We asked you to put your career questions to an ex-Goldman analyst who escaped to private equity. This is what you asked, and what he answered.
Q: Hi, I’m interning in trading this year.
What are the most common traits you see in successful summer interns, and what have you seen them do that takes them above and beyond the others interns? Also, how do you suggest networking towards the end of the internship to get fast track interviews at other banks? Thanks.
A: I spent some time on the trading floor earlier on in my career, and in my view the key to getting hired onto a trading desk is to fit in with the other traders. Observe their traits and try to get on well with everyone.
Trading can be a bit schizophrenic; when markets are slow and P&Ls are up everyone is very relaxed, but when the chips are down traders can be very brash, tough people. Don’t get on their bad sides during these periods, do your work well no matter how basic you think it is and ascertain which desks are actually hiring so as not to waste any time. Remain keen and motivated at all times. Before you know it the internship will be over and you need to ensure you are remembered more for your good points than bad ones when decision time comes.
Don’t bother actively networking with other banks towards the end of your internship unless the casual opportunity applies. You have far greater chance of converting your existing internship.
Q: I have graduated in Finance last winter and looking for a break through in M&A or private equity.
FYI I have completed my Masters and did my dissertation/thesis on M&A’s (carried out required Financial Modelling).
My question to you is, can you guide me how to get into Front-office M&A jobs or private equity please.
( I havent done MBA , keeping that in mind, what are my chances ?)
Thanking you for your help and advice.
A: Hi there. Based on what you asked, I’m going to divide your question into finding job opportunities and getting through the interview process.
Regarding the point about being pre-MBA, this qualification is not a prerequisite for the junior “analyst” role in M&A however if you want to join at any level above that (starting from “associate”) you’ll need to either do an MBA or complete the three-year analyst programme.
Without knowing more about your background and experience I would recommend that you:
1) Network aggressively. Master Linkedin in all its glory, get comfortable cold-calling people and learn your “elevator pitch” (i.e. how you’d sell yourself in a 60 second elevator ride with the networking contact of your dreams) off by heart.
2) Make a shortlist of banks you’d love to work for. Then make a list of Plan B banks you’d like to work for. Now make a third list of firms you would tolerate working for at a push. Target them all, in that order, but in this market have no expectations to get anywhere with any of them apart from the last set. Listing them out will help focus your job hunt.
3) Bear in mind that academic experience of modelling and valuation via your dissertation has little merit compared to experience of real-life M&A gained “on the job”. You’ll be doing a lot of other, more basic work like formatting presentations and dredging through financial statements for numbers to crunch. Demonstrating the ability, and willingness, to do that is key to getting hired.
4) Take fully to heart that the market is extremely tough, so no matter if your school is on the recruitment shortlist (i.e. is in the top four universities in the US or the major Western European countries), it will still be a struggle. Do not in any way come across as arrogant. Know your motivational reasons for wanting to join the industry 100% and come across as enthusiastic and humble at all times.
Q: I am an M&A analyst in India trying to move to the Middle East for an Investment Banking opening. Who do I network with to achieve this?
A: Hi there. I’m going to assume that given current newsflow around the Arab Spring, you mean “The Gulf” when you say “Middle East”. The good news is, and you may already be aware of this, that there are a number of managers from the Indian Subcontinent who work in senior roles in Gulf-based banks. Probably a higher proportion of them than in any other financial hub in the world. Target them using undergraduate and business schools networks. Cultural ties and their knowledge of your common educational backgrounds will help you a lot.
See my previous answer for more generic advice on how to do so.
I am an electrical engineering grad from India. have worked in jpmorgan for equities technology for almost 3 years now. But I want to learn business valuations and financial modelling and work in either M&A or PE. I would like an entry level position. do you think there is a chance i can make it without going back to school?
A: Hi Anand,
Realistically, that’ll be quite tough. A Tech role is going to be viewed as a totally different area to M&A by hiring managers and you’ll need a convincing story as to why you’re the right candidate. I don’t know your full background but consider that you’ll need additional skills and qualifications other than your career experience to be successful in this.
Q: Could you please comment on the Private Equity recruiting process in the UK? Is it similar to the US where certain firms are more targeted and you are actively contacted, and is it essential to do it pre-associate?
A: Here in the UK, and Europe generally, there is a large variation between small and mid market PE firms and the large “mega-buyout” funds. Generally the former hire people from a broader variety of M&A and consulting firms and at up to much later career stages (4-5 years experience).
The big PE funds have been known to hire as junior as second-year analysts (as opposed to waiting until they become associates). They also prefer hiring from bulge bracket banks and actively target candidates who have combined both M&A and leverage finance experience.
There is limited hiring at the senior associate and VP levels and I don’t know of firms actively targeting candidates unless a senior banker is hired across and asked for a recommendation of a former junior banking colleague to fill a specific vacancy, say, a Spanish and Italian speaking Healthcare sector specialist.
Q: Dear Sir or Madam, I would start by thanking you for your availability.
I am a finance master’s student and I interested in entering the PE industry.
My first question concerns your experience in M&A. M&A is known for being an extraordinary school with the offset of having very demanding schedules. Do you think it was a valuable experience in terms of hours worked/ experience and career progression? If you could back in time and give a piece of advice to your younger self would you say: “M&A is worth it” or “There are other ways to learn and progress, go for M&A if you really are passionate about the area”.
Second question: I reckon that there are several areas from which you can get into the PE industry (consulting/corporate finance are the most known examples). Which other areas should I consider as I begin my professional career?
I’ll try to answer both questions together:
M&A is still a tried and tested way of getting hired into PE. Consulting is a distant second, and is typically targeted for specific reasons, i.e. Bain Capital who sell themselves to investors as applying Bain Consulting principles to their buyouts. Venture Capital tends to hire ex-consultants more than PE does, but that’s a slightly different area to traditional buyouts which try to buy more mature firms.
That said, it’s a different role (and more fun in my opinion) working in PE than acting on behalf of clients’ in an advisory capacity as one does in M&A. It doesn’t really matter if there are other ways to learn and progress – M&A experience is what hiring managers in PE look for, like it or not.