This question is guaranteed to be asked in every investment banking interview. The reason why this question is asked is to weed out those candidates who want to go into investment banking for the wrong reasons or simply do not understand what investment banking is about and have therefore not invested any time understanding the nature of the job. Good answers to this question demonstrate that (i) you understand the industry and the role to which you are applying to and that (ii) what you want in life, and what motivates and drives you personally, is aligned with an investment banking lifestyle. Some things which you might want to touch on in your answer are that you:
Enjoy a challenge; seek a steep learning curve and are excited about working on high profile transactions
Interested in developing your technical and analytical skills by learning more about corporate finance, financial modelling, valuation, etc.
Enjoy long, project-based work in a team setting (and substantiate that claim by giving an example from your personal life, e.g. about your involvement in a sports team)
Working with talented and highly motivated colleagues (substantiate claim by giving another example from your personal life…)
Showing awareness that the job entails long hours
Enjoy fast paced environments
Note that you can mix and match those reasons (as well as others not mentioned) but your answer should include the “working on transactions” argument. The reason for this is that all the other arguments can also be applied to other jobs. For example, if you want to learn more about corporate finance, why not stay at university. If you want to work with talented individuals, why not work in research; if you enjoy a fast paced environment, why not go into sales and trading? Therefore, your answer to this question must include a desire to work on M&A transactions.
Also, don’t forget to back those reasons up with concrete examples. For example, don’t just say that you ‘enjoy working as part of a team’ but instead say that you ‘love achieving goals as part of a larger team which is also what you enjoy about playing soccer’.
Wrong answers include:
Want to make a lot of money
You want to use it as a steppingstone to get into private equity or hedge funds
It’s the “coolest” thing to do and all your friends are doing it
You want to have a lot of interaction with senior management teams
Since investment bankers interview a lot of candidates throughout the years, they will immediately sniff out those candidates that don’t really understand the job and want to do it for the wrong reasons. You should have a very good understanding what investment banking is and what the job entails before going into an interview.
Also, while the above answers are not wrong per se, they will also not magically propel your application forward and keep you in the mind of the interviewer. To really stand out, you need to make the answer more personal and tell a bit of a story what really sparked your interest. You could tell him that you read about a large M&A deal while you were still in school, and it was a much-heated topic in the news and media for various reasons. Or about that time you walked into a bank presentation and an old veteran of the industry talked about some old M&A “war story” that inspired you. Here is an example answer:
What excites me about investment banking is the strategic aspect of the job. M&A deals are always highly strategic events for any company and have the potential to even change the dynamics within an industry. During my previous internship at Macquarie I found the transaction-based environment very fulfilling as I could clearly see my impact as part of the sell-side execution that I worked on. Also, I like to work as part of a larger team as I believe that the whole can accomplish more than the sum of the parts which is also why I enjoy playing soccer in my spare time. Lastly, I want to start my career in investment banking because I enjoy learning more about different companies and figuring out their differentiation as well as understanding the numbers behind their business model.