What did you study and where?
Commerce majors in finance and economics and the University of Sydney.
Why commerce and why Sydney?
When I applied Sydney University had the best reputation. I just assumed it would be the best degree.
Tell me about the course, the pros and cons…
Course was a thorough base for the knowledge I needed to work in the finance industry, however, further studies (like a CFA) would also benefit. When I was studying, the university didn’t offer any courses that involved placements, I think this would benefit the degree greatly (I believe they may do this now though…).
Did you participate in any work experience during your studies, if so where?
Yes I did an internship at Deutsche Bank. This is how I got a placement on the grad program and now a full time job. Work experience is really the first step in getting into the company.
Graduate finance roles are extremely competitive- how did you stand out on paper in the application process?
There isn’t a secret… it’s about having good/consistent marks from university, leadership roles, volunteering work (surf life saving) and work experience (internships). The feedback from my manager was that he appreciated I had also spent time working to support myself throughout high school and university, and that was just working in retail and hospitality.
“Good and consistent marks” … what does this mean?
Distinction and High Distinctions.
Did you apply everywhere, or just at a few firms?
I applied at 3 firms, received offers from 2.
What was the interview process like, eg. what was the nature of the questions you were asked- and how did you succeed in answering?
It varied, the earlier on interviews were behavioural, personality based. Then the later interviews (where I was being interviewed by my team) were more related to the job and the industry.
You know that they are going to ask you to ‘walk them through’ your resume. So practice a 90 second resume walkthrough that focuses on the positive motivating factors behind every transition (school to university, university to internships, internship to better job). For example,
“I went to school to university thinking that I’d end up in data science, but after one internship I realised I liked interacting with clients directly and so I pursued a banking internship with a sales bent. In that role, I build some solid sales skills as well as gaining exposure to a, b, and c. I wanted to continue honing those and branch out to focus on x, y, and z. I sought a new role/promotion which provided that opportunity…”
Be deliberate. Every move you made should have a reason (preferably that you initiated). Don’t be negative. Never say you left because you were bored or “wanted to try something new.”
Chances are that they will also ask you, why investment banking. The reality is you need to tailor the question to yourself – so don’t just recite a cookie cutter answer from the internet. It varies with your background, how substantive you want to get, and what follow-up questions you want the interviewer to ask. No matter what, the answer here should be well rehearsed as well as the scenarios that could follow.
On this though, an entry level investment banking job doesn’t provide much client interaction. So my advice (this is just my opinion – with the benefit of hindsight) is not to talk about your interest in client interaction for a grad role. You won’t be working with clients for a few years so I would answer “why investment banking?” like…
I want to work in investment banking because I understand it has a steep learning curve and will allow me to establish a strong foundation for valuation, excel modelling skills, and understanding the XXX sector. I want to build a career in the finance industry and this is the first of many steps in building my career.
By mentioning valuation/excel, you’re showing you know what you’ll be doing, and you have pitched yourself as someone who is keen to really put their head down and learn for a long time.
Finally, the interviewer will also probably say to you “Tell me about a time when…” Don’t wing it.
Ideally, you can come up with 6-8 stories that cover the 30-40 basic questions, with only slight modifications. You can google “common finance grad questions”. For every potential question, map out the story using the SOAR framework. Describe the Situation (10-15 seconds), Obstacle (10-15s), Action (60-75s), and Result (15-30s). Stories for these questions should be 1.5-2 minutes long and focus only on what’s important.
What is the day in the life of a finance grad?
I am in equities markets, on the electronic trading desk. A day involves coming to work at 6:30am preparing for a 7:30am morning meeting, pre market preparation until 10:am, trading from 10am – 4pm, then after market tasks, EOD processes and then from 4:45 onwards I just work on any ongoing projects (for me these are usually sales based).
Finally, is there anything that you wish you knew before you began working?
They do not expect you to be experienced in your role from the start, but your performance from day one onward really matters.