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What Bank Of America Seeks In MBA Hires

BOA's 2014 summer intern class volunteering at a New York City park

BOA’s 2014 summer intern class volunteering at a New York City park

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

That line from Charles Dickens could easily describe banking in recent years. To pessimists, belt tightening and slim margins are the new normal. “Caution” is the mantra amid the uncertainty. To optimists, the worst has already passed. Consumer confidence is growing, as investment and hiring inches up. As the economy roars back, the optimists believe banks and capital markets will be the driving force behind record growth.

These days, financials are struggling to keep pace with upended business models, intensified competition, and emerging technologies. But every generation faces the same challenges. Since its inception, Bank of America (BoA) has capitalized on adverse times and pioneered new services for clients. When an earthquake leveled San Francisco in 1906, BoA was among the first institutions to grant loans to shellshocked citizens. It was also the first bank to offer a credit card, which has since evolved into Visa. And it emerged from the 2008 economic collapse as a global juggernaut, with over $2 trillion in total assets and 230,000 employees in 40 countries.

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Founded by Italian immigrants at the turn-of-the-century, Bank of America was fueled by shrewd acquisitions and aggressive expansion, coupled with a deep commitment to personalized service and community involvement service. In fact, company employees donate over two million volunteer hours each year, which is supplemented by a $2 billion dollar pledge to charitable giving over ten years (The organization committed $254 million in 2013 alone).

Despite being a good corporate citizen with deep pockets, this isn’t BOA’s main draw for MBAs. BoA’s strategic advantage can be summed up in one word: Flexibility. That’s the key according to Sandra Buchanan Hurse, the firm’s head of talent acquisition and junior talent management for global banking and markets.

“We offer a very exciting career path for MBAs,” Buchanan Hurse asserts. “We offer a culture of teamwork and the opportunity to take on responsibility very early in your career. When you think about the types of clients that we service, it is a tremendous opportunity. And then if you decide you want to go into investment banking, be a commercial banker or a corporate banker or move into one of our support functions, you can do all of that under one roof. There is the opportunity here to have many different careers with Bank of America.”

Sandra Buchanan Hurse

Sandra Buchanan Hurse

In other words, MBAs have “options” and “mobility,” where they can change careers without ever leaving BoA says Buchanan Hurse. “You can explore a variety of jobs,” Buchanan Hurse adds, “and grow your career very quickly.”

Bank of America is also hiring. It boosted its 2014 analyst and associate class by 40% over the previous year. While Buchanan Hurse is cautious about sharing specific numbers, she is clear about which MBAs they hire. “The majority come from the internship pool.”

Buchanan Hurse herself is sold on Bank of America. A Ross graduate, she spent over 15 years in human resources and MBA recruiting at J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs before coming to BoA. “It was a great opportunity to join a very well-established, well-respected organization and a great place to continue to develop and grow my career.”

So what does BoA look for in potential hires? What should MBAs expect working there? And how can candidates make themselves more appealing? In a recent interview with Poets&Quants, Buchanan Hurse tackled these questions (and many more).