I’m a frequent visitor on these forums so I figured I’d give a try. My background is pretty clean and dry. I worked at Best Buy for pretty much a good 5 years all through my undergrad degree (finance) in a not-top-tier university and graduated right at the downturn of the economy. So I decided to pursue my MS in Finance from a so-so university but definitely not a target school. During this time I had the opportunity to work as an intern doing investment research and portfolio management - but it turns out they weren’t hiring.
When I graduated from grad school I was kinda left out to dry so-to-speak. It just so happened that they had a back-office role open at a bulge bracket bank so I decided why-not. Figured it would at least get me off the unemployed bucket and give me some time to work on the CFA. During my time, I passed level 1, and a few months later, my back-office role got outsourced elsewhere with no other transfer opportunity.
So, I’m kind of back in the same bucket again, however this time I’m really looking to do something more along the lines of what I was doing in my academic days, which was investment research and portfolio management. This was about 6 month’s ago and it all seems to become so surreal that I might have fallen into a pretty deep hole that I’m not sure how I can get out.
I’ve been to several final round interviews with insurance and banking companies looking to hire in the corp fin, ALM, and FP&A only to be turned-down. Primarily, cited that I didn’t have any technical skills so currently I’m taking a certificate program in SQL databases administered by Oracle.
Anyone one else in this situation? I’ve thought about quitting the whole financial sector in general, and go into home defense and government contracting since that’s what’s mostly around the DC Metropoltian area and perhaps going that route with corp fin and “drink the koolaid” there so-to-speak. Thanks. Hate comments are welcome (because I alraedy got my flame suit on )
Well, corporate finance and drinking the kool-aid puts you in a nice house, with a nice car, with a nice comfortable retirement and 40 hours most weeks. Hate on it all you want, its a path better, IMO, than 99.9% of American jobs. Sure, Itera and Bro will crush your annual comp, but I’ll be brutally honest, your not on that path anyway. Nor was I. You can pull your hair out chasing this dream of being a BSD, or you can accept a middle path where you can be the big fish, dominate and make a name for yourself. I’d be an average schmuck at best on Wall Street, but I’ve found solid success thus far on Main Street. At the end of the day, keep your head up. Things will get better. There are plenty of investment focused jobs in the corporate world that are 100x more attainable than research at a BB firm. Its your choice to make of course.
Thanks for your comment buddy. I couldn’t sworn the first reply was going to be someone being a stickler off of WSO talking about the big game being a BSD haha.
Yeah I hear ya man & I agree with you. Honestly my mom and pops are this area so I’m somewhat limited to my traveling as well because they’re getting older and I value their time more than a paycheck and long hours. I’m actually currently interviewing (fingers crossed) with a major IT defense company right now trying to fill one of their FP&A corp fin opportunies so I’m hoping for the best. Came out of a smaller insurance company interview yesterday feeling a bit shaky because they were really keen on trying to find someone that had experience with annuity products.
Overall I feel like my biggest downfall is not diversifying myself enough in school (ironic isn’t it?) because all my skillset is primarily focused in financial valuations and modeling. Sure I know how to push a few buttons on a bloomberg terminal and a few hot key macro’s on an excel table to get someone’s attention. But I never got the SQL, VBA, and Matlab exposure that’s some heavily desired in the industry. I kind of feel like I’m at a point where employers are saying this…
“oh great, nice you got a lot of good fundamentals…yeah, I like that you’re a CFA level 2 candidate, that’s nice. Ohhh…you don’t really know how to write a query in SQL? How about analyzing data in Matlab? No? Oh…we don’t really use R statistic though in this company that much, although I think we may in the future…”
So that’s kind of where I’m at right now. Moved back in with my parents, going back to school to work on my SQL database certification. Do you guys have any other IT certifications that you have found useful that I might as well work on while I’m dong this one right now? Thanks for your comments!
A bit of a tangent here, but this is how I feel about it:
I’m honestly not sure working on Wall Street is better than having an above average job, working 40-50 hours a week and making six figures to support a nice family. You can’t really compare the two, those are totally different ways to go through life. And that’s coming from someone who made it on Wall Street.
That said, most people if you ask them will say they want more money than they have, but few are really willing to do what it takes to get there. The sacrifices are far worse than what most people expect going in. I put in 70-100 hour weeks for almost 9 years straight. For me that was worth it because it’s what I wanted to do. Most people don’t and couldn’t hack it to begin with. Nothing wrong with that, there are lots of ways to skin a cat. I know I would never be happy with a “regular” life, but I don’t hate on it.
After some amount that is a lot lower than you think, more is not necessarily better. I know quite a few hedge fund guys who have made eight figures in the game. With a few notable exceptions, if you lined them up with 100 random dudes off main street, you wouldn’t ever guess who the hedge fund manager is. Most of them dress very normally, drive relatively normalish cars (nice benz or a Range Rover but not crazy) and live in homes that cost a few million dollars but not excessive mansions, etc. Most of them have pretty normal wives and normalish families, at least from the outside that I’ve been able to see.
My point is, generally what’s in front of you is better than you think it is, so just do your best and find work that you enjoy. To get into the realm of the “prestige money” jobs, you generally need something special. That something may not be positive. Lots of people are here because they have personality defects. The best people I have ever met work in this business but so are the worst, and the worst out number the best at least 10:1 in my experience.
So honestly, looking dispassionately at a random group of people with a financial background, I’m long corp fin and short Wall Street, broadly speaking.
yeah, not to put myself (or anyone else down) but I don’t have that “talent” or “spark” to make it to the big game. I know that for a fact - I, too have friends whom have made it big in research in BB and they love it. It is about how you want to go about life in the end.
For me, I’m fairly certain staying in corp fin, PF&A, M&A is kind of my gig, or at least I think that’s what God intended for me to do (there’s a good number of signs that have recently diverted me away from the other areas that I am convinced on it!)
Thanks for the helpful comments, I’m fairly certain the market will get better. Pretty much taking a good “break” right now from the work life I guess, even though I’m still actively searching but have recently changed my direction of search into another field as described above. Perhaps the competition in this segment of the market won’t be a fierce, even though I feel the comp might take a back-seat to the “high-prestige” lifestyles out there. But I’m contempt, I have a great family, great health, I play basketball almost everyday and drive an evolution 8…so I guess things could be worse
contrary to speculation on what I’m apprently going to say… I’m totally for people realizing they’re trying to break into a super competitive area of finance which comes with a lot of sacrifice, and choosing instead to taking a step back and doing something like back office, or some corporate 9-5 job. in fact, most peope end up doing this anyway, because there not enough slots for front office roles. You can still make a nice steady ~100-200k salary annually over time in backoffice, and that’s nothing to shame at. why do you guys think I push plumbing as a good choice so much?
the only thing is that if you passion truly is “investment research and portfolio management” as you said yourself, and had dreams of being a “BSD”, then yea you may find it somewhat disappointing to not get there.
^ Both Itera and Bro make great points above. I’ll just throw it out there that corporations have investments too. I manage investments everyday, sometimes with portfolio sizes that would make some on the Street jealous. There is more than one way to skin a cat. You like research? Get into corporate development. Investments/funding? Corporate treasury. Sales? Investor relations. These are not million dollar positions (though I’m sure many F500 Treasurers and CFOs probably hit that level). But the competition is way less intense. You’ll get into a spot eventually. Then work hard, be the best at your role and you’ll find opportunity coming to you.
Keep your head up. A lot of people on this forum have been in similar situations.
I advise you to balance your career search with personal development (non-career related). Join a kickball league or take up a new hobby that surrounds you with other people. People who are social tend to have opportunities presented to them.
VWJETTY, was the program near Philly? Also, what you need to do is sit down for a few days and think really hard and decide A) what you’d like to do, B) what you’re equipped to do, and based on that C) what specific part of the industry you will be targeting. Then focus all of your energies on getting there. Waffling around and taking one role or another simply based on immediate availability is only going to keep landing you back in similar circumstances.
Too many people say things to me like, “well, I’d like to work in finance.” or “I’ve always liked PM” without further consideration or conviction.
Thanks for the helpful inputs guys, they are all really helpful!
Black Swan -
Yes, I’ve actually reformatted my resume to be targetting something in the mid-office because while it won’t get me in the nitty-gritty of front-office work, I would still get that satisfaction that I’m still working in a finance position and not just a button or paper pusher somewhere out back.
Another aspect of it is the hours. I know I am capable of working super long hours and be in stressful situations but I’m not sure if I can handle that after 3,4,5 years down the road. That’s why roles like corp FP&A, risk management, and mayba M&A makes more sense because while it can be stressful, it’s more do-able on a longer-term basis.
And finally, compensation. I fully understand these roles probably start super low (even in the DC metro area) but I’m living at home, have no debt, no car payment (because i’m a car builder/tuner), and no obligations (single) so it takes off some of the burden. Honestly, I was making more in my final years at Best Buy than I was working in Operations at a BB bank =/
Honestly, mid-office can be a good position but you have to work hard to position yourself and get to the really good mid office jobs. My last position was mid-office and it wound up being a lot of awesome high level strategy and macro-econ discussions that I miss now that everything is issuer level at my current shop.
yeah that’s true. i’ve noticed that even some mid-office jobs have cash-reconcilation and journal-entry type stuff. Been there done that. Even automated a lot of via excel macro’s and while I don’t mind starting from a mid-office level role with it, I’m definitely ready to move past that phase and do something interesting but I’m optimistic that I’ll find something in this job market. It looks like to me like home defense has some pretty good corp fin opportunities that delve into some of the nicer topics so that’s really where I hope to be heading so fingers crossed!
My only comment is that 40-50 hr/week jobs that pay 100k or 200k aren’t really that feasible anymore (and perhaps looked far more common than they were even when there were more of them). The fear this day is that you’re either a hedge fund manager, raking in 250k+ bonus every year, or you’re a Wal*Mart greeter being told how you shouldn’t hope for a $1.50/hr raise, because then your family won’t be elible for medicaid and food stamps anymore.
They’re still some jobs in the middle, but they’re drying up like a puddle in Death Valley on a warm summer’s day. A nice tech-oriented job or being an MD are probably the safest bets, or possibly a plumber. But some of those decisions have to be made as early as college or your mid twenties.
If you’re on the corporate track, then it makes a lot of sense to stay there and make the most of it while you can, unless you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else other than stressing out over a managed portfolio and the zillion factors that you can’t control and which you might have overlooked.
It’s fine to be ambitious, but just don’t burn any bridges if you decide to take your chances on BSD-ness.
^ I can assure you there are probably 100x more corporate finance jobs in the $100-200k range than BSDs on Wall Street. Yes, the middle opportunities are drying up, but there are tens of thousands of firms in America that need corporate finance.
I agree with the general sentiment of what bchad is saying. Although being an MD is far from a safe bet. People are flocking into undergrad med programs now that won’t be fully paid doctors for another 10 years. At which point they’ll be on the tail end of the baby boomer demographic and healthcare reform for about 10 years before demand falls just as supply of md’s is surging.
Yeah, I agree, but MDs are somewhat lucky in that they can control supply and tend to have some control over the cost of their services as indicated by the cost of healthcare in the US vs. elsewhere.
I’ve remained in Finance/Investments throughout the downturn/contraction, and have rationalized my decision by convincing myself that the glory days will return. I can’t imagine the serial tech entrepreneur being a feasible career path forever. If the risk free rate ever gets back to the 5-10% level, I can’t imagine people will be throwing money at early stage, no revenue growth companies the way they are now. At least thats what I tell myself.