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How an MBA helped me move from a building site to an investment bank

investment bank MBA

Andrew Yortt spent the first seven years of his career donning a hard hat and working on large-scale construction projects – initially in his native New Zealand and then overseeing the regeneration of Blackfriars train station in London.

In January this year, he joined Macquarie’s infrastructure team as an associate. How did he make such a sideways career switch?

To back track for a moment, he graduated with a degree in civil engineering, so gravitating towards construction seems like an obvious choice. But for Yortt, it was never intentional. “I was good with numbers and engineering seemed like a career choice that made sense, but it was something I fell into. After a few years, the challenge I wanted in my career just wasn’t there anymore.”

Like many at a career cross-roads, Yortt considered a professional qualification. Already, based in London – and with some ambitions to make it into the City – Cass Business School’s MBA had the right combination of reputation, links to the financial sector and affordability.

“I wanted to go for an MBA because of the broad range of opportunities that would open up,” he says. “I didn’t go into it thinking that I wanted to make it into banking. It was only once I was on the course that the careers advisors at Cass talked me through those aspirations and pushed me towards networking opportunities with finance professionals.”

Once he’d made a firm choice on his future career, Yortt faced two challenges – understanding the technical side of finance and creating the sort of connections that could open doors to a competitive banking job.

The MBA offered technical finance modules in corporate finance, derivatives and investments, and he choose infrastructure projects as the topic for Cass’s mandatory Business Mastery Project – a self-managed business consultancy that counts for a large part of the final degree.

As well as providing a rapid learning curve on all the technical elements needed to make it in investment banking, these courses also provided essential shorthand for networking with people in the financial sector.

“You immediately speak their language, which means you can go for a coffee with someone and get into the sort of conversations that will impress and ultimately lead to a job, rather than asking them to explain themselves or walking away without really understanding what they said,” he says.

Ultimately, though, Cass encouraged Yortt to do as much networking as he possibly could. “One of the great things is that you have flexibility during your studies – you can easily block out a couple of hours to meet up with busy people in the financial sector.”

Networking is absolutely key to getting into investment banking with an MBA under your belt, believes Yortt. Breaking into investment banking now is increasingly competitive and top qualifications need to be combined with the right connections.

Yortt connected with a “friend of a friend” at Macquarie who informed him of some imminent opportunities at the bank and used an informal coffee as a de facto first interview.

“Networking is one of the most important things to understand about getting into the financial sector,” he says. “The more networking you do, the more you realise that it’s not just your CV that gets your foot in the door.”

62% of the 2014 MBA class at Cass used the degree to change sectors and 26% transitioned into the financial sector.

“The main thing you need to remember if you’re going into an MBA with a view to switch careers is to be absolutely committed to it once you decide where you want to end up,” says Yortt. “You need to combine your new skills with tenacity.”

If you would like to know more about the Cass MBA you can contact the team on +44(0)20 7040 0286 or email cass-mba@city.ac.uk.

Photo: Digital Vision/Thinkstock

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