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What is the best way to get into investment banking?

Veteran

REID SEILER Killeen, TX

Its something I've always been interested in, I'm not sure if it would be more beneficial to get an MBA first or to jump straight into the work force.

4 March 2019 13 replies Career Exploration

Answers

Advisor

Jane Stabile Boston, MA

Hi Reid: It really depends on what you want to do. Investment banking is a pretty broad category. For example, are you interested in mergers and acquisitions, investments, research or possibly technology? - Jane Stabile

5 March 2019 Helpful answer

Advisor

Andrew Burns Charlotte, NC

Hello Reid,
That is a great question. I would advise trying to get into the specific field you are looking at before getting an MBA. Oftentimes an MBA, while almost always helpful, is not required. However, if you have trouble breaking into that field, an MBA (or a less costly alternative that may be helpful is the CFA program), would be a good way to get in front of the right recruiters. Because the MBA is so time consuming and expensive, I would personally want to make sure that it is exactly what I want to do before committing to it.

Good luck -- Andrew

Advisor

Edmund Luzine Miami, FL

Hi Captain -
The answer to your question depends on what you actually want to do as an investment banker. There are four major components to an i-bank: corporate finance (M&A, underwriting, advisory work, etc.) ; sales and trading; research; and operations.
In general, corporate finance bankers work extremely long hours, travel frequently and have a lot of stress. Their work is driven by relationships and the demand for expertise and advice, access to capital markets, etc. Sales and trading is extremely stressful and volatile, but with a relatively normal work day and modest travel. Research personnel have a low-key role in the bank, and spend a lot of time conducting research, building analytical models, and making presentations of their work. Operations personnel make sure transactions settle properly, payments get made, and everything runs smoothly.

You do not need an MBA to get hired into investment banking in entry level jobs, however you need a track record of competition and success in your field, a high level of intelligence and superior interpersonal and communications skills. An MBA is costly - $100k for tuition along with the opportunity cost of lost income for two years.

Do some research on the various career tracks and firms. Many people here have mentioned the major bulge bracket firms of GS, MS, JPM, etc. You might want to look at second tier or regional firms (PJC) and the numerous boutique firms out there (Evercore, Lazard, Moelis, Greenhill, etc).

Consider getting an internship at a firm so that you can learn about the business, the language, details on the various financial products, etc. You should read everything and anything about finance that you can get your hands on - daily reading of the WSJ, FT, NYT, etc. Weekly reading of Bloomberg Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, Barron's, etc. Watch CNBC and Bloomberg on cable. Search out professionals through your affinity networks for informational interviews (military vets, your college alumni network, fraternity brothers, family members, friends, etc.).

Also, talk to the customers of investment banks - the corporations, family offices, and municipalities that actually hire a bank to raise capital for them, structure debt or equity transactions, provide valuation and advisory services, etc.

You are less than a 3 hour drive to 3 of the top-10 largest cities in the US - Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. There are a number of large, mid-size and small investment banks in each location. Those offices have three primary roles - corporate finance (primarily for the energy sector), sales (and trading), and brokerage/asset management.

You need to act in a very intelligent and aggressive manner in getting a job in this field. Luck helps also - being in the right place at the right time.

Good luck!
Ed Luzine
eluzine@adirondackcapital.com

Advisor

Mike Evan Pittsburgh, PA

Hi Reid -- thanks for your service. I'll echo some of the previous comments that a top-tier MBA SIGNIFICANTLY will increase your chances of getting a shot at an investment banking role, especially in the analyst programs. Even then it is uber-competitive. That's not to say that it can't be done via other routes...but in my 20+ years of experience in the industry (being covered by all of the top I banks), that's where most of the junior talent pool at the firms is recruited from. Exceptions seem to be based primarily on personal relationships and or differentiating traits/experiences. I would say your military service would fall into the latter. Use the military network (preferably finding vets working at firms that you're interested in) and start building a contact list and a strong industry network. If possible, try to get up to Manhattan and arrange as many 20-30 minute meetings as you can with these people. A short-face-to-face is so much more impactful than a call. Consider the cost of the trip an investment in yourself and be as productive as you can. If I was in your shoes, I would craft a pitch about why I-banking and what your goal is (i.e., what is your ideal role and why, how you plan to get there...you'll need to do some homework here)...then ask what advice they have for helping you get there and importantly, who in their network they can introduce you to who may also be helpful along the way. Try to walk away from every meeting or call with 2-3 new contacts. Stay organized and follow up. Play the numbers game...stay front of mind of the people you meet and good things will happen.

An alternative path is the buy-side...get into institutional investment management, get a few years of experience, then start plotting a course to jump over to the other side. Depending on your role, you'll can develop a lot of relationships with the banks being on the buy-side as their client. I considered making that move myself a few times in my career but was passionate about investing and stayed on the buy-side.

If you'd like to chat, please message me via the site and we'll set up some time.

Best,
Mike

Advisor

John (Casey) Roach Greenwich, CT

Captain, Allow me to answer your question with a question; why do you want to be an investment banker? At the risk of sounding naïve, you have the basic qualifications, but you need to be able to answer that question I posed before toying with the concept. You are qualified as you have demonstrated an ability to lead and work under pressure and stress. However, you need to read a number of books to grasp the essence of what an I Banker is and does. In essence, he/she listens, dissects the issues at hand, is a good conversationalist and determines the best course of action to resolve the issues. You solve problems, raise capital, debt and equity, and become a confident of a person who manages the lives of men and women who work for your client.
As it relates to having and MBA, you need to understand basic finance, but you can achieve that by attending an executive course which meets on the weekends and challenges you to do the homework and attend classes on every other weekend. Most firms will sponsor participants and I am confident you would be sponsored if you can get employed by a firm. An alternative to spending the money to attend the appropriate business school, I would encourage you to look into seeking your CFA (Certified Financial Analyst) designation. You can do this while working, but it is anything but a layup. It requires significant study and it is grueling. However, the price is reasonable and you will have accomplished a great deal.
I am good friends with a former Marine Captain, a Naval Academy graduate who I introduced to a major player. He attended Columbia Business recently and is now a junior banker. If you are interested and if ......, I would be willing to introduce you to him. I would be pleased to receive a call if you think I might be able to help you make a decision, introduce you to bankers and help in any way possible. Feel free to call: 203-273-3629 (cell)
John H. (Casey) Roach, Jr, Former Captain US Army

Advisor

Kiley Pontrelli Morrisville, NC

Hi Reid!

There are a few different options -

As some have mentioned, getting your MBA from a prestigious business school will give you exposure to some of the top firms.

An equally feasible option is to take a role in the firm in Operations or in something that gives you an understanding of the company, allows you to gain experience (which is what so many firms are looking for) and allows you to work alongside and network with someone who can connect you to a role that interests you. Additionally, many firms have incentives for you to complete your MBA while working in the role, so you could knock both out at the same time.

Happy to tell you more about my personal experience or connect you with some of our open roles!

Kiley

Advisor

Biswajit Dasgupta Roanoke, TX

Hi Reid,

There are many functions/departments in this space and happy to discuss further if you wish. you can mail me at dagsupta.biswajit@gmail.com

Advisor

Sandra Wijnberg New York, NY

Hi Reid,
Many of the large investment banks have hiring programs for veterans. I encourage you to go to their websites for great advice in general but to assess which ones have a greater understanding of the skills that are transferable from the military to their business. For example, I recommend Morgan Stanley's "A Veteran's Guide to Launching a Career in Financial Services". I know that Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citibank also have programs for Vets and have good resources on their websites.
As Jane mentioned in an earlier comment, Investment Banks are huge organizations with many different positions and varying levels of educational requirements for those roles. For example, if you like the idea of Institutional Sales or Trading, an MBA may not a pre-requisite. For Advisory roles, such as Corporate Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions, it is very difficult to be a competitive candidate without an MBA and then it is also important that it be from a top 20 MBA program for Finance (you can look this up on-line). There are a few business schools that have specially designed MBA programs that give you credit for your military service. My alma mater, the USC Marshall School of Business is one of those. The Master of Business for Veterans is a 10 month program. (Note that David Petraeus was instrumental in getting this program going and is on the Faculty roster). There are other schools around the country worth exploring as well.
On-line programs might be useful for skills building, but are not a replacement for a traditional MBA. They lack the critical assistance of placement offices that help students navigate recruiting. Executive MBA programs vary in quality and tend to be targeted to those who have a full time job and are getting an MBA in the evening (sometimes sponsored by their employers). If you go this route, be sure to find one with good resources for helping with job placement. The other benefit of a traditional MBA program is the network, both with your fellow students and perhaps more importantly with alumnae that can help source jobs.
The investment banks recruit for their training programs approximately a year ahead of time for 2-year analyst programs targeting recent college grads (not a good fit for you with your 9 years of experience) and the associate (post MBA) programs. All of this is well explained on their websites under People or Careers.
Don't hesitate to ask if you have follow up questions.
Sandra

Advisor

Stephanie Petrosini Red Bank, NJ

Hi Reid,
Although im not in investment banking I do have experience in the industry as a financial advisor in wealth management if you are interested in this side of the business? also I would definitely check out some of the internship programs big firms have. Even if not interested in participating as an intern you might be able to see the descriptions and requirements for different industry sector tracks. I know we have one I can try to get you info on the programs if you want? feel free to reach out to me on email at Stephanie.petrosini@Ms.com

Advisor

Katherine Dobrinski Concord, NH

Hi Reid -

That's a great question. I'll echo what Jane said: it really depends on what you want to do. Investment banking could really branch off in many directions.

I broke into the finance industry by working for a brokerage firm when the only 'applicable' experience I had was an extensive customer service background. At the time I had my bachelor's degree, but was actively working toward my MBA. Many of my colleagues did not have master's degrees and were not enrolled in a program. I sat for my Series 7 and 63 and then started working as a phone rep: executing trades, moving money, offering guidance, answering questions...

Happy to discuss further, but ultimately, you can do both. Good luck!

Katie Dobrinski

Advisor

Justus Hanna Miami, FL

Reid-

Best bet is getting into a top MBA program that the investment banks recruit from. Happy to chat if needed.

Justus

Advisor

Bill Richards West Palm Beach, FL

You definitely need an MBA to enter Investment Banking and a Summer Internship at the end of your first year with one of the Investment Banks. Investment Banking used to be dominated by the very big investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Since 2009 a number of new firms like Moelis and Company have taken market share from the large investment banks and been very successful. It is worth looking into them as well. Almost impossible to get into investment nanking with only an udergrad. degree.

Advisor

Tracy Fielder Houston, TX

Reid,
I hope this finds you well. In terms of investment banking as a career, I see you have an undergrad in economics, so you've got that going for you. However, the industry is highly competitive. The only way I'm aware of to be considered in investment banking is to have an MBA, and even then, the big investment banks like Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs only hire the very top of the class from mainly Ivy league schools.

That being said, you can work towards your MBA while obtaining industry experience as an intern. If you have an intern at a top financial services firm, while obtaining your MBA, you have a better chance of landing a job in investment banking.

Hope this helps and please let me know if you have any questions!
Tracy

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