5 routes into a career in Investment Banking
If you’re considering applying for a job in investment banking, it is worth bearing in mind that it’s not always an easy route to get a job. It requires perseverance to keep applying, dedication to complete as many internships as possible, and talent to impress during your interview and internship. On average, there are 50 applicants to each front office job meaning that you’re likely to get knocked back a number of times during the process, but this doesn’t mean that you should give up. There is more than one route into investment banking and if you’re really dedicated to this sector then don’t give up until you’ve tried every path.
Here are five routes to consider for breaking into the industry.
1) Completing internships during your undergraduate degree converting to a full offer
Completing an internship is a great way to get your foot in the door in a company which could then translate into a full offer for when you graduate.
This is the most common route into Investment Banking (and it can’t be stressed enough how important internships can be). Whilst you’re at university, you should complete as many investment banking internships as possible starting in your first year. Often, this will start with a ‘spring week’ in your first year whereby, if you impress the bank’s recruitment team, you could then be invited to come back for a ten-week‘ summer internship’. If you then impress again during the summer you may be offered a full-time job upon graduation.
However, for various reasons, lots of the banks often don’t convert summer internships into a full-time job. In some, conversion rates can be as low as 20%, so you would then have to try other routes into banking.
2) Completing internships during your postgraduate degree converting to a full offer
Banks often hire juniors with Masters Degrees in Finance. Most commonly, this is for positions in risk or sales and trading but also found in M&A boutiques too. If you’re doing a Masters in Finance, you would still join a bank as an Analyst; hence you’ll still need to complete a summer internship. As most courses only last a year, it is wise to complete an internship before the Masters begins, meaning that you’ll need to apply for internships during the final year of your undergraduate degree.
3) Continue interning once you’ve graduated
It used to be the case that if your internship didn’t convert during your degree your chance of going into investment banking was over. Nowadays, even some of the best students have completed internships after graduating and many banks run ‘off-season’ or autumn internships which are open to those who have already graduated. At the end of these internships, you can still get another chance to get a full-time offer.
4) Apply after completing an MBA
MBA graduates are often, though less than previously, hired into ‘associate programs’ primarily within M&A and capital markets. There is also an increase in MBA graduates going into private wealth management, asset management or private equity.
It goes without saying that anyone with an MBA won’t be able to walk into an investment bank. First of all, you’ll need to have completed an MBA from one of the top schools and it is also advisable to complete an internship during the summer of the MBA. It will also be easier to get in if you can bring knowledge specific to a particular industry e.g. pharma, TMT etc. Then, you’ll be more likely to join in that M&A team or private equity team.
5) Apply after being a strategy consultant or a lawyer
Banks often hire in strategy consultants to help them work on the more strategic areas of their work. Also, if you’re a strategy consultant focusing on the financial industry you could be able to get an internal strategy role at an investment bank.
Lloyd Blankfein was a lawyer before he became a trader and eventually CEO at Goldman Sachs. Though it’s more common in the US, lawyers at top law firms often are able to make the jump into investment banking.
As well as the above, there are also a few niche routes into investment banking including: applying after time in the army (J.P. Morgan, Barclays and Goldman Sachs run specialist programs for hiring ex-military), applying after completing an ACA (often in strong hiring markets, banks will look to Big Four Accounting firms for new hires into their M&A and equity research teams).
Getting hired into an investment bank is competitive. However, you can be assured that receiving 3, 4 or 5 rejections isn’t the end of the world and a great deal of perseverance is necessary in most cases to be successful.