonder whether there is a case that former equity or fixed income sales person broke into the banking business, as a newbie analyst working as a fixed income sales division (though I did not apply for this division)

    1. Not sure about that one, but we hope to cover more on sales in the future and the possibility of transferring to IB afterward. I know interns have definitely done it – if you search for “sales & trading to investment banking” we have a case study from 2 years ago on that.

  13. Thanks for the sharing. It’s always a pleasure to learn about banking life in exotic places.

  14. Avatar
    Praveen I R Gowda

    Well, all this amazes me being an Indian who wants to get into ib. It’s true that we don’t get to go through much reviews about ibanking in India. Thnx for this post. I keep looking for many more threads posted here!

    1. Thanks! Yes, hope to feature more about India on the site in the future.

  15. Investment banking in India???…Big deal. Entry standards are much lower over there. There are lots of Indian students who study in the UK, and then land summer internships at the big name banks/firms in India, effectively just because of their UK degree.

    1. So? Still an interesting story.

  16. Its a interesting story. Thanks for sharing, though how much people with 4-5 year exp gets in INDIA. Also what about energy, INDIA being developing country should have a good hub for energy banking

    1. Thanks! Honestly not sure about the 4-5 years one, but I’ll ask the interviewee what he thinks. Energy – yes, but less so than countries like Russia or Middle Eastern ones. Not as much in the way of reserves.

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