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If you’ve been raised as the progeny of Western Civilization, then you’re probably aware of the Seven Deadly Sins. If you went to Catholic school, then you can rattle them right off:

  1. Lust
  2. Gluttony
  3. Greed
  4. Sloth
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Pride

Even if you’re not from around here, you still are very likely to have a similar litany of prohibitions. If you’re Hindu, for example, you are possibly proscribed from the Arishadvargas, the six negative passions, which map almost one-to-one with the list established by Pope Gregory I and later popularized by the poet Dante Alghieri. (Good news, Hindus, you’re allowed sloth.)  So what does this have to do with pursuing your investment banking career?

At this point, you might be saying, “Sure, but if it wasn’t for greed, nobody would be going into investment banking in the first place.” Fair point. Fortunately, the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald suggests a new list of seven sins for the career-minded professional, and greed didn’t make the cut.

According to columnist Sylvia Pennington, the following bad behaviors are to be avoided at all cost:

  1. Arrogance: Maybe you really do know it all — that merely primes you to “remain the smartest person who never got promoted.”
  2. Spinelessness: The best leaders understand they themselves don’t have all the answers. That’s why one of them hired you. Don’t display the boss’s ignorance in front of clients or your firm’s upper echelon, but below decks you owe him or her the courage of your convictions.
  3. Selfishness: There might be no I in “team,” but GS, JPMC, AIG, HSBC, VTB and BMO all get along perfectly well without “U”. You want to get noticed? Get noticed for being a team player.
  4. Ruthlessness: Quality of life isn’t just about acquiring things. It’s about acquiring friends. If you’ve even gotten in the door of an investment banking firm, then you’re already associating with the kind of people you’ve selected to spend your life with. Some of them might be your competitors in the deal you’re working on today, but any and all of them can be lifelong friends. If they like you. If they trust you.
  5. Incompetence: If you wanted to never have to learn anything new, you should’ve majored in history. Banking is always changing. Stay informed. Stay current. Stay sharp.  
  6. Laggardness: Don’t just expect change, embrace it. Enjoy it. Advocate for it. Be that individual who suggests process improvements. Remember, the person who raises their hand is usually the one who gets assigned the task. Are you up for the challenge? 
  7. Drunkenness: The point of loosening up at work functions is to build camaraderie, not to get polluted on somebody else’s tab. Being a boorish sot can, and will, get you fired. “I was drunk, and you were buying the drinks” is not an excuse for bad behavior. If the boss can’t tolerate your actions at the risk of creating a precedent, drunk or sober, you will be escorted out.

Notice what cardinal investment banking sin is not on the list? “Don’t get caught.” It’ll go better for you if you just assume that, if you commit any one of the enumerated sins, you will. So don’t.

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QuantNet released its biennial review of North America’s top 25 graduate-level financial engineering programs and once again the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie-Mellon University takes valedictory honors. If you’re beyond brilliant, have masochistic tendencies, are willing to pay $77,100 in tuition and can spend two years in Pittsburgh, you too can earn CMU’s coveted Master of Science in Computational Finance degree. (There is a Wall Street satellite campus, consisting of two classrooms and a lounge.)

Number two on the list is shared by the Ivy League tag team of Princeton University and Columbia University; Columbia wins the intramural battle of New York-based programs. Of course, you could go to the tied for third place Baruch College of the City of New York University for less than half the price of the number two programs — and if you’re planning on marketing yourself as an empirical guru, you have to at least consider that. Baruch ties with University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, the best of the West.

Next on the list is Columbia again — its separate Mathematics of Finance program playing second fiddle to its traditional MFE course. No list in this field would be complete without the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management representing New England (Harvard and Yale didn’t even rank.)  The Top 10 are rounded out by a tie between Cornell University and Atlanta’s Georgia Institute of Technology, the first among financial engineering programs in the South.

Other notables lower on QuantNet’s list include two Rutgers University programs, another Baruch program (in contrast to Columbia, CUNY’s Mathematics of Finance outranks its MFE), and the sole Canadian entry, the University of Toronto.

The biggest surprise in this latest list, as compared to that of two years ago, is that tech-savvy Stanford University sank since the last ranking — from a sixth-place tie with rival Berkeley to falling off the list altogether. North Carolina State University and Ohio’s Kent State University also missed the cut, but they were on the bubble to start. This cleared the way for newcomers: The University of Washington, The University of Minnesota and Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University.

Still, there can only be one first-place winner, and CMU’s MSCF distinction is it. According to recent alumni, it’s unparalleled not just in its reputation, but in its ability to deliver the skills that buttress that reputation.  “The time I spent at CMU in Pittsburgh was definitely the most satisfying in my academic life,” says Sudhanshu Ladha, ’11. “The MSCF program is rigorous, practical and provides you with an extremely solid foundation for any job related to financial engineering, trading or quantitative analysis. … [It] also helped me get exactly the job that I was aiming for and I don’t think I could have been better prepared by any other course.”

As with anything, you’re not likely to get any more out of it than you put into it but, if you’re a quantitatively-inclined person looking to maximize your value while applying for investment banking jobs, it behooves you to check out the relative merits of MFE programs.

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Investment banking is a unique career. Even if you’re on the lowest rung of the ladder, you’re making what in any other field of endeavor would be considered a very nice living.  If you get laid off, you’re handed a severance package which proves that it pays better to be out of work on Wall Street than to have a job anywhere else.

If you even suspect you’re not worth the job, you’re done for. To land an investment banking job, you need to have more brass than a tuba factory.

Fortunately, experts have identified at least five steps to make the interviewer to show you the love you so obviously deserve.

  1. Sit up straight. An Ohio State University study suggests a link between good seated posture and believing that you’re qualified for the job. Findings published in the European Journal of Social Psychology showed that 71 students were much more confident in their capabilities as future professionals if they were reminded to sit up straight and stick their chests out while performing activities at computer terminals.
  2. Embrace the silence. According to Payscale.com contributor Jen Hubley Luckwaldt, don’t chatter nervously. You may feel like you’re filling an awkward silence, but your interviewer is more likely to just be pausing to sort out his or her thoughts before moving on to another topic.
  3. Don’t talk — converse. If you’re really confident, then you can roll with the moment. You don’t need to rehearse everything you’re going to say. Don’t put yourself in a position when you’re just letting the other person talk because it’s his or her turn. Be an active listener and responder. You shouldn’t be afraid of other perspectives, especially if they’re sanctioned by the corporate culture you’re looking to join.
  4. Care. There’s something to be said about being your authentic self – a person with honest emotions. That’s the one thing that there’s just no app for. Remember: You’re meeting with a hiring manager from the front office. Enthusiasm goes a long way, according to content marketing expert Sean Platt. “Be happy and excited, and allow the world to see it,” he says. “Your joy will be infectious, your confidence contagious.”
  5. Don’t be a name-dropper. This is a bit of a fine line, admittedly. After all, they’re going to ask for references so you’d better know somebody. Even so, you do need to back-pedal a little here. According to Grindstone.com contributor Lisa Marie Basile, a lot of it has to do with delivery. “Instead of saying, ‘I was totes bests with Sarah — your assistant director — in college,’ go for, ‘I had the pleasure of knowing Sarah, your assistant director, during college. I’ve learned a lot from her.'”

Both Platt’s and Basile’s articles provide even more sage advice about displaying confidence, whether you feel it or not. Follow their advice and likely you’ll feel even more confidence heading home from the interview than you did heading there in the first place.

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Job Options in Equity Options

December 2, 2013

Every year, somewhere between $35 billion and $50 billion in capital is raised via initial public offering of company stock in the United States. According to Renaissance Capital, that accounts for around one hundred and two hundred new ticker symbols a year — not exactly standing still, but not exactly a torrid pace. It is, however, […]

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Investment Banks Shift Focus to Soft Skills

June 24, 2013

Following the financial crisis in 2008, financial institutions began to take a long look at their corporate cultures and in particular the elements that led to excessive risk taking. What many firms found is their hiring practices focused on technically competent people, generally with above average risk tolerance and a certain competitive edge. While this […]

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Investment Banks Seek Associate Level Professionals

June 10, 2013

After what seems like several years of lackluster hiring in the investment banking industry, leading head hunters, particularly in London, are starting to see some positive trends develop in the hiring intentions for more junior positions. According to the Wall Street Journal, several leading investment banks are desperately seeking additional employees at the associate level, […]

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Investment Banking Employment Trends – First Half 2012

October 8, 2012

The recession was tough on a number of professions, and the investment banking industry was no different, seeing a year over year employment growth rate trough of over 7 percent in the summer of 2009.  But, how has the recovery treated investment banking professionals?  In short, not so well. The industry did see some growth […]

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