Investment Banking Career Transitions

Advice For Professionals Looking To Transition Into Investment Banking and Case Studies From People Who Have Successfully Made The Leap.

How Do You Break Into Investment Banking Mid-Career?

As surprising as it sounds, not everyone has their entire career mapped out when they leave college.

While many students have their hearts set on investment banking from the start and proceed down the standard recruitment process, other people take a roundabout path to an investment banking career.

In this article we’ll unpack the major issues related to mid-career transitions into investment banking and refer you to specific case studies of professionals who have made the leap.


The 4 Pathways For Career Transitions

Most professionals enter investment banking as an undergraduate. This is the easiest and cheapest way to get into the industry, but you must decide very early on that you want to pursue investment banking. Let’s say you didn’t do that.

Here are the other common career transition pathways, ranging from the easiest to the most difficult:

Pathway #1: Lateral Hiring

Lateral hiring refers to the process banks use to recruit candidates with some amount of full-time work experience, often in investment banking elsewhere, but also in related fields such as valuation, corporate banking, and transaction services – rather than recruiting students directly out of undergraduate, Master’s, or MBA programs.

If you’ve got plenty of experience in IB, then switching to a different bank isn’t a big deal. But if you’re moving from a related field, then the closer the field and the earlier you make the move, the easier it will tend to be.

Pathway #2: As A Recent Graduate

The second possibility is that you haven’t fully embarked on your career yet and the concrete is still wet. You have a change of heart and decide to move into investment banking.

While this is very achievable, you’ll need to be very strategic about making the transition and understand that you’ll probably need to be in the top echelons of your profession for your age and career stage.

Pathway #3: At The MBA Level

As you get deeper into your career and build more experience, it becomes more and more difficult to enter investment banking in the usual way, as an Analyst.

If you really want to break in, one way to “reset” your resume is to complete an MBA via a well-regarded program and use that to move into the industry.

Pathway #4: From A Separate Field

The older you get, the more unrelated experience you accrue, and the further you move away from investment banking, the harder it is to get in.

Nevertheless, it’s not impossible. Generally, the high level strategy involves:

  1. Downplaying how passionate you were about your prior career and explaining why it wasn’t for you.
  2. Using your prior experience to explain your shift into finance and the transferrable skills you would bring.
  3. Explaining how committed you are to a career in finance.

It also doesn’t hurt to be based in a non-core region of the world. Doing this in Mongolia or Brazil is likely to be a lot more feasible than attempting this in Manhattan. It’s just a matter of supply and demand.


Investment Banking Recruitment Resources

While career transitions are not as straightforward as the standard college-to-analyst pipeline, if you have the desire and are willing to put in the work, there’s every chance you will achieve your goal.

However, you have to prove you’re able to “hit the ground running” and can add value from day one.

That’s why many future investment bankers invest in specialized courses and training to help them get their foot in the door and prove they are a great fit.

Some of the recruitment resources offered by Mergers & Inquisitions and our sister website Breaking Into Wall Street include:

Completing these courses will help you win interviews and job offers so you can start advancing up the ladder of success in investment banking.

Investment Banking Networking Toolkit
Investment Banking Interview Guide
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