by Brian DeChesare Comments (51)

The Full Guide to Lateral Hiring in Investment Banking

Lateral Hiring

When you hear the term “lateral hiring,” your first thought might be:

“Aha! A way to break into investment banking from another career – without an expensive MBA program – or a way to trade up to a larger bank and get better exit opportunities.”

While those are both possibilities, they are not sure things.

In contrast to the summer internship recruiting process, the lateral hiring process at banks is random, unstructured, and difficult to describe.

If you can deal with a lot of uncertainty, you could win offers through lateral hiring.

But if not, you could easily go down the rabbit hole of applying to dozens of firms and never hearing back:

What is Lateral Hiring and Why Does It Matter?

Definition: 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.

Most lateral hiring happens at the Analyst level; there is some amount for Associates (and up), but it’s more limited.

Quite a few Managing Directors and senior bankers also switch banks, but we’re focusing on Analyst-level recruiting here.

To have a good chance of winning a lateral offer, you must be in a closely related field because banks want you to start contributing immediately on Day 1 without any training.

Banks give most of their full-time offers to interns who performed well

…but the turnover rate in investment banking is extremely high: many full-time Analysts quit before their first year ends.

If someone quits in the middle of the year, the bank must find a replacement ASAP.

That explains why lateral hiring exists at all: if everyone stayed for 2-3 years and left at predictable times, banks wouldn’t bother.

As banks keep accelerating the recruiting process for undergrads, lateral hiring has become increasingly important because it’s easy to miss the entire process.

If that happens, you can use lateral hiring to avoid an expensive MBA program or a Master’s in Finance degree

if certain conditions are true.

Why Make a Lateral Move?

The root motivations are usually money and exit opportunities.

If you’re a recent grad and you work outside of IB, you will probably earn more in banking in ~95% of cases.

You’ll also gain access to exit opportunities, such as private equity, hedge funds, and corporate development, that are difficult to break into from most other industries.

And if you’re already in IB, you’ll probably earn a higher bonus and gain access to larger buy-side firms at bigger banks.

Why Not Make a Lateral Move?

There are also some bad reasons to start the lateral recruiting process, such as:

  • Group Conflicts / Internal Politics – Just switch teams at your current bank.
  • You Want to Cover a Different Industry – If you’re in a group such as FIG or Real Estate, and you want something less specialized, it’s much easier to switch groups instead. The same goes for capital markets vs. M&A or industry teams.
  • You Want to Switch Locations – Again, it’s much easier to move around internally.

A few specific moves are also a bit pointless:

  • Bulge Bracket to Elite Boutique, or Elite Boutique to Bulge Bracket – I’m not sure why you’d do this at the Analyst level. This one might make more sense for senior bankers.
  • Bulge Bracket to Bulge Bracket – See above. Maybe this one makes sense if you’re at one of the “lower-ranked” BBs in a less-than-ideal group (ECM or DCM), and you want to move to a higher-ranked bank and a better group at the same time.

If you’re going to take the time and effort to make a lateral move, make sure it’s a significant jumpboutique to middle market, or middle market to bulge bracket (for example).

Who is “Eligible” for Lateral Hiring?

If you’re already working in investment banking at any level, you can move to another bank… pretty much whenever you want to start the process.

But if not, eligibility for lateral moves depends on:

  1. How many years you’ve been out of your undergrad or Master’s program.
  2. How closely related your current job is to investment banking.

With the first point, it gets much harder to break in once you’ve been working in another industry for more than 2-3 years.

You’ll be over-qualified for Analyst roles, but banks won’t hire you directly for Associate roles, so you’ll have to do an MBA at that point.

With the second point, you need to be in a closely related field to have a good chance.

For example:

Even something like audit is too removed to make a direct jump – you would need a steppingstone role, such as one of the ones above, in that case.

It can even be quite difficult to move in from other divisions at a bank, such as asset management, wealth management, or sales & trading, because you don’t work on deals (for more, see our coverage of wealth management vs. investment banking).

Of those, sales & trading to investment banking is the most viable move, but only if you act quickly and have deal-like experience.

Some of these transitions are group-dependent as well.

For example, you could probably move from credit risk or corporate banking to DCM, but M&A or industry groups would be more difficult.

The same goes for investor relations to ECM or anything in commercial real estate to real estate investment banking.

If your current job is significantly different, such as marketing, engineering, or non-profit fundraising, then you will need a major shift (MBA, MSF, or very different job) to break in.

The #1 question you need to ask yourself is, “How long will this entire transition process take?”

If the process takes at least 3-4 years, you’re not going to win IB Analyst roles, so you’re better off applying to top business schools and using MBA-level recruiting to break in.

One final note: in some emerging markets, the process is less structured, so you might be able to move directly from fields like accounting/audit into investment banking.

How Much Can You “Level Up” with Lateral Hiring?

If you’re not currently in investment banking, you are probably not going to win a job offer at a bulge bracket or elite boutique bank.

But I have seen plenty of career changers win offers at regional boutiques, industry-specific boutiques, and middle market banks.

Within IB, it’s feasible to go from a boutique to a middle market bank, or a middle market bank to an elite boutique or bulge bracket.

But you’re probably not going to move from an unknown 10-person boutique in the Middle of Nowhere directly to GS, MS, or JPM in New York.

Location can also be a major issue: it tends to be much easier to move to financial centers such as New York and London because those places have far higher turnover.

International moves can also be quite difficult, especially if you have visa issues (e.g., you want to work in the U.S., but you’re not a citizen or green card holder).

You’re almost always better off transferring internally to do that.

Remember that lateral slots open up when people leave unexpectedly; banks don’t want to spend months on paperwork when they need to hire you ASAP.

Process Timing: When Do Lateral Spots Open Up?

The common thinking used to be that lateral spots opened up in June and July as bonuses were paid out and people switched banks, moved to the buy-side, or quit finance.

But then most banks started to award Analyst bonuses on a year-end schedule to match senior bankers, so this rule broke down a bit.

However, it was never much of a “rule” to begin with because people often quit banking unexpectedly in the middle of the year.

Yes, some Analysts are motivated to stay to collect their bonus, but if they hate the job so much that they want to die, they’re not going to stick around for 6-9 months to earn $50-$60K.

To find openings, your best bet is to search sites like Indeed and LinkedIn and set alerts whenever an “Investment Banking Analyst” role pops up in your region.

The important part here is not so much the “timing” of these spots opening up, but rather the timing of your own work experience: when you started, how long you’ve been there, and what you’ve done so far.

For example, if you just started working at a boutique bank 1-2 months ago, and now you want to move to a larger bank, very few bankers will take you seriously.

That’s not enough time to gain significant deal or client experience, as nearly all M&A deals many months (or years!) to execute.

You’ll probably need more like 6-12 months of experience in your current role to start networking and interviewing for other jobs.

If you’re in investment banking at a smaller firm, that should give you enough time to work on 1-2 solid deals, even if they’re still ongoing when you start recruiting.

And if you’re in another field, that should give you enough time to get the experience that you can spin into sounding like deals.

How Do You Get Started with the Lateral Hiring Process?

Before doing anything, you need to get your resume in order.

If you’re already in investment banking, take a look at our private equity resume template and tutorial.

Yes, it’s for “private equity,” but the same principles apply when you’re aiming for any deal-based role (IB, PE, CD, VC, etc.).

If you’re in some other field, you should take your experience and spin it into sounding like deals.

This will be easier for roles such as Big 4 Transaction Services, valuation, and corporate development because… you do work on deals, or at least with clients.

The main difference is that you’ll have to make it sound like you worked on deals from start to finish, or that you had knowledge of the entire process from start to finish.

Corporate finance roles at normal companies are trickier because you do not work on deals in those.

My advice is to take some of your projects – internal financial projections, presentations to management, forecasting the cash requirements, etc. – and turn them into “deals.”

If you can link your work to the company’s overall results, that’s a good start.

Once you have your resume, you need to come up with your story and start applying.

Your story should not be difficult if you’ve read our coverage of how to walk through your resume.

If you’re switching banks, it can be some variant of: “I want to work on more of Deal Type X, which your firm does, but which mine does not.”

If you’re switching industries, make it about wanting to work on deals from start to finish, or about advising many companies rather than just staying at a single company and working on internal deals or forecasting there.

After your story is set, you can apply to online job postings on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn, but networking + applying online is always more effective than just applying online.

One strategy might be to revive the contacts you made in your networking efforts from university, send them an update, and casually ask about open positions at their firms.

If you’ve been out of touch for only a year or two, you can send a quick email; if it has been longer than that, you might need to “warm them up” a bit first.

Headhunters are rarely effective in this lateral hiring process because:

  1. If you’re a career-changer, headhunters will ignore you because they think you have a low probability of success.
  2. If you’re already in IB, you can reach out via cold emails, apply to online job postings, and get responses like that.

If you have to write a cold email to someone, you could use the following template:

SUBJECT: Experienced Analyst Position – [Bank Name]

[Banker Name],

My name is [Your Name], and I’m currently a First-Year Analyst at [Bank / Company Name] in the [Group Name] group. I recently applied to the Experienced Analyst position in [City Name] that [Banker’s Bank] posted on [Job Site Name], and I wanted to find out more about the role.

I saw that you worked at [Banker’s Bank] in [City Name], and I wondered if you might have a few minutes to speak on the phone and provide additional details on your group. I am available on Monday – Wednesday next week between 1 PM and 4 PM [Time Zone]. Thanks for your time – I really appreciate it.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

If you get a “quick hit,” you might start the interview process right away.

If not, you might have to persist with your networking for weeks or months until something turns up.

As mentioned above, though, the turnover rate at banks is very high.

If you have been networking for months and months, you’ve turned up nothing, and there’s no economic crisis, recession, or market crash taking place, then it’s very likely that you’re doing something wrong (see the bottom section of this article).

What to Expect as the Hiring Process Moves Along

The lateral hiring process is unstructured, so interviews could drag on for weeks or months depending on the firm and group – or you could win an offer in a matter of days.

Part of the problem is that it’s tough to define a true “hiring need” in many groups.

For example, if an under-performing Analyst suddenly quits, does the group really need to hire a new one ASAP?

Probably not, but they may want to hire one “soon” just in case someone else quits.

Even if this group starts recruiting, they may be slow to respond and schedule interviews because it’s not their top priority.

You should expect that it will take a few months to go through the process, and possibly more like 6-12 months to win an offer somewhere.

In the process itself, banks tend not to use HireVue interviews or online tests.

Instead, you can expect:

  • One or two phone interviews.
  • A Superday, or a series of interviews with more senior bankers spread over several weeks.
  • And there’s a decent chance you’ll get a modeling test or case study as well, such as the sample 3-statement modeling test on this site.

They will still ask “fit” and technical questions, but your deal experience is also incredibly important.

If you don’t know the details of each deal you listed on your resume/CV – buyer and seller’s financials, relevant multiples, transaction rationale, and how you contributed – you’re not going to make it very far.

If you’re moving from a boutique to a middle market bank, interviewers often focus more on fit because they want to make sure you’ll thrive in a new environment.

But if you’re moving to a bulge bracket or elite boutique bank, the focus is often technical because bankers assume that you’ll have less modeling experience, coming from a smaller firm.

If you’re moving in from another industry, expect even more of that.

Even if the group has a hiring need, you may not hear back quickly, so you need to keep following up and checking on your status.

How Do Lateral Offers Work?

If you make it through the entire process and win a lateral offer, you can expect the following:

  • You will probably “lose a year” if you’re switching levels (boutique to MM or MM to BB/EB) – so if you’re a First-Year Analyst now, you’ll start over as a First-Year Analyst.
  • Base salaries are fairly standardized at mid-sized and larger banks, so you should earn the market rate. The same goes for bonuses – there are standard levels, and your bonus will depend on the market, fees generated, and your performance.
  • You may get a signing bonus, but don’t count on it – it’s not in banks’ interest to award signing bonuses because doing so encourages people to hop around like rabbits. If you don’t see it in the offer letter, you can ask, but don’t press the issue too hard.
  • You may get a relocation package if you’re switching cities, especially if the distance is significant (e.g., LA to NY or Hong Kong to London).
  • You will probably have to give up the bonus you’ve accrued so far at your original firm, especially if you leave a few months into the calendar year.

A long time ago, people thought that “losing a year” was terrible.

But as of 2020, this is often a benefit if you’re switching banks specifically to recruit for private equity roles.

Since PE recruiting keeps moving up, you want as much time as possible so you can walk into interviews with more deal experience.

What If You Don’t Win a Lateral Offer?

If you go through this entire process and come away with no offers, you need to reflect and ask, “What happened?”

For example, did you not win any interviews (or enough interviews)?

If this is the case, then maybe your work experience wasn’t close enough to IB for you to be a competitive candidate – or maybe you did not use an effective networking strategy.

Or, if you did win interviews, did you perform poorly in them? If so, why?

Were your technical weak? It’s not rocket science – anyone can master these questions with enough preparation and practice time and the right interview guide.

Did you not have enough deal or client experience? Maybe you need to stay in your current role for more time and try again.

The tricky thing about lateral hiring is that even if you can fix some of these issues, you may not have time to do so if you’re moving into IB as a career-changer.

For example, let’s say you’ve already been working for two years at a Big 4 firm.

You went through this process but came away with no offers and only a few interviews.

If you need more deal experience or more technical preparation, and either one will cost you ~6 months, pushing you to 2.5 years in your current role, it will become more difficult to win Analyst roles.

You could still do it, but the odds start tipping against you past the 2-3-year mark.

If that’s you, then it may be time to consider an MBA program instead.

The window for getting into IB is relatively narrow, and the longer you wait, the more likely it is to close suddenly.

Lateral hiring can be a very effective way to make a career change – as long as you act quickly and don’t let that window slam down on your face while you’re jumping out of it.

For Further Reading

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys lifting weights, running, traveling, obsessively watching TV shows, and defeating Sauron.

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Read below or Add a comment

  1. How is internal lateraling from sophomore to junior internships? Say from a sophomore S&T position to a junior IB role?

    1. Not sure offhand because most people tend to stick with one path once they have an initial internship lined up. You’d probably have some advantage doing this because the bank already knows you, and at least one division can vouch for you, but I’m not sure it would be a huge advantage because you’ll still have to go through the entire IB recruiting cycle once again.

  2. Hi Brian,
    I am a corporate banking credit analyst in a multinationals group at a large bank. They are looking to expand fast in their US investment banking business and I want to lateral into an IB group. I work on rating clients and corporate banking deals currently. I am wondering how I can attempt a lateral in my firm without making my current team upset? I am also wondering what level of transparency is necessary and how I can approach finding leads within the IB groups at my bank? How can I spin current corporate banking deal rating experience into an IB position. I also have modeling experience from my rating role, but where should I refine those skills for an IB role?
    Thank you so much for any insights you can give me!

    1. There isn’t really anyway to transfer internally without upsetting your current team on some level. You can start by looking up people who work in IB at your firm on LinkedIn and then contacting them via your internal email system and see where that goes. I would not notify your team until later in the process.

      For spinning corporate banking experience, you can talk about the parts that transfer into IB roles as well, such as your experience reviewing financials, looking at credit stats/ratios, reviewing recent issuances, etc. If you want to learn more, there are plenty of options (see our courses) ranging from in-person to online courses to books and textbooks. It just depends on your preferred learning style and how much time you have.

  3. Hi Bryan, I’m a T2 consultant in NYC focused on CDD/Value Creation work. I have been working for 2 months and I never knew what IB was until I started working in NYC (not from a finance background or area) and want to go into it now. I was thinking about networking with BB/EB firms to try and lateral but you said it’s probably not likely to get in if you didn’t start out in IB. If I ultimately want to work for a BB/EB, should I just focus on a GMAT and get an MBA or is it worth it to network with them and do my best to win an offer these next 6-24 months? Thank you.

    1. If you only have 2 months of work experience, you should be able to network your way into a lateral role in IB in most cases. It’s usually best to target a move after about 1 year of full-time work. I wouldn’t bother with an MBA unless you get nowhere via networking and preparing on your own.

  4. Hi Brian,
    I am Bangladeshi. I already did a MBA from my country. Right now i am working in Marketing At MNC. I want to switch my career and want to go in investment banking analyst position in london, france, germany. My Age is 27. do you think i have any chance to get investment banking analyst position in europe or london region. I am intending to do msc finance in germany,london,france. do you think i have any chance in IB Europe Region or London.

    1. I don’t know if there’s any precedent for people doing an MBA and then an Msc, sorry. I think you would get a lot of questions about your career path, but it might be possible if you spin it the right way and get into one of the top European programs.

      1. So i am thinking to do MSF in ESCP or HEC then i want to work in Investment Bank in Europe region. My final goal is winning PE role. Do you think i have any chance? or there is another way to achieve my final destination.

        1. I think you could probably do it, assuming you can win admission to one of those schools, but you may not be competitive at the biggest banks/PE firms.

  5. John Simons

    Hi Brian,
    I wonder if you had any advice on where to look for lateral postings. Is networking the best way to find out about opportunities? I know LinkedIn is one option, but I’m not sure if all the postings show up on LinkedIn. For context, I’m already in IB so I’d assume a lateral shift for me would be easier, but just wondering about how I would go about finding the opportunities.
    Appreciate the response.

    1. Networking is the best method. LinkedIn and other job boards can work, but more to figure out which firms/groups might be hiring (and then you go and contact people there independently once you’ve found some groups in that category). You could message people over LinkedIn, but response rates are sometimes slower/lower, especially for senior bankers. Email works well, but only if you can send out good, personalized messages that don’t look AI-generated content or spam…

  6. John Simms

    Hi Brian. How hard do you think the lateral move to IB in MM/BB will be from being in credit risk role where you sit sometimes with IB teams in the same deals but focus on the credit aspect? We mostly underwrite typical bank debt and work w/ companies up to >1B in EV, think small cap. Context: my team covers middle markets at a top BB in a coverage group (think HC/Tech: VC/PE deals) where we do variety of originations within bank debt and also TLBs. Just curious on your thoughts in terms of what I would be getting called out for in the deal explanation given my team sometimes runs and tweaks the models for originating the bank debt for capital structure.

    1. It’s possible, but probably not the easiest move because they’ll question how much you know about valuation and modeling outside of credit modeling. If you work with IB teams on the same deals, it’s worth a shot. But if you don’t get good traction after, say, 6 months, maybe focus on corporate banking roles instead or find more of a valuation-related role first. They will probably ask about these issues as well as your knowledge of the entire deal process, if you can run a deal from start to finish, etc.

  7. Jason Tong

    Hi Brian,

    I’m currently at a Big 5 bank in Toronto in IB and I eventually want to move to the US at a BB / EB. How difficult of a process do you think that would be? I know most of this article is based on lateraling to “break into” investment banking, but I’m already in the industry. So I presume the process would be slightly easier for me. Do you think it would make more sense for me to internally transfer to the US first (the Big 5 I’m at has a decent IB presence in NYC) and then consider switching banks? Do you think networking would be essential or can I get by with just applying online? I went to a top target in Canada so I do have a decent network to tap into, I’m just not the greatest at networking.

    Appreciate the response.

    1. It’s usually easier to move from Canada to the U.S. than from other countries because of the TN-1 visa. If your current firm has a decent presence in NYC, I would recommend asking about the switch internally first and reaching out to people in the NY office. Networking helps but may not be essential. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to switch firms in this case because you don’t want to end up working at potentially a firm with a worse presence in Canada just to eventually switch countries.

      1. Jason Tong

        Thanks for the response Brian. That’s a good point you make. I was initially thinking about moving to a BB/EB in Canada just to lateral across the border through some internal mobility program. But yea, most of them don’t have the greatest presence in Canada (exception being BofA and Barclays).

  8. Hi Brian,

    I graduated last year from a Masters degree at a world top university and have done M&A internships at a regional boutique investment bank and MM bank. I am having serious hard times (probably is due to the current market environment) to find an internship or full time job in a BB or MM bank.
    Do you think it would be better for me to start an Analyst position in a small-cap boutique investment bank and then try to lateral hire to a bigger bank or to go with an internship position at a BB or well-know bank (with the risk of not getting a return offer)? Also, should I consider switching to a Big 4/Corporate Development? Thank you.

    1. It’s always better to have a current full-time job than to be looking for one or still pursuing internships. So I would recommend the Analyst role at the small-cap boutique IB if you have an offer there. You can always move to a larger bank later on when the market improves. I would only do Big 4 / CD if you really cannot find anything even remotely related to IB, even at smaller firms.

  9. Hi Brian,

    I hope that this message finds you well. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights regarding the lateral process with us! Currently, I’m a graduating senior who is about to graduate and start at a BB in a regional tier 3 location. However, I would like to internal transfer to the NYC office of my BB as I have lived in NYC all my life. I had a couple of questions that I would greatly appreciate your insights on.

    Firstly, to maximize my odds of being able to work in NYC, do you think I should primarily focus on internally transferring to NYC within my BB or just apply to other banks in NYC after a year or so on the job?

    Secondly, typically how long after starting Full-time should I communicate to my manager about internal transferring to the NYC office? I was hoping to do this after 1 year but not sure if that is too short a timeframe.

    Lastly, given that I still have some time before I start full-time, do you think it would be a good idea to apply to other banks right now for full-time 2023 analyst positions in NYC and renege on my current BB offer? Or should I just wait for the internal transfer process to NYC after a year on the job?

    Thanks so much, Brian! Always love and appreciate your content and insights!

    1. Focus on transferring within your bank. Yes, aim to do it after about a year.

      I’m not sure if you’re serious about your last question, but it’s a bad idea to apply for full-time 2023 analyst positions in NY in the current market environment.

      Even in a normal year, there isn’t much FT hiring outside of intern classes, and in this year, with dead capital markets, an energy crisis, a recession, inflation, etc., hiring will be even more muted. A few banks here and there might hire people, but it is not at all worth possibly giving up your current signed offer at a large bank just for the chance at an incrementally better offer. I wouldn’t even bother interviewing around just on the off chance that someone will find out and tell your current bank about it.

      1. Hi Brian,

        Thanks so much for your reply and insights! That makes sense and I will try to focus on internal transfer opportunities within my bank.

        From your experience/perspective, generally speaking, how difficult do you think it is to transfer locations after a year at a BB?

        Secondly, for successful internal/location transfers, is it essentially all about focusing networking efforts with the target location/office and then basically asking them for an opportunity to move over after some time?

        Thanks so much!

        1. It depends completely on the hiring environment and which industries are doing well and which are not. But if you’ve performed well, it is usually not difficult to change locations. You should get to know people in the target office, but you also need a strong advocate in your current group who will recommend you and push for the transfer, as you’ll have to ask your current group about it first.

  10. Charlie

    Hi Brian – thanks for all the content in this site – finding it really useful.
    I’m at PwC currently but have been on the Deals/Management Consulting grad scheme for 20 monts now, and I haven’t done any Big 4 corporate finance/vals work. I’ve passed my CFA Level 1 and try to maintain relatively high level of technical capabilities by practising DCF etc. and have done DD’s and operational aspects to deals, but is the only realistic way for me to move into IB by going for entry level grad schemes and starting fresh again? (I am also UK based if that makes a difference).
    I also wondered what you think the best way to approach the ‘networking’ part is – I feel big institutions don’t just have their relevant people for getting hired upfront on the careers page and I don’t tend to get any traction messaging people cold via Linkedin.

    1. You don’t necessarily need to start at the entry level, but you do need to gain some deal or client experience to move over. So try to join the internal corporate finance or valuations group or something like that. Banks are willing to bring you over at a slightly higher level if you have relevant experience.

      With networking, you should target informational interviews and request them via email after looking up people on LinkedIn… response rates to messages there are low, so try LinkedIn instead and ask for career advice rather than directly about the job (at least at first).

  11. Hi Brian, what would you recommend for technical prep for current IB analysts trying to move from MM to BB / EB banks? Thanks in advance.

    1. Use the guides and courses on this site, or if you do not have them or cannot afford anything, the free content in the YouTube channel.

  12. quattronefromaggio

    Hi Brian, I am an international student who recently graduated from a west coast target school and worked with a MM Consumer Group over the summer. I received a return offer and signed it right after my internship ended. However, 4 months later, I received a call from HR that the offer might be rescinded. I am not sure about how to proceed with recruiting now – which banks should I target? should I focus on NYC and SF? How should I best go about my story?

    1. What does “might be rescinded” mean? I think you need more of a confirmation to do anything here. If they do rescind it, maybe go back to your contacts and start networking with MM and boutique banks. I don’t even know that location matters currently, but sure, you can use those places to narrow the search a bit.

  13. Hey Brian,

    Appreciate you taking the time time to respond to this thread. I am moving to the US from the Middle East next year (have greencard) and I am trying to weigh my chances of breaking into IB (BB/EB/MM). I understand the limitation of breaking into a top group in a BB, but what about EB and MM?

    I am an INSEAD MBA (not sure you know it, considered M7 Europe equivalent) and a CFA L1 currently studying for CFA L2. I have worked as an associate at a regional MENA focused M&A investment banking boutique for a year and currently work as an investment associate in PE investing growth equity in the levant area (coming onto two years). Prior to that I was in corporate development/M&A for a large construction firm in MENA as well. I used the MBA to switch careers into banking.

    What do you think my chances of breaking in are? namely, INSEAD’s reputation on the street and how I will be perceived, whether my experience would be considered subpar given its from the Middle East and with less known firms to US based Investment banks and lastly, whether it would matter if I am 32 years old? sometime I worry how I will be perceived applying for Associate roles.

    Lastly, I would appreciate it if you can comment also on the best cities in the US for investment banking and PE

    Thank you!

    1. I think you can potentially do it, but INSEAD is not as well-known in the US, so that is one limitation. Also, you’ll have to find some group that does a lot of deals or client work in the MENA region to have the best chance (otherwise, you don’t have an advantage over local candidates). But I think it’s doable, especially if the bank doesn’t need to sponsor you.

      Hard to say what the best cities are currently because NYC is collapsing and everyone is leaving, and everyone is still working remotely… so, who knows. NYC used to be the center, with Chicago and SF right behind, but they’re all likely to be wastelands in 5-10 years.

  14. Hey Brian, I’m an IR analyst in NYC (at a company where mid-cap companies outsource their IR duties to us) with 1 year experience out of college (semi target) , and I was wondering if you think IR is a good career to transfer into IBD boutiques (ECM?) or if there are any other exit opportunities I should pursue. My duties include talking to management, ER analysts, helping them with their models, talking to large investors. I saw the post on IR btw, great stuff but didn’t touch on exits.
    Would love to know what you think about the IR industry and how to lateral out if possible or if you have seen it. Any input is much appreciated! Also is a CFA needed or passing level 1?

    1. IR is potentially good if you can find an ECM-focused boutique, but isn’t the best area for M&A, LevFin, etc. It might potentially work for ER as well, but that might be tougher if you don’t have the modeling skills. Other common exits might be joining the fundraising or placements team at a financial sponsor.

      I don’t think you need the CFA for IB or ER roles, but it might be helpful if you apply for investing roles at hedge funds or asset management firms. I don’t have much information or many examples of transitioning out of IR, but your best bet is probably something like the ECM team at a mid-sized bank or an ECM or private placement boutique.

  15. Hi Brian
    Thanks for the article. It is very helpful. Just have 2 quick questions:
    1) If you wish to move to a different group within the same bank, how to achieve that? It sounds very tricky. Do you start talking with that group and wait until they have offered you a place, and only after then, you start informing your current manager? Or do you start consulting with your current manager right in the beginning? (Just afraid that it can leave bad impression on both sides and the original group do not like you any more if the lateral failed)
    2) If you wish to lateral to another firm, how to make sure that your current firm do not find out?

    1. 1) It’s probably better to start talking with your current manager first to make sure they know your plans. It’s not as sensitive as quitting and joining another bank, so sometimes they’ll even help you move if it makes them look better in some way.

      2) There’s no way to ensure that your current firm does not find out. People talk, emails get forwarded, and word of people moving gets out. All you can really do is use a different, non-work email address and avoid telling anyone else what you’re doing or even that you’re interviewing elsewhere.

      1. Hi Brian
        Thanks for your reply. How does move to another group make your current manager look good in some way? For how many months should you have worked in your current role before moving to a different group?


        1. Usually you want to stay in one team for about a year before moving somewhere else. The manager can look good if you switch teams and perform well in the other team.

  16. Eager Beaver

    Hi Brian, Thank you for your content! Could you touch upon how to transfer internally between geographies? When is the earliest I should initiate and who should I talk to?

    1. A year into the job is usually the earliest you should consider switching. The best way to do it is to start speaking with junior bankers in other geographies, get referrals to the more senior bankers, and then ask one of them directly about a transfer. You usually need to be in good graces with your current group + have the other one push for the transfer to make it happen.

  17. Richard Adomako

    Hello, I am a long-time follower of the site and love the material. I have a few questions which I would like some clarity on if you can. Firstly, you mentioned a closely related field such as Corporate Banking. I’ve read the related article and I feel like that option should be replaced with DCM since I feel there’s enough overlap and since DCM is a traditional IBD role that it would be a closer jump into M&A. Secondly, with many banks combining ECM & DCM into one division (Capital Markets). The combination of the two would be a good stepping stone front office role into M&A. Bigger than Sales & Trading, Wealth Management, Research, Asset Management. I’m not someone in the Industry and my questions are speculative as this is a topic that greatly interests me. Thank you for this site!

    1. I’m not really sure what you’re asking. Corporate banking is closely related to IB, and DCM is a group within IB that’s very close to corporate banking. I don’t think you’re likely to go from corporate banking to M&A directly if that’s what you’re asking. You could move in from ECM or DCM, though.

    2. Brian,

      I am currently with a boutique who lacked the in training me to excel in financial modeling. Any suggestions to prepare me going into applying to lateral?

      1. I mean, I hate to sound self-promotional, but we have training course in Excel and financial modeling ( There are plenty of options on sites like Udemy as well; it just depends on what you want. We don’t compete on price, but rather on quality, consistent updates over time, and support.

  18. Hi Brian,

    When you say that it can take 6-12 months to win an offer, do you mean that it can take that long from the time you apply? Or do you mean from the time you begin networking, studying technicals, etc? That sounds like a very long time to wait after submitting an application.

    1. As a follow up to this, does it look bad if you lateral too many times? Say you lateraled once after a year on a job and then tried to lateral to a better bank after another year?

      1. It depends on your explanation for doing so. If you switched banks several times within a few years, all in IB roles, solely to move to “better banks,” yes, it looks bad and people will question you on it. If you have some amazing explanation other than “better banks!” you might be able to explain your way out of it, but such explanations are tough to find.

        On the other hand, if you switched groups/industries several times, such as audit to Big 4 TS or corporate banking to IB, that’s easier to explain because you can state that your goal was IB all along, but you had to do something more relevant first to get in.

    2. That’s from the time you begin networking, studying, and preparing. If you wait that long after applying or after the first interview, you should just move on because the firm isn’t interested, changed its plans, or something else happened.

  19. Hi Brian, thanks for the article.

    I’m just wondering, in your opinion, what you think the outlook for lateral hiring is in 2020 given the current economic situation? I’m asking because I went to an elite target school but decided on investment banking late in my academic career so I took a position at a small regional boutique (similar to the situation above).

    Thank you!

    1. Unfortunately, I think it will be down for the year because deal activity is down so far, the coronavirus is tanking markets and the real economy, etc., and no one knows when things will calm down. Lateral spots will still open up because Analysts will still leave early for buy-side/other roles, but I think we’ll see fewer people just quitting out of frustration or despair without something else lined up.

  20. Weary Warrior

    Hi Brian, I appreciate you delving deeper into lateraling as I found it really helpful!

    I’m at a really awkward spot right now. Being an analyst at a no-name (one-person M&A boutique) shop for 2.5 years has been rather challenging for me to make the jump. I tried lateraling to MM shops and it wasn’t more about my technicals as I had no problem via phone screens and superdays but I got passed over by Big 4, corporate finance (think Duff & Phelps), and from other relevant industry boutique shops. I was told they were afraid of whether the firm was legit/credible yet the founder has a great track record running IB departments, and we close 2-3 deals a year. Now I’m going downstream trying to get into any shop be it boutique or MM and I’m getting outright ignored through my cold-emailing outreach. My story makes sense and I tailor my message accordingly to each firm and individual. I was told to go back and get a reputable brand on my resume (think corp dev at F500 company or apply to an FP&A program). At this point I thought I would have a shot from here and now I’m kind of freaking out. Lateral analyst hiring isn’t ramping up as it was last year. Thanks so much for your help!

    1. That is a tough one. But yes, I think it’s probably because bankers may be skeptical of the name/reputation of your current firm. If your outreach to other banks is not working, then other options at this point include:

      1) Aim for corporate development at a Fortune 500 company, or even something like Big 4 valuation/TS/corporate finance. Even outside the Big 4, something at a decently well-known firm in one of those areas will give you a boost.

      2) Business school. If you can get into a top program, you should be able to move to a larger bank fairly easily (but obviously huge time/expense downsides here).

      3) Maybe a Master’s in Finance degree if you attended a non-target undergrad – again, a top program should give you access to bigger firms.

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