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How to Break into Investment Banking in Europe (1/3): The Ideal Path

Updated: Feb 15




Introduction

Aspiring to break into investment banking? Investment banking is a competitive field, where many professionals share similar educational and career trajectories. Mimicking these paths can significantly enhance your chances of securing a full-time offer. While there are exceptions, non-conventional routes into this industry are becoming increasingly rare due to heightened competition.


 

Are you ready to stand out in your next investment banking interview?


 

Target Universities

A degree from a target university often serves as a critical entry ticket to front-office roles in investment banks. Identifying these institutions is crucial. Here are three ways to discern a target university:

  1. Rankings: Target universities usually feature prominently in national and international rankings. Remember, no single ranking is definitive, so consider a range of them.

  2. Corporate Presence: The finance societies at these universities typically host events and workshops with major banks like Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and Morgan Stanley. Such involvement indicates a strong industry link, with banks seeking to recruit from these campuses. True target universities often have banks conducting on-campus interviews.

  3. LinkedIn Research: Investigate the alumni of your prospective university on LinkedIn, focusing on those who have secured positions in top investment banks. This research is particularly valuable if you aim for specific firms, as many have preferred recruitment universities.

For more info on the best target universities in Europe, check out my comprehensive list (click here)


Ideal Path into Investment Banking

The conventional route into investment banking starts at a target university. Here’s the typical roadmap:

  1. Attend company presentations and workshops in your first fall semester.

  2. Apply for and participate in a spring week during your second semester.

  3. Use this experience to fast-track into a summer analyst program.

  4. Perform well in your summer internship to secure a job offer post-graduation.


University Majors

Your choice of major can influence your investment banking career prospects, especially in regional financial centres like Frankfurt, where business-related degrees are preferred over others. In contrast, major financial hubs like London are more open to non-business degrees, provided you graduate from a target university in the UK. Technical or quantitative fields are generally more respected than less technical disciplines.


Additional Qualifications: CFA or PhD?

Contrary to popular belief, additional qualifications like CFA, master’s degrees, or PhDs are not essential for a career in investment banking. A bachelor’s degree from a target university suffices. The CFA is more aligned with careers in asset management or private banking, and while a specialised master's in finance can be beneficial, it's not a necessity. Pursuing a PhD might even reduce your chances, as investment banks often prefer younger, more trainable candidates.


Conclusion

Breaking into investment banking requires strategic educational choices and a clear understanding of the industry’s recruiting practices. For more insights, including CV crafting, networking strategies, and interview preparation, check out my comprehensive course on investment banking (click here). The first six chapters of my investment banking interview guide are available for free download (click here).

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