Four key considerations in preparing for Your Investment Banking Interview
Despite the downturn in broader banking recruitment and selective retrenchment, demand for junior bankers in Singapore remains fairly robust.
However, competition for these roles is fierce because most graduates and juniors are aware that a solid stint at an international investment bank can provide an excellent boost to ones’ long term career prospects. As a result, in-depth prior preparation is crucial to get an edge in the process.
- Conduct in-depth research on the investment bank or advisory firm that you will be interviewing with. That should at a minimum comprise of ensuring you find out the detailed background/work experience of those you are meeting (LinkedIn or your recruiter should be able to assist with this), the major deals announced or completed by the firm in the last 12 month period, any news/announcements by the bank itself on other matters such as growth/restructuring and strategic plans for the firm in this region via the annual report. Ideally you should also try and get a flavour of what the firm’s culture looks like and also some detail on how the team has been faring (stability, growth). Your recruiter should be able to give you a view on this if he/she knows their client well enough.
- A common mistake that candidates make in interviews is forgetting to refresh your memory on the details of your own deals. Always remember that any deal – complete or incomplete – that you state on your CV is fair game for in-depth questioning by your interviewer. Most bankers work on multiple deals at a time, work absurdly long hours and don’t get their fair share of sleep! This is a recipe for forgetting the intricate details of a deal within a few weeks or months of completing it. The point is that it’s critically important to take the time to sit down with your CV – and deal materials if you have them to hand – and prepare in advance of the interview. In particular, it’s key to be able to speak to the interviewers about your personal contribution to the deal; did you build the model, what kind of financial analysis did you conduct, did you get to manage counter-parties/the client/other advisers, how involved were you with the documentation etc. Stick to the detailed facts and always be honest – do not under any circumstance inflate your participation on a deal as this can backfire badly in a small, tightly knit investment banking community such as Singapore!
- The next stage is to prepare yourself on fundamental/technical and sector specific knowledge. IB teams are much leaner than before so there is extra scrutiny on ensuring that everyone from the Analyst up to VP is able to adroitly build and navigate through financial models. Although investment banks rarely require candidates to sit a financial modelling test, you can expect a steady flow of technical questions covering all aspects of model building and deal related financial analysis. Also these days investment banks expect you to have an understanding of the entire breadth of products covering M&A, Debt and Equity. Unfortunately not having done a deal in a particular product area is not an excuse! So if you feel less secure about a certain product, speak to someone who has the experience in that area and benefit from their expertise in advance of the interview. If you are a generalist going in for a role with sector specific team, although the interviewer may not expect you to be an expert on the sector, there will still be an expectation that you’ve done your homework on the key revenue/cost drivers, modelling criteria and major recent deals pertinent to the sector. Remember, even if the expectation is low , it’s your job to “overprepare” with the relevant industry/product knowledge due to the fierce competition you’ll be facing.
- Finally ensure you have a list of intelligent and relevant questions prepared for them. Remember that an interview is a two-way process and you are assessing them as much as the other way around. The tone, type and number of questions you ask can provide clear indicators of your enthusiasm (or lack thereof!) to the interviewer. When preparing a list of questions to ask, bear in mind that your questions should vary based on the level of the interviewer. If you meet Analyst, Associate or VP level bankers, your questions should be more granular/operational in nature. When you interview with Directors, MDs, COOs and Regional Heads, your questions should take on a more high-level, strategic, macro flavour.
If you'd like to have a confidential discussion about your career in investment banking or if you are looking for job opportunities, please feel free to contact me.