Among Consortium students in finance, there is a glimmer of light at the far end of the tunnel. The news among a few has been promising, hopeful, and downright good. After a year of hopelessness and a dismal outlook for much of 2009, some banks and financial institutions have begun to extend what all MBA students covet this time of the year--"offers."
Consortium Finance Network school champions have begun to share bits of optimism and good news on their respective campuses. First-year students are gunning for summer internships at select banks, firms, funds, or companies. Second-year students, many of whom got caught in the maelstrom of the financial crisis, are eyeing a second chance to secure the prized role for which they went to business school--whether it's in banking, analysis, management, trading, sales, brokerage, research or investment management.
At NYU-Stern, classes resumed last week. Students interested in banking, nonetheless, have been around for weeks going through first and second rounds of interviews. Hiring firms have begun to extend offers.
Stern's Consortium students say interviews have been strenuous, rigorous and somewhat stressful, as advertised. But students were prepared for the challenges of the process, having rehearsed among themselves, with alumni or with contacts at banks looking out on their behalf. They've noticed how interviewers from the firms are not necessarily people they have seen, met, or networked with in informational sessions or corporate receptions--a heads-up for others who will embark on the process.
Consortium students also have the impression that boutique firms are emphasizing the technicals more, possibly in an effort to steal talent away from known firms. Big-name firms (Citi, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, et. al.) seem to be conducting more "situational" and "behavioral" interviews, possibly looking for strong team players, good fit, and suitable partners.
Sales and trading recruiting has been similar, although it's widely known that big banks tend to wage an ad-hoc process for spots on trading desks, filling specific openings where needed.
Some at Stern notice a greater number from under-represented groups (minorities and women) interested in trading this year. That could be due to improvements in capital markets and Stern's attraction to people with in-depth interests in trading.
At Indiana-Kelley, Consortium students also note an improved environment for first-year students, especially for firms that focus on middle-market clients. Second-year students still have a challenge, mostly because financial institutions have already finished almost all full-time, 2010, recruiting.
Students are seeing opportunities in investment banking and private wealth management and are finding research and trading "difficult to break into." At least one Consortium student will be at Goldman Sachs this summer.
One general, unscientific observation at Kelley: Candidates among under-represented groups appear to be flocking more toward corporate finance; fewer are focusing on or being lured to private banking.
That could be due to banks' history of not recruiting aggressively or consistently for private banking at top schools. Or it could be due to banks' not explaining or defining private-banking career paths sufficiently. Private banking also has the added pressure of requiring new recruits--at all levels--to bring in client business from day one. Yet that's one school's view. The scenario might be different elsewhere.
USC students in finance flew out to New York in December to reach out to financial institutions and catch up in the race to find lucrative posts for the summer and for full-time. The journey was worth it, because at least one Consortium student, if not others, will be at JPMorgan this summer.
At Dartmouth-Tuck, offers extended to first-year students are trickling in. Students have received internship opportunities in corporate finance from UBS, Barclays, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, thus far.
Consortium students in finance endured a "brutal week" of rounds of interviews, but they expected that and prepared for it, even if it meant studying for technical interviews over the holidays.
Some have observed that some banks appear to be trying especially hard to target women for corporate-finance slots--at least for summer internships. It's 2010, and women in associate positions continue to be under-represented at the bulge-bracket firms.
At Michigan-Ross, the pace, the anxiety, and the energy around recruiting match that at other top schools. Already in February, some have received Wall Street offers and have begun to plan for a challenging, rewarding summer in New York.
At all schools, second-year students are still scrambling, even in the improved markets. Some have landed that "dream job"--at least the job they coveted when they decided to attend b-school. Some have deferred to Plan B or have devised alternative plans; some have focused on different types of firms.
Others have decided to take similar finance positions at non-financial institutions or at regulators (Federal Reserve or U.S. Treasury) to gain invaluable experience that will allow them to see broader markets and a wider range of clients.
CFN will continue to gather updates, information on offers and general impressions of the recruiting season. For the benefit of Consortium students and alumni, it will share among CFN members lists of who will be where.