If you aspire to be extravagantly rich, it might help if you devote a portion of your life to studying at Harvard University (or Business School). According to Forbes, 50 of America’s 469 billionaires are Harvard graduates.
This compares to 30 from Stanford, 27 from Penn, and 19 from Yale. European universities don’t feature, most probably because Forbes is a US publication, but possibly because they have yet to produce many 10-figure moguls.
However, whether Harvard will help you achieve a modest six-figure salary in investment banking is another matter.
According to Harvard’s own figures, 45% of its class of 2007 MBA students came from a financial services background. But off the record, banking recruiters say the school’s case study ethos isn’t ideal: “It’s great for studying various aspects of management, but for finance the case study approach makes it very difficult to deliver on the specifics,” says one bulge-bracket MBA recruiter.
Brian Singer, former head of global investment solutions and Americas chief investment officer for UBS Global Asset Management, says other US schools offer MBA courses that are more finance focused than Harvard’s – “The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and University of Wisconsin-Madison focus more on finance and international finance,” says Singer.
Predictably, Harvard graduates are inclined to disagree. “It opens a lot of doors for you,” says one London banker and Harvard MBA. “If you know someone’s gone to Harvard, it’s very easy to call them up and get at least some of their time. It’s hugely powerful.”
Separately, the head of graduate/MBA recruitment at one European bank says some MBA students (not necessarily from Harvard) are in danger of becoming too big for their boots. “We had one asking us if his flights to interview would be business or economy class. I can only think he hadn’t picked up a newspaper recently.”