Networking in Investment Banking

In this tutorial we’re going to identify all the major reasons why networking in banking as a student is not simply helpful, but a full blown break in strategy.  We’re going to show you what to do from start to finish, and importantly, why each goal is essential for your recruiting chances.

Plus we’ll let you in on the lesser known networking tips you’ll need to write killer banking resumes and wow your interviewers.  Armed with all this advice you’ll be able to tackle downmarket recruiting with great focus and intelligence this year.

 

BONUS: Download a free reporton how to network with bankers (without being annoying), plus find out how 5 of us managed to break into bulge bracket banks without having perfect grades, the best schools or insider connections.

 

Networking in banking is all about insider information

I thought we’d start with the most obvious goal networking in banking can achieve, being to help you meet insiders and develop ‘assets’ CIA style! This sounds simple enough, but you have to realize not all insiders are created equally.

Since your main aim is to find insiders who can share recruiting tips, mentor you, refer you, interview you and pass on your resume, then it is junior bankers you should be seeking out most. 

ie not HR, not back office, not even senior bankers.

We say this because when we were networking in banking as students (and then as bankers ourselves), we discovered the optimal balance between usefulness (can the insider do something of value for you) and responsiveness (will they actually reply to your email) is junior bankers.

By contrast someone like an investment banking HR rep, however nice and willing to ply you with canapes and cocktails (responsive), isn’t really in any position to help you beyond offering up some trifling recruiting info (not very useful). Meanwhile back office can be useful (which we’ll go through in the next tutorial) and will probably return your email (responsive), but are still a Plan B at best given their lack of front office experience.

Whilst senior bankers are extremely useful, the sad reality is that they don’t give a FF about you – at least when it comes to networking. 

They’ll start to take an interest in you when you’re sitting in a Superday interview one step away from joining their team, but until then they leave recruiting to us peasant Excel Monkeys in the lower echelons of the IB world (aka junior bankers).

Finally, let me say that although this goal of networking in banking is blindingly obvious, and essential in any industry to be sure, the difference is that in banking the odds of landing a spot straight out of college can bounce around a 1000-1 – so who you know can bring you from ‘no hope in hell’ to ‘be the hole’. It may be the difference.  

 

Find out whether banking is really for you

If you’ve read enough investment banking war stories to rival Barbarians at the Gate and you’re still convinced you want to become an investment banking analyst, then congrats!  But now you need to use networking to meet some real life bankers and find out whether the tales both joyful and evil are true – and whether the work is actually for you.

Simply sharing a beer with a banker is often enough to decide whether this whole investment banking thing is your calling or not.

Now the reason I want you to achieve this goal is not so you make the ‘right’ choice and ‘do something you love’. 

None of that hippie shit. 

I’m not your freaking daffodils-and-lollipops inspired career counselor!

Instead, I’m hoping you’ll use networking in banking to find out a multitude of real and honest reasons why IB rules and why it resonates so strongly with you. 

Because with those well thought out and articulate answers in hand, then come interview time when the MD sitting across from you asks “Why the hell would you want to come work 100 hours a week for us?”, you can reply with an eloquent and passionate list of reasons.  

 

Learn bankers names

This is the first ‘less obvious’ reason why networking in banking rules. As you can imagine knowing someone at a bank will do wonders for your recruiting chances.

Bankers interviewing you will feel like you’re an insider after you respond to their “Who do you know here?” question by reeling off the names of their colleagues, and they’ll also subconsciously think you have been pre-approved.

Plus they’ll know straight away that you’ve actually done your research and taken the time to learn more about that bank specifically.

Also, after the interview when the bankers speak to the people you mentioned and ask “So this Richard kid, how did you find him?”, you’ll be able to leverage any goodwill you have already created at that bank.

Knowing bankers names will also take your cover letter from a 4/10 to 9/10, because you can name drop in the opening paragraph as you explain why you’re applying / attracted to the bank. But what’s a student to do when they don’t know anyone at Merrill Lynch or JP Morgan, and they don’t have a rich daddy who can introduce them to a couple bankers? Networking of course!

All you need to do in order to ‘know’ bankers at Merrill or JP – for the purposes of your cover letter and interview – is simply attend one or two mixers or other events sponsored by that bank.

At the bank recruiting event just bounce around the room, shake hands, meet bankers and share a 5 minute conversation with them.  Say/ask something memorable, small talk it up and then ask for their business card at the end with a very innocent “If I have any other questions about working at JP Morgan, would it be ok if I emailed you Chuck?”.

Make sure to follow up with one – just one – email within 24 hours; something nice and easy, and once again memorable.  Blamo!!  You now ‘know’ Chuck, for the purposes of the interview question (Who do you know here?) and the cover letter that is.

Come interview or cover letter time you can share your story about how you met Analyst Chuck Chuckford at a mixer hosted by JP Morgan, that he shared some interesting thoughts with you about the analyst program and what makes JP different to everyone else on Wall Street.  Nice.  

 

Learn why a bank is uniquely interesting

What makes Morgan Stanley your w*t dream?  Specifically? Browsing through company websites, Vault surveys and as a last resort Wikipedia, often won’t help you answer this question. After a couple minutes all the banks seem to be the same. 

They all have the same retarded catchphrases and use almost identically scripted “success stories”. Thank God then for networking. All you need to do is attend a bank sponsored event, say hello to Analyst Chuck Chuckford and ask him (politely) “Why did you choose JP Morgan?”.  [Cue Chuck’s dribble].

Now take that beautifully scripted spin and use it as your own – the good thing about Chuck is that he’ll be able to pinpoint reasons (eg a specific training program that no other bank offers) and supply you with real world supporting evidence (eg the actual name of that training program).

Come cover letter or interview time – “So Richard what attracts you to JP Morgan?” – you have got a humdinger prepared to shoot back courtesy of Chuck.  It’ll be an assortment of unique and specific reasons why JP Morgan rules, and it’ll bewrapped up in a great anecdote (ie your meeting with Chuck).  Perfect.  

 

Learn industry knowledge

This is a vital weapon in any aspiring banker’s arsenal as it will be crucial for giving 10/10 interview answers – ie by littering your answers with references to the industry you’ll come off like a baby banker in the making. 

But how does one procure industry knowledge the right way?

Perhaps some WSJ reading? 

No. 

You will sound like a TV news presenter parroting the headlines. 

[On second thought, that’s a little extreme.  You should be reading the WSJ daily.  It’s just we want you to take up the final option below too, hence the exaggerated negativity.]

Maybe an hour or two with Vault’s Gold Membership? 

Hell no. 

You will sound like every other generic student.  And since bankers have heard students regurgitate Vault answers they read in some guide called “Your Super Duper Guide to Investment Banking” a million times you will fade into the background during your interviews if you go with this approach.

So how’s a student meant to attain ‘enlightenment’?

We found the smartest way to learn industry knowledge was to simply attend investment banking networking events and listen to bankers talk shop.

This allows you to pick up on news and angles that the WSJ-devotees don’t know about or are less read up on; and gives you something more unique and interesting to talk about than those Vault-loving students. Plus the way bankers talk about industry news is just as vital to pick up on as the content itself. 

There’s a big difference between someone who talks industry and someone who painfully and clearly paraphrases articles like a two-bit Muppet.  

 

Help you practice people skills

21 year olds in our experience (having been them not that many years ago) are never short of brains or outgoing personality – but many lack professional social skills (people skills) when we come across them in recruiting.

We’re talking about the entire gauntlet here; from solid eye contact and body language to pacing and poise. Often this is just down to a bit of grade-A newbie nervousness.  But more often, it’s down to students inexperience of meeting bankers for informal chats and Superday interviews.

But it shouldn’t be this way since it’s easy to get experience and get Gekko Smooth fast thanks to a little networking in banking. That is, by clocking up 100s of professional interactions during networking you will become a Pro-Monkey ready to press flesh with the best of them in no time. 

After all, 100s of interactions will yield 100s of mistakes, which will in turn teach you 100s of practical lessons you’ll never forget!

Come interview time you will be an expert at conducting small talk with bankers, acting confident in the face of pressure and generally being able to hold your own amongst arrogant-ass masters of the universe.
i.e. networking in banking is the training ground where rock star interviewees are made.

If you’re smart about it, you’ll stack your early networking days with banks that are far from your top choice, that way the mistakes you make on the ‘training ground’ don’t matter. Better yet consider networking in other industries – e.g. on-campus networking events that are aimed at students looking to break into big 4 accounting firms.  

 

Uncover recruiting details specific to each bank

This is less a suggestion of ours and more an observation we’ve made in the past when watching other students networking. We say that because to our mind it’s not a great idea.

One of our golden rules for interviews and networking is “never ask bankers about something you can find an answer to online, easily”.

A good example; never ask bankers when applications close or when first round interviews will be held!!

Using networking to achieve this type of goal is verboten, because although a question about applications may sound ‘interested and intelligent’, it’s one bankers meet with great annoyance as their internal monologue fires up with a reaction like; “Why the hell are you wasting my time with trivialities a 2 minute Google search could have answered, you f*cktard.  Go get me a soda you wannabe monkey.”.  

 

Setup an investment banking informational interview

Networking in banking can make official recruiting channels easier to pass through – e.g. the Resume Pass (see the next point).  But in its more traditional sense networking will help you get around them altogether, with the infamous Investment Banking Informational Interview being the first step in ‘backdoor recruiting’.

Apart from being the #1 initial goal of networking in our opinion, it’s also the most underutilized tool of aspiring bankers everywhere.

For those of you not familiar with it, Informational Interviews in investment banking are informal 10 to 30 minute meetings over the phone or in person with a banker, where the agenda is simply “I want to learn more about you, your bank and IB generally”.

The eventual hope of students is that an informal chat will lead to the banker asking for their resume and/or inviting them for an official interview. Since recruiting conditions these days are so bad, we’re telling every student who gets eaten up and tossed out by official recruiting to go Informational Interview Mad!! 

Get them, attend them, kill them. To help with that we’ve created a killer guide to informational interviews which is available in this free email series

PS we don’t hold back with this one – we literally share everything you need to convert IIs into resume passes and interview offers by showing you exactly what bankers ask and want to hear.  

 

Email your resume outside official channels

We’ve talked before about how we’ll read your resume for investment banking – ie how us poor analysts are charged with sorting through pounds of resumes around recruiting time (at midnight!) and how we arrive at a decision on who to interview and not (within seconds).

It’s erratic and at times arbitrary. 

Two things you clearly don’t want.

Fortunately you can skip the normal resume screening & selection process – including the dreaded “15 seconds to bin” rule – and get your resume read properly thanks to who you know.

We call this ploy The Resume Pass.  And it involves getting your resume into the hands of an individual banker (or 10) so that they will read it themselves carefully and then pass it onto their colleagues to read…carefully. They take extra care because they’ve met you before and liked you, or been told by a fellow banker that you “look good”.

Absent already having friends in banking, the way for you to get a ‘resume pass’ is by attending a couple information/networking events.

When there simply try to befriend a banker or two, show you’re a cool guy/gal who’s not out to get anything (although you are!!) and wait for the banker to give you their business card (which you’ll use for a bit of back and forth emailing, and eventually the resume pass); or if they really think you’re a top candidate, wait for them to request your resume then and there!

The best kind of resume pass is the one that happens before official recruiting even opens – not only will your resume be read properly, but it will also be digested and considered before the recruiting floodgates open and unleash the 1000s of resumes from your classmates and beyond! So if you weren’t convinced before to get networking in banking early, you should be now.  

 

Get a heads up on informal openings

If you know bankers on the inside – or even investment banking HR – you’ll up your chances of getting onto “closed lists”.  The type of lists bankers refer to when ‘Super Man’ doesn’t show up and they need to a replacement fast.

i.e. when some of the bank’s interns who originally accepted decide to jump ship or when first year analysts just don’t ‘work out’, bankers will rip out their Reserves List and start dialing – needless to say you want to be on these kinds of lists.

Or you might not be on any list at all – and instead bankers will simply email you when a position pops up (thanks to your previous networking with them) and before it receives any mainstream attention on-campus.

Either way, you only receive insider news if you’re connected.  And bar being a moneyed-WASP with a trust fund to rival any good soccer-club owning Sheik, networking is your main tool for getting connected and being informed.  

 

Help convert an internship into a full-time offer

Just like the popular kid in school who wants to become Class Captain, as an investment banking intern you too must get to know everyone at the bank in order to secure a return offer; after all unless bankers know you, they can’t ‘vote’ for you. 

Networking is in fact the #1 way interns can go about securing their permanent offer and so in we’ve devoted an entire tutorial to it – can’t wait to share that one!  (Get it here!)  

 

Keep yourself fireproof once you’re in

Once you’ve battled through investment banking recruiting and broken in, you’re going to want to stay in. Apart from putting in 5-star performances, the only way to guarantee job security these days is by building up a large support base;

i.e. people in the bank who like you and are willing to put their hand up for you. By networking you’ll be able to build up a battalion of supporters, and the minute you get MD Larry Larryson on board you’ll be effectively wrapped up in a Kevlar 4000 fireproof blankey!  

 

Find exit opportunities during your 2nd year

This is when the networking really begins in a young banker’s life! From wining and dining PE recruiters to rubbing up against VC money in Palo Alto, IB kids hellbent on exit opportunities have to network like crazy.

In fact, with so many highly rated investment banking analysts competing for an ever-shrinking number of glamorous exit opps, your future can depend solely on how silky your repertoire of networking tricks are.  

 

Create a rolodex so you are indispensable

In banking your value fluctuates based on your power, and as a senior banker your power is tied to who you know, since it’s your rolodex that brings in deals. By harnessing the power of networking you can build up a billion dollar rolodex in less than a decade. 

It’s the type of asset that will make banks compete for your services fiercely and the type of asset that will make you indispensable wherever you go.  You see, with networking in banking the benefits are astronomical!  

 

Most of all, networking in banking is fun!

Cool people with interesting stories – that’s why networking in banking is much easier and enjoyable than you think. Like minded, crazy, financial mercenaries; bankers are the best people to hang out with.

So even if none of the previous 14 goals of networking existed or could be achieved, your networking efforts will be worth it just for this.

And if you have this mindset (simply meet bankers & have fun), then you’ll avoid ever coming off like some slimy cockfart of a kid who is only out to benefit himself and pillage bankers of all their precious time.  Instead you’ll rock, and bankers will reward you for not playing grab-ass with their business cards!

 

BONUS: Download a free reporton how to network with bankers (without being annoying), plus find out how 5 of us managed to break into bulge bracket banks without having perfect grades, the best schools or insider connections.