6 Tips for Deciding Which Investment Banking Offer to Accept

When it comes to internships, at some firms “what you see is what you get,” meaning the summer intern experience matches the full-time experience. At other firms, the summer experience is a “watered down” version of the full-time experience, giving the impression that a full-time role isn’t as fulfilling or demanding as it really is. So, before deciding on which full-time investment banking offer to accept, make sure you understand the difference, and that you know the answers to questions like: Do your internship hours match full-time hours? Are you given the same level of work and responsibility as an intern as you expect to get as a full-time analyst or associate?

There are several other things you should consider before accepting an offer. Below are six factors to consider as you navigate your decision-making process for the full-time offers you’ve been fortunate enough to receive.

1. Level of deal and client exposure.

If client exposure and higher levels of visibility are important to you, boutique and independent banking firms often offer lean deal teams. Ask yourself: What type of clients does your prospective firm work with? Large-cap? Small-cap? A mix? Depending on the economic environment, deal activity could be concentrated in the middle market when your prospective firm only works on large-cap deals, meaning your deal exposure declines. Ideally, you want a good business mix—a firm that works on deals of all sizes, has a restructuring business in addition to M&A, and has well-performing industry groups that cover every sector. In addition, you might choose a firm with global offices that can capture deal activity regardless of where in the world it’s taking place. In other words, is there strong enough deal flow to keep you engaged and help you develop?

2. Generalist vs. siloed experience. 

Some firms offer analysts and associates a generalist program, whereby they get to experience various industry and product groups, while other firms require immediate specialization. It’s important to know which one is a better fit for you and your career. Both have their pros and cons.Generalist programs give you broad exposure and are helpful for those new to banking, especially those who aren’t sure which product or industry they want to pursue. Generalist structures offer a diverse experience and opportunity to interact with senior bankers across the firm, rather than just interacting with one team. It can be difficult to know if you are going to click with a specific team or industry group, so you should take the opportunity to get to know everyone across the firm before committing to one specific area. Giving you the option to try different groups can also help you identify the best match to your interests, or even discover something new.Lastly, selected industries and products can become highly active only under certain economic conditions; for example, capital raising and restructuring might be very busy when other verticals are not. 

3. Opportunities to build your network.

It’s important to ask yourself if your prospective firm will help you develop relationships with colleagues and clients. Also, do you want to meet a diverse group of people—those from different regions and countries? Exposure to different markets can be important, since international experience is a highly desired credential. In addition, you want to know if your prospective firm’s structure fosters collaboration and teamwork, thus making it easier to create stronger, longer lasting connections. Does the firm’s culture and business model encourage cooperation? Shared responsibilities and team environments often create better overall experiences.

4. Your long-term career goals.

If you’re deciding whether to accept an analyst position, this could mean you only look as far ahead as a two-year program and the exit opportunities afterward, so you compare banks based on those factors. For those looking to accept associate or career-track positions, this could mean you know you want to work in banking for the long term, so you compare firms based on their long-term offerings. Either way, a firm’s fast-track promotion program and whether high performers can move up quickly says a lot. Fast-track promotion programs can vary in the number of years it takes to reach VP, compensation packages and timeline for promotion, so make sure you have a clear understanding of the differences. It’s very important to know how to qualify for a fast-track promotion, as that’s a great way to ascend through an organization.

5. Bulge bracket or boutique.

Although bulge bracket investment banks typically have more widely recognizable names, independent/boutique firms have quickly gained market share and made waves with lead roles on most of the largest and most complex transactions over the last decade. Be wary of organizations so large that analysts and associates become “just a number,” which can negatively affect the overall experience. Bulge bracket deal teams tend to be large, which can result in fewer learning opportunities, less client interaction, less responsibility, and less appreciation for the full deal cycle from start to finish.

6. Your prospective firm’s business outlook.  

Is your prospective firm a publicly traded company or considering going public? Does it have to answer to shareholders? If it’s public and you become a shareholder in the firm, you’ll get a chance to be a true stakeholder. Whether you hold shares or not, it’s important to employ the same due diligence you would as a banker to understand the growth trajectory of your prospective firm. Is it growing or shrinking? Is that growth organic or through acquisitions? Is headcount growing or have there been recent departures by senior bankers? Another consideration would be your prospective firm’s global breadth. Does it work with local corporates that are well-known and well-established in foreign markets? Is the firm opening new offices around the world? All of these things can significantly add to your experience and thus your career development.



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By: Derek Loosvelt

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