The Bulge Bracket Rush: Banks Seeking Earlier Access To Biz Undergrads

AVOIDING THE MORE TYPICAL STUDENT PANIC

The school is attempting to address these issues through the creation of its new 10-week Career Workshop Series, aimed at helping sophomores prepare for recruiting before the banks arrive on campus in March for information sessions. The series includes a week during which students get a rehearsal of sorts on technical questions they might be asked during a banking interview, a session that helps prepare them for the large information session and networking opportunities that the banks hold on campus.

The prep work includes meetings with a group of seniors who have recently been through the recruiting process and can share their insights with students on how to prepare for sessions with recruiters.  By the time students complete the workshop, they’ll have polished off their resumes, cover letters, personal pitches and mock interviews, putting them in a strong position to meet and impress recruiters during information sessions, Cassidy says.

“My belief and hope is that by guiding students through the preparation process in a classroom setting, we will avoid the student panic that we, as career advisors, usually see when students wait until the last minute to prepare for information sessions, applications and interviews,” she adds.

‘EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE FIRST IN LINE’

In addition to this, the school is working to expand banking jobs for students to include opportunities in Los Angeles. This spring, McDonough will be taking 16 sophomores to different banks in the L.A. area, and the firms have expressed interest in only speaking to sophomores, as they’ve already completed junior recruiting for summer of 2017, she says.

The bulge bracket firms’ laser focus on sophomore talent has presented some interesting challenges for business schools with two-year programs like the University of Virginia’s McIntire School, which accepts students into the school their junior year. The banks’ early fall recruiting schedule for juniors has meant that the school’s career services office has recently had to conduct intensive virtual summer career programing for incoming McIntire students to prepare them to hit the ground running when they arrive at school in the fall.

But with interest growing in sophomores who aren’t even officially McIntire students yet, the McIntire School has had to employ new tactics to prepare second-year students for information sessions and potential off-campus recruiting. A number of the Wall Street banks have requested to be present on campus this spring for information sessions geared towards sophomores, confirms Tom Fitch, McIntire’s associate dean of career services and employer relations.  “They’re coming in the hopes of building their brand and highlighting and identifying the top candidates for early fall recruiting,” Fitch says. “Everyone wants to be first in line.”

‘THIS IS NEW TERRITORY. WE KIND OF LAUGH ABOUT IT BUT IT IS THE REALITY’

Fitch decided this year to move the school’s Career in Finance Conference, which usually takes place in the fall for McIntire students who are juniors, to this spring. Some of the banks are co-sponsoring the conference, and all of the university’s second-year students will be invited to come to the conference and hear from bank executives about different finance career paths and how to be competitive in the interview process for internships.

One tactic that banks are using to find talent is deploying recent hires to help them identify promising sophomores, Fitch says. For example, they may ask a newly hired analyst to reach out directly to peers within student clubs. Fitch says he is trying to encourage banks to be sensitive to the level of understanding of second-year students versus third-year students.

“This is new territory. We kind of laugh about it, but it is the reality and we’re shifting accordingly. I think at some point it’s a responsibility that we all really have to revisit this,” Fitch says. “It will be helpful for us in career services to get a better understanding of the success this is creating within the banks. Are the students good hires, are they adding values, are there any regrets on those hires and what are the retention rates?”

IN SEARCH OF THE BETTER, FASTER & STRONGER CANDIDATES

Yet another way schools are trying to prepare students is by hiring outside vendors to help second-year students get exposed to basic finance concepts like valuation or excel modeling. For example, the University of Virginia is planning to bring financial training firm Training the Street to campus this spring to work with second-year students for the first time, whereas in the past these types of boot camp programs were only done for third-year McIntire students, Fitch says.

Scott Rostan, the founder and CEO of Training the Street, said he’s been at many universities recently that are looking to prepare their sophomores to be more competitive when on-campus recruiting officially starts the fall of their junior year. In addition, banks are using his firm to give sophomores who participate in the bank’s diversity leadership programs professional development and interview training on-site at the bank’s offices.

“They’re trying to interview them 15 months early,” Rostan says. “Banks are trying to get their hands on the perceived talent fast. The sooner and quicker they can do that, they believe they’ll get the better, faster and stronger candidates.”

‘WE WERE DOING NONE OF THAT FIRST-TOUCH TRAINING A FEW YEARS AGO’

Matan Feldman, the founder and CEO of Wall Street Prep, also says he’s starting to hear more about banks interviewing sophomores for post-junior year internships, though it’s still just a “trickle” at this point.

Wall Street Prep offers about 30% to 40% of its training programs to universities in the spring, and about 10% of that is schools bringing them in to do what Feldman calls “first-touch” training with sophomores who have limited exposure to financial training. “We were probably doing none of that first-touch training a few years ago, so that is starting to increase,” he says. “It’s just the next phase of this trend that we’ve been seeing for years now.”

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