How to break into top investment banks – Summary

Many university graduates are fighting for a position in investment banking, especially in bulge bracket banks. I was no different two years ago, attending as many career events as possible trying to break into banking. I would like to share some tips to help you increase the chance and kick off your career to a dream start. I will do this in a series of articles.


1. Know your strength

Everyone is unique and NO success story can be repeated. You need to know your OWN unique selling point… extremely well. Don’t say that you don’t have any… YOU MUST DO. You cannot find a second person who have been through what YOU have experienced in life.

What I’ve done: List out every important things you’ve done in your life. For me, I have an international background (hence language skills); I liked Maths (so I am analytical); I was good at basketball (teamwork skill); I loved finance, have read many famous books on investing / finance (passion for finance) etc.

Yes, if you look at these points individually, they might not be unique at all. But when you have all these skills in one person, that makes it unique. Tip 1 is very helpful to build up your confidence.


2. Know what you are getting yourself into

Hopefully now that you have a better understanding of yourself. Next step is to find a suitable position for your unique skillset. As a university student, you probably have no idea what each position does… so why not learn about all available positions? You can try the things below to do it quickly:

What I’ve done: I attended every event possible, spoke to representatives from both IBD and Global Markets. I was more interested in deal based job and my language skills are more useful in IBD in Asia Pacific. So applying for IBD in Hong Kong became my natural choice.


3. Interview preparation: Work SMART, not hard

One of the most important skills in life is develop a sense of knowing what is actually important. “Work smart, not hard” sums up my point very well. Here’s my tips on how to prepare for your interviews:

  • Just remember this, as a university graduate, technical skills like financial modelling are NOT A MUST. Your interviewers care about your potential and desire to learn what they do.
  • Know the basic technical questions. But more importantly, prepare a thoughtful and meaningful answers for these THREE questions:
    1. Tell me about yourself / Walk me through your resume: This actually links to Tip #1 and Tip#2, basically highlight all your skill sets and link to the position you are applying for 
    2. Why investment banking?
      • What did I do: Here’s what I said in my interview: “My father spent all his life in corporates and I witnessed the financial distress of companies. As an investment banker, I can help many global corporations to gain access to capital markets…”
    3. Why our bank?
      • What did I do: Know all the major achievements about the bank you are applying for (both global and regional). e.g. Goldman Sachs is the global M&A house, Morgan Stanley is the global Equity House, Deutsche Bank/Citi are the global forex/bond house etc. Spend time on their websites.


Hope all these tips above helps! I really wish you could find where you want to be in life by getting to know yourself and your passion. Great things happen when you follow your dream with persistence! Good luck!


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