How to get into banking with no experience, by an ex-analyst at Morgan Stanley

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Many students want to break into investment banking, but have no finance experience and come from non-target schools. They often ask, “How do I get a finance job when they all require prior experience – which I don’t have?” It’s a chicken-or-egg issue, and students in this situation are often unable to stand out and land stellar jobs.

To get into investment banking without prior finance experience, there are a couple of ground rules:

  1. For recruiting, your main objective is to captivate the bankers and get them interested in you by differentiating yourself.
  2. Given your current situation, you don’t want to compete through traditional channels of student clubs and internships, because that’s not your strong suit yet. Notably, everyone uses those channels, so you would have to beat out far more people to stand out, and many candidates have more resources and credentials or started earlier.

Instead, change the game so that it plays out in your favor – bring something new to the table that catches the hiring manager’s eye while showing your initiative and interest.

But how? Below are two methods that you can use to disrupt the investment banking hiring process to land a job even with a non-traditional background.

Create a newsletter, blog or website related to finance

I spoke with a student from a non-target school who was able to land an investment banking internship by starting his own finance blog. One year prior, he was working at a retail job that was completely unrelated to finance. He “created experience” for his resume by starting an on-campus newsletter that summarized the top 10 weekly financial services news items and events.

A finance-themed newsletter or blog not only shows interest and a proactive drive, but also only takes minimal effort to set up – six-to-eight hours with a site like Squarespace or WordPress.

Another idea is to build a website that spits out a generic model output for any company by entering certain parameters or assumptions.

Build your own models and pitchbooks for potential deals

A few years ago, I was on Upwork trying to get someone to build a website. Just like every interviewer, I was only interested in the “best and brightest,” a.k.a. someone with the most amount of prestige and expertise. There was one candidate who didn’t have the best credentials, and he reached out asking what I wanted. Without thinking much about it, I told him briefly what I was looking for, and never expected to follow up or hear back from him again. The next day, while I was still collecting applications, he returned with a rough draft of the website. This captured my attention, and I felt compelled to take a look at it. In the end, I liked his concept for the website quite a bit and ended up hiring him.

You can take a similar approach to attract bankers’ attention. A bank’s biggest concern is hiring someone who can’t do the work, so human instinct naturally gravitates toward candidates with brand names on their resume.

However, if you send bankers a pitchbook or model for a deal that you think the team can pitch or find useful, then that is a very enticing and impressive feat. Think about it – which of your peers has actually sent a pitchbook or model to a VP, ED or MD? Keep in mind, if you are going to create an opportunity like that, anything short of perfection will wipe out the goodwill that you have created – so make sure to double-check everything and understand all assumptions.

Ultimately, the idea is to go that extra mile, whether it is using the above methods or standing outside of a bank and handing out coffee wrapped with your resume. Some students tell me that they don't have the time for these methods, are not ready for them or they are too risky. My response has always been, “How badly do you want to get into banking? Will you let those reasons get in your way?”

Ultimately, bankers look for the best candidates, and being mediocre doesn’t cut it. How will you stand out?

Jason Fan a former analyst at Morgan Stanley and Jefferies and the co-founder of BrainCeek, an investment banking simulation program offering in-person workshops.

Photo credit: cybrain/GettyImages

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