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MBA application tips for investment banking applicants

MBA application tips for investment banking applicants

In the past, we have analyzed what steps you can undertake if you come from management consulting background pre-MBA. If we extend the table from that article, we see this:

School % Consultants in class % Finance in class
HBS 17% 27%
Stanford 19% 20%
Wharton 23% 30%

Data for class of 2023 | Source: MCB Research; School websites

The broad terminology of ‘Finance’ includes investment management, private equity (PE), venture capital (VC) and investment banking (IB) and maybe a few others.

Unlike consulting, schools don’t publish IB as a category. Suffice it to say however that IB is arguably the second highest represented in the top MBA applicant pool or in some schools, maybe tied up with Technology.

IB, like consulting, can be extremely rewarding both in terms of salaries (I-banking may also pay more than consulting) and in terms of learning/exposure. It also promises excellent career exit options.

It does come with crazy work schedule and hours, with extreme pressure as you can make out from a day in the life of an investment banker.

Given the illustrious nature of the career, it is not surprising to see it being featured as top feeders for bschools globally.

In this post, we will share some tips on how you can stand out, within this already differentiated peer group.
 

MBA application tips for investment banking applicants

1. Go deeper

On the surface, as an investment banking applicant you can boast of big numbers around multi-million-dollar transactions you’d been part of.

That is great since quantifying impact is a key aspect that is often overlooked by MBA applicants and is also not easy in many jobs such as audit or software testing (mind you, still possible though).

For those in bulge bracket IBs, this is even more easy, and sort of a given.

The important thing is to go way deeper, beyond just the numbers. Not just in your essays, but also in the resume.

Think about what may have been different about the deals you’ve completed:

  1. Were these the first-of-their-kind for your bank in that sector?
  2. Did you get a new client (often times referred to as new logo) onboard?
  3. Was it the biggest of its kind in your geography/sector?

Even if not different or first-of-its-kind, help the adcoms understand why it was a big deal (literally and figuratively) for you, and help them see it in context of your equally competitive peer group.

It is also critical to have such assertions backed up through solid recommendations.
 

2. Get out!

By that, we don’t mean step out of the office (spoiler: you have to do that too!). We mean get out of the investment banking job.

Given the excellent exit options IB offers, it might be good to explore one of those, including niche ones such as impact investing and the likes.

While this can help you bring more stories on board, do it only if such a move takes you closer to your dream job after MBA.

If for instance you want to stay in IB after MBA, going into a VC/PE and getting back to IB after MBA may be tough to explain in your application.

Don’t make a career change only for the sake of it. Do it if you genuinely have an interest in that area.

Or if you have any other strong reason to move out. [read this related post: Women in investment banking on Wall Street getting a raw deal]

Of course, do it at your own pace, meaning, not before you’ve completed 2-3 years of solid core IB experience.
 

3. Cover the basics

The basics being mostly the objective parameters – GMAT score, GPA, years of experience et al.

While IB as a profession can be one of the most demanding, there is scant leeway when it comes to taking time for acing your GMAT/GRE unfortunately.

If anything, the adcom’s expectation from you would be more than it would be for the average MBA candidate out there.

Securing this would mean meticulous planning and budgeting for prep time like this candidate from a banking background did.

But then, planning and efficiency is your job description when you are in IB!
 

4. Don’t be your job

With so much happening in your professional sphere, it is easy to assume that that’s your life.

However, business schools want to have multi-dimensional candidates in their classrooms, not just workhorses.

That adds to the peer group learning experience and also ensures you remain balanced post-MBA too, where your career is likely to become even more demanding.

Don’t do things just to appease an adcom. But do get out, yes in this case, outside the office. Find an interest, a passion even, and pursue it.

Look for avenues which puts you in teams of relative strangers and push yourself to deliver value.

While you are would be doing so to add to your MBA candidature, you’ll realize that often times, the activity, provided you are true to it, can be deeply satisfying in itself.

While some of the above may make it sound tough, its not all bad. You are already in the right space and have incredible career prospects.

If you plan early, we can help you build your profile. We can also help you with your MBA application.

The right effort and application strategy can bring your dream schools within your reach!
 

 

What skills and qualifications do investment banks look for?

For some expert insights, MBA Crystal Ball reached out to Jay Ritter, Cordell Eminent Scholar at the University of Florida Warrington College of Business.

Top investment banking skills

MCB: How important is it for investment bankers to have an MBA?

JR: Investment banks have many types of jobs that require different skills. Some of the jobs, such as IT jobs, require technical skills that are pretty much unrelated to what would be gained from an MBA program.

Other jobs, such as trading fixed income securities, might be best suited for those with a masters in finance rather than an MBA degree.

Some positions, such as that of an equity securities analyst, are best suited for those with both expertise in a specific industry and the general skills and financial knowledge that an MBA degree offers.

MCB: What is it about MBA applicants with investment banking experience that sets them apart from others in the industry?

JR: To understand the growth prospects of a company in the software as a service business, or any other business, a good analyst would want to have both industry knowledge, the ability to understand financial statements, and the ability to evaluate the company’s strategy. The same would be true of positions such as M&A advisors.

Most large investment banking firms organize their investment banking employees on the basis of industry groups. The healthcare team, for example, would have people that could give advice on both mergers and on raising capital in the industry.

These skills would be valuable for a client company that is running short on funds and wants advice on whether to solve its financing problems by remaining independent and raising cash, or by merging with a larger firm that could fund its operations.

MCB: What traits do investment banks consider as likely predictors of post-MBA success?

JR: In every industry, rain-makers get rewarded. Employees who bring in the business must know what they are talking about, which requires both the knowledge gained in an MBA program and industry expertise.

Those who deal directly with clients are most successful when they also make a good first impression, which is more likely when a person is physically attractive, has an engaging personality, and has good communication skills.

 
If you’d like us to mentor you on your most ambitious journey, drop us an email: info at mbacrystalball dot com

Also read:
Guide to investment banking careers
Investment banking vs management consulting
 
Photo by Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernández on Unsplash


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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Email. Or follow on Linkedin, Facebook.

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