Breaking into IB in APAC: Facts and Myths
We often speak about recruiting for finance roles in the US and Europe. But what about our Asian friends who wish to break into banking? This post is for you. Our contributor BowTiedPoseidon went through over a dozen summer analyst and full time interviews for elite boutique and bulge bracket IB roles in APAC over the last year.
What did he learn? Here are some key FACTS (truths) and MYTHS (false garbage that will slow you down or completely derail your chances of landing a top finance role in APAC).
MYTH: You don’t need to specifically prepare for interviews and your finance/accounting coursework from school will be enough. INTERVIEW PREPARATION IS A SPECIFIC SKILL THAT YOU MUST BUILD! The competition for these positions is ridiculously high, and especially high in APAC. You are NOT good enough to brush this to the side and hope it'll all work out. It likely won’t. You must come off as technically competent, yet also socially aware and "friendly" and amiable to work with. An ideal spot to start would be The Banker's Bible. Read it, apply it, and thank us later.
FACT: Your grades/school matter. There will always be people looking for the exception to this rule. I’m not here to make you feel good, I’m here to give you the truth: Target school with 3.6 GPA or 75% average mark is the MINIMUM for bulge brackets. Exceptions exist for MM's.
MYTH: Networking is the most important aspect of recruiting. I met with dozens of people from BB’s and boutiques. I even met the CO-FOUNDER of an MM boutique who promised me an interview at his firm. And even after follow-ups, I still didn’t get a single interview from any of these!
FACT: HR is useless. They will lose resumes. They will invite someone with a 3.5 GPA and one internship to an interview, and ignore someone with a 4.0 and 3 internships Why? Because they’re in HR for a reason. The mitigation for this incompetency is a STRONG RESUME + APPLYING EVERYWHERE!
MYTH: You need to know every technical question. This is simply not true at the intern or analyst interview level. Get yourself a copy of the M&I 400 questions. But, IGNORE the advanced accounting, merger model, and LBO model questions unless you have lots of spare time (hint: you won’t).
FACT: Senior level interviews are more behavioral/motivational. Once you reach that sweet final round, they couldn’t care less about your technical ability. What they will care about: Are you following the markets? Are you arrogant/cocky? Do you REALLY want to be here?
MYTH: Apply whenever you want, the dates aren’t important. While HR is usually pretty inconsistent, there’s one thing they will never change on: People who apply late (in the final 7-10 days) won’t even get looked at! Get your applications in approximately 5 weeks before the deadline.
FACT: You need to know every line on your resume. DO NOT LIE on your resume! You WILL be asked on every single line item on your resume throughout the process. Sometimes, you may be grilled for 5-10 minutes on a single experience. Lying is simply dumb, unless it is an obscure detail that you know for a FACT the interviewer can't verify. Personally? I still wouldn't lie.
MYTH: Cover letters aren’t important. I went through 2 intern recruiting cycles. On my first one I barely put 5 minutes into each cover letter. Then, I adapted the @BowTiedBull cover letter format and made each one tailored to the specific firm. I went from 0 interviews to 10+.
FACT: You need to be up to date with the markets. In every interview I was asked about a live deal I was following, a past deal I liked, a stock I would buy (or short) right now, where the 10 year treasury yields were that morning, and so forth. Follow economics/financial blogs, news podcasts, and other information sources daily. No excuses!
MYTH: Interests aren’t important on a resume. This couldn't be further from the truth! The ideal recipe for a resume is 95% "this guy is smart/works hard" and 5% "this guy is unique, has an interesting life, and I could tolerate working with him for 20 hours every day for the next year and a half". My final round interviews almost exclusively focused on my interests.
Good luck! And may the odds be ever in your financial favor.