If you’re an MBA with aspirations to work in investment banking, expect to go the extra mile. Investment banks are still hiring business school graduates on to their associate programmes – even if the financial sector’s appeal has diminished in recent years – but it’s tough to make the cut.
MBA’s trying to break into investment banking are putting in a lot of effort before graduation, and this doesn’t just mean internships and attending careers fairs or alumni networking events. They’re networking at every opportunity – formal and informal – undertaking short-term project work for banks in order to prove their worth or, a little depressingly, having to take roles in risk management, compliance, technology or finance divisions.
Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank’s new associates in London have just been given Financial Conduct Authority authorisation. These are not all new recruits; some have worked at the bank for the past three years and have just made the step up from analyst. However, a handful of people have been plucked straight out of business school. Based on their profiles, we have come up with some common themes on what it takes to get a front-office investment banking job as an MBA.
1. Get an internship at the bank you want to work at
An obvious step to take in your quest for an associate position, but everyone newly hired into Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank interned at the banks first.
2. Be an internship junkie
Despite all attending the summer associate programme at their respective banks, new recruits also spent their time gaining as much experience as possible through one or two-week internships whilst studying, polishing their CVs with financial services brand names.
3. Have prior industry experience
This is not the time to be thinking of a career switch. Yes, an MBA could still help move from a back or middle office position into the M&A division, but all of this year’s new associate recruits have worked in the financial sector prior to securing their position.
4. Attend one of three schools
London Business School, INSEAD and Columbia proliferate among the new recruits.
5. Have a talking point
The value of extra-curricular activities in graduate recruitment is consistently emphasised, but you also have to bring the right combination of work experience and interests that will set you apart for associate recruitment. One Morgan Stanley recruit had been a columnist for the Financial Times, another had worked for the United Nations, while one Deutsche hire was previously a captain in the British army and another had founded their own financial technology company.
6. Bring something new to the table
Prior experience in consulting or industry, alongside the MBA which teaches more generic management and strategy skills, appears to be favoured by investment banks this year. If they’re looking to recruit from outside the organisation, they want skills they don’t already have in-house.
7. Take the CFA
We’ve mentioned previously that some MBAs are feeling compelled to combine it with the CFA to become über-qualified in both management and technical finance skills. Morgan Stanley’s new recruits suggest this is increasingly becoming a prerequisite.