by Brian DeChesare Comments (120)

From Non-Target School and Unpaid Wealth Management Internship to Full-Time Bulge Bracket Investment Banking Offer: How to Make the Leap

Private Wealth Management to Investment Banking

In this interview we’ll speak with a reader who landed a full-time bulge bracket investment banking offer with 0 banking internships and a non-target school on his resume.

There have been a few interviews with readers from similar backgrounds – but I thought this one was great because he shares unique insights and unusual networking strategies – including surprising conclusions on what worked and what failed miserably.

So let’s jump in and see how this reader went from no connections and no experience to a full-time investment banking offer – and how you can do the same.

Background & Last-Minute Networking

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: Sure. I went to an unknown state school that was off the radar of major banks, and which had very few alumni in finance. My family was involved in the retail industry so they knew almost nothing about it, and I had no connections.

I started getting interested in finance my sophomore year, but I knew almost nothing about it so I had to look online to get started, using your site and others.

The summer after my sophomore year I did an internship selling life insurance. It was commission-based and absolutely brutal – they just throw you out there and say, “Find clients and sell insurance ASAP.”

After that, I did an unpaid private wealth management internship at a large bank, which I leveraged into a full-time investment banking offer at a bulge bracket bank.

Q: Impressive. So let’s go back to that internship selling life insurance – most people would discount this experience because it has nothing to do with investment banking or private equity. Was it helpful at all in securing your PWM internship or your full-time offer?

A: Yes – in fact, my internship selling life insurance was my #1 talking point during interviews.

It sounds crazy, but bankers spent more time asking me about that experience than anything else on my resume – including my PWM internship at a brand-name bank.

In one bulge bracket interview, they spent 30 minutes having me pitch them an insurance policy.

I think they focused on it so much because it was extremely tough and I had almost no direction – it wasn’t much different from what you do at the top levels in banking, although obviously MDs work on much larger deals and with more sophisticated clients.

Q: I’m still surprised they focused so much on that internship. How did you make the transition from selling insurance to private wealth management?

A: It was pretty much a last-minute networking effort on my part – I knew I needed an internship for my junior year summer, but I assumed I had no chance at investment banking, so I didn’t even try.

I did contact a few friends and alumni from my school who were in the industry, but most of those leads didn’t go anywhere.

I got the internship itself by going through a friend who had recently graduated from my school and who was working in New York – he passed my name along to a recruiter at his bank.

Then I followed up and sent 20 emails over the next month before the recruiter agreed to discuss an internship.

Q: Let me stop you right there – why did you send so many emails? I usually say that calling and meeting in-person are more effective. Did you try cold-calling at all?

A: Yes – but it didn’t work at all for me. I could never get past the gatekeepers no matter what I did.

I know it works since I’ve had friends who pulled it off successfully – but overall I didn’t have much luck with it. You need to be really good at sweet-talking secretaries and finding the right people to begin with, and I wasn’t great at that.

M&I Note: In addition, location seems to matter a lot with cold-calling. A lot of readers have used it successfully in California, for example, but other regions are more hit-or-miss.

Q: Yeah, people do tend to have mixed results with cold-calling. Going back to that internship, though, I’m curious – most bulge bracket banks don’t do unpaid internships. How did you arrange that?

A: It worked because this was in the midst of the financial crisis / recession and everything was chaotic at the time. They actually gave me a choice of 2 internships: a paid, back-office position in New Jersey or an unpaid, front-office private wealth management position in New York – I wisely selected the second one.

A lot of students would have chosen the paid internship, but I knew it was a bad move because banks want to know that you can live and work in New York – and as you’ve pointed out before, the back office to front office transition is difficult.

Going back to your original question, the bank itself and the industry as a whole were in such trouble around this time that everyone was running around frantically trying to cut costs – so they decided to give large groups of us unpaid internships.

The “interview process” itself was really informal, and all it took was 1 interview to get the offer.

Door-to-Door Networking

Q: Ok, so it was more of a firm-wide policy than a special exception for you – which makes sense. So how did you keep networking with bankers once you started? Were the people in your PWM group helpful?

A: From day 1 I walked in there thinking, “How can I turn this into investment banking?”

Most people in PWM were completely useless for investment banking recruiting – a lot of times they’d give me contact information for recruiters, but then the recruiters would ignore me or lie about the process.

People in PWM were fine if you wanted to do Sales & Trading, but they hated investment bankers – if you mentioned that you wanted to do that, they would instantly start looking down on you.

The only good contact I got through the PWM group was actually in private equity – my boss had the interns go around to visit key clients in-person one day, and I met the head of a PE firm like that.

I made a good impression on him, and then ran it by my boss before I contacted him for networking purposes – he was fine with it, so the PE guy referred me to a lot of people and forwarded my resume to all his contacts, which was huge.

Q: Nice – I guess we can call that one “door-to-door networking.” So aside from that one PE guy, did you do most of your networking outside the bank?

A: Yes. I did an extensive search and left no stone unturned – which was key, because my most random strategies ended up working really well.

I reached out to alumni via our database as well as LinkedIn – I often found names on LinkedIn, and then plugged them into the alumni database to get contact information. I didn’t limit myself to investment banking, either – as long as the person did something in finance, that was close enough for me.

I ended up getting my full-time offer via an alum that no one from my school had ever contacted before – he worked in a Restructuring group and had good friends at bulge bracket banks, so I got the referral through him.

No one had contacted him in the past because he went to a top business school and was detached from his undergrad institution – so others wrongly assumed he was “off limits.”

I also met alumni via my finance classes, and I directly asked a lot of professors for referrals – teachers are severely under-utilized for networking purposes.

It was really important to be the first person to contact an alumnus – the same alum is unlikely to help more than few people with referrals, so getting in early is crucial.

Q: Right, that makes a lot of sense. But those strategies don’t sound that much different from what you’d expect – you mentioned some “random strategies” before. Could you give a few examples?

A: Sure – here are 2 specific examples of more unusual strategies:

Example #1: I found out that someone very high-up at an investment bank a few years ago (C-level executive) was an alumnus from my school from many years ago. I couldn’t find his contact information anywhere, so I went through my Dean to get it instead.

I met with my Dean, told him about myself, and then he sent the resume along to the C-level executive because he knew him personally. A few days later the executive called me personally and I would have gotten an interview at his bank had I not already accepted an offer elsewhere by that point.

Example #2: Many people didn’t respond to emails, so I tried a more creative strategy instead – I went through the Bloomberg terminals available at my school.

You can look people up there if you know their names – rather than calling or emailing, I instant messaged them via Bloomberg. It worked really well, especially for people in Sales & Trading and Equity Research that were on Bloomberg all day.

Q: That’s a great way to use Bloomberg, though you do have to be careful not to go overboard with IM. Once you contacted these people, what did you say to them? Was it just the typical informational interview?

A: For most of the interviews I just said, “I’m interested in your industry and want to learn more about how I can get there.”

I did this because I knew that industries like private equity and portfolio management require another job first – and I wanted my contacts to give me referrals to other industries.

So if I called up a PE contact I would say, “I’m interested in private equity – how can I get there after I graduate?” and he would say, “Well, you have to do investment banking first,” and I would say, “Oh, ok, do you happen to know anyone in the industry?” and then I would get contact information like that.

I found that feigning ignorance – to a certain point – was more effective than acting like I knew everything from the get-go.

Full-Time Recruiting

Q: I think that one should answer all the “Which industry should I tell them I’m interested in?” questions I get. Did you do anything else to prepare for full-time recruiting?

A: Not really – I read the usual sites online, interview guides, message boards, etc. but I focused on my networking efforts through the summer and fall. I’d say I spent around 40 hours per week networking and interviewing until I had my offer lined up.

It’s important to be persistent even when it’s the last minute and interview slots are being announced.

Quick example: A couple people from one class of mine got interviews at this one bank, and I noticed that my friends all had interviews lined up but I didn’t.

So I contacted the recruiter directly and said, “I noticed some classmates of mine had interviews lined up with your firm. I’d really appreciate the opportunity to interview with you as well.”

And just like that, she set up the interview and I got through first rounds there.

This might seem obvious, but 90% of people are too afraid to ask for what they want so they sit there and get no results.

Q: Another bold but effective move there. So what were interviews like? Did you have to address a lot of “objections” because you had no banking experience and because you were coming in from a non-target school?

A: Not really. They didn’t care much about the lack of banking experience, and hardly anyone raised my school as an issue.

However, that may have been because I interviewed fairly late in the process – after most full-time recruiting was finished. A friend who interviewed at the same firms earlier than me got grilled on why he wasn’t from a big city and why he didn’t go to a better-known school.

I had a low GPA (3.2 / 4.0) so that came up in interviews a few times. I gave the usual defense and explained that I didn’t feel it was low given my work experience, and hardly anyone asked about it past the first round.

I know a lot of people complain about their GPA, but I think those concerns are overblown – especially if you’re from a lesser-known school, networking is far more important than boosting your GPA by a small amount.

Interviews were actually easier and less technical than I expected – even though I was a finance major and had the PWM internship, I received only a few technical questions throughout the entire process.

Thinking on your feet and being good at making up stuff on the spot was critical, because I got some curve-ball “fit” questions that I hadn’t thought about before.

Q: Any interview tips that we haven’t heard before?

A: A few points:

  1. Interviewers often drifted if I went beyond 1-2 minutes in my answer to the “Walk me through your resume” question – I know some people say that 3-5 minutes is ok, but I’d aim for 60 seconds instead.
  2. I tried to keep all my “fit” answers to a max of 3 sentences, or people would start to lose interest – be concise and let them ask for more detail if they want.
  3. Be confident but not cocky – cocky gets you obscure technical questions, while confidence makes them like you.

On the last point: a friend and I were interviewing for the same bank on the same day, and I got 0 technical questions while the interviewers asked him to build a 3-statement model on a piece of paper (!).

It was all because he walked in and acted like he was a finance guru, which was a huge mistake.

Q: Yeah, definitely. People try way too hard to impress and it always backfires. So now that you got this offer, what are you planning to do in the future?

A: I want to do PE and get an MBA in the future, but those are both quite a ways away. In the short-term I’m definitely looking forward to joining my group, but I’m also interested in the distressed debt side and possibly doing something there.

Q: Awesome, thanks for your time.

A: No problem. Later!

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Hi Brian, great insight.

    Do you think I would able to go from Goldman Sachs PWM internship during junior year summer to BB IB full time?

    That’s the path I am currently on and I would love to hear your opinion/thoughts.

    1. So, this interview is ancient – it was published in 2010, and it’s based on a story that happened in the 2008-2009 period. Some things haven’t changed (networking tactics, how to get referrals, etc.), but the market today is far more competitive, and this kind of story is less likely to happen.

      For a more recent/better view of how to move from PWM to IB at the last minute, please see:

      The short version is yes, you can do it, but it’s very difficult and you’re unlikely to end up at a BB bank these days.

  2. Hey, Brian. I have been trying to figure out the best way for me to break into IB. I went to a non-target school, never did an IB internship, graduated last may, and just started in wealth management. I’ve still been applying to IB internships at the hope of possibly getting an offer. I moved on from screening to a first interview in two of the internships, but I haven’t heard back from either (I had my interviews in December, so I assume I was not selected). Although, I do not know the time frame for interviewing. I am trying to figure out the most prudent path forward for me, so I thought maybe you could offer some advice.
    I see it as unlikely to be hired for an internship when I am no longer in my undergrad, but I could be wrong? If it is possible, and this is the best path, what would be the best way to work toward that, so I can land an internship next summer (or sooner if possible)?
    I have also considered trying to get an MBA in order to break in, but, from what I’ve read, that only helps if you already have prior IB/PE experience.
    I am dead set on doing whatever I can to try and break into banking, so, what would you recommend I do going forward? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    1. You’re not going to get an internship if you’re already working full-time. Your best bet is to move to something that’s closer to IB, such as an independent valuation firm, Big 4 transaction services, or anything else that involves valuation and working on deals, and then move over from there. You may have to use a Master’s in Finance degree as well. An MBA is premature unless you’ve already spent 1-2 years on this goal and come up short.

      1. Thanks for the advice!
        So you would recommend applying to independent valuation firms or Big 4 transaction services, then trying to get an IB analyst role from there? And if I can’t get a independent valuation or Big 4 transaction job, then going for a master’s in finance? Or did you mean get a masters in finance while working at independent valuation/Big 4, then apply to IB jobs?
        Do you think it would be a safer bet to just go for the MBA?

        1. Yes and yes (think about an MSF if you cannot get one of the other roles). I would not recommend an MBA quite yet, as you’ve been working for less than a year.

  3. Hey Brian,

    Thank you running such a useful site. I have a question relating to work experience. When you talk about “non-banking” or “non-finance” experience in your articles, is there a “ranking” for whats the most useful for getting an I-banking job? For example, would a “blue-collar” operations internship at a F500 be viewed as lesser when compared to PWM or AM? What about compared to anything “white-collar”, like marketing or business development? Anything I could do to leverage the blue-collar experience for junior summer recruiting? Should I give up on BBs? Thanks again for providing such a helpful resource.

  4. shanice gibbs

    Hey! I am currently doing a paid wealth management internship for a top firm. My last internship was at a venture capital firm in NYC. I go to a non target school in Ohio and was wondering how I could leverage my experiences and what is the best way to set up interviews to get into an analyst position! Also, I will be graduating in January 2017 instead of the summer time, so what issues do you think I may face because of this?


    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d do very well and try to land an offer from the top firm. I don’t think you’ll face too many issues; just speak with HR re. your early graduation date and I’m sure they can accommodate.

  5. In a similar situation in this story. minus the life insurance job during sophomore year. I’m a junior at a big ten school, 3.2 gpa. Just accepted a PWM/Brokerage internship in New York for this summer that I got through networking.
    Anyway I could turn this into a IB internship during the following school year?
    And if I don’t get one during the school year, how difficult would it be to get a offer from even a boutique firm in Chicago/MPLS/Milwaukee after I graduate?

    1. By the way the internship is unpaid and at a boutique IB/brokerage firm.

    2. M&I - Nicole

      I’d network a lot internally though it can be challenging if you don’t have the work experience. I’d also connect with people via LinkedIn over the summer and network in person if you can.


    1: Given the above article, it is clear the PWM can be turned into IB. Is the same true of Asset Management?

    2: Is PNC Bank a good place to do asset management? Does the firm have a good reputation on the street?

    3: The article above would imply that people in PWM hate investment bankers. Is the same true of the people in Asset Management?

    Thank you for your time.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      1. Yes you can move to IB from PWM but such cases are not too common since most from PWM don’t have that deal experience required in IB, likewise for AM.
      2. PNC bank is a credible bank I believe. I am not sure of its rankings etc if this is what you’re asking for
      3. No, I wouldn’t say people in PWM dislike bankers, and no this isn’t true in AM.

  7. Hi. I have been at a commmunity college for 2 years and maintained a 3.95 GPA. I have been recently admittied to Columbia University for the Fall 2014 semester, and I’m not sure if I should list the CC and Columbia on my resume or not include the CC. The major drawback I see if I didn’t include the CC is (1) the gap on my resume, and (2) I wont have a gpa at Columbia during my first semester.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes I’d list the community college if you’ve just recently transferred to Columbia

  8. What about from prop trading to IB?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      That is not as common because the skillsets are different and you may need the IB transaction and valuation experience for a successful transition

  9. I’m a sophomore in university and I’ve just recently become interested in finance, but I have zero finance experience and I’m currently planning for summer internship recruitment in IB or equity research. Should I fail to get an internship in finance, would an insurance sales summer job, like the interviewee’s internship, be a good plan B for the purposes of gaining some transactional and client experience that I could leverage into an IB/ER/PWM internship junior year or a full time position in sales/trading/PWM/ER? Essentially, is insurance sales a viable foot in the door to finance?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Having an internship is better than not having one in most cases. I don’t think its particularly useful for IB/ER, though you maybe able to spin that for FIG or ER group analyzing finance companies. Otherwise, you can spin your sales skills for PWM/Sales roles. It maybe a stretch but can be done

  10. Great article. Thanks for all the information. Its really useful.

    1. Thank you for reading!

  11. Jason McDaniel

    Is it a good idea to start out at a boutique investment bank or hedge fund if you went to a “non- target” and then work your way up?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      That’s a great idea, why not?

      1. If you start in wealth management can you move up to hedge funds?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          It really depends on the individual. Hard to say. Not exactly a common path though I’m sure it is doable

          1. What is a common path in your opinion?

          2. M&I - Nicole

            From equity research/S&T (or even IBD) to HFs

  12. Hi,

    I am currently a Junior at a Non Ivy-League target school. I have a decent GPA and am involved in a variety of extra-cirriculars in college. I have actually been interviewing since fall semester and though I have learned from each experience, I have yet to attain an internship position for the summer. More recently, I am close with obtaining an internship in PWM for a well renowned bank. Though, I really want to break into the IB industry after college and plan on networking between now and end of spring recruiting as much as possible. With my current background and a possible internship in PWM summer after Junior year along with networking, would that be enough to land a position at any Investment Bank regardless of their market focus (MM, BB etc.)? What else can I do to get my foot in the door?


    1. Large banks would be tough with just a PWM internship – middle-market and smaller are more possible. The biggest thing that would help you is another, more relevant internship at a local firm, even if it’s part-time or unpaid.

  13. I have landed an Investment banking summer analyst at a boutique (50 people or less) and a PWM and investment management internship at a BB branch office. I want to get to a BB IBD of course. No chance of getting returns for the IB internship though. Which way do you think is more convenient?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Why no chance of getting returns for IB internship?

      I’d choose the IB one for the experience if you want to do IB going forward. However if you want a return offer, you might want to rethink

  14. Thank you so much Brian. Would you classify UCLA as a target cause I havent seen any boutiques or alot of banks on their career centre website for undergraduate.Do you know which ones recruit there. Which one out of notre dame (mendoza) emory (gouizeta) usc (marshall) would you prefer over ucla for ibanking at undergraduate level. Thanks alot,


    1. M&I - Nicole

      Not really but its a good school. No, I don’t know which firms recruit there but I presume some WC firms do.
      Notre Dame & Emory I’d presume. I’d choose UCLA/USC if I want to have fun on the WC though. ND is in the middle of nowhere!

  15. Dear Brian,
    Hope you are doing really well. I want to do investment banking in future and I am in a catch 22 position right now deciding where I should go for undergraduate. I hope you could help me out on this. I got into Indiana (Kelley b school), Boston college (Carroll school of management), Pennstate university (Smeal), UCLA (pre bus econ major) and NYU (Core program in liberal studies). Could you please tell me the order in which these universities come in terms of recruiting for ibanking . Please tell me how you would consider each of them in terms of being a target, semi target and non target. Thank you so much Brian.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d go to NYU. Even though you are in the liberal arts college, recruiters recruit at Stern. Attend those info sessions there. Being in NY also gives you an edge cause you can intern and study at the same time.
      2nd choice wld be UCLA
      3rd choice BC

  16. I don’t have formal finance work experience, but I go to a target with a 3.6+ GPA

  17. Hi! This site is great! Which looks better on my resume when I’m applying to IB BB internships for summer 2013–internal audit summer internship at a Fortune 100 asset management firm in NY or investment internship at a small asset management firm in my hometown? The second internship in my hometown, I’ve heard, is really big on mentorship.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I believe the latter one though the AM firm might have a better brand name. It also depends on where you want to work & which team/culture you like better

  18. Hi! I recently got a public finance internship at a BB (Morgan Stanley). My job is labeled as investment banking and its considered an industry group. What I will be doing is kinda far from actual banking so would you happen to have any kind insights as to how I can position myself for a lateral shot at FT class ibd role? (like m&a, TMT, etc) Thank you!!!!

    1. Best bet is to try to work on as much modeling-related work as possible and pitch the knowledge of debt and bonds you gained in public finance, and also point out how there are similarities to what you do in other groups (e.g. the financing process is similar to equity/debt financings). We are publishing a series of articles on public finance soon.

      1. Wow great! thankss brian. :) in the eyes of the recruiter or MD, how would a public finance internship within the IBD rank against other non-IB roles? Would I have more or less of an advantage against S&T etc?

        1. Public finance would probably be about the same as S&T. So not as good as a true IB internship, but at least somewhat helpful.

  19. Hi,

    I am an engineering graduate from a target school. I have a IB boutique internship, high GPA, enrolled in CFA, and have some industry engineering experience. I currently don’t have a job and I am focusing on getting into IB (or alternatively ER). I’ve been talking to many bankers and they like my resume, but tell me there are no jobs due to ugly market. Also, I couldnt capitalize on the IB interviews that I had so far.

    I received recently an offer from a MM Private wealth management firm, should I take it, continue networking and try to break into IB. Or should I simply ignore it and remain fully focused on recruiting?

    say I take it and I stick for a year, how easy the transition would be to IB? Would they look down at PWM experience?


    1. Hi M&I,
      It would be great if you can answer my questions above.

      Thanks again!

      1. M&I - Nicole

        I’d suggest you to take the job. You can worry about networking back to IB later. Otherwise you will have to explain your gap year. And honestly, there are many candidates out there w IB experience looking to get back into IB so your lack of IB experience might not help you

  20. Hello, Brian. Do you think it is worth trying to transfer to Ivy League school if I am currently in a “semi-target” school (think Berkeley, CMU, etc.)? I am currently studying economics and applied mathematics and hoping to join trading department. Would it be wiser to earn master in financial engineering/financeial mathematics from Princeton, CMU, Berkeley, NYU, etc. later on? I am currently sophomore, and carry 4.0 GPA with one internship at boutique firm.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes, if you transfer to a target school that might increase your chances in banking. Transferring might be a faster route than doing another masters in a target school.

      1. Student 11,

        Berkeley is a target school on the West Coast. If you’re at Haas with a 3.5+ GPA, you’re getting BB interviews.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Yep. I believe you’ll get some interviews.

  21. I am currently a student at Rasmussen College in Ft. Myers, FL, currently I am pursuing a degree in accounting my plan is to ride out their CPA program and then go for my masters in Finance. I am fully aware Rasmussen is light years away form being even close to a secondary school, but after earning my CPA License then maybe trying to attain my Masters from either a target School or secondary school. This was sort of a strategy I came up with on my own, just searching for comments and thoughts.

    1. You need a much better-known school for the Master’s program.

      1. I have recently received two acceptance letters from University of Tampa and University of Florida as a transfer student the catch is neither of them are wiloling to except all of my credits. Currently I have completed 3/4 of the Certified Public Accounting Program at Rasmussen and have also completed the states 1yr experiance requirement at a local CPA Firm alls that is needed is for me to finish out the program and i will be able to sit for my CPA exam. SO, should Just take the loss and have the shot towrds a better school and what are the schools needed to get into the industry I am looking to giving my self the best possible chances in success into breaking in. Also, is it true that the CPA license can open more oppurtunities?

        1. Yes just go to the better school in the US see the US News World Report for the top 10-15 places. CPA doesn’t really matter for IB.

  22. Hi Brian,

    Great website!
    I am a graduate (with major in finance) from a german non-target school and try to get in IB. Unfortunately I have no IB internships. Currently I`m working as a management consultant analyst in banking. Now I have a full-time PWM-offer from a BB in Zurich.
    Do you think it is possible to work there for a few years and than moving to IB?
    Or is it a better idea to go now to a business school in UK and try to get an IB internship and see if it works out?

    Thanks for your advice in advance!!!

    1. Probably better to take the PWM offer and try to move in from there first.

      1. LSEactuary

        Would it be easier to transfer from a PWM internship (at a BB) to another FO role (at the same BB) compared to going from an unknown boutique to a BB (same division)?

        1. I’ve seen it go both ways, don’t think there is a consensus. But most bankers value banking experience more than PWM even if it’s at a small boutique.

          1. LSEactuary

            Okay… Thanks! :)

  23. LSEactuary

    Which option is best and why? (2nd year of a 3 year degree; assume your goal is to work in M&A when you graduate)

    1. Summer internship abroad at a BB in the Private Wealth Management division
    2. Summer internship abroad at a boutique – M&A/Corp Fin
    3. Summer internship in your home country at a boutique – M&A/Corp Fin
    4. A combination of the above? Or none?

    If option no 1 is best – how can you leverage your experience to get into IB? Will bankers look down on you because you did a PWM internship?

    1. 2 since M&A/Corp Fin is the closest to M&A and easier to move to BB from there vs. PWM at BB.

      1. LSEactuary

        Thanks for your response.

        Now I’m really stuck because different people are recommending different things…. 

        1) New York vs London? (I’m in London btw). Is it better to go to New York and intern there (any firm ie a boutique or a BB). Does international experience add a spark to your IB application?

        2) How is moving from a boutique M&A firm to a BB easier? I have boutique experience already and only 1 BB interviewed me! Bad luck I guess! :(

        3) Is it worth interning in 2 M&A boutiques (if given the opportunity to) over the summer? One abroad, one in your home country? 

        Please note – I’m talking about summer internships… Above you said that it was not too difficult to move from PWM to IB through an internship…. Wouldn’t your interview answers be stronger if you try both? Or does the extra M&A experience count more? Not arguing – just trying to see things clearly. :)

        I also had a question about networking – in the UK I have found that my ‘contacts’ only help you if you get through the rounds but once your rejected they ignore you. How do you get past that?

        (btw when I mean ’boutique’ I mean small boutiques with small offices and stuff. Not ‘large’ places like Lazard etc).

        Thanks for the help in advance! :)

        1. NY vs. London depends on whether you want to stay in NY or London… intl experience may help a bit but not too exotic in that case so not a big deal. Generally boutique M&A to BB is easier because by writing “investment banking analyst” on your resume you’re put in a separate category and will get interviews more easily. Yes 2 M&A boutiques could be worth it if you get experience in different countries. Not sure about the UK networking but if you do a search you will see a few interviews with UK readers who commented on networking there.

          1. LSEactuary

            Thanks for the reply.

            That’s interesting because I know a guy at LSE who went to Asia and did voluntary work (and has no financial experience) and received interviews in the IBD and research division. Plus, in IBD, don’t they like people who can ‘travel’ (and not just list it as a hobby! Lol)

            What did you mean by the exotic line? Would it be better to work in Barcelona or something then NYC? Wouldn’t it be more impressive if someone from London got to a boutique in NYC though?

            My other question is that would going ‘back’ to a boutique you already worked at be frowned upon? Should you try and get something elsewhere? What if you complete 2 internships – 1 abroad in a new place and 1 at the boutique you already worked at.

            I’m just curious as I had ‘investment banking analyst ‘ practically on my CV and got no interviews… But when I didn’t have this work experience I got interviewed at a BB! Recruiting really makes no sense to me…

            Sorry for all the questions but thanks for the advice in advance! :)

          2. I don’t know, can’t explain that one. If you passed all the online tests and competency questions it must have been something on your CV though hard to say what. I wouldn’t worry about going back to a boutique you worked at before, just focus on finding the most relevant position.

  24. Hi Brian,

    I’ve been following your website for quite a while. It has been extremely useful (quite amusing, too). Great Job! I have a couple of questions that I hope you could help me with. A little background about myself: I am a junior at a semi-target school with a 3.7 GPA. My ultimate goal is to go to a top B-School(H,S,Penn) and start my own business. I got a BB PWM offer(GS/MS) for this coming summer.

    First, how much does a few years at PWM prepare you for top b-schools? people on WSO seem to think it is completely useless, but i just want to hear from the pro.

    Second, if I want to switch from PWM to IB for FT, is it really difficult? Is there any particularly area that I should focus on during my PWM internship in order to spin better for FT?

    Third, I understand the importance of networking. Do I have a much better chance networking within the company and trying to make the transfer? Or just reaching out to alumni or friends who work/intern in IBs at other banks in general?


    1. I wouldn’t say it’s useless, but it is a notch below the IB/PE/management consulting track. PWM to IB is difficult but possible, and it’s easier if you’re just moving from an internship. Focus on any analytical work and anything related to financial statement analysis. Your chances are about the same moving internally vs. going to other banks, so try both.

      1. Thank you for your fast response, greatly appreciate it. Just a few follow up questions.

        I remember seeing somewhere on this site saying the best networking time is early in the summer? Is that true?

        Also, in terms of prioritizing my networking efforts, should I focus on building one or two deeper relationships with senior bankers or just reach out to as many people as possible(interns, junior ones,etc)? How important is it to know those ladies at Human Resources? Thanks, man!

        1. HR is not that useful, focus on 20-30 real bankers and concentrate on the most helpful ones. For FT recruiting yes you should start in the summer and then try to visit in-person before recruiting begins.

          1. Many thanks!

  25. Hi – I’m kind of stuck so I kind of need some advice:

    I’m a senior and have 3.9 GPA at a non-target school, exchanged at oxbridge, and just really want to do IBD;
    but i made this decision *after* the deadlines for internships in my junior year, meaning I didn’t have any finance internships (only had internships in marketing/research at nonbanks); furthermore my degree is in liberal arts, albeit my courses having finance as their focus
    I’ve applied through the standard processes to the apac office (I’m from HK), but most of the rejections tell me that while they think I have a strong resume, I don’t have the training to back it up

    I’m graduating very soon (in a few weeks, since I got permission to finish school half a year early due to my academic results), and I do have an offer with the nonbank company, but it’s as far from IBD as you can get, and I understand it’s bad to start in an entirely different industry and function

    However, since probably your site was written with the US banking culture/common practices in mind, what are you recommendations as to what I should do in the HK banking industry?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this!!

    1. At this stage your best option is to go for a Master’s program (at a target school) and use the time in between to get a finance-related internship, then go through FT recruiting again next year. If you can’t do that, then you’ll need to take the role and network your way into banking (can be more difficult in HK since networking is not as common there so you may want to focus on the US/Europe if you do that).

  26. A few questions on lateral hiring:

    Will the recruiter/investment bank/HR call my current boss/firm about me? I’m pretty sure I would be fired if my boss found out I didn’t like his firm anymore and wanted to leave.

    If they don’t call for references, then how do they know how well you performed? If they don’t know, then does this mean my performance at this firm doesn’t matter and I can slack off if I’m about to leave elsewhere?

    I just want to be able to do a lateral move in a few months without my firm finding out I looked since I could end up staying if I end up with no substantial offers.

    Thanks for your help here.

    1. Only to find out basic details like time worked, otherwise they can’t really tell performance unless they test it in an interview.

      1. Then how to I make a lateral move without my boss finding out I’m looking? Seems that they will find out if someone asks how long I’ve worked there, right?

        1. By the time they ask you will already have the offer its just for background check purposes

  27. Hi Brian, first time posting here and wonder if you could give me some guidance.

    I have signed an offer for back office at a top tier BB in London, which is (obviously) not what I want. But I have just noticed an opening at an Equities team at the same bank, which I am very interested in. Would you say it’s a good idea to just talk to my HR manager about this opportunity and ask to be considered for that role? How should I approach the HR?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. BTW, my signed offer was a return offer following a summer internship at the back office.

    2. I personally wouldn’t do it if you just signed an offer for another group, maybe wait until a few months after you start working first.

      1. What about asking to be transfered to an other group (not referencing the specific opening)? I am pretty sure I wouldn’t like a back office position and have recently prepared a lot for FO interviews following guidance up on this site. I probably wouldn’t regret that signed offer being withdrawn as a consequence.

        1. If you don’t care about possibly losing the offer then sure go ahead

  28. I’ll be interning at a BB in S&T, but I know I want to do IBD. How do you suggest leveraging an S&T opportunity to give myself a good opportunity for an full-time IBD opportunity.

  29. I like this guy’s persistence and how savvy he became at this process. I help people apply to top MBA programs and really like working with people who do their homework, so let him know I’d love to work with him in the future!

  30. Admin, I’m trying very hard to transition to IBD and need your advice. Non-target school 3.7 GPA, worked in JPM operations, JPM market risk coverage, now working at Moody’s credit risk corporate finance, and less than 1 year out of undergrad. Should I take B-school route and how can I get into the bank? I’m actively making contacts, maintaining relationships, etc. but its just not working out. I’d appreciate your help.

    1. Still too soon for business school – better to network for now and try to move to a boutique bank first.

  31. Admin,
    I’m trying very hard to transition to IBD and need your advice. Non-target school 3.7 GPA, worked in JPM operations, JPM market risk coverage, now working at Moody’s credit risk corporate finance, and less than 1 year out of undergrad. Should I take B-school route and how can I get into the bank? I’m actively making contacts, maintaining relationships, etc. but its just not working out. I’d appreciate your help.

    1. I would not do that just yet because you have too little experience. Think about a Master’s in Finance program instead.

  32. Brian,

    I’m trying to get an investment banking internship[ for this summer, but it’s very hard to do so. I looked for some friends who were/are involved with IB, hedge funds, and the such…

    I found one friend who works in prime brokerage at BofA.
    I can possible have a good chance with landing an internship at her department. It involved much interaction with customers in the hedge funds industry.
    Do you think this would be a good internship for me to take part in if I don’t get an IBanking internship offer?

    Thanks for your input in advanced.


  33. does it make sense to transfer from harvard to penn-wharton senior year for recruiting?

    1. Why would you do that? Harvard is harvard. The elite….

  34. I majored in psychology. I now consider it somewhat of a mistake, but I was young and thought the psych courses were interesting and the department stimulating. Can I leave my major off my resume? Is there any way to hide it?

    On an interview I can try to spin it (i.e. neuroeconomics/ behavioral economics courses in the psych dept. sparked my interest in finance) but up on top of my resume it just looks awful.

    1. No you have to include major on your resume maybe just say your focus was behavioral economics.

  35. Plebes,

    There is no I-banking activity right now. The people in I-banking are underpaid, overworked, and not getting bonuses this year. I work at a firm, but in the brokerage division, and I can see their job boards and they don’t have any openings and for the ones they do have, they aren’t picking up anyone that didn’t go to a top ten school OR already have a ton of previous experience/clients.

    Do you know what these Firms want more than anything right now? Competent and hardworking brokers. That’s about it. See, bulge bracket firms need buyers for equity offerings and brokers supply the buyers, both individual and institutional investors.

    And I’ve seen mediocre brokers making way more money than most I-bankers I’ve ever heard of. The “industry average” is just lower for brokers because for every top tier brokerage firm you have a hundred JT Marleys out there. At every top tier firm you still have a bell curve of production and payouts. But still, you can get hired at a great firm without having to go to Harvard and if you are as badass as you think you are on the phone, talking investments and actually knowing your sh!t, you can make a lot more money and work market hours while your friends trying to become MD at Goldman are burning out to go teach high school math (only the munibond market is about to smoke that backup plan).

    And word to the wise, the average age of the successful broker is about 50 years old. A lot of these guys are looking for junior partners they can lean on so they can take the wife on a cruise and transition towards retirement. If you really want in to Wall Street but on paper you have zero shot at landing an I-bank gig, my advice would be to work your way into brokerage as either a broker or as a support associate of a broker, prove your worth, pursue a designation or higher degree (on your own time and without telling anyone until it’s in hand), and work your way into a mentor-type relationship and hopefully a junior partnership. 10 years later, you’ll be making $250k working market hours chatting stocks, bonds, options and syndicate as a job. Not bad.

    1. OK, but how does this relate to the interview? This site is about IB / PE.

      1. It relates to my point that most of these students won’t be getting an interview anytime soon, or ever, for IB/PE positions unless they are with some chop shop.

        This site occasionally crosses the line into giving false hopes to people that should be having it drilled into them that they do not have a shot at the, “Analysts (3 years) –> Associates (5 yrs) –> VP –> Director –> MD” career path.

        Not every kid that picks up a football and tries hard for varsity is going to have a crack at the NFL. In fact, most won’t. The time spent trying to get there costs them other opportunities. The exact same goes for IB/PE/HF. What is the statistical average rate of success for anyone not coming out of a top tier school? Likely near zero.

        I find this site informative regarding what it takes to pursue a career in Investment Banking. But the responsible thing to do would be to start diverting many of these kids towards brokerage or analyst type positions where they at least have a shot at an interview and then can transition to I-Banking later if they still want to. I realize this site is mostly about I-Banking, but it might be wise to enlighten your readers into the other avenues in Finance. But it’s your site. I just feel bad reading some of these comments on here. Their resume gets autorejected by IBD but they’d probably make great brokers. Oh well.

        1. Sorry, but if a person is not intelligent enough to realize that not everyone from a 2nd tier school will get into finance, they should not be reading this site. That is just the nature of case studies – they are examples, not controlled scientific experiments.

          The chances of getting into IB/PE/HF are significantly higher than getting into the NFL given that fewer people are interested in IB/PE/HF and there are far more spots available… and you don’t need to work on it from an early age. So I don’t think your analogy applies because many people get into finance after getting interested fairly late in the game, whereas the same is not true at all for sports.

          There are plenty of articles on Plan B options (see the Recruiting page) in case readers do not get into IB or PE. And there was even a recent article on what it’s like to be a broker vs. a trader, so it’s not accurate to say that we’ve ignored areas like brokerage.

          Most high-achievers reading are not interested in being brokers because the pay ceiling and prestige are both lower. Now, you and I both know that there is not much of a real difference and that no one gives a crap in the real world or even understands the difference between being a broker vs. being an investment banker.

          But this site is a business (no one would write about these topics solely for fun), and as a business owner I have to give customers what they want. Overwhelmingly, they want to know how to get into IB / PE / HF, with a few being interested in other areas.

          So that is why most of the coverage is dedicated to those areas – not because brokers or other fields are less valid, but because there is less interest and because I have to cater to my audience.

  36. Unrelated question…About what percentage of analysts would you say jump ship after their 2 years, rather than stay in banking? Whether it’s to PE, HF, whatever.

    1. 90% or so in the US

  37. Hi, I have a random question not related to the article. Suppose I’ve applied to an internship in the S&T department but I’ve got an interview with the Sales team when I’m more interested in trading. Assuming that I still want this sales job (as a backup), what can I say for a ‘Why Sales’ question without sounding like I’m not interested in it?

    1. Just pretend that you are more interested in sales and say you view everything as sales and have always been good at talking to / convincing people.

  38. Your site has some great information regarding private equity and venture capital but not fund of funds. can you add some articles regarding fund of funds?

    also i was talking to some alumni and they said i, senior in college with investment banking exp but no full time offer lined up, should also consider buyside like local vc, pe, fof along with sellside (even though i assumed that these needed sell side exp first).

    their point was, the training doesnt really matter (its pretty much same most places), ib traders/bankers are focused on industry specific deals, and experience from buyside will give a view from investing side, rather than unbiased selling side.

    and they were talking about how everyone wants to move to boutique and so on..

    what is your opinion brian? do you think i should also look at some buyside firms like vc, pe, fund of funds, etc along with everything?

    1. Sure, but understand that it depends on 1) If anyone working at a FoF volunteers to be interviewed and 2) Whether or not the information is new / insightful. So far no one has volunteered.

      Sure look at everything.

  39. I like the bold moves exhibited by the interviewee, though I think it goes both ways – some might work on people, yet some might just end up burning the potential bridge you might have had, would you agree?

    And to be honest with the following example

    “So I contacted the recruiter directly and said, “I noticed some classmates of mine had interviews lined up with your firm. I’d really appreciate the opportunity to interview with you as well.”

    And just like that, she set up the interview and I got through first rounds there.”

    I would say 9.5/10 times, this strategy wouldn’t work for BB firms, or other well known firms perhaps some smaller firms or if a recruiter was just nice? Otherwise, I don’t see them making it an exception for you.

    1. Honestly, I think most people underestimate how forward they can be. Bankers are busy getting yelled at by MDs and crazy clients all day – unless you kidnap their family and burn down their house, you can’t “offend” them. So unless you do something colossally stupid I think the risk is minimal. It’s far better to take a chance and get something great vs. potentially being rejected… kind of like dating.

      As far as that specific request, you might be right that 9.5 / 10 times it wouldn’t work. But who cares? 0.5 / 10 times is still a 5% chance, which is much better than a 0% chance. And it takes literally 3 minutes to make the request. You have to think of networking in terms of probabilities rather than assuming that something won’t work.

      I’ve seen repeatedly that college students especially are just not forward enough or assume that everything works in a straightforward, orderly way… which is completely the opposite of the real world.

  40. This might not be your favorite question, but how do private wealth management salaries compare to that of investment banking? I’m sure IB pays way better, but I’m curious as to how the two careers pay off in the long term. Thanks

    1. They’re less. Bonuses might be half of IB bonuses but not sure of the specific numbers as you move up. Better work/life balance though so it’s a trade-off.

      1. Hey, I have some experience in PWM. It basically depends on how many assets are under your control. You will typically get about 1-2% of the net portfolio worth of your clients’. Some PWM advisors are making 3-10 million due to a huge client base.

  41. Is it worth it to transfer from a boutique like Blackstone/Lazard to a bulge bracket like GS/MS? What about to JPMorgan/Credit Suisse?

  42. Great interview as always. With regard to the low GPA, the defense of having work experience (maybe 2 internships) would be sufficient to defend off that question?

    Also, what do you think of PE groups in accounting firms such as KPMG? I heard they have a PE group as well? How is that different than say your typical KKR, Lazard firms?

    1. That’s a good point – I am actually not sure how well that excuse would work in the general case. It’s usually better to point to an improvement trend, but not sure whether that was the case here or not.

      Not sure about PE groups in accounting firms, but similar to PE groups within banks they are not viewed in the same light as standalone firms and most people don’t try to go there because PE is not the core focus of the Big 4.

      1. In South America

        When people talk about “PE Groups” within the Big Four they are talking about the M&A side of things. To my knowledge, none of the Big Four manage Funds. The PE groups are purely transaction based. So you can’t compare it KKR or Blackstones, but more to Goldmans M&A, Lazard M&A, although at the lower to mid market level.

  43. Brian, nothing related to this article.
    But can you list the hierarchy and time frames starting from an analyst at an i bank? ie. Analysts (3 years) –> Associates (5 yrs) –> VP –> Director –> MD?

    Also, do you know the same thing for accountants at the big 4 such as KPMG? is it Accountant –> Senior Accountant –> Director? Do you know the years for this as well? Thanks

      1. In South America

        Big Four:

        Depends on if you are talking about the Transaction Service line. If you are, then generally it would be something along the lines of Analyst, Senior Analyst, Manager, Senior Manager, Director, Partner.

        But there are better things to be doing with your time than worry about job titles.

    1. guestappearance

      Related to this one, does it really take 5 yrs to get promoted from the associate position. Thought it was 2-3 yrs

      1. Usually it’s 3-4 years. Might be faster for superstars or in a bubble economy.

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