Just back from another outstanding “Success in the City” trip to Manhattan (our twelfth) with 25 finance students. We visited 4 firms – a hedge fund, financial consulting firm, global bank and investment management firm followed by an evening reception with alumni. The primary purpose of each visit is to educate students about the various functional roles in finance-related fields. Students learn from professionals about the required skills (hard and soft), how to secure a position, how to prepare for an interview as well as the firm’s culture and organizational expectations.
Participating firms this trip included hedge fund Highline Capital (presentations from CFO, head of Investor Relations, and Sr. Equity Analyst); BNP Paribas (a panel of professionals from fixed income, FX and Sales and Trading); Floyd Advisory (a partner presentation and 3 consecutive case studies dealing with recent transactions); Silvercrest Asset Management (a riveting presentation from the chief strategist of this family office – a Wall Street veteran with 61 years of investment management experience!)
Key takeaways for me were the following:
A Wall Street career is rarely linear – Each individual we met with experienced a different path to success – exceling at their initial (and successive) roles; leveraging relationships; being open to positions which, initially, may not have appeared appealing; refining their interests and honing skills.
It’s not all about IB – There are so many roles available to business graduates beyond investment banking including the following we were exposed to – research, compliance (this is big!), client management, sales and trading (know the difference), investor relations, litigation support, valuation, financial consulting, credit analysis, lending and audit.
Build (and nurture) relationships – Every presenter highlighted the critical importance of networking to land a job. If you have a day without classes, schedule 3 meetings with alumni in NY and take the bus down for the day. You won’t be disappointed.
Soft skills trump analytical skills – Maybe it’s because analytical skills can be more easily taught, but we heard that relationship/client management skills are a must-have to do your current job and to secure the next one. The ability to pick up the phone (not text, IM, or e-mail) and talk to another person is highly sought after.
Finance is not the only major that gets you a job on Wall Street – We met with analysts, a vice president, a CFO and partners who majored in biology, astronomy, economics, French, government and ancient history! Though several went on for MBAs, all highlighted the value of critical thinking and intellectual curiosity.
Be informed and well-read – As avid readers of the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and numerous industry-specific resources, all presenters expect that students (especially business students) can carry on a conversation about the economy and general business issues. This is not something that can be ‘crammed’ before an interview.
A 2nd language adds value – A unique asset (and differentiator) that could help you land a coveted position on a fixed income trading desk serving international clients at a global bank!
Show some hustle – Most firms lack lengthy training programs so OJT is the norm. An entrepreneurial spirit and self-directed approach to work is highly valued. Be prepared to show how you’ll add value.
Resilience – Don’t give up if your first (or second and even third) call is not returned. Be persistent to land the informational interview and be resourceful.
Be sure to sign up for the next Success in the City, which will take place in January 2015. You can learn all of these skills firsthand and network with more interesting finance companies!