Investment Banking opportunities without a degree - but ACA/CFA

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Truuuuu
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Hi all,

Could anybody provide any insight into the likelihood of breaking into industries such as investment banking/ Private equity / Hedge funding?

I am currently 18 and opted to Persue the ACA as a school leaver in audit. I have intentions of moving into Deal Advisory/ M&A - hopefully whilst still completing my ACA as part of my apprenticeship. Upon completing my ACA I intend to attempt to complete the CFA, CAIA and potentially the CIPM.

Ultimately, I would like to work for either an investment bank or hedge fund.

Do I even stand a chance at breaking into any of these industries with the path I have chosen? I am aware that some universities will allow mature students to complete Masters with no undergraduate degree but ample experience and demonstration of strong knowledge.

Do either of these seem reasonable routes into the industries mentioned above?

Any input is appreciated - Thankyou.
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anonuser99
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Pre-face: I'm no expert but I worked in hedge fund of funds for a bit, so I've met a few hedgies and have seen teamsheets for many funds in and around Europe. I'm no expert in IB but I'd like to think I know a bit about getting into FO finance in the UK.

Getting into IB or a HF without a degree is practically impossible. I've heard of a few HFs putting heavy emphasis on ACAs, but I don't 100% know if that negates the need for a degree. The reason for this is understandable. HFs and IBs need clients and they need their clients to pay them a lot of money. The clients need to be encouraged that paying that money is worth it. One way to signal this is to have a team of seemingly smart (read: "well-educated") people.

So is masters an option? Potentially. To get into IB (most HFs aren't gonna hire you from UG or even PG degrees), you're going to need a masters in finance from at least a semi-target. The targets/semis for MFins are different to undergrad targets/semis. I don't know if these institutions let those without a bachelor's apply. That's some research you'll have to do yourself.

Investment banking + HFs fyi (depending on the type of HF you mean, but I'm gonna assume you mean equity long/short) are two very different jobs, for very different people. You're young ofc so I don't blame you for not necessarily having decided but you should gradually ramp up your knowledge and figure out why you're really after these roles 😉 and which suits you best.

Just realised you also mentioned PE. Same thing as I've said above applies. Basically mimics HFs. No one really gets PE out of UG (people do, but it's relatively rare).
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Truuuuu
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Firstly, Thankyou for your input. I have looked into masters programmes and see many respected uni’s accept professional qualifications and experience as equivalent to a bachelor’s, which may prove useful.

What are peoples thoughts on holding just a masters opposed to having the bachelors aswell? Is a masters with an ACA and possibly a CFA ample for investment banks?

Ultimately I hope to work for a respected fund, but understand IB experience is almost a must with no exception.

Thankyou again.
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anonuser99
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(Original post by Truuuuu)
Firstly, Thankyou for your input. I have looked into masters programmes and see many respected uni’s accept professional qualifications and experience as equivalent to a bachelor’s, which may prove useful.

What are peoples thoughts on holding just a masters opposed to having the bachelors aswell? Is a masters with an ACA and possibly a CFA ample for investment banks?

Ultimately I hope to work for a respected fund, but understand IB experience is almost a must with no exception.

Thankyou again.
"Respected" is very different to target. There are like 5ish target MFins (Oxbridge, LSE, ICL, LBS). Targets at undergrad like Warwick or even UCL are considered semi targets at MFin level and do not have good placement into investment banking.

I've never seen anyone with just a masters so I can't comment.
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Truuuuu
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Apologies - should have worded that as target/semi target. I have looked into the following universities and their courses look really good. How do these stack up in respect of investment banking placement for Msc/MFin

Nottingham
Warwick
Durham
Manchester
Leeds

Could anyone provide insight into whether it’s still possible to move into IB from these universities or should I only be looking at the 5 previously mentioned? I really don’t know how I could finance the £40k tuition with living in london!
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anonuser99
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(Original post by Truuuuu)
Apologies - should have worded that as target/semi target. I have looked into the following universities and their courses look really good. How do these stack up in respect of investment banking placement for Msc/MFin

Nottingham
Warwick
Durham
Manchester
Leeds

Could anyone provide insight into whether it’s still possible to move into IB from these universities or should I only be looking at the 5 previously mentioned? I really don’t know how I could finance the £40k tuition with living in london!
Out of these the only one I've had a gander at is Warwick MFin. By gander I mean I went on linkedin -> went to WBS's page -> alumni -> filtered for "investment banking" for those who studied finance, over 2018 to 2021 -> looked at results. This isn't a perfect method as it just tells me who's graduated from WBS with a finance degree in the past 3 years and currently has "Investment Banking" in their title. People can leave IB in <3 years and not all the results exactly match the filter I put on. So it's pretty hard to tell but from what I could see, placement into IB was okay but not stellar. Around 15 people in the past few years have made it in. Hardly any of these were BBs or EBs but that may not bother you. Not sure how big the total class is but I reckon maybe 100 each year?

Warwick is definitely top of that list, expect the rest to be potentially significantly worse. Feel free to copy what I did for the other universities. I had a quick gander at manchester with the same criteria and 2 people popped up.

So is it possible? Yup. Not sure how no Bachelor's will be received. I'd recommend reaching out to someone in early recruitment HR at various investment banks and asking if you can.
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Truuuuu
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Hi,

Thankyou for that, that seems like a somewhat reliable strategy and at a minimum provides some insight into IB numbers from relevant Uni’s. In honesty I’m swaying towards Nottingham/Durham as the Msc Finance and Investment course sounds really good.

Am I right in saying that ultimately, if I put the work in, and I’m the right candidate- the uni I attend shouldn’t make masses of difference in the end?

Lastly, are there any target universities in places like Dubai? I would love to attend university abroad if possible, and Dubai would be a focus for me in regards to international studies.
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LiamEl
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Regarding the CFA, I believe in an undergraduate degree or 4000 hours work experience is a prerequisite before being able to even undertake level 1.

I'm currently enrolled to take my first exam in July and will hopefully will complete the program - however, the content that is covered within the program is more relevant for people who wish to enter AM/analyst positions. Although I'm sure it'll still be positivly viewed, it seems that taking the CFA with the primary goal to enter either IB/HF is a waste of time. Unless you score a summer undergraduate program with them or a PhD student, I would say it's near impossible to enter the industry without 5+ years work experience. However the CFA is usefull in finding those inital 5+ years work experience (if that makes sense aha).
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Truuuuu
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Hi,

Again, Thankyou for your input. I will have held my current position for 4 years when I begin to consider the CFA so hopefully don’t see this being an issue.

In regards to the usefulness of the CFA in my instance, to my understanding the CFA is well respected in the Buyside such as Hedgefunding etc? Although not as respected within investment banking for example, paired with hopefully an MSc in finance and investment alongside an ACA. I would be hoping this would provide a strong indication of academics.

I understand this isn’t everything but should at least keep my ‘ would be ‘ CV in the pile opposed to being thrown out at the first instance, and actually have some eyes on it.

Does this sound roughly right?
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anonuser99
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(Original post by Truuuuu)
Hi,

Thankyou for that, that seems like a somewhat reliable strategy and at a minimum provides some insight into IB numbers from relevant Uni’s. In honesty I’m swaying towards Nottingham/Durham as the Msc Finance and Investment course sounds really good.

Am I right in saying that ultimately, if I put the work in, and I’m the right candidate- the uni I attend shouldn’t make masses of difference in the end?

Lastly, are there any target universities in places like Dubai? I would love to attend university abroad if possible, and Dubai would be a focus for me in regards to international studies.
Nope, not true at all re uni selection. Someone from idk London Met, can try as hard as they want and can be "the right candidate" as much as they want but they're probably not getting into IB. Gets a bit blurry when it comes to semi targets. It all makes a difference though. That's why there are categories (target, semi-target, non-target).

Not a clue about Dubai but there are plenty of target/semis in Europe e.g. HEC, Boccioni.
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anonuser99
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(Original post by LiamEl)
Regarding the CFA, I believe in an undergraduate degree or 4000 hours work experience is a prerequisite before being able to even undertake level 1.

I'm currently enrolled to take my first exam in July and will hopefully will complete the program - however, the content that is covered within the program is more relevant for people who wish to enter AM/analyst positions. Although I'm sure it'll still be positivly viewed, it seems that taking the CFA with the primary goal to enter either IB/HF is a waste of time. Unless you score a summer undergraduate program with them or a PhD student, I would say it's near impossible to enter the industry without 5+ years work experience. However the CFA is usefull in finding those inital 5+ years work experience (if that makes sense aha).
Correct. CFA is a waste of time for IB. Entering the HF industry with <5 years of experience is definitely possible. Most people start in HFs after only a couple years in IB or ER.

Whether or not a HF cares about the CFA is very management dependent. Many hedge funds don't care but many like it for marketing. It's cared about a lot more in AM.

(Fyi when I say hedge fund here, I'm referring to equity long/short funds although there are other types of hedge funds which probably won't care about CFA).
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Truuuuu
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Hi,

You seem to be well educated on this, so Thankyou for taking the time to reply. Are Nottingham or Durham even worth considering or would it be a waste of time?

I seem most keen on an MSc in finance and investment as the modules seem the most interesting from uni to uni.

Again, Thankyou for your responses so far
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LiamEl
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(Original post by anonuser99)
Correct. CFA is a waste of time for IB. Entering the HF industry with <5 years of experience is definitely possible. Most people start in HFs after only a couple years in IB or ER.

Whether or not a HF cares about the CFA is very management dependent. Many hedge funds don't care but many like it for marketing. It's cared about a lot more in AM.

(Fyi when I say hedge fund here, I'm referring to equity long/short funds although there are other types of hedge funds which probably won't care H
I agree, however there is often a misconception that by completing all three stages of the CFA program it could land you any job within the financial industry. It defininitley helps, but for HF/IB the impact is has on an application is almost neglibable; and the company would much prefer more a more experienced applicants.

I'm unsure regarding university choices outside of London. I've actually applied to Imperial/UCL for a masters programs and yet to hear back. University definitley provides you with better opportunities in terms of internships, networking... and obtaining a degree from Durham/Nottingham is definitley better than none at all. However, I think the material the CFA covers (especially in the later levels), are a lot more intresting/relevant topics so the choice is entirely yours.
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Truuuuu
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Okay - but I do stand a chance of breaking into the industry with a masters from either Warwick, Durham or Nottingham?

They are the likely universities I would choose from. With the exception of LSE as I would love to go there if I could find a reasonable way to finance it?

How do students afford to complete a masters at LSE? Tuition at 40k and then living costs for the year must be at least 2/3 that? Making the presumption of £60k, how do people afford that?
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Ram Ranch
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CFA is for investment management, which is not the same thing as IB.
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anonuser99
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(Original post by Truuuuu)
Okay - but I do stand a chance of breaking into the industry with a masters from either Warwick, Durham or Nottingham?

They are the likely universities I would choose from. With the exception of LSE as I would love to go there if I could find a reasonable way to finance it?

How do students afford to complete a masters at LSE? Tuition at 40k and then living costs for the year must be at least 2/3 that? Making the presumption of £60k, how do people afford that?
FYI unless you quote my message I can't tell you've replied to me. Yes you have a chance but it's pretty small (based on the figures I showed you earlier). Another option would be masters -> B4 corporate finance (much more attainable) -> couple years -> IB.

Living costs definitely are not £20k. Let's say rent is a max of 1k a month (pretty high). Food is £200/month (again pretty high). Transport 1k a year ish. That's about 14k. LSE masters is closer to £35k I think. Government student loan gives you like 12(?)k. Some people work, have money saved up, have rich parents or use external loan providers. Or a combination of course.
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Truuuuu
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Hi, Thankyou for your response and apologies for not ‘ Replying ‘ to your message before, I’m new to TSR.

With regards to Big 4/ CF experience, that’s what I would be hoping to attain before completing a Masters. I would be hoping to get a minimum of 2 years Deal Advisory/ M&A experience whilst completing the ACA. Then consider if I want to complete the CFA and gain a further 2 years of experience post qualification, then go to uni for a masters degree?

Sorry if that was exhaustive, I’m just trying to see how strong of a position I should be in, presuming all went to plan. One final thing, does international experience help? I know all big 4 providers are in Dubai - would 2 years of Deal Advisory with a big 4 in Dubai provide any strength to my applications??

Thankyou again
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Truuuuu
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(Original post by anonuser99)
FYI unless you quote my message I can't tell you've replied to me. Yes you have a chance but it's pretty small (based on the figures I showed you earlier). Another option would be masters -> B4 corporate finance (much more attainable) -> couple years -> IB.

Living costs definitely are not £20k. Let's say rent is a max of 1k a month (pretty high). Food is £200/month (again pretty high). Transport 1k a year ish. That's about 14k. LSE masters is closer to £35k I think. Government student loan gives you like 12(?)k. Some people work, have money saved up, have rich parents or use external loan providers. Or a combination of course.
Hi, Thankyou for your response and apologies for not ‘ Replying ‘ to your message before, I’m new to TSR.

With regards to Big 4/ CF experience, that’s what I would be hoping to attain before completing a Masters. I would be hoping to get a minimum of 2 years Deal Advisory/ M&A experience whilst completing the ACA. Then consider if I want to complete the CFA and gain a further 2 years of experience post qualification, then go to uni for a masters degree?

Sorry if that was exhaustive, I’m just trying to see how strong of a position I should be in, presuming all went to plan. One final thing, does international experience help? I know all big 4 providers are in Dubai - would 2 years of Deal Advisory with a big 4 in Dubai provide any strength to my applications??

Thankyou again
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anonuser99
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(Original post by Truuuuu)
Hi, Thankyou for your response and apologies for not ‘ Replying ‘ to your message before, I’m new to TSR.

With regards to Big 4/ CF experience, that’s what I would be hoping to attain before completing a Masters. I would be hoping to get a minimum of 2 years Deal Advisory/ M&A experience whilst completing the ACA. Then consider if I want to complete the CFA and gain a further 2 years of experience post qualification, then go to uni for a masters degree?

Sorry if that was exhaustive, I’m just trying to see how strong of a position I should be in, presuming all went to plan. One final thing, does international experience help? I know all big 4 providers are in Dubai - would 2 years of Deal Advisory with a big 4 in Dubai provide any strength to my applications??

Thankyou again
Oops, forgot you'd said that in your original post.

As I and other have said, CFA is probably not worth it when targeting IB.

Nah an experience being international vs being local doesn't matter. All that matters is what firm it was at and what you did.

My biggest concern would be the lack of a bachelor's (ik that sounds stupid if you have a masters but it may actually be a problem).

Here's my advice for your next steps: contact someone from either Arkesden Partners or Dartmouth Partners. These are recruitment agencies for high finance. Find a recruiting associate who works for their Investment Banking recruitment. You can find a list of their employees on LinkedIn. Connect with them and add a polite note asking for 5 minutes of their time to ask a question about the recruitment in the industry. If they accept, offer to call them and very succinctly and politely explain your plans and ask them about the feasibility.

Alternatively, I'd go on Wall Street Oasis or Reddit r/financialcareers and ask the same question. Make sure to highlight that you are in the UK as these forums are mostly Americans whose advice may not be applicable.
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(Original post by Truuuuu)
Hi, Thankyou for your response and apologies for not ‘ Replying ‘ to your message before, I’m new to TSR.

With regards to Big 4/ CF experience, that’s what I would be hoping to attain before completing a Masters. I would be hoping to get a minimum of 2 years Deal Advisory/ M&A experience whilst completing the ACA. Then consider if I want to complete the CFA and gain a further 2 years of experience post qualification, then go to uni for a masters degree?

Sorry if that was exhaustive, I’m just trying to see how strong of a position I should be in, presuming all went to plan. One final thing, does international experience help? I know all big 4 providers are in Dubai - would 2 years of Deal Advisory with a big 4 in Dubai provide any strength to my applications??

Thankyou again
A couple notes:

1. Is your ACA programme in Big 4 or is it in a mid-tier/challenger? If it is the latter, don't assume a direct switch to Big 4 CF will be instant. You may have to lateral to Big 4 Audit then to Big 4 CF/TS.

2. At that point in your career, it would make sense to consider a post-experience masters only (I.e. LBS MFin or MBA). These degrees are slightly more specialist and will have exclusive on-campus/portal recruiting schemes.

3. Solely masters may be a problem for some firms but some MM - LMM firms (i.e. boutiques, not EBs) will definitely consider you, especially as you have the ACA.

4. I agree with the advice above, contact a recruiter to ask for more info. I honestly feel that more people should contact recruiters prior to making university applications to discuss career options. Will help clarify any myths and will allow you to best position yourself for your chosen industry as you begin university.

5. Also do a job search using various search aggregations I.e. Google jobs search, indeed. See if you can find 1 or 2 jobs not requiring a bachelors/accepting a masters in <30 - 1 min, to get a sense of difficulty. If a 5/10 minute search yields nothing, then you may forsee a potential issue.
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