Why Are Banks Targeting B-School Students So Early?

Photo by Louis Blythe on Unsplash

Andrew Persuad considers himself one of the lucky ones. Thanks to his pre-existing attraction toward business, the accelerated recruiting trend that’s taking business schools by storm hasn’t impacted him to the degree that he knows it very well could have. For this, he is grateful.

When he entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016, he already knew that pursuing a career in business was how he’d spend his college years. “Business is in my roots,” he says, referring to his mother and father — immigrants from Guyana — who knew they wanted business careers when they arrived to the United States.

With his parents as role models — a mother who works in private equity and a father who works for Brooks Brothers corporate in New York City — it was Persuad’s upbringing that convinced him to know business was where he belonged. So when he got to Kenan-Flagler Business School the second semester of his sophomore year (Kenan-Flagler is a two-year program that permits students to apply after their first year at the university), he immediately began soul-searching to narrow his focus.

“My first year, I had no idea what investment banking was. I really couldn’t tell you what IB was or finance,” Persuad tells Poets&Quants. “That’s why I took my first year soul searching and joined the finance society. That was a great starting point. They put on different seminars for asset management, private wealth, investment banking, sales and trading, and more. I found myself going down a sales and trading path and I really did love it, but I wanted something more on the technical side of things and more of a client-facing role. That’s how I stumbled upon investment banking.”

‘IMAGINE HOW FAR BEHIND I WOULD BE IN THE ACCELERATED RECRUITING PROCESS’

Andrew Persuad is a rising junior at Kenan-Flagler Business School. When it comes to accelerated recruiting, his advice to other students is to identify career interests as early as possible. Courtesy photo.

“I had a leg up in that I just had to find what area of business I wanted to do,” says the rising junior who is currently spending his second summer with Bridge Global Capital Group, a small boutique investment bank in West Chester, New York. “If not, imagine how far behind I would be in the accelerated recruiting process.”

Accelerated recruiting — sometimes known as early pipelining or early identification — is the talk of the town among top business schools. On the institutional end, schools say students are being targeted and recruited younger and younger. Think rising sophomores as opposed to upper class juniors and seniors. On the employer end, this trend is most widely seen among financial services firms and banks. Investment banking, in particular. Caught in the middle are students who, oftentimes, are still figuring out what career path they want to pursue.

In many ways, it’s the making of the perfect storm. It’s no secret that, within many business schools, finance is usually the most popular major. Schools worry that students end up focusing too much on pay and what their peers are doing and not enough on their own career passions. Add this new trend of rapid recruiting in financial services — which sometimes involves students making decisions on internships and full-time offers a year or more in advance — and now schools are seeing even greater pressure put on an already-stressed population of students.

In Persuad’s case, he’s grateful for the current internship opportunity, but admits he’s concerned about not having one lined up for next summer. “I honestly wish I did have something cued up for summer ‘19. Across maybe six to eight firms, I’ve talked to close to 80 people; eight to ten people at each firm. That’s what I’ve been doing this summer and it’s a lot of work.

“To be honest with you, I missed the mark,” Persuad continues. Reflecting back on his own experience, he now feels he should’ve had his interests narrowed down even sooner during freshman year. “I should’ve known that I wanted to do a sophomore program,” he says. “Instead, I started my process fall of sophomore year so I was six months behind. But that fall semester doing the networking events and shaking hands was a good warm-up for when the real accelerated process for summer 2019 began.”

THE RACE TO THE TOP TALENT

The root cause of this accelerated recruiting trend that’s giving students like Persuad barely enough time to figure out their career interests is simple: companies want the best talent.

“In some cases, this is a bit of a shift within financial services and we tend to be a competitive industry,” says Courtney Storz, Director, who heads up Global Campus Recruiting and Program Management at Citi. “I think as you start to feel those timelines shifting, there’s that element of everyone jumping in the mix. We’re all obviously after the best talent and we have a dedicated focus on diversifying our workforce as well.”

On the diversification front, Storz adds, “All of the financial services firms are interested in diversity and hiring more balanced classes. The talent landscape for women and underrepresented minorities is particularly competitive.” 

Katie Jones, Director of Talent Acquisition at William Blair & Company, agrees that diversity is a factor. “In terms of candidates, I think there are targeted initiatives to recruit different backgrounds and a desire to get to those candidates earlier and earlier,” she says. “So, when one company changes their timelines, the rest of the industry tends to follow.”

Another reason for the trend could be students are being drawn to other fields such as tech. “Finance companies are no longer competing against just each other for talent,” Jones states. “There’s an appeal for consulting and tech companies that’s driving some of the acceleration.”

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