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How to get into investment banking from a non-target school

Investment banking from non-target school

In business school jargon, ‘feeder’ or ‘target’ programs are those that you can target to get into specific industries such as investment banking, consulting, technology or any other sector you may have in mind.

In contrast, non-target or non-feeder schools are those that aren’t considered primarily for their focus on a particular sector you’re targeting.

As an example, Columbia Business School and NYU Stern are target schools for investment banking. And no surprises there, since their location (New York) places a big role.

Unfortunately, many applicants skip several good programs just because they don’t feature in the traditional target school lists for their preferred industry. That’s a lost opportunity.

Take the example of Austin McCombs. Sure, it’s a non-target program for investment banking. But several bulge bracket investment banks hire McCombs MBA students such as Devang Joshi to join their Wall Street office. He explains how the school helped him get a highly competitive role in a top investment bank.

Investment banking from non-target school

by Devang Joshi | McCombs MBA student

After completing my under graduation in business and qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in 2015, I started with an American bulge bracket bank in their Institutional Risk Management division as a Credit Analyst covering Financial Institutions (FIG) clients.

That gave me an invaluable exposure to institutional banking and enabled me to work on M&A financing deals with some really talented bankers. In parallel, I earned my FRM charter and completed two levels of the CFA program.

After my promotion to Senior Credit Analyst in 2018, I got an opportunity to work as a Senior Analyst in the Investment Banking Division covering FIG clients – it was the perfect transition for me to look at the same set of clients through different product lenses.

In the Investment Banking Division, I supported senior bankers on live deals and pitches and networked across New York and London offices.

After interacting with FIG bankers who were from top B-schools in the US, I knew two things:

  1. I wanted to do Investment Banking in New York covering FIG clients.
  2. The best way to reach there was through a top 20 US B-School program.

I started planning in-advance for that transition. It was difficult to manage GMAT preparation along with a demanding role in Investment Banking, but I am glad that I got the GMAT out of the way early in the process.

Then on, it was all about networking with B-Schools and getting guidance from consultants and students. I must confess this was quite a difficult aspect of the process for me since by nature I was (still am) not very extroverted.

I had read and heard about MBA Crystal Ball through multiple sources and hit up Sameer Kamat’s mail to see if we could meet up.

That opportunity finally came when he invited me to #KoffeeWithKamat.

What stood out for me about Sameer (and this holds to date) was his humility and frank talk.

My dad was waiting in the car for me, and when Sameer came to know about it, he instantly told me to invite my dad as well for the entire session.

I still cannot appreciate enough the sentiment behind that gesture.

Although I did not avail MBA Crystal Ball’s consulting services during my applications, Sameer and I continue to be in touch.

For me, that is the hallmark of a person who is genuinely keen to see you succeed.

During my B-School search, there were a couple of criteria I had in mind specifically – strong pipeline into banking and an intimate learning environment where I could get meaningful leadership experience.

I applied to a diverse set of programs and did not just focus on the east coast schools.

I received admits from 5 schools, 2 of which were top 20, including the McCombs School of Business at UT Austin, while I was waitlisted at a top 15 school.

Through the networking process, I had learnt that McCombs had developed a formidable reputation of successfully placing a growing proportion of students into New York and Houston investment banking.

Specifically, the dean-sponsored program called Wall Street for McCombs (WSFM), which trains students for banking and has a 90%+ placement rate.

That, combined with an optimal class size and some awesome students I talked to in the process sealed the deal for me. I was headed to Texas.

Once in the program, I was amazed by the depth of efforts taken by McCombs for developing the banking pipeline to New York and Houston. WSFM is headed by an eminent professor of valuation, Mr. Xavier Sztejnberg, who is a former Blackstone MD.


Wall Street for McCombs (WSFM)

Professor Xavier Sztejnberg (Director of Wall Street for McCombs; Associate Director of Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst Center)

My vision to launch Wall Street for McCombs (WSFM) was to build a significant pipeline of McCombs students headed to investment banking, primarily in New York.

Both my Valuation class and IB boot camp prepare students for the gruelling interviews. As a result of all this prep, we are able to have over 90%+ placement into NY investment banking for McCombs MBAs.

This is likely the highest figure of most top business schools.

What started in September was one of the most disciplined and dedicated recruitment effort I have witnessed.

We were trained on a weekly basis by 2nd year WSFM students for technical and behavioural interviews, practiced mock interviews with alumni, honed modelling skills in the IB Bootcamp by Professor Sztejnberg and got Superday experiences before real Super days.

WSFM and McCombs alumni prepared us to be in banking.

I must specifically commend the efforts of our Career Management Center (shout out to Abby Pollard!) for holding multiple mock interviews, especially in Christmas holidays and for finding new avenues when interviews were not coming through.

Having gone through the process, I can say this with confidence to any prospective student who plans to be in banking – McCombs takes banking dead serious. WSFM placed all its students this year as well in New York and Houston banking.

I was, in-fact, the last person to get placed in my WSFM class of 2023. That should suggest to you how strong the banking recruitment process at McCombs is.

The banking recruitment process in the US is heavily based on networking. I had to get myself out of my comfort zone to cold call, attend coffee chats, and meet bankers at social events.

But in the end, I started enjoying that. To give some perspective, I had coffee chats with ~70 bankers before I got my interview invites.

Topics in coffee chats varied with seniority of bankers and individual bank formats. Typically, conversations with Associates and VPs were technical-heavy, whereas conversations with EDs/ MDs were a lot more behavioural and strategic.

Being focused on a sector helped me prepare specific industry trends, deals and technical questions discussed in coffee chats. I was focused on banks which had strong FIG groups since I knew I wanted to do FIG banking.

That narrowed my focus to 6-7 banks, both boutiques and bulge-brackets. I had great traction at one bulge bracket bank, where a generous staffer VP helped me connect to as many as 11 bankers ranging from Associates to MDs before my Superday.

Post my Superday at that bank, I also connected with the Global Chairman of Insurance Banking.

Irrespective of what their decision was, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.

Two days later, I received the call I was waiting for the past 5 months – I got an offer to join the Investment Banking Summer Associate Program of the biggest and most reputed bulge-bracket investment bank in the US.


Career Management Center

Abby Pollard (Career Advisor, Career Management Center)

The average base salary for investment banking at McCombs is very similar to other top 20 programs, as salaries in banking tend to be very standardized according to the market.

We have a tight-knit, supportive community that strives to be human-centred and future-focused. Our students embody a competitive, but cooperative attitude, which helps fuel both their individual success as well as the success of their classmates.

An example of how I’ve seen that among our banking students is their collaboration in behavioral and technical interview preparation.

Even as students accepted offers early on, they continued to support the community by offering up their time for additional mock interviews with their classmates.

I have my parents and wife to thank for their incredible support and patience in this process.

To prospective B-school applicants aiming for banking, I want to share a few lessons I learnt along the way. Hoping that would help you make the transition:

  1. Know “why” and “where” (bulge / boutiques) you want to do banking.
  2. If you are a complete outsider, it makes sense to go for “generalist” programs, if not, try to identify a sector early on and network with firms that are top destinations for those sectors.
  3. Cold call without hesitation, attend all information sessions, and take coffee chats seriously. Do your research about the firm before you do all of this.
  4. Mock as much as possible. Especially for internationals, you do not want your first interview to be with your dream firm.
  5. Expect dings / rejections. Know they are for a reason. I faced rejections from generalist programs. In hindsight, I can say if I did get those calls, I would not have landed up in the top FIG group on the street.
  6. My top advice: focus on the process, no matter what the result. This will help you persist when you get rejects and keep you on track for your dream offer.

All the best!

Update: Devang completed his MBA and joined JPMorgan as an investment banking associate in their New York office.

Drop us an email if you’re targeting feeder (or non-feeder) MBA programs:
info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

Also read:
Career Counseling for Investment Banking Careers
All you need to know about careers in investment banking (including target schools)
A typical day in the life of an investment banker
MBA application tips for investment banking applicants
How to get into investment banking after engineering

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

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