by Brian DeChesare Comments (88)

From Valuation Advisory to Investment Banking: How to Make the Lateral Leap

Valuation Advisory to Investment Banking: Lateral HiringAsk around about lateral hiring at investment banks, and you’ll hear a few comments come up repeatedly:

  • “It’s impossible if you haven’t worked in IB before because they only want people with previous experience.”
  • “Seriously, who would ever leave their job suddenly in the middle of the year when it’s so hard to get the job in the first place?”
  • “Banks are just not hiring.” (Regardless of deal activity, the economy, etc.)

Our reader interviewee today proved all of the points above wrong by moving from valuation advisory (similar to what you do at the Big 4) into investment banking, in the middle of the year and without previous IB experience.

Oh, and he was from a non-target school as well.

And he moved from a regional office to NYC in the process.

Here’s exactly how he did all this and moved into investment banking after graduating:

Whither Commercial Banking?

Q: So, your story. Walk us through the beginning and what you did during and after university.

A: Sure. I attended a small, non-target college in the Southern part of the US. I didn’t have much money to spend on attending a brand-name school, and this one had offered me a full academic scholarship so it was hard to pass up.

I went in thinking I would become a lawyer, but I lost interest in law along the way and switched to business instead.

At my school, almost everyone in the business / finance programs wanted to go into commercial banking afterward. Even my mentor at university was a commercial banker, and he constantly talked about how good it was.

Hardly any firms recruited there for real investment banking positions, so people perceived commercial banking as their “best option.”

Despite that, I wasn’t quite sold on it and I wanted to keep my options open and avoid getting pigeonholed into commercial banking in the future.

So I won an offer for an internship at a boutique valuation advisory firm and worked there in the summer of my junior year.

I liked the work quite a bit and learned a ton about valuation and financial modeling.

But when I got back to school for my final year, I still pursued full-time commercial banking roles for a while because it seemed like the thing to do.

Q: But you didn’t end up working in commercial banking full-time…

A: Nope, because the firm I had interned at gave me an exploding offer and I chose to accept that rather than taking a chance and possibly not ending up with any full-time job offers.

That was probably for the better: it’s much easier to make your case for IB if you’ve done valuation-related work before, but it would be more difficult if you’ve only had commercial banking experience.

Q: And so what was it like working at this firm? It seems like you enjoyed it at first.

A: In some ways it was great, because it really was a crash course on valuation and financial modeling and I got a lot of client exposure from very early on.

But the work was more related to accounting / financial reporting rather than advising on deals and/or affecting the outcome of deals and investments.

So I knew within my first 2 years on the job that I didn’t want to stay there permanently.

Discussion of Strategic Alternatives

Q: So then you started looking for IB roles 2 years into the job?

A: Not exactly. I had very little idea of what investment banking actually was back then.

I really didn’t know which direction I would head in, so I pursued almost anything that seemed related to my work experience – corporate finance, investment banking, private equity, and even joining a valuation / business modeling group at a Big 4 firm.

That turned out to be one of my biggest mistakes – if you interview for so many different roles, it is really hard to keep different versions of your story straight and to sound convincing when you go in to speak with each group.

I did that because I wasn’t 100% sold on banking after doing my own research and networking – so I didn’t want to commit to it and ignore everything else.

But then about 6 months ago, I realized that I wasn’t doing well in interviews because of this exact problem – so I started declining all non-IB interviews, and even stopped pursuing a PE opportunity (the process would have taken too long).

That’s when things started taking off.

I know you’ve recommended keeping all your options open before, but in my experience it was really, really hard to do that and interview for so many different roles when you’re already working full-time.

Q: OK, so you narrowed your focus and then you started doing a lot better.

Can you walk us through how you approached networking once you made that decision?

A: Sure. Overall, I didn’t go quite as crazy with networking as some of your other stories on this site.

I spent around 5 hours per week on it over the course of a year, which was split between looking for people on LinkedIn, asking for introductions, and setting up calls.

Besides the obvious benefits of networking (interviews), I gained 2 other important advantages:

  1. I learned how to speak like bankers do – this is a subtle point, but just by using different vocabulary and lingo you can instantly make yourself a better candidate.
  2. I got very direct feedback from bankers – some were brutally honest and said my chances weren’t good, but I always took action based on what they said and fixed holes in my story and work experience based on that.

I relied heavily on a single contact I met during my internship at this valuation advisory firm – he was several years above me and managed to win a boutique IB offer and then a bulge bracket offer several years ago, after completing the same internship I had.

I got to know him well during the internship and stayed in touch afterward, so he was a “mentor” of sorts to me.

Altogether, I probably talked to around 40-50 bankers (most of them were junior, but a few were VPs and above) – I found some of them through LinkedIn, others through alumni, and still others through my mentor and a 2nd person who had worked at my firm and then got into banking.

I had never even met the second guy in-person – I came across his profile on LinkedIn, reached out to him, and said, “Hey, I saw you worked at my current firm and then got into IB, do you have any tips or advice?”

You’ve mentioned before that you should cast your net wide, but I think it’s worth pointing out that a few good, very reliable contacts can be far more helpful than dozens of people you barely know.

In my case, I met 80% of the bankers I networked with through these 2 people.

Q: Yeah, that is a great point. If you already have a really strong connection with someone you need to take full advantage of it.

What about the geographical focus? You were working in the South, but ended up moving to NYC. Did you have to make in-person trips there?

A: Nope, I did almost everything via the phone and email. The first time I even went to NYC in-person was for the interview that eventually led to my job offer.

I focused on a major banking center in the South at first since I knew more people there, but I realized that the turnover rate is much higher in NYC, which is to your advantage when looking for lateral roles – banks often find themselves shorthanded as analysts leave right around bonus season.

Q: You bring up an interesting point about timing – do you think it makes more sense to go for lateral roles when it’s close to bonus season and people are leaving?

A: Actually, not really.

There might be a small advantage to doing this, but in my opinion the sooner the better when you’re recruiting for lateral roles – you don’t want to wait an arbitrary amount of time just because you think people will be leaving right after bonuses.

The truth is people are always leaving. Lots of analysts win offers, realize they hate it after a few weeks or few months, and then suddenly quit – even if they haven’t gotten their bonuses yet.

Yes, it’s competitive, you’re up against experienced people, and you need to be prepared – but as you’ve always said, do not overestimate the competition.

People leave all the time for unexpected reasons, and when that happens banks can be very quick to hire new people because they desperately need the help.

Lateral Interviews

Q: OK, so you’ve narrowed your focus, you’ve spoken to a few dozen bankers and indicated your interest in a lateral move, and you’ve gone beyond your own city to consider NYC-based roles.

What next?

A: I ended up with 2 interviews, one of which was for a real estate investment banking position and one of which was for more of a generalist role.

Although I liked the RE team, I didn’t want to get pigeonholed in that industry so I didn’t go beyond a phone interview with them.

At the other bank (a top 15 global firm), a lot of analysts were leaving early for PE roles so they needed to hire someone very quickly.

I found out about the opportunity at noon on Thursday one week, went through 2 interviews and a case study, flew in for an in-person interview, and won the offer in 7 days.

Q: Yeah, sounds like they really needed the help. So what were the key objections you faced in interviews?

A: First off, as you’ve pointed out before, most bankers tend to view anything other than banking as inferior.

I had assumed they would assault me with technical questions, but my first 2-3 interviews focused on:

  • Who are you and why do you want to do this?
  • What does your firm do?
  • What work have you done that’s relevant to this role?
  • Are you sure you want to move to NYC? Why?

I anticipated a lot of those in advance and had ready-made responses to the usual questions about the hours, my attention to detail, the relevancy of my work experience, etc.

The short version of my story:

“Everyone at my school did commercial banking, but I was more interested in valuation and financial modeling, so I went to the valuation advisory firm to get exposure to that. While I enjoyed the work, I wanted to take a more active role in the deal process instead of simply coming in to render an opinion after all the work had already been done – and I see IB as the best way to get there because it would allow me to combine my existing valuation and financial modeling skill set with advising companies on deals and taking a more active role in the process.”

I made sure to include keywords such as “attention to detail” in my actual story, and also included specific references to the number of hours I had worked during busy periods at my firm.

I could also cite examples of the valuation work I did that was most relevant to IB.

Before I had even finished answering the “Walk me through your resume” question, I wanted to answer at least 2-3 of their objections in advance

That way, the interview would turn into more of a “get to know you” session as opposed to a “grill you on whether you’re qualified and serious” session.

The question about whether or not I really wanted to move to NYC was harder to “prove,” but I answered it by pointing out that I had a 6-month apartment lease, which would be up in 1 month, and that I was going through this process in anticipation of moving.

I also said that moving to NYC would be critical since I was just starting out and had only worked in a regional office before.

Q: That question tends to surprise people, but it will come up if you’re moving to another region like this.

You mentioned they didn’t ask many technical questions, but there was a case study – what was involved and how did you approach it?

A: They told me 2 days in advance that I would receive an LBO model case study where I would build the model from scratch, starting from a blank sheet in Excel.

They sent me excerpts from public filings, research reports, investor presentations, and a 1 page PDF with simple instructions, and gave me around 5 hours to do it (remotely) on Saturday morning and then send it back to them.

It wasn’t that difficult because:

  • I had already practiced building LBO models from scratch based on other case studies.
  • I practiced under extreme time pressure so I could learn how to skip unnecessary details.

It’s easy to get hung up on small details that don’t make a big difference in these case studies; I’ve seen people dwell on how to show Depreciation on the Income Statement (some companies show it as a separate line item, some embed it in COGS or OpEx, and some do a mix of both).

That is a big mistake because it doesn’t matter how you show it – you just need to ensure that you’ve reflected the full amount somewhere on the IS and then added it back on the CFS.

So I prepared for those issues in advance and taught myself not to over-think them.

Q: Great, any other interview tips?

A: Honestly, the biggest obstacle for me – and for anyone else moving in from another field, I suspect – is the perception that “you have good experience, but it’s still not investment banking experience.”

That mindset will drag you down in interviews and will make it much harder to sound convincing.

So I did the opposite and acted as if I had worked on real M&A deals in interviews – even though I only contributed to the valuation.

You never want to “apologize for” your experience or indirectly admit that it’s inferior.

It sounds simple, but that shift in mindset and going 180 degrees in the opposite direction made a big difference – if you have to choose, it’s much better to be overconfident in interviews.

Final Thoughts

Q: So we’ve been through most of your story now – any other tips or tricks you want to share that we haven’t already discussed?

A: Yes – download and use this site’s resume templates right now.

I can’t stress how important it is to make everything you’ve done look like a deal even if you haven’t worked on deals.

Bankers scan resumes so quickly that you may not even have a shot unless you use the “project/client”-format you’ve recommended.

And using that format, at the very least, forces them to take a closer look and see what you really did – which will always help your case if the rest of your resume is well-done.

Q: Well, thanks for promoting my resume templates. But back to you: what about your own future plans?

A: I settled on IB mostly because I didn’t think I could get a decent PE job without it.

I’m not 100% sold on PE, actually, so I’d say there’s a 50% chance I’ll eventually go there and a 50% chance I’ll stick around and go for the Associate promotion here.

Even if I do go into PE, I have no interest in the mega-funds – I would only aim for middle-market and lower middle-market funds so that I can be competitive (the slightly better lifestyle also helps).

Q: Awesome. Thanks for your time!

A: My pleasure.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

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

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  1. Hi Brian, I recently started a IBD management role in a BB where I primarily do M&A industry research, market share analysis, fee runs and etc. (not working on specific deals or modeling). Good part of this job is that I’m directly making strategy presentations for the senior management and have a lot of interaction with bankers across IBD. I’m still trying to get into a deal team if possible. What’s the best strategy in this case? I have ~1.5Y industry experience and plan to start networking and applying ~6 months in the job.

    1. I don’t think there is much strategy to it. Networking is mostly about the grind. Make a list of people, write your email templates, start reaching out, customize each template, ask about positions in the other person’s group, follow up, check back periodically, rinse, wash, repeat.

      1. Thanks Brian, I’m a bit worried about technicals questions since I don’t have much modeling experience. What level they are likely to expect in this case? like being able to build a model from scratch?

        1. At the large banks, no, probably not, but you’ll be expected to answer the standard accounting/valuation-type technical questions.

  2. Hi Brain, I recently graduated from a top target Uni in the UK, but I didnt get any IBD offers. Is this an OK way to break into IBD:
    1) Work at Big 4 doing M&A advisory for 2 years
    2) Do a masters degree
    3) Do an IBD internship since I am a student again.

    Is it ok if I do it this way, or will I be considered too old/experienced to apply for an internship?

    1. You can do that, but I’m not sure that you need a Master’s degree if you graduated from a top university. You should be able to network into IB from a Big 4 firm.

  3. Hi Brian, thanks for this great article. I am currently working in a valuation advisory and venture capital firm in Hong Kong for almost 2 years, I was about to give up my “break into IB” idea since I couldn’t get any IB internship and full time offer after college. After reading your article, I think i might still have some chance of getting in. I planned to start networking now and keep doing it for the next 6 to 12 months. But based on the current situation in HK (coronavirus and political), do you think networking lateral hiring is still possible in HK? Should I continue?

    1. Networking is still possible, but yes, it’s more difficult in the current environment. The key is to go after groups that are still active, such as corporate banking/DCM/Leveraged Finance/Restructuring since companies need to borrow even more in times of crisis.

      1. A little update: Things have gone quite differently to my expectation. Networking is so much harder since everybody is working from home and I find people less responsive. I am still able to connect with some college alumni and recruitment agents in the investment banking sector. And just now, I was offered an associate role in risk management at a boutique investment bank. Since I couldn’t get any front office role, and the nature of this position is very close to IBD, I decided to take it and spin my way into IBD after 1 or 2 years.

  4. Brian,

    Thank you for the valuable info shared in this blog. I’m from South America, went to a non-target in the west coast, 3.3 GPA. I got my CPA and I’m about to complete my first year after graduation in Big 4 Audit in the US. I got an opportunity to join the Big 4 Valuations team back in my country or do an MSF in Finance here at Babson/USC (waiting to hear back from Vanderbilt). Having IB front-office as the main goal down the road, what option would you say it makes more sense? I’m tending towards the valuation job cause I feel I can always do to the MSF in one or two years (or even an MBA in like 3-4 years) in case I cant successfully transition from Valuations to IB. What do you think? Thanks!

    1. I think it will be quite difficult to move from Big 4 Valuations in South America to IB in the US (and there isn’t much of an IB industry in South America, at least not the type of jobs you’d actually want to get – “permanent internships,” very long hours, may or may not get hired, etc.). So… if you get into Vanderbilt, that is probably the best option here. Not sure about recruiting at Babson/USC, but if they send a fair number of people into IB, that’s probably better.

      1. Thanks for the insight, Brian. How do you think IB recruitment this fall will be affected? I am scared of staying in the US for the MSF and one of the two things end up happening: 1 – Recruiters will look at me and think I don’t have enough finance experience (I have the extracurriculars from college like investment fund but my internships were all with big 4). 2 – We are still in quarantine during recruitment season and banks end up hiring fewer people/changing recruitment process.

        1. I expect that the big banks will continue to recruit, but boutiques probably won’t do much hiring unless someone leaves and they need to replace the person. And yes, there is a chance that the current crisis will continue for a long time. So, if that is your main concern, maybe switch to Big 4 Valuations in your home country, but only stay for 1-2 years and apply for MSF programs right after that so you don’t have “too much experience.”

  5. Hey Brian, I am starting a graduate role in audit at one of the Big 4 in September, but I know that I eventually want to move into IB (I only realised this after ‘recruiting season’). Ideally, I will complete my ACA and then move within the Big 4 into an Advisory role and then try and move laterally from there into IB through networking as this interview suggested. Do you think that this transition would take too long as it would be around 5-6 years after graduation that I would be moving into IB? I am worried that I would be considered too old to move into an Analyst position at a BB/EB? Thank you in advance for your help.

    1. Yes, 5-6 years is too long. At that point, you won’t win Analyst roles so you’ll have to go the MBA route instead.

  6. Great article. I currently work in Credit Risk at a BB as an AVP. I’ve seen some risk analysts make the move to front office LevFin. Do you think it’s still possible to lateral from risk to IB at the AVP level? Thx in advance.

    1. It gets more difficult as you move up. It might be possible at the AVP level, but the odds are definitely lower. If you want to move, do so ASAP before you get promoted even higher up the ladder.

  7. Such an awesome and very detailed article. I am a senior and I just realized my passion for finance but it’s too late to apply for IB positions so I am starting as a Valuation Analyst. And this article really gave me the motivation that I could move laterally to IB.
    Would love to hear an after transition interview about the work, deals and long hours.

    1. There’s a similar story with a bit on the “after the switch” impressions: (“Q: So what has the banking job been like so far?”)

  8. Hey Brian,
    Been doing Valuations for almost a year (8 months) and I’ve started applying and networking with bankers. All the job postings I see say 1 year of ib experience required and obviously I have no direct ib experience. Should I still apply for these roles? Or should I only apply to the roles that specifically say entry level roles that seniors in undergrad would apply for? Thanks!

    1. Yes, still apply even if they say 1 year of work experience. But beware that you’ll get much better results by networking with bankers… job postings are helpful mostly for determining whether or not there is a job opening in a certain group or at a certain firm.

      1. Can I apply for the positions that seniors in UG are applying for and start with them or is that against bank policy? Obviously lateral is ideal but I want to weigh all my options. Thanks!

        1. You normally can’t do that. Also, most banks do not even recruit separately for full-time roles because they try to convert as many summer interns as possible. So I’m not sure how well that would work at all. Maybe if it’s a smaller bank or it’s based in a non-major-financial center (i.e., not NYC or London), you might get better results with that method.

  9. Hi Brian – I am working at FAS Houlihan Lokey as an Associate. I want to make a move to middle-market (Jefferies, Evercore, Lazard, etc.,) or bulge bucket IBD groups. I would appreciate if you can provide any suggestion on how I can really make this move.

    1. Find professionals at those banks on LinkedIn… email them a short message introducing yourself and asking about lateral roles (see the templates on this site)… and keep doing that until you get responses. It’s a pretty simple process that doesn’t require much cleverness – just brute force finding of names, emailing, and following up.

  10. Hey
    First of all, thanks for all this valuable information youre posting on the web.
    Im writing you because i have two offers and I dont know what to decide:

    – Financial Advisory, Valuation at Deloitte (senior consultant)
    – Internship at ING – M&A. It lasts 6 months and they told me they cannot promise a full time position afterwards as it depends on the headcount.

    I have 0 m&a experience, but i used to be an audit senior at Deloitte so the move is easy to Valuation, even if it is a senior. Though I have done Master of Finance + 2 levels of cfa, and I accumulated some relevant experience in valuation helping other teams.

    If I eventually would like to break into IB, which is a better election?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. If you can label the ING experience “investment banking,” that’s probably the better one because you already have the Deloitte name and financial advisory/valuation experience may not be perceived that differently vs. official M&A experience.

  11. Do lateral analysts get the same training program as new analysts?

    1. Usually no, but the expectation is that you’ll come in already knowing a lot… since case studies and modeling tests are common in interviews.

  12. Is moving from valuations to entry-level IB analyst in less than a year after starting considered “lateral”? Or is it only considered lateral for experienced professionals?

    Follow up: is less than one year of entry-level position still considered an “experienced professional”?

    1. Yes, that would still be considered a lateral hire. If you have any amount of full-time work experience, even less than a year, you would be placed in the “experienced professional / lateral hire” category.

      1. Thanks Brian! When you apply for those roles, do you apply for them using the same link you would use for undergrad entry-level analyst positions, or is there a dedicated section for experienced hires for entry-level analyst positions?

        1. You network your way into these roles. Even on the off chance that they post something about the roles online, you’ll get much better results with networking, as this story was intended to show.

          1. I see. And for lateral hires, would you recommend the same line you mentioned in your networking post of “with recruiting season coming up, how would I best position myself to interview with your firm?” I would imagine it wouldn’t really apply too much since there’s no season for lateral, so how would you word it? “Can you let me know if there are any lateral positions?, can you keep me updated on potential opportunities, etc?”

          2. I don’t know, see our email templates. This is a small detail that you shouldn’t send much time thinking about. Just ask if there are any open roles in the group.

  13. Hey Brian for the person you were interviewing, he was doing Valuations for two years and then jumped to an entry level analyst role at a bb or an associate role at the bb?

    1. I think he officially left 2 years into it, but he had been recruiting for at least 6-12 months before that. He joined as a 2nd Year Analyst I believe.

  14. Hi brain, please suggest me is it a good idea to work in a sell side M&A after working in valuation profile about 2 years ???

    1. Well, what do you want to do? Do you want to be in IB or PE in the long term? If so, then yes, sell-side M&A is a good idea after working in valuation and is the only way you can get in aside from going to business school.

  15. Hey Brian,

    I just completed a post-grad Valuation internship (3 months, no longer working there as of this week), and I have an upcoming buy-side M&A advisory junior analyst interview (little financial modeling in this role).
    Would it look bad to leave the buy-side M&A role after 3 months for a FT IB role (to gain technical skill for PE)? Or should I take it to get the deal exposure (although not much financial modeling), and leave in a few months?

    1. Why would you accept a buy-side M&A role that you’re planning to leave in 3 months if you also have an FT IB role? Just accept the FT IB role and start working there. I’m not sure what you would gain if there’s little technical work in the buy-side role.

  16. Hi Brian, Thanks a lot for all of your opinions placed, I want to work in an Investment Banking, let tell breafily my history and then please I appreciate your suggestions. I am from Latam where I studied Industrial Enginieering, then a Master in Industrial Engineering and then a specialist in Financial engineering, I have worked for 15 years in the financial industry, firs in a big bank in my country in the treasury in Back Office, then in MIdle and then in a big project as a functional consultant to chance the negotiation platorm of the treasury bank. then I worked in Sales and trading there for two years on equity, then I move to a middle investment bank in my country to work as a Senior equity research and also made activities as a tactical porffolio manager, finally a have move to Spain to study a Master in Corporate Finance and Investment banking in a business school recognized in Spain and in spanish language, so I knoiw is a good school but is nor oxford or LSE, I am 38 years old, and I really appreciatte your point of view and suggestions to work in a top or middle Investment company in Europe or States. do you think I have a chance?

    1. It would be extremely tough to win an offer at a traditional investment bank if you already have 15+ years of work experience. You might be able to win an offer in asset management, corporate finance, or non-traditional IB roles.

  17. Hi Brian,

    I had a corporate banking summer intern in a big bank in NYC where I got pretty good exposure to DCF and Comps (though not as intense as IB). I really received an interview from EY’s TAS Business Modeling team. I know they do most of the cooperate finance work, and build up excel models for their clients (for example what would the entity looks if a client want to spin off for tax purposes?). So I was wondering if you can guide me on how to explain to their why I want to work for this team instead of going back to where I interned or IB?

    Many thanks to your help?

    1. Say you didn’t fit in with the “culture” of IB (They should understand what that means, i.e. long hours, cutthroat nature of people, competitiveness, etc.) and prefer the work environment of a Big 4 firm along with valuation/analytical work for clients.

  18. How do you think about a Big 4 Business modelling group opportunity? I have been invited for an interview for this role :
    It will be great to know your thoughts about the role and the exit opportunities you think this role will provide.
    I am from maths degree background and I have a MSc Finance from London School of Economics. I have been working in Big 4 Assurance and derivative valuation for the past 2.5 years and I am getting my chartered accountant qualification in 6 months.

    1. I don’t know enough about it to say, but the benefits seem similar to those offered by any Big 4 role: Brand-name credibility, some client and modeling experience, etc., but it would be difficult to move into IB directly unless you get something that’s more like what the interviewee here described.

    2. You have been invited or an Assistant Director role at a big four Business Modelling Group, despite having spent your entire career thus far in audit and assurance, and having less that three years post graduation work experience? That seems highly unusual.

      Assistant Director/Associate Director/Senior Manager roles are typically for people with between 6-10 years experience. Are you sure that you have linked the correct job description? Perhaps you meant to link the Assistant Manager role?

  19. One of my friend is from Vietnam. He put HSBC Vietnam Office in his resume, although he never worked in there. It helped him to land a job at BB firm. Do you think this is a good idea? Will they find out?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think this is a good idea because it may come up in background check. I am not sure how he is going to go through background check but perhaps it is harder to find information in Vietnam

  20. I am currently working in business valuation with a big 4 and interested in moving to investment banking. I would like to know what’s the difference in the pay and hours between middle market banks such as Piper Jaffray and corporate finance division of firms like Deloitte, McKinsey. Is it easy to make a transition from Big 4’s M&A advisory to private equity after 1-2 years.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think a direct jump can be challenging. Its easier transition to go from Big 4 M&A to an IBD role, then progress to PE

      1. Thanks for your response Nicole. Can you please answer my first question: 1) What is the difference in the pay and hours between middle market banks such as Piper Jaffray and corporate finance division (M&A advisory) in firms like Deloitte, McKinsey.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Pay may be higher at middle market IBs vs accounting & consulting firms though I don’t have the exact details so I’d leave it for readers to comment

  21. Always good to see these interview pieces. I actually wanted to reach see if Brian and team was more interested in my background coming into IB, as I graduated without a job this past December after being let go from a Summer/Fall IB role and was fortunate to get a RE role a month after graduation and lateral into a IB offer four months into that role, being the last hire for the IB’s 2013 FT Analyst Class. I posted here on here about I used cold calling to land my summer/fall IB SA role and referred a lot of students to this site when I recruited for my IB a few weeks ago at my school’s career fair.

    I guess this a long winded way of saying my interest in possible doing interview with team and being an advocate for this site for all people who reach out to me when they state an interest in IB.

    Thanks for all the helpful information over the years,

    John C

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thank you John for your email and kind words. I have your email address so I’ll be in touch re. your comment.

  22. Great Article!

    I currently work at a boutique accounting co in chicago as a valuation analyst. Similar to this guy mentioned. However im interested more in prop trading like futures or options. I understand prop firms like ppl with technical backgrounds. I graduated from a medicore state school with a degree in finance. How can I break into prop trading? I wanna be a millionaire! It seems like prop trading is easier for me to become a millionaire! I also read ur links on prop trading. Please gimme advice…

    1. Thanks! Uh, it’s actually very hard to become a millionaire even in prop trading. If you really want to do trading, you need to practice on your own first, trade your own portfolio, read up on the technical topics, and get a track record to point to first… not as easy to just transition into without some sort of track record first.

  23. Quick question – what are your thoughts on going from a summer internship in a regional office with an IB sell-side M&A bank in Europe to applying for a full time position with a BB in London? Do-able?

    1. Do-able, yes, but you will need a great CV and near-flawless cover letter and application simply because they get so many applicants and like to reject people for very silly things.

  24. Avatar

    Hi M&I,
    I have a question about the type of financial modeling and valuation that BB banks do. After going through WSO, there’s a big difference in the skill set learnt at a BB group like Lev fin or M&A compared to a similar group in a MM advisory firm/ bank.
    What makes BB modeling so difficult and arcane compared to smaller firms ? Is it the complexity in the various subsidiaries, geography or just that BB’s have much more at stake in the deal. What makes the financial modeling complex ?

    1. It’s a lot of nonsense, to be quite honest. Modeling is based on future assumptions… what guarantee do you have that those future assumptions are accurate?


      Complexity does not equal precision.

      People at bigger banks spend a lot of time on creating multiple scenarios, creating more granular projections, etc. but ultimately most of it is to stroke the ego of the client and suck up to them to get higher fees.

      A simple model is no less accurate than a really complex one, because future assumptions are always inaccurate.

      It’s more about building in support for your numbers than anything else. If that support is actually valid, e.g. it comes from real channel checks and discussions, it can be valuable, but often it is not and is based on less-than-solid evidence.

      The best way to counter this objection in interviews is to point to examples of more complex models you’ve built or state the points above about complexity vs. precision and how your models helped achieve a tangible result.

      1. Forecasting replaces chance with error.

        1. I’m going to use that quote in an upcoming webinar…

  25. Quick question regarding lateral hires: I’m interviewing with two groups at the same bank. Not even sure how the first group got my c.v. in the first place but I decided to go and find it out anyway. Now the second group invited me on a superday. Can I just mention that I’ve interviewed with the other group without making myself look ambiguous? Would it do me any good? I understand laterals might be different from new hires that the career goal needs to be a little more focused, no?

    1. Personally, I would not mention that because it may make you look unfocused. So I would not mention it unless they ask specifically who else you have spoken to there.

      1. So if asked, shall I say I talked to them/had informal interviews in the past? Or just be honest? Also, what is a good follow up time for lateral hires after the group interview (not a superday)?


        1. If asked, I would just say that you are also speaking with the other group but that this group is your first choice (as long as that part is true). They could easily ask and find out, so no point in hiding it… but also no point in mentioning it unless they ask specifically.

          I would follow-up within a week if you don’t hear back, and sooner than that if it is a very quick process to replace someone… maybe more like 2-3 days.

          1. Agree with Brian totally. Don’t ask don’t tell here, that is regarding other groups at the same bank, only answer the specific questions they ask and don’t volunteer information. Don’t lie as they can easily check your story, but it’s up to them to ask.

          2. Thank all for your replies!I was actually invited back for a third around with senior members of the team. As they mentioned last around was a superday and I did speak with two directors, i was really surprised they would like me to meet more “senior” members. What to expect? Shall I actively contact the people in the group to find out more details (haven’t really done so)?

          3. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Congrats. Yes I’d actively contact the people at the group.

          4. Yeah I would just contact people in the group to ask what to expect.

            If anything, it will probably be more fit-focused at this stage with more senior team members.

  26. Great article. I’ve recently gone through a similar transition, so I know this stuff does happen first hand. My situation was a bit different and I had a different approach to the recruiting / interviews, but it certainly happens. In my case, I was in an accounting advisory group at a Big Four firm (not TS / due diligence). I accepted an investment banking offer at an Elite Boutique (think Evercore, Lazard, Greenhill, Moelis) in NYC and similar to the interviewee, I was a non-target school, and masters in accounting grad. Coming in as an associate with other members of the class being ivy MBA-grads showed me that nothing is really impossible. It just requires a lot of strategy and forethought.

    For what it’s worth, this site was a huge help to me through the process. So, definitely grateful for the content here and great advice.

    1. Thanks! Glad to hear it.

    2. Avatar
      Vance Spencer

      hey B4, I am going through a similar process now (strategy PE consulting at big 4–> elite boutique), would you be able to email me regarding your experience? would love the advice ahead of interviews

  27. Is there a way one can make the valuations background sound more deal orientated for i-banking? I have about 2 years with a boutique b-val and currently work for large accounting doing b-val.

    1. The main point is to pretend that you were working on deals the whole time, even if that wasn’t the case. Extend what you did and explain how your work *may have* impacted the deal, even if it did not or it ended without having a huge impact. For example, did your valuation result in something that could have impacted the price an acquirer paid for a company? Even if it did not end up doing that, was there potential for it to happen?

      1. Thanks for this article, it really helps me out. Keep up the great work!

  28. Interesting points on interview mindset and tactics. I really love the points about countering objections as early as possible and maintaining a positive “I CAN do this” attitude.

  29. Avatar

    No one leaves before their bonus is paid out, unless they will get this comped st their new role.

    1. I’ve seen people quit mid-way through the year and go join normal companies or start-ups where there’s no bonus matching. With bonus levels these days, you are really not giving up that much… $20-30K after taxes for many people? Not much in the grand scheme of things if you compare that to 6 months of additional suffering if you really hate the job.

      You are correct that they’re more likely to leave if there is some type of bonus matching at the new firm and it’s still a finance firm, but that is not always the case.

      1. I agree on this 100%. When the bonus is not significant, I don’t see a point staying in a depressing and painful place. I’m a good example, leaving from a treasury role for a ECM role in an investment bank, after grueling interviews and assessments.

        1. Yeah, it is more of an issue for senior bankers but even there, much of the bonus is in stock or deferred comp. these days…

          1. Had a former room mate leave his fixed income sales job RIGHT before bonus season. Surprised me and others I knew at his (former) firm, but he just couldn’t put up with it anymore. Like metioned above, I doubt these days he was giving up a huge sum.

          2. Yeah, exactly. If it’s bad enough, no amount of money is worth it.

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