Why is investment banking so popular as a post-college opportunity?

What is attractive about investment banking to students after finishing their university degree?

I’ve never done IB but know a decent amount through friends and school. Here I take a more pessimistic view.

In my experience, students choose investment banking for three main reasons:

  • It’s a relatively clear pathway. The alumni network, heavy recruiting and internship process lends itself you a simple journey into IB. It’s generally quite a linear process from top schools, whereby in your junior year you meet as many people at firm(s) as possible, get your name out there, attend campus recruiting events, apply online and get your first interview. If you’re successful through a couple more rounds of interviews, you get offered an internship. If you perform well, you’re offered a full time job post-graduation.

It is a well established route and relatively predictable. A ton of people have done it before and for the most part, you know exactly what to expect. This contrasts, say, deciding to start your own business, or taking the leap into a start up, working for a lesser-known company or just leaving college without a clear vision of what’s in store and doing whatever you feel like and whatever comes your way. In my experience, achieving a well-defined goal is one thing, but taking the risk to figure out what you’re really passionate about is another.

The downside of being such a well established, mostly linear route, is that you compete directly with other candidates and you all have access to the same information. This is what I see as being the most challenging aspect of scoring an IB job. My tip for getting an offer is to differentiate yourself. Prove that you can work hard (your degree type, GPA and extracurricular commitments will show this), that you are passionate about IB (have a deep knowledge of the system and banks will be confident that you will be fully invested) and that you are someone special - different and better than the typical candidate. You can display this last point through your behaviour, confidence and just being a genuinely interesting person that does cool stuff and wants to see the world left in a better place than when you found it.

  • It’s a safe option. You’re likely joining a big, well established organization that is hopefully full of smart, driven people. If you’re in the right place, you’ll learn a lot about how to operate in professional spheres, live in a big city, get a taste of the finance side of the world and add a strong element to your CV. Investment banking, depending on where you work, is impressive and shows you can network, handle yourself in a professional capacity and work hard. You can’t really lose.

To counter this point, I’d suggest that IB is not as impressive as starting your own business or discovering something mindblowjng. As I explained, going into IB can be a relatively safe and easy option. A lot of people do it and it means that when you leave, you have the same qualification as many others. However, Investment Banking is a tough career, particularly for the first two years. It sounds like you’re really put through the paces, learn a ton from smart people and gain incredible fluency and understanding of financial statements and businesses (amongst other things).

  • People love it! Some people love IB. Particularly those at the top, I’d hope at least, love their jobs. I know bankers that are very switched on, work well with people and consequently have enjoyed awesome careers. Alongside this, going into IB (particularly for a summer internship, and this I see is the major benefit of the Sophomore IB internship), is to see whether you enjoy this line of work.

At the end of the day it’s a personal decision. I’ve tried to outline some reasons for choice and pro’s and con’s (I took more of a pessimistic view of IB). I also didn’t cover any of the specific work that you do or what the career is like. I’ve only heard that information second hand.