A common struggle for university students is that investment banks often demand that you have relevant prior work experience if you want to do an internship with them. However, how do you get work experience if all the banks demand that you already have work experience?
Are you ready to stand out in your next investment banking interview?
If you can't seem to get into tier 1 and tier 2 investment banks right now, then stay tuned! Below I explain the 7 best alternatives if you can't seem to secure an investment banking internship or full-time role right now.
If you want to know more about recruiting tips and tricks, then be sure to also check out my comprehensive course on how to get into investment banking (click here) which covers everything from
Crafting the perfect CV and Cover Letter
Mastering standardized Numerical Tests
7 Great Alternatives to an Investment Banking Internships
Inhouse M&A or Business Development Teams at large blue-chip companies: Most large companies have inhouse M&A or business development (“BD”) teams which do similar work in terms of M&A as the investment banks. Deal flow is unlikely to be as high as at the investment banks but you can still get highly relevant M&A experience here. To maximise the usefulness of this strategy, apply to the BD team of companies in sectors (e.g. technology, software, healthcare, etc.) which you are passionate about. Later in your journey when you are applying to the technology team of a large investment bank, then you can leverage that internship not just only because it exposed you to M&A but also because it helped you gain relevant sector expertise.
Corporate finance team of accountancy firms: Most large accountancy firms such as the Big 4 (i.e. KPMG, Deloitte, EY, PwC) all have their own M&A / corporate finance teams. Typically these teams cover less strategic issues and oftentimes do more of the finance and tax workstreams in acquisitions. However, you can still get relevant experience here that you can then leverage in future applications.
Accountancy firms: While not as prestigious as M&A-related work, even a standard accountancy internship which you can get after the first semester of university (or possibly even before your university even starts) can help you to just get “any” finance experience which you can then leverage to move into investment banking. Any finance experience on your CV still looks better than no finance experience.
Working student at university chairs: Students can typically easily apply to work for one of the chairs at their university. The most relevant position, of course, would be if you could work for the chair of corporate finance at your university, or second, the chair of accounting.
Finance societies: Definitely get involved in the finance society at your university and aim to get a leadership position.
Start-ups: If you still struggle to get internships even at accountancy firms or the chairs at your university then any work experience is going to improve your CV. Even university students in their first semester can realistically get internships at start-ups. If you have the choice, rather go for start-ups that have a strong M&A strategy like Razor Group or Berlin Brands Group or that are finance-focused (i.e. FinTechs) like Revolut, Wise, or Klarna.
Management consultancies: The top 3 management consultancies (i.e. McKinsey, BCG, Bain or also referred to as "MBB") all have internal teams that focus on commercial due diligence ("CDD"). As part of every larger deal, a management consultancy works on a commercial due diligence to study the market, business model, differentiation, and industry. Doing an internship here gives you exposure to M&A deals and management consultancies are also highly regarded as top employers for university graduates. Note though that the interview process at the management consultancies is very different to investment banking interviews as less technical knowledge is demanded but you must master to do more qualitative case studies and market sizing exercises. As a side note, if you struggle to get internships at the tier 1 and 2 investment banks, then you will likely also struggle to get internships at the MBBs, but you could still get internships at smaller consulting players such as:
Strategy& (now PWC)
Simon Kutcher & Partners
Alvarez & Marsal
OC&C Strategy Consultants