In this tutorial we’ll look at our favorite resources for aspiring bankers(apart from Inside Investment Banking itself!), including what’s ‘fit to print’ in the world of investment banking blogs, books and other media.
After identifying the category leaders, we’ll explain how each one can help you prepare for investment banking recruiting. But in a world of information overload (and long study hours) it’s what is not here that matters most. Our 80-20ing efforts should save you days of wasted study!
How to traverse the web of investment banking blogs & websites
As with most things on the Internet 90% of the investment banking blogs and websites we read were about as useful as a huffing & puffing Larry Summers coaching you for IB interviews.
Too many were either (1) out of date, (2) sparse in content, (3) way too focused on the actual life of an investment banker, eg war stories, which is useless for you guys trying to break in, (4) a collection of poorly written articles (almost stream of conscious style), or (5) mere advertising platforms for expensive real world training seminars.
After 100s of hours of trawling as students, and more recently as site creators ourselves, we’ve managed to make sense of the world of investment banking advice and uncover the real gems.
We found the few websites that like Inside Investment Banking are 100% focused on how to break into investment banking and give quality well thought out advice. Perhaps our biggest selection criteria was “Is this written by a real banker who has been there done that and does it reveal high quality insider secrets?” – something we can verify as insiders ourselves. You may already have heard of the following resources, but we think the real value is in knowing what’s not listed.
Our favorite investment banking blogs & sites
Mergers & Inquisitions
Mergers & Inquisitions is an investment banking blog written by a former banker named Brian, and put simply it f**king rocks! If you haven’t heard of it by now you ought to slap yourself across the face and start getting serious about breaking into investment banking!
Brian’s spent the last couple years writing about everything IB related from why you need to watch Mad Men to break into banking to teaching you exactly what this whole banking racket is all about.
He’s also interviewed many bankers around the world in order to bring a more balanced perspective to it all.
Under his products brand Breaking Into Wall Street, you can find a superb technical interview questions guide and if you’re that way inclined financial modeling courses (we’ll speak very candidly about these skills in tomorrow’s tutorial to determine whether you need them or not).
Wall Street Oasis
Wall Street Oasis is worth a look when you’re trying to hunt down an answer to a specific question, thanks to the 1000s of searchable forum threads – WSO literally has every long tail question about investment banking you can think of.
Just heed our advice in tomorrow’s tutorial and don’t get lost down the rabbit hole – ie don’t get caught up reading endless forum threads on topics that don’t relate to investment banking recruiting.
Equally, avoid over indulging in WSO’s endless investment banking blog posts that don’t relate to resumes, interviews or other pure-recruiting skills. You see, although these posts are interesting and often entertaining, there’s just no time for financial gossip of the day when you’re trying to land the toughest grad job on earth.
The average student’s favorites
Vault & Wet Feet Membership Site & Guides
The dinosaurs of the IB-advice industry – places where a banker hasn’t been spotted since Tyrannosaurus roamed the earth (joking!) – are options too. Vault and Wet Feet are the two leaders in the general career advice industry, and the reason you should check them out is because it’s important to be up-to-speed on what your fellow competition knows.
And because you probably have a free subscription to them through your college!
Is it worth buying a subscription to Vault or Wetfeet (or one of their numerous guides) in order to unlock their ‘investment banking surveys’, bank specific information profiles and such if you can’t get them free?
Well, I did when I found out the college subscription didn’t give me access to everything. Verdict? Although I found the bank information sections somewhat useful (nicely synthesized information here), by contrast the banker interviews were fairly dull and lifeless, with almost no explosive insider secrets to be found (in my opinion).
Bank Sponsored Recruitment Info Sites
The most obvious example is Deutsche Bank’s Unofficial Guide to Banking – it has bank PR department written all over it!
Although these types of sites are usually 100% focused on IB recruiting facts and tips (good), and the advice itself is written by young bankers actually working at the banks (also good), I and the rest of the Inside Investment Banking team think they are fairly useless.
Sure it’s handy to have a quick glimpse at these sites to see what recent grads have to say about banking, but don’t expect original advice, or dangerously effective tips and tricks for getting into investment banking.
Why are these sites filled with such hollow tips and boring facts given there are dozens of real junior bankers just like us contributing?
Because the young bankers are speaking on the record, on behalf of their bank’s name and in response to trifling questions like “What’s the best way for interested candidates to apply?”…”Um, download an application”.
All the other types of investment banking websites
Old School favorites
There are many investment banking blogs out there like Careers in Finance, ibankingfaq etc. which although not as comprehensive as say M&I are definitely worth a look. The guys/gals behind these sites have put a lot of work into creating a solid base of articles on investment banking recruiting.
The reason being CIF has a good collection of introductory articles that do a reliable job of hand holding readers through the basics, like “What is M&A”, “What do investment bankers do every day?” and “How do I get into banking in today’s changed environment?”.
Watch out however for websites that are mere portals to expensive real-world courses, training programs or financial modeling products!
News junkies favorites
On one hand you’ve got all the investment banking media sites of the major papers, like FT, WSJ & NY Times (eg FT’s indepth investment banking site), and on the other you have the real niche sites like Investment Banking News and Deal Breaker.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that as bankers we love these sites, littered as they are with financial dirty talk!
Instead you want to limit your media consumption (see below) and also focus more on hardcore recruiting topics like what are the most common investment banking interview questions and answers. So if you’re visiting these news sites please avoid the ADD inspired headlines, and instead focus on their feature articles and 80-20 summary sections.
Disillusioned bankers’ favorites
Finally check out Leveraged Sellout now and again, for some comedy relief – and of course, their infamous video “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Banker” on Youtube.
And oh yeah, I have to include the blog Stuff Bankers Like too, because as when reading LSO’s book so much of it is painfully (and hilariously) close to the truth!
It’s the kind of antidote any aspiring banker needs when tough recruiting conditions have got them down.
Even after 80-20ing the investment banking media world, we can understand if you still think it’s a case of information overload.
I mean, it certainly was for us as students as we had to spend 100s of hours reading dozens of sites – each of which had 100s of articles covering a melange of different topics.
Thankfully, we help you guys tackle this problem step-by-step here.
Which print publications are actually fit to print?
As a good Gen X/Y aspiring banker you’ll probably feel the investment banking blogs already give enough info on how to break into banking and that there is no real need to go elsewhere.
And without doubt the best way to go about obtaining this knowledge is through selective reading of the mainstream financial media. So what’s fit to print? The obvious giants of our media industry are on the investment banking reading list of course.
Depending on where you are this could be either the Financial Times or The Wall Street Journal – be sure to check out their own investment banking blogs like Deal Journal etc (just Google the paper’s name + investment banking blog).
But even the less ‘pure finance’ papers have quality within their pages, eg NY Time’s Deal Book. If you live outside of the EU or US you should combine the FT with your local financial paper.
The FT is far more useful in Asia, Australia and Middle East due to it’s comparatively global-bent. Believe it or not, but we think the magazine world offers far more rewarding content. Unlike the sometimes shallow reporting of the paper world, magazines are filled with feature articles that deliver more considered, important and interesting information than any broadsheet.
It is through magazines that you can acquire the deepest level of knowledge on IB-relevant topics such as the financial crisis, government regulation or say the general state of the M&A market.
In fact, armed with a stack of business magazines you will earn a degree in Real World Business in no time thanks to the sheer amount of case studies and lengthy interviews with industry leaders you’ll come across.
Admittedly WSJ et al do feature articles too, but they are just not written to the in-depth standard of the magazines. Since magazines also summarize the week or month’s happenings they also guarantee that you’re up-to-date and in-the-know on everything.
As a college student with limited time, this feature of magazines is potent. No more daily newspapers or 100s of instant always-on Google Alerts needed.
Business Magazines 101
Fortune and BusinessWeek are the two no brainers in this investment banking media category.
And once again make sure you jump online and check out their free investment banking blogs too (often billed under the name ‘finance blog’). Thanks to killer feature articles and enough-but-not-too-much summary sections, these 2 magazines are the one-stop shops.
As my Singhalese-speaking friend would say these two are “Die Die Must Try”. Magazines like The Economist are okay, but I prefer a little less info about rainforests in Brazil and a lot more about the state of the market, deals being done and what Roubini predicts for this year, when I’m coughing up close to $10 an issue. From our experience though you can read all the magazines for $0 – so why not have a flick through Forbes, Institutional Investor etc.
ie If your college has magazine subscriptions – increasingly online – you can feast freely.
Alternatively, if you have a
Borders, Barnes & Nobles, WH Smith or some other large bookstore chain (still in business!!) nearby, go there fortnightly and ravage their collection for free.
A quick flick through all of them each week leading up to recruiting season is all you need.
Also, with so many media pundits waxing lyrical you should be sure to 80-20 your reading list. If you stick to the real ‘education’ sort of articles as opposed to the “gossip of the day” crap you’ll be fine.
And remember there’s no need to be versed in every deal going on at this stage of your investment banking life. Admittedly, us Excel monkeys didn’t follow our own advice. Instead, we read everything available. And we started this investment banking media binge at least 6 months prior to recruiting!
What’s the #1 media to avoid?
Well, let me indulge in a 10 second rant on the Jersey Shore of the financial media world – Jim C**mer TV. If you dare pick up that control, please pick wisely. The finance TV landscape is plagued by talking heads that make Paris Hilton look like a freaking Rhodes Scholar.
But not only are they “a bit slow”, but they’re frightfully loud – like where is the mute button loud!
Sadly the rise of the sensationalist talking heads offers no signs of abating. The Weathervane and the “6 foot blondes” arewilling to do just about anything if the producers out back promise to give them another season. And of this you must be afraid…very afraid.
Worst of all, unlike written resources you can’t filter TV. i.e. You can’t skip 40 minutes of textbook Cramer-rant to arrive at the one nugget of valuable information. Leave it alone we say.
The best investment banking books & the worst
Investment banking ‘life’
Liar’s Poker (for S&T crowd), Monkey Business (an interesting and at times absurd look at the life of two young bankers),When Genius Failed (for you quant nut jobs) and even Barbarians at the Gate (How to screw people over 101) are some of the best investment banking books we’ve read…from a purely fun point of view that is. By contrast they aren’t at all useful for landing banking internships or securing full time offers.
If you can’t help yourself either, then save yourself time and just watch the movie version of Barbarians at the Gate now – it’s a far inferior option to the book and doesn’t even begin to give you a sense of the cutthroat nature of banking/PE, but it’s your only choice for now.
Maybe when you are a 38 year old burnout banker building a boat by the Pacific Ocean you can go nuts on Amazon and just hunt down all the best investment banking books, but until then just leave it all alone.
A word of warning if you indulge the magic dragon now; We’ve seen many friends – including ourselves – read these weighty tomes only to end up with deluded ideas about banking. The over glamorization, the ideas of being a rainmaker (“Closing deals”) and other fanciful notions contained in these investment banking books just aren’t helpful.
Makeshift paperweights like the Goldman Sachs Culture of Success or House of Morgan are examples of near-irrelevant historic storytelling and are completely useless for your recruiting purposes.
Even a relatively solid investment banking book like Endlich’s The Making of Goldman Sachs is fairly hard to recommend for aspiring bankers – I mean it is interesting, yes, but helpful to your recruiting chances, no. So even if you picked up a copy for your birthday from your generous uncle Billy Bob, put it in a drawer, lock the 2 pound puppy away and leave it alone.
How to invest
Books like Intelligent Investor or Money Masters are top reads in and of themselves, but they’re not directly or immediately useful for students looking to break into investment banking.
Once again we’ve read these books and a stack of similar hardbacks – not to mention a couple pounds of His letters (i.e. Buffett) – and so we’re dismissing these books with the experience of knowing they contributed little to our break-in efforts.
PS I should temper this verdict by saying that the personal investing lessons we garnered from these books did come in very handy during interviews when bankers asked us about whether we owned stocks, and then why we chose them.
We simply reviewed our college finance and accounting textbooks in order to brush up on our WACCs and our DCFs. If you don’t know what a WACC is, or you don’t have any such text books then consider borrowing Brealey & MeyersCorporate Finance – but be warned this is no “Finance for Dummies”.
In fact it’s a brick of a book. Our next tutorial will focus more on what’s worth studying and what to forget about – so keep your eyes out for it tomorrow, because it might just save you 100 hours of needless study.
Think Leveraged Sell Out’s “Damn it feels good to be a banker” book. This Grade A banker rant is abdominals-hurt hilarious. But it won’t boost your IB hopes by even 1%. In fact the dangerous distraction factor of Logan’s adventures may actually decrease them.
So although this may be one of the best investment banking books around, save it till you’re actually a banker!