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"My son went to Yale. How to get a banking job if you're not him"

I studied at Harvard and I've spent three decades working in investment banking on Wall Street. My son studied at Yale and he and his friends have also fanned out across leading banks and private equity shops.

Whatever banks may say about their attempts to diversify hiring, I see that the biggest names - the GS/MS/JPM/BAC/C/BARC/UBS-CS/DB "global bulge bracket" firms have "consolidated" their entry-level recruiting among the Ivy League. This may not be the case in the middle and back office, but it's the reality when they're hiring for front office jobs in M&A and equity and debt capital markets. Even though banks say they're diversifying, they still hire from these places, and pick people from college classes which are themselves are a "barbell distribution" mix of kids whose parents can afford $80k a year x4 in tuition, room & board, and those who are on full scholarship because their family incomes/assets are low enough to qualify for full financial aid.

What do you do if you're not an Ivy League student and you want a banking job? The next best thing is to study at Stanford/MIT/Williams/Amherst/Wellesley. If you have those colleges on your resume, you still have a chance of getting an investment banking position with the big banks. 

And if you're at another non-target college? There is another route. 

The old way into banking when you hadn't studied at the Ivy League or its reputational equivalent, was through smaller and more upstart firms. They included Bear Stearns, the starting place for Sandy Weill, Henry Kravis and George Roberts, and (post-Drexel Burnham Lambert), David Solomon. Alternatively, you could try more retail-oriented firms like EF Hutton, Shearson, Smith Barney, or Dean Witter.

Today, those names don't exist, but there are still equivalents. They include Jefferies, and essentially retail firms with smaller investment-banking businesses (Stifel or Raymond James), plus the U.S. arms of Canadian and Japanese banks. They don't hire or recruit as much as the global bulge bracket firms but they do hire.   

Even if you want to work for one of these lesser known firms, though, you'll still need to be organized. Many firms have stopped their on-campus recruiting for permanent hires from graduating seniors, and only make offers only to people who've had summer jobs and did well enough to be invited back.

William Lawson is the pseudonym of a banker with a long pedigree on Wall Street. 

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AUTHORWilliam Lawson Insider Comment

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