Don’t overlook smaller or “boutique” investment banks in your investment banking job search. Once the Davids in the world of Investment Banking Goliaths, boutique investment banks are now well positioned to pick up both talent and business from their once large competitors. Boutique firms such as Piper Jaffray, Cowen Group, Lazard, Evercore Partners, and Jefferies Group are in now in a good shape to further carve their niches and compete head to head with the larger players and play a much larger role in the changing financial market landscape.
In fact, several U.S. mergers and acquisitions boutique banks are doing extremely well. Evercore Partners has moved up to 7th on the list, up from 13th last year, while Lazard has moved to 9th place from 11th, according to businessweek.com Other smaller firms have broken into the top 20 list in mergers and acquisitions revenue, including Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin, Greenhill, Keefe Bruyette & Woods and Jefferies & Company.
The best way to land a job at a boutique is through personal networking, according to some insiders. Ask for informational interviews after you’ve carefully studied the firm’s track record and key players.
This networking phone call is one of the most valuable tools in your job search arsenal. You call person in a prospective firm and let them know you are seeking a job in investment banking, with a specific interest in their firm or area of specialization. Ideally, to get a warmer reception, you would hopefully be able to mention that a friend or a colleague of theirs suggested that you call. Ask whether you can take them out to breakfast or lunch to learn about their firm, the types of business challenges they are facing, and what advice they can give you for landing a job.
Granted, you’re going to get plenty of “sorry, but we’re not hiring,” or “this person is not available” responses to your calls. Some suggest leaving a very positive, well-rehearsed message introducing yourself and why you are calling on their voice mail. It pays to be persistent, to have a thick skin, and to understand that this is a numbers game. The more calls you make, the better your chances. You are not looking for them to hire you. You are looking for advice, insight into the job search process, and best, of all, referrals to other people who may be willing to meet with you. Their referrals will open doors.
Always follow up these meetings with prompt thank you notes. Enter the people into your contact management database and let them know how you’re doing over time.
Finally, in addition to boutiques, you might look at banks that are in the higher growth areas right now. These include firms that explore healthcare banking, restructuring, risk management and private wealth management. Asia and the Middle East is a hot spot right now, too.