Investment Banking Insight

Thanks to my colleague Matt Vickers for this interesting post giving some insights into investment banking following a visit to Morgan Stanley.  It’s well worth a read if you’re thinking about a career in this sector as it’s full of useful tips and insights to improve your chances of success in this competitive area – Rebecca

I recently attended a careers advisers’ day at Morgan Stanley’s London offices in Canary Wharf.  You can read the visit report in full (alongside many other visit reports and useful snippets) in the Resources section of MyCareeerHub.  But a few key points are worth sharing here – information either imparted by Morgan Stanley, or anecdotally picked up in conversation with staff over the course of the day.

  • Competition is fierce! The Investment Banking Division (IBD) receives most applications: 2,500-3,000 applications for 65 places!  While these are Morgan Stanley figures, they are likely to be pretty typical for the wider industry.  What this means for applicants is that:
    • Applications must be as strong as possible.  Take time over them.  Check and double check them for mistakes in spelling and grammar.  Thoroughly research the employer and articulate clearly why you want to work for them in particular.
    • Broaden your search. Look beyond the big “bulge bracket bank” names at smaller boutique banks and firms, asset management firms etc.
    • Hint: it is the quality not quantity of applications that counts!
  • Internships in your penultimate year are important: 55% of interns were subsequently hired onto the graduate scheme… and these people accounted for 90% of graduate hires.
  • and Spring Insight Weeks (aimed at students 3 years from graduation) help get you onto an internship!
  • Languages are big plus – especially for regional offices beyond London (i.e. other capitals in the EMEA region) so if you have language skills, highlight them.  BUT do not exaggerate… if you say you speak fluent Italian, you may find an interview begins in Italian.
  • Impressing at employer events (presentations, fairs, drinks etc.) while not a shortcut to a job offer may get you noticed, so that the people you impress might feed this back to the graduate recruitment team, who will in turn look out for your application and give it extra care when reviewing it.  So get the names of people you speak to; HR often check back with them to ask if they remember you and what they thought of you.
  • Morgan Stanley operates a rolling deadlines system, i.e. they look at applications as soon as they are received and if they have enough good ones before the deadline, they will simply stop looking. So waiting until the deadline could be risky.
  • Not all bankers study business, finance or accounting.  15-25% of Morgan Stanley staff are from other degree backgrounds – including medicine – and they want more of this diversity.  (But you have to have done some background reading to understand the basics of banking, in order to be seen as credible).
  • They prefer a traditional CV  and covering letter – nothing too fancy!
  • Morgan Stanley can see all the applications you make globally; making applications to multiple offices is frowned upon as they feel it shows a lack  of focus over where you want to work.
  • Like many of their banking competitors (and management consultancies too) they like to ask problem solving questions at interview. (e.g. how many hairdressers are there in Edinburgh?)The trick here is not to know ‘the answer’ (you are very unlikely to), but to think through and explain your approach.  It’s about how you get to  the answer, rather than what the answer is.
  • Finally, due to the many recent financial disasters, there are lots of opportunities in risk (& compliance) so think beyond the usual sales & trading or M&A mind-set.  They may not pay quite as much (they still pay very well!) but make up for that in better hours, more job security and for roles in risk, a huge amount of diversity.  The risk departments sees and agrees everything that goes through the bank: mergers and deals, trades, sales, hedge funds… financial risk, institutional risk etc. so plenty of opportunity for variety.

Good luck!



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