Friday, June 29, 2012

Who's Heading into Finance, 2012?

Over 85 Consortium first-year MBAs this year indicated an interest in finance or financial services. That is within the range of what CFN has observed over the past four years--typically a range from 80-90, about a quarter of the total number of Consortium first-year MBA students in 2012.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis and amidst the occasional turbulence since then, many would swear the numbers of those expressing interest in finance would have declined over the years. MBA students, we are finding out, continue to have varying levels of interest in financial services. But most of them are less eager to rush to Wall Street to become associates in mergers & acquisitions at a big bank. The opportunities they dreamed of while applying are not always evident when recruiting season starts. And some, after they learn the process and procedures to secure Wall Street jobs, are reluctant to play the hard ball it sometimes takes to get there:  lotteries, informational interviews, technical interviews, and rounds and rounds of sweltering sessions with senior bankers. 

That's not to say Consortium MBAs aren't adequately represented on Wall Street. Year after year, many do find spots within the investment-banking corridors of Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Barclays, and JPMorgan. They thrive there, too.

Among the 85 or so, interests this year, as in recent years, vary from private equity to community banking, real estate (yes, even after that debacle in recent years), corporate banking, financial consulting, private banking, asset management and energy finance. MBA students in finance in 2012 know they must evaluate opportunities carefully and always make sure they have plenty of options. The recruiting game changes too often, too quickly and too vigorously. Not even the best, most experienced MBA students can become too confident or comfortable.

In this year's first-year class, it's no surprise that 14 from NYU-Stern will explore finance. But NYU is not the finance leader this year, as it tends to be among Consortium classes. At Cornell, 16 have expressed an interest in finance, eight at Rochester, and five each at Yale, Virginia, and Emory. (At least two from each of the 17 Consortium schools said they intended to study, explore or pursue finance.)

These numbers will likely change, just as students' interests and ambitions change. Opportunities in 2013 and how they present themselves this fall will either boost these numbers or cause them to dwindle. Seemingly remote factors as Europe in crisis and a presidential election, believe it or not, can have a direct impact on how many MBA associates banks, insurance companies and industrial companies will hire for the summer, 2013. How students survive finance, accounting and capital markets courses will have impact, too.  The 85 could blossom to 100 or dwindle to 60 by graduation, 2014.

The same numbers above often tend to be under-stated, as some students have many interests and may not yet be comfortable selecting one concentration before school starts.  These are the large numbers of MBA students interested, for example, in both finance and marketing, finance and economics, finance and corporate strategy, finance and international business.

Stay tuned, as students discover what they really want to be and do and as the finance industry evolves and rumbles along.

Tracy Williams

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