For aspiring bankers in MBA programs, the annual fall Wall Street trek is often the first step in the laborious process of landing a job at one of the prestigious bulge and bracket investment banks. Students fork up the cash for plane fare to New York, scramble to find housing and spend the next four to five days in a whirlwind of presentations, meetings and receptions with senior bankers and alums.
“It’s a lot like dating or fraternity rush,” said Tom Tait, a 2014 graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, who organized last year’s Wall Street Forum trip to New York. “Everyone gets in a circle, you have a conversation and try to make yourself look impressive.”
Wall Street has always had a magnetic pull for a certain group of MBA students who can’t imagine starting their post-MBA career elsewhere. But for others, the finance world, especially in New York, has lost some of its luster in recent years. Interest in the treks had diminished as students who might previously have considered banking as a career option turned their sights elsewhere after the financial meltdown of 2008. They shied away from an industry with a tarnished reputation, smaller bonuses and flat salaries, and instead turned their sights to careers in technology, consumer products and goods, or start-ups.
A NOW BULLISH WALL STREET IS DRAWING BACK MANY STUDENTS WHO HAD BEEN ON THE FENCE
The siren cry of a now bullish Wall Street is drawing back many students who were on the fence about a banking career. At a number of schools, a larger group of students are heading to New York City, and banks are responding by making a more concerted effort to attract top talent. The harbinger of the trend? Attendance at Wall Street treks this fall was up at many top twenty schools, with dozens of students signing up for the trips, eager to get their business cards in the hands of recruiters, alums and senior bankers.
“The lure of Wall Street has returned,” said Wallace (Wally) Hopp, the senior associate dean for faculty and research at the Ross School. ”It’s almost as though the collapse never happened.”
There were 35 students who went on the Ross School’s Wall Street Forum last year, a number that jumped to 50 students this fall, Tait said. At Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, 25 students attended the Wall Street trek, up from 20 in 2013. Back in 2010, only 17 Goizueta MBAs made the hike to New York, said Wendy Tsung, the school’s associate dean of MBA Career Services.
MEETING BANKERS FROM CITI, JP MORGAN, CREDIT SUISSE & BARCLAYS
The uptick is indicative of renewed interest from MBAs in Wall Street, Tsung said. At the same time, banks are making a more concerted effort to recruit students, encouraging more senior bankers to be hands-on while students are visiting New York.
“It seems like the trek is more and more important,” Tsung said. “There have been a lot of changes on Wall Street, with more clarity into compensation and everything else. That is helping to renew the interest.”
About 75 students this year attended the Wall Street Trek organized by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business this October, including Anuj Khatiwada, who worked in the education field for five years before heading to business school. He signed up for the trek because he knew he wanted to get a few years of experience in finance right out of school, an experience he believes will place him in a good position to land jobs in other sectors later in his career, he said. During his trip to New York in October, he met bankers from Citibank, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Barclays, among others.
‘I’M NOT THAT NERVOUS ABOUT ANOTHER DOWNTURN ON WALL STREET BECAUSE IT COULD HAPPEN IN ANY FIELD’
“For someone coming from a non-traditional background, it was the experience I needed to get the exposure to the banks and know it is a great industry to go into,” Khatiwada said. “I’m sure there is a little concern in the back of my mind about another downturn, but I’m not that nervous about it because it could happen in any field.”
That come-what-may attitude is becoming increasingly common on B-school campuses as more MBAs cozy up to the idea of a job on Wall Street.
For example, at Harvard Business School, about 33 percent of the class of 2014 went into financial services, up from 27 percent last year, according to the school’s latest career data. Across the country at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, 29 percent of the class of 2014 took a job in finance, creeping up from 26 percent last year. Meanwhile, only about 24 percent of the class headed to tech jobs, down from 32 percent in 2013, the most recent MBA career data showed.
SOME INVESTMENT BANKS ARE INCREASING THEIR BASE SALARY OFFERS THIS YEAR BY $25,000
And some schools are seeing more aggressive efforts by the investment banks to recruit MBAs. That is especially true at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. “For the first time since before the Great Recession, the investment banks are back on campus recruiting for second year students,” says Jonathan Masland, director of Tuck’s counseling and recruiting in career development. And they have also increased their base salary offers to $125,000 from $100,000. They used to promise MBA hires $25,000 after the first bonus in January. They are bringing it to the time of acceptance. The investment banks really want to attract these students and hire them.”