MBA for PE?

Quick background on myself:

  • Business degree, Chartered Accountant, and CFA Charterholder
  • Worked as an accountant for a number of years, earning the Charter proved helpful in recently making the switch into (boutique) IB

Very satisfied with my new career presently, but my long term (multi-year) ambition is to get into private equity.

So to the original question, I’m thinking that at this stage of my (decade-long) career, I have a sufficient number of ‘letters’, and now it’s all about accruing good deal experience - which I am in my current role - and building my network.

However, interested to hear opinions/advice from those with PE experience - in terms of the strategic and operational side of the industry, how much value would an (E)MBA materially add to my future candidacy? Or, given the above, would I be seen as having sufficient skills and experience to be considered?

Thanks in advance for your insights.

how did you go from accounting to IB?

Four steps:

  1. Tailored my resume toward relevant transferable skills and experience
  2. Networked till I eventually ended up in front of the right person(s)
  3. Had taken an online modeling course. Helped with the case study portion of the interview
  4. Had done my homework - was able to convey genuine knowledge of and interest in this line of work

Crucially also, I was realistic about my options - accepted an offer from a small mid-market boutique. Happy as Larry though. Same work, more people-friendly culture.

I don’t think being a Charterholder was determinative in being granted an interview, but I guess it might have broken a tie if they were 50:50 about seeing me.

CFA doesn’t mean anything in the PE world, you can probably get into PE anyway from IB directly, but MBA from a top 10 school will definitely help you in the long-term given you think the cost-benefit is favorable in your individual case.

IB to PE is the most common path unless you come from an operational role (though you’ll likely stay on the operational side). Still IB to PE is not easy and it becomes increasingly more difficult as you get more senior. As klaud’s said, CFA doesn’t really help much in PE. Top-10 MBA is still the preferred path.

I think if you do full time MBA, any school in top30 will give you a good shot at PE front office role. Now, if you go to say USC which is #24, you might not end up at Google Capital or Blackstone but YOU will land a FO role in either real estate PE or venture fund PE that is lesser known. After a few years there and some connections, who knows Blackstone may be in reach…

All I am saying you don’t have to go for Mount Everest straight out of the gate - you just need the right start, in which case top30 MBA will be suffice.

Bad idea. If you want to go into private equity, you should definitely do it before business school. Most of the people that go to private equity after business school already had pre-MBA experience. And, going to a top business school actually isn’t helpful because despite getting a good pedigree, you’ll actually complete with *more* people that had pre-MBA experience in private equity.

I worked in private equity before business school and then transitioned to hedge funds. A lot of people at my school got private equity jobs but I can’t think of more than one, maybe two of them, that didn’t already have private equity experience beforehand.

I have several friends who got into PE with zero PE/IB experience post-MBA. It is doable if you know how to network. And they did not even go to M5 or M7.

Not saying you are gonna get mega PE offers, but smaller ones sub 5bn very doable imho.

^ What are they doing at their respective PE firms? Are we talking specifically about investment professional roles, and if so, what are their day-to-day responsibilities?

I could be wrong, but not one person that I’m aware of from our class went into a transactional role in private equity that didn’t already have IB/PE background before business school, and pretty much all of them had private equity experience. I just don’t think they’d know what to do as a senior associate or VP at a bigger buyout fund if you didn’t have PE experience beforehand, even if it isn’t rocket science.

Maybe that varies at smaller funds - I’d say sub $1B; can’t think of anyone off the top of my head at $3B+ AUM shops that didn’t have pre-MBA PE experience but feel free to show me a bio of someone if you come across one, since I am curious if hiring practices have somehow changed more recently.

I guess it’s different in the US but they are working in Singapore and Asian countries, all transactional and operator roles. A little hard to imagine someone with pre-MBA IB experience not getting into any PE fund though, especially from a M5.

OK, thanks for clarifying. I could understand how hiring practices might differ a lot from one geography to another, and from clients I’ve worked with I’ve definitely seen what you’ve described as being more common in Asia than in the United States.

On the U.S. side of things, I think the biggest difference I see with people that move up in private equity versus the entry level roles is there’s much more of an emphasis on having a nose for value. It’s not just investment banking which is primarily process driven and oriented around getting the deal done; you have to think much more critically about the price you’re paying and the value you’re getting as you move up the private equity rung. To your point though, at the pre-MBA levels I’d say that private equity experience has more in common than not with what you’d be doing as an investment banking associate.

Thanks for the feedback so far guys. Appreciate the perspectives.

I have a couple of inter-related follow-on questions:

  1. In my position as a 1st year IB analyst in my early 30s, when would be considered the optimal time/level of experience to attempt a move into PE?
  2. If getting an MBA was seen as strongly advantageous/material to my prospects, would an EMBA ‘count’? I’d be somewhat reluctant to take significant time out of my career at this stage. Interested to know how they compare from a cost-benefit perspective

Thanks again for your input.

  1. Some people get recruiting calls in the first year very early, and move to PE around 2 year mark or earlier after getting their bonus
  2. EMBA is really for people who are already in their ideal line of work, if you want a career switch FT MBA is still the way to go. You don’t get the same level/access of career services with most EMBA programs.

I’m not in bulge bracket or part of any program, so not sure whether I’d get recruiter calls.

Regarding E/MBA, I was thinking the value of one would be to complete the circle for PE guys - adding ops and strategy credentials to my technical background and deal experience?

If it’s just about access to a career’s office…perhaps I’d be better off saving the time and expense, and try to network my way in like I did with IB?

You get plenty of calls at boutique, if it is relatively well-know. But yea if all you want is the prestige associated with the school go for the EMBA or a part-time one. Biggest value add for most FT MBA is the internship, career services, etc.

Am not hung up about prestige for its sake. Only interested in what’s useful.

If MBA is mostly about the internship opportunities and career services, with no material academic boost to my existing credentials for PE application, then I’d have to consider the (opportunity) cost-benefit at this stage of effectively paying considerable sums for hiring access, versus simply persevering and trying to network myself in directly.

Turn the looking for job dial on in LinkedIn and you’ll hear from lots of recruiters

Sounds horrific.

Yeah sounds like you don’t need it. It’s mostly a prestige and networking thing. If you are comfortable where you are and can get to PE without it why spend 2 years and 200k on a degree? The academics are not as useful as real work experience…

most recruiters - not HR at companies - are comparable to Ford used car salesmen.