Sunday, August 29, 2010

What do you want?

Well it's come again. Recruiting season. I've been surprised how many students have reached out to me this year, wanting to get advice and hear about where I work. It's a good thing though - the more that reach out, the better chance we have of finding the best new analysts!

I've noticed more and more how easy it is to tell the difference between somebody who has prepared and somebody who hasn't. And the difference is obvious within three minutes of talking with a person. This is why when you interview, the interviewer usually makes a decision by the time you've told your story - the rest of the interview is spent confirming that decision, whether to ding you or to pass you on.

I thought it might be helpful to write down one of the ways I prepared which I feel really helped me perform in interviews.

So a little background. I had just finished up my internship at a bulge bracket bank, and was thinking about what to do next. I felt like it would be a good idea to interview around, and I reached out to people I had met in the lead-up to internship interviews. Luckily, I had a great summer and was able to have some substance to my resume as I was sending it out. At the places where I didn't know anybody, I simply sent my resume to the websites of those companies. I didn't think it would lead to anything, but when you don't have anything to lose, why not? It turns out that I ended up taking a job at one of the places that found my resume through the website.

As interviews progressed, I was fortunate enough to get a few offers. At this point, I realized that I was going to have to make some decisions about what I wanted to do for the two years following college. I had a lot of questions, like, "Bulge bracket or boutique?" and "Investment banking for a career or private equity after banking?"

I decided that to really be able to figure out where I wanted to be, I needed to decide what I want out of my two-year analyst experience. I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and began writing out what I really wanted as an analyst.

My thoughts focused around three broad categories: (1) Finance / technical experience, (2) Culture / lifestyle and (3) Career / Exit opportunities.

Finance / Technical
Within this section, I included the following:
-Deal team size (10-15+ at bulge bracket, 4-5 at boutique)
-Generalist vs. product/industry group
-Modeling (templates vs. building from scratch)
-Analyst responsibility (double-staffed with other analysts or sole analyst on deal teams from day one? Run the model or share with associate? etc.)
-Mentoring (assigned or just part of the culture? Interaction with senior people daily or never? Chain of command or flat culture?)

It turns out that the things most important to me were to get a lot of responsibility and experience modeling from the get-go. I also wanted to be a generalist and focus on M&A, because I had decided that my long-term goal was to go to private equity.

Culture / Lifestyle
-"Face time" policy
-My view of the culture (basically I just used adjectives to describe how I viewed each bank's culture based on my interactions with people from the banks)
-Salary (not that important, but still a data point)

This section was important to me, but it wasn't what really swayed me one way or another. I still view investment banking as an investment in the future, and if you have to deal with a rough culture for two years, you can do it. But, if you can go to a top-tier bank and be in a great culture, even better.

Exit Opportunities
-Firm's view on interviewing for private equity (fire you vs. help you)
-Firm's view on promoting internally
-How well have analysts done in the past in recruiting at this bank? (this was all based on hearsay and research I did on my own just looking at various websites of the PE shops)

Although this isn't something you can bring up as a positive point in an interview about why you would want to work at a specific bank, it was very important to me. In the group where I spent the summer, the analysts who were interviewing literally had to lie about what they were doing and sneak out to interviews. I really didn't want to be put in a position where I felt that I needed to be dishonest just to do what I wanted. Because this was a priority, I ended up choosing a bank where people are very willing to help you prepare for and do well in private equity interviews. Luckily, my analyst class did amazingly well in private equity recruiting, and I think it's largely because of the way the firm views recruiting.

This exercise took quite a while to think through and fill out, but once I had gone through the page and ranked the various banks at which I had an offer or was likely to receive an offer, it became very clear to me that based on the criteria I had prioritized, I needed to go to one bank in particular. I knew what I was giving up, and I knew full well what I was getting. At that point I didn't even have an offer from this bank yet, but I had final rounds scheduled.

When the time came for interviews and I was asked, "Why do you want to work here?", I began to explain how I had thought about that question quite a bit. In essence, I said something like this:

"I've thought about this in great detail, and the way I have approached it is to think about what things I really want to experience as an analyst. I know that the criteria that are important to me are [list off the things I just wrote about above]. As I've considered the various banks, yours absolutely fits those criteria the best. I would love to be here, and have no doubt in my mind that I could thrive here."

I would go on to list of specific things about the bank, such as their views on analysts, modeling, mentoring, culture, deal teams / experience, etc. It was clear to every person with which I interviewed that I had given this question substantial thought. The great thing is, I was talking about all the same reasons that they loved working at this bank, and my answers resonated strongly with the interviewers.

I received the offer and have had an absolutely fantastic first year. My point in writing all of this is to encourage those of you with interviews coming up to really put thought into what is important to you in your analyst experience and to convince yourself of the best place for you. Then, when you interview there, it will come across clearly that you have thought it through, and that you are a great fit for the job.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Thank goodness for first year analysts. It's still hard to believe that a year has gone by since I got out of training. It's been awesome to have the new first year analysts around to share the load.

July was definitely the worst month of my life. Because the analysts in the class above me left to go to private equity and the new analysts in the class below me were in training, my class of analysts basically had to carry the load for the month of July. In a span of a week I went from being on two live deals to being on six live deals. I'm still not sure how that's even possible, but I, along with the other analysts from my year, basically didn't sleep for a month and just cranked 24/7.

But it's so much better. Even though I'm still on four live deals, just having first years around to take on new pitches and other work makes a huge difference.

Another good thing about the end of summer is that we're heading into recruiting season. This is one of my favorite times of year because I really enjoy seeing students step up and perform under pressure. Now that I'm involved in the recruiting for our firm, I feel like I have a much better idea of what is important / what works than I did when I was actually recruiting. I still can't believe that I actually got a job at my firm by sending my resume to the firm website, especially since now I'm the guy receiving the resumes from the website and I know how hard it is to really give people a good look when it's 3am and you've been working all week. But I really try to screen the resumes well because I feel like I owe it to future generations of students trying to break in the same way I did.

I'd forgotten how cathardic it is for me to write a blog of what's going on in my banking life, and I think I'm going to start writing again. Who knows if people still read this, but regardless I figure it will be good for me to have a record kept of my years in New York.

Because it's recruiting season, I'll probably be writing a lot about what made me successful in interviews, and what I feel like the best candidates do to stand out.

It's good to be writing again!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Real Deal

Well it's 4:23am on a Tuesday morning and it's been at least 65 days since I had a day off. I guess this is banking. Since I last wrote I moved to New York, went through training, and started real work, did some deals, got a job in private equity, and am just starting into my second year.

I have to say that these are really interesting times to be doing investment banking. It seems like the M&A markets are starting to come back, and there's a lot of talk about IPOs making a comeback as well. It's by no means time to say that we're free and clear of all the mess we've been in (just look at the commercial mortgage markets!), but finally it seems like deals are starting to get done again.

I haven't written in so long simply because I've been too busy for it, but writing about my experiences is actually pretty enjoyable for me, and it's a good way to keep a record of what it's like in banking. It's pretty strange to think of all that's happened in the last few years since I started really getting serious about getting into the world of corporate finance.

Just today I was reflecting on everything I went through over the past three years to get here. It's amazing to think that I actually pulled it off, and it's clear that a lot of it wasn't at all because of my own abilities but just a factor of putting myself out there and being in the right place at the right time. I have noticed, though, that the harder you work, the more "luck" you seem to have.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Sorry for the long break in posting. It's been a busy semester, but lots of good stuff has been going on. A team of my friends and I won the school's Private Equity Case Competition. Teams had to pick a company, propose an LBO of the company, then create a presentation and present to judges about the deal.

Of course there might be mistakes and errors - feel free to point them out if/when you find any. It's the first time any of us had built a three-statement LBO model, as well as a dividend recap, so it was a great learning experience. Check out our presentation and model below!

Coach Final Coach Final The Analyst

COH_Model_v.7 COH_Model_v.7 The Analyst

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Story

Hey all - it's been a while again since my last post. This is a crazy year, and I seriously can't believe what is happening in Washington and on Wall Street. I'll be posting more about this stuff soon.

I thought it might be helpful to post "my story" to give you all some background into how I got to where I am today. Here it is:

I go to a non-target school and decided that I wanted to do banking near the end of my sophomore year. During the following summer, I began reaching out to the few alumni from my school that work at banks both in New York and San Francisco. I sent out many, many emails and called tons of people all under the premise of simply wanting to learn more about the world of investment banking.

While making all of these calls, I got a subscription to the Wall Street Journal and started reading that every day. As per the suggestion of a returning summer intern at my school, I read the Vault Guide to Investment Banking and Vault Guide to Finance Interviews. I also read as many books about investment banking as I could, reading everything from the entertaining stuff (Liar’s Poker / Monkey Business / Barbarians at the Gate) to recruiting stuff (Never Eat Alone / Running of the Bulls) to more technical stuff (Accounting & Valuation books).

I flew myself out to New York four times and to San Francisco once, meeting with everybody from analyst to MD over the course of the next six months. Some of those trips were in groups but most were on my own. In preparation for my trips I took every single summer analyst from my school that had done an internship on Wall Street out to lunch. These one-on-one meetings were really helpful to me because I would just ask them how they got their internships, what they did to be successful, and what types of things I could ask in informational interviews.

I called people working on the Street that I had contacted over the summer to let them know I was coming out, then set up 10-15 visits over the course of a few days. Those visits were informational in nature, but usually led to more introductions and an expansion of my network. I usually started by meeting with analysts, making a good impression, then having them introduce me to more senior people or the rest of their group.

The first time I ever went to New York, I had a layover in Minneapolis. While waiting at my gate to go to New York, I saw a guy standing there holding a Credit Suisse bag. At this point I was just barely starting to grasp what investment banking even was, but I knew that I had to take every opportunity I could to meet investment bankers. I started talking to him and, although it was only five minutes, managed to learn that he was an SVP working in the Consumer group at CS.

We got on the plane (he sat in first class, I sat in the back), and I failed to get his card. I knew that if I was coming out to New York, I needed to meet people, so when we got to JFK, I literally ran through the airport to catch up to him. I finally caught him while he was waiting to be picked up in a black car, and I asked him for his card. He must have thought I was crazy, but I told him my story and that I was just doing everything I can to get a job. It impressed him enough to meet with me later in the week, and I ended up getting interviews at Credit Suisse in New York because of that guy.

In many of the informational interviews I had, I was asked typical questions like, “Why do you want to do banking?” and “What do you know about this bank?” Some people asked me about what groups / industries I was interested in. A few of the interviews actually got into technical issues, such as one Goldman VP who had me tell him all the factors affecting IRR on an LBO.

Especially as time got closer to interviewing season, the informational interviews became more and more like real interviews. Around November people really started asking me tougher questions about leadership / experience / technical stuff. This turned out to be great preparation for actual interviews.

By December I had managed to meet people at every major bank on the Street. I felt like I could really speak freely about why I wanted to do I-banking, what an analyst does, and why one bank differs from another. I was taking finance classes in school, reading the WSJ every day, and reading blogs online like Mergers & Inquisitions (though I didn’t find it until I already started interviews), LSO, Wall Street Oasis, and others. These sites gave me a better feel for what it’s really like in banking, as opposed to the more academic look at finance I had been getting from other books.

When it came time for SA interviews, I called up all of my various contacts at different banks and had them submit my resume. By this time, many of the analysts I had met with and really trusted had already seen multiple iterations of my resume, so I was confident that more senior people would be comfortable passing it on to HR since my analyst friends had given their blessing.

The interviews started coming. My first interviews were in early January, and they went on through February and even into March for some firms. I had done numerous mock interviews with analysts and even some associates and a VP at different banks in preparation for interviews, so I felt very confident going into the interviews. At every bank that I interviewed at, I received an offer to come on as an intern.

While a handful of firms actually do recruit at my school (almost exclusively for the West-coast offices), I only interviewed on-campus for Credit Suisse LA (and got an offer), but really wanted to start in New York. I accepted an offer with a BB bank in New York and had a great time there this summer.

I started this blog over the summer because I wanted a source for people looking to understand banking on a day-to-day basis. There are a lot of “Week in the life” posts around the internet and in the Vault Guide, but I wanted to give people a look at my entire internship. It's been fun to write it all down and hear from people all over the world who are reading the blog. I plan on continuing as I go full-time to let people know what it's like now with so many things changing.

I did very well in my internship, was rated highly, and received an offer to return full-time. Although I had a great experience, I decided to interview around. At this point for the first time I looked at boutique banks instead of only focusing on the bulge brackets. The problem was that there wasn’t a single alumnus from my school at any boutique on the Street, so all the contact I had with these banks was cold calling.

Because I had spent significant time on my resume (I'm still doing resume reviews if you're interested!), I felt confident in sending my resume out to other banks. I put together my cover letters and resume, then just sent my resume out to various boutiques. I was specifically interested in restructuring.

Similarly, I used LinkedIn and other online databases to get names of people at firms, and I found a way to make a connection enough that I could call them or send them my resume. It was awkward at first, but I had the attitude of, “I already have a good offer, so what do I have to lose? If they turn me down, it’s no problem.” I think having confidence really made a difference for me.

From some of the boutiques, I got an email back saying they would be reviewing my resume. Others directly called me back and invited me to come in and meet some people. At one boutique in particular, I went in the day after I got a call and met with their head of recruiting, head of M&A, and the analyst/associate staffer. Because I was able to do well in those interviews, they invited me back for final rounds “whenever I could make it back to New York.” I just let them know when I could come, and they set up six more interviews for me.

Because I was out early talking to firms, it seemed like all of my interviews were very unorthodox. Literally all of my first-round interviews with boutiques were kind of on-the-fly and not official in any way. People would just email a colleague, ask if they could talk with me for 15 minutes, and away we would go. Final rounds were more structured, but I was still interviewing in August before all of the official on-campus recruiting started.

I’ve come to see now that it was vital for me to get out there early. Many of the firms now are only looking at people from target schools. I know this because a lot of my friends who are just as qualified couldn’t get interviews with the same firms I met with in August.

Through efforts like these, I was able to get interviews and some offers from many top boutiques (Lazard, HLHZ, Greenhill, Miller Buckfire, Audax Group). I reached out to contacts that I had made over the past year at many other BB firms, and was able to get offers at two different BBs as well. I feel extremely blessed to have options in a year like this, and I directly attribute it to the work I put in over the past year to not only build a network, but also to study my brains out so that when I meet new people I can speak to things that they are interested in.

One interesting side note – about a year ago now I met a guy working at Morgan Stanley. Right after I met him, he was asked to come down to Treasury to work on mortgages and housing markets. Well it turned out that he needed an intern for the fall semester. I had stayed in touch with him, and heard about the internship spot. I applied and got the internship.

So because I met this guy at Morgan Stanley, I worked at Treasury for four months. He is running part of this $700B bailout and I worked directly for him on the team. It was an amazing experience and just another testament to the power of networking and doing your homework.

So that's my story. I'll be heading back to NYC in June to start it all over again full-time.