Accelerated Investment Banking Recruiting in London: The Best Way to Move to Another Bank?
Is it possible to do a summer internship at one bank, but then move to another one for a full-time role?
It’s not easy.
But one of the best ways to do it is with accelerated recruiting, which has become more popular everywhere – including the London market.
You could use this accelerated recruiting process to gain more full-time options – if you act quickly.
I covered this process for the U.S. market previously, but one reader recently stepped up and offered to share the details of the process in London.
Note that this story took place in a pre-Brexit world, so the facts and figures may be different in the future:
Why Accelerated Recruiting?
Q: First, can you tell us about your background?
A: I’ll say that I completed a summer IB internship in London, used accelerated recruiting to interview at other firms, and then won and accepted an offer at a different bank.
Q: So why do so many banks in London offer accelerated recruiting for summer interns?
It seems to be more common, or at least more accepted, than it is in New York.
A: First off, the full-time recruiting process has always started slightly earlier in London; accelerated recruiting is just an extension of that.
Rather than waiting to open full-time applications officially, many firms think: “The top candidates all have summer internships – we might be able to pick up a few who are unsatisfied and want to work elsewhere.”
It has also become much tougher for banks to attract the top students due to increased competition from other finance firms, technology companies, and so on.
Finally, banks have been telling people about their full-time return offers later and later, which has encouraged more interns to use accelerated recruiting.
It has grown a lot in the past 3-4 years (from 2012 to 2015/2016), in particular.
A few interns – arguably the best of the best – even go into internships expecting to win at least two full-time offers to increase their options.
Q: What about the split between boutiques and bulge brackets?
Do they both do it?
A: Some, but not all, boutiques and bulge brackets, do it.
“Boutique” here means elite boutique (Evercore, Lazard, Moelis, and several others that work on bigger deals); I don’t believe that regional boutique banks conduct this process.
I am not sure about middle-market banks.
The elite boutiques that use accelerated recruiting might take up to 15-20% of their full-time classes from it, while bulge brackets might accept ~10% of their classes from this process.
Many of the elite boutiques in London have Analyst class sizes of 10-15 each year, so between 2 and 4 of them might come from accelerated recruiting.
Q: Why do elite boutiques hire a greater percentage from the accelerated recruiting process?
A: They have smaller Analyst classes, so a single intern not accepting a return offer or not getting a return offer makes a much bigger difference for them.
Also, some elite boutiques want to recruit qualified interns who worked at the bulge brackets but have not considered smaller firms previously.
To be clear, you should not target elite boutiques exclusively if you want to do this.
There is always some element of randomness in the process – so you could be an amazing candidate but still not get the offer(s) you want.
Walk Me Through a Day in the Life of an Accelerated Recruiter
Q: So what does the process look like?
Can you walk us through what you experienced at both large and small banks?
A: Sure, here are a few descriptions of what different banks did:
Elite Boutique A: Invited around 50 summer interns from other banks to an event at a hotel in London in early August. Bankers went around speaking with everyone there, and then fast-tracked the interns they liked (maybe ~30-50% of the total) to Superday interviews.
They moved so quickly that they gave out full-time offers before most of the interns’ current banks did.
Elite Boutique B: They had a single event fairly late in the process (September), and invited 50-60 students into their office to determine who would receive priority for full-time recruiting.
Elite Boutique C: They didn’t exactly do “accelerated recruiting,” but they opened their full-time applications on August 1st rather than the usual September 1st date, and they completed all the steps very quickly. Final assessment centers were taking place in September, and the process finished by the end of October.
Bulge Bracket A: They hosted a “networking breakfast” at the beginning of August. It was ridiculously tough to get an invitation because it seemed as if you needed recommendations from 2 current employees (though officially, they weren’t required), and you also needed to apply the second that applications went up on the bank’s website.
They gave anyone they liked a first-round interview, and then followed up with quick Superdays and ACs within 1-2 weeks.
Bulge Bracket B: They did something similar, but they sent a mass email to all summer interns asking for recommendations.
If you received an invitation to the event, you would attend, be evaluated by bankers, and then possibly get fast-tracked to a first-round interview.
Bulge Bracket C: They opened full-time applications in August, and also did “coffee chats” on campus where you could get to know bankers. And then they fast-tracked anyone they liked to first-round interviews.
Many other banks did not run this process at all.
Three of the bulge-bracket banks and three of the elite boutiques followed the normal procedure of opening full-time applications in September and giving out offers in October.
However, you need to move quickly because there’s no way to tell what a bank’s plans are.
At one bulge bracket, for example, applications opened on September 1st.
Even though it wasn’t accelerated recruiting, the bank moved so quickly that they finished the entire process by the end of September to early October.
And they seemed to focus on interviewing those who applied in the first two weeks of September; some candidates who applied in the third week of September didn’t even receive interviews.
Q: So to participate in any of this, it sounds like you need to be invited by current interns or full-timers at the bank.
A: Yes, that is a huge part of the process here, but one difference in London is that some banks post online applications for these “networking events.”
So you could look up the application online (Google “[Bank Name]” “summer networking event” London), apply, and then ask your contacts at the bank about the event to improve your chances.
But like you said, yes, it helps to know at least a few people at the bank or to have interviewed there before and done well.
There are some exceptions where you can just apply online and win admission, but networking still helps a lot.
Q: How do you contact people at banks without your current firm finding out?
A: First off, large banks in London are more used to accelerated recruiting, so it’s not necessarily the end of the world if someone knows you’re interviewing elsewhere.
It is a bigger deal at elite boutiques because the class sizes are so much smaller, so you must use more discretion there.
HR leads more of these processes in London, which sometimes means that they care less than senior bankers (though this varies a lot by the firm).
But it’s still not a wise idea to send emails directly asking about accelerated recruiting; you should do the following instead:
- Network in the January-to-May Period – Reach out to contacts at other banks, send them a quick update on where you’ll be interning, and aim to send each person 1-2 messages in those months.
- Ask About the Events, Not the Process – In mid-to-late July through early August, contact everyone again and ask about “summer events” or “intern events” at the bank, or, even better, reference the specific event that the bank is holding.
That way, even if someone at your firm does find out, you have plausible deniability because you can say that you just wanted to meet other interns.
Accelerated Interviews: Assessment Centers on Steroids?
Q: So if these processes are moving at warp speed, do you still go through full interviews and assessment centers?
A: Yes. Every bulge bracket and elite boutique I interviewed with still had an assessment center, but they squeezed the entire process into 1-2 weeks rather than 1-2 months.
The process consisted of a Superday where you met everyone in the team, and then the AC, with the usual mix of case studies, group exercises/debates, and more interviews.
In interviews, they tend to ask more “on the job” questions about topics like circular references in a DCF and modeling best practices.
However, they did not focus much on deals and clients in my internship. That’s probably because most interns have little to discuss with only 4-6 weeks of experience by that point.
Personality was more of a factor, as several of the elite boutiques asked questions like: “What drives you in life?” and “Who are you as a person?”
The purpose was to make sure that you wouldn’t leave for PE in 2-3 years.
The boutiques want people who are committed to banking for the long term, so they probe you with those types of questions.
Sometimes when I started to recite my story, they cut me off and switched to more “philosophical” questions.
Q: Wow, I’m not even sure how I would answer those questions.
What about other questions with well-defined answers?
For example, what did you see in the case studies at the assessment centers?
A: Case studies were fairly standard – the ones I got were:
Elite Boutique A: We had to look at a new debt issuance and pitch investors on why the company would be a good investment from a credit perspective.
For healthy companies with debt issued at par value, this involves looking at the downside and worst-case scenarios and convincing investors that they’re extremely unlikely.
Elite Boutique B: We had to design two slides on an M&A deal and outline the multiples, strategic rationale, industry trends, and explain whether or not the deal made sense for the buyer and seller.
Bulge Bracket A: They gave us a ton of financial information on three target companies – far more than anyone could read in 45 minutes – and then gave us 45 minutes to pitch a buyer on the best acquisition.
In this last exercise, the most important part was ruling out companies quickly.
For example, if one target company is worth £1 – £1.5 billion and the acquirer doesn’t have that much cash, can’t raise the debt (e.g., it’s already levered the maximum Debt/EBITDA ratio), and could not plausibly issue enough stock to do the deal, that’s an easy “no.”
Once you’ve ruled out companies based on financial metrics, you can move to the qualitative criteria and argue for the company that offers the best fit with the buyer.
When you present your recommendations, an MD will push back and challenge you on everything you say, so you need to know these topics like the back of your hand.
Q: Thanks for sharing all that.
Do you have any other tips for accelerated recruiting in London?
A: It’s tough to gain traction in this process without at least one offer elsewhere.
I had the most success after I won my first accelerated offer – I let the other banks know, and then I won another offer, and then one more offer after that.
You have to build competitive tension around your candidacy, or banks may put you on hold.
You’re also more likely to interview with very senior bankers in these interviews (Think: regional heads and possibly even global heads), so you have to be more polished than usual.
Finally, this process is NOT well-known, and there’s limited information about it online and in career centers at universities.
So you have to be incredibly proactive with your networking in the months before your internship begins.
Q: That brings up a good point: is it worth the effort?
It sounds like a lot of people move from one big bank to another, or from a bulge bracket to an elite boutique or vice versa.
What’s the benefit?
A: You’re right that there isn’t a huge benefit in moving from one huge bank to another.
However, many students go through this process and end up considering or joining an elite boutique, when they hadn’t thought about it at all before.
And that arguably brings many benefits: more interesting work, better long-term career prospects, higher cash compensation in the future, and so on.
Also, many banks are telling interns about their return offers later and later, so accelerated recruiting is a reasonable “insurance policy.”
Q: Great. Thanks for your time.
A: My pleasure.
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