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FINS: MBAs and Wall Street Still in Love

By Julie Steinberg

M.B.A. students are still anxious to join the finance industry and more willing to consider jobs at boutique advisory firms and middle market investment banks, according to a new survey.

When asked what type of firm would be their top employment choice, 27% of students said large financial institutions, down from 34% last year, according to an M.B.A. hiring survey released yesterday by Training The Street, a Manhattan-based firm that prepares incoming Wall Street analysts and associates, the bottom two rungs on the Wall Street career ladder.

Nine percent of students said their top employment choice is a boutique advisory firm or middle market investment bank, up from 6% last year.

“Before, the bulge bracket was end-all, be-all. Now people are realizing you can have a very successful career in finance at a regional boutique,” said Chirag Saraiya, a Chicago-based instructor at Training The Street.

Compensation Changes

“Compensation changes are causing the change in perception,“ said Saraiya. “Boutique firms are still able to pay mostly cash, while regulatory changes and cost cuts are forcing large banks to pay in restricted stock that takes time to vest.”

“If you know you’re going to be at the bank for three to five years, and you have a three- or four-year vesting schedule, it makes sense for you to go to a boutique,” Saraiya said.

The survey polled 300 participants from the country’s top 25 M.B.A. programs according to a list compiled by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Wall Street is still hiring M.B.A.s. Nearly half of students said they had been approached by large global financial institutions, the same percentage as last year. Ninety-four percent of students said they had been invited for at least one interview at finance, consulting and private equity firms, among others, up from 91% in 2011.

More Offers

The survey said 78% of respondents had received at least one offer, up from 72% last year.

More M.B.A.s are being wooed by private wealth management operations. This year, 13% of students said private wealth management firms had reached out to them, up from 9% last year.

“In the media, careers in finance have taken a bit of a hit,” Saraiya said. “But we haven’t seen a dip from the schools or from a corporate standpoint. At certain firms, hiring is down, but not drastically down.”

The survey also found that nearly 20% of students received a job through a personal reference. “The days of signing up for an interview, having it and getting the job are over,” says Saraiya. Applicants must impress recruiters they’ve met at the firm’s information session, drinks reception and of course, during the interviews.

“Technical skills can be taught, but interpersonal skills are more innate,” Saraiya said. “You want to make sure that when your name comes up, five or six people have spoken with you and remember who you are.”