Photo: flickr: D.H. Parks
So you want to become a Wall Street master of the universe? Forget almost everything you know about how the ride to the top is supposed to go.The basics are still the same. Go to a target school, take the right classes, and land an exhausting summer internship at a bulge bracket bank.
But say you’ve done all that. In fact, say you’ve even gotten a job offer at that big Wall Street bank.
Five or six years ago the road was pretty clear — a few years as an analyst, some time as an associate (or maybe a dip into the buy-side), a stint at business school and then a leap into the buy-side or a long career at the Wall Street bank of your choosing.
Not so anymore.
Wall Street’s career path has changed. Bulge bracket banks are concerned about finances, so they don’t know what size analyst class they can sustain. Plus, there isn’t always enough meaningful work for the analysts to take on because business is slow.
Naturally, that has lead young people to consider other options, specifically at mid-sized Wall Street firms like Evercore or Greenhill.
“People don’t go to Wall Street with the attitude ‘Hey I’m going to be working at this big investment bank for the rest of my life,’ said Skiddy von Stade, CEO of Wall Street career matching firm, OneWire. “They go to work on financial modelling skills that they can take with them… whether they go to a tech company, a start-up, or the restaurant business.”
At mid-sized firms, young people work more closely with their superiors and take on more sophisticated projects. That’s a huge advantage in an industry that’s getting smaller and smaller by the year. Talented graduates are starting to notice, and that helps mid-sized firms overall.
“They’re (mid-sized firms) picking up prestige because even if the deal doesn’t close you’re still doing the analysis,” one young private equity analyst told Business Insider. “All the work you do is M&A there’s no time wasted on IPO’s and investment grade debt process work.”
So if you’re a college senior who just got that offer from JP Morgan in, say, the healthcare group, you might want to check out your options at a smaller firm and see if you can join a group that isn’t as niche. A more general group means a more diverse skill set.
So what does that mean for the Goldman Sachs of the world?
“Big investment banks… are going to have to create a much better environment for these kids with much more responsibility and more opportunity for growth,” said von Stade. “These firms in the old days had a big bench of analysts putting together pitch books and doing mundane stuff. Today kids want to learn all sides of transactions and work on their modelling skills.”
And that’s just the beginning. The path doesn’t get any more clear after a stint as an analyst. Buy-side jobs are hard to come by, and if you do find one, you may not want to jump ship for business school and lose your spot.
In fact, some young Wall Streeters are wondering if business school is worth it at all.
Bottom line: The Street has become even more competitive than it was before, and if you’re not careful you can get stuck in a sector where there’s little mobility.
Amidst all this added complication, though, there is good news, according to von Stade.
“In the old days people would say ‘I’ve got to go to Wall Street because I want to make money,’ but now people are being smart with the decisions they make in their careers and are going into industries that satisfy their intellectual curiosity.”
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