Many professionals with their eyes on an investment banking MBA career path know that a degree from an elite business school can help them achieve that goal. After all, the most prestigious firms–JP Morgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, etc.–recruit almost exclusively from top-ranked MBA programs.
Business schools such as Wharton, Harvard, and Stanford appreciate the strong work ethic associated with investment bankers and money managers. This trait usually translates into immediate readiness for the rigors of the MBA classroom.
Because the investment banking MBA career path is so popular, today we’d like to share a Q&A with SBC consultant Puja, whose professional trajectory followed a similar route.
Puja had a double major in undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, which included a B.S. in economics from Wharton. She was one of only eight undergraduates selected to enroll directly into the Wharton School, where she earned her MBA. Let’s dive in and find out how business school influenced Puja’s investment banking MBA career journey.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
I attended the Wharton School as an undergraduate because of my keen interest in financial markets and investing. As I considered my future career plans, I realized many of the successful business leaders I admired had an MBA degree.
In particular, I was excited to take graduate-level finance and management courses with an applied focus while at the same building a valuable network of cohorts. With this in mind, I applied and was accepted into Wharton’s “submatriculation” program as an undergraduate.
That allowed me to earn both my undergraduate and MBA degrees within five years. After graduating from Wharton, I joined UBS Investment Bank in their real estate group.
Why did you become an investment banker? What initially interested you about the field?
I began to work towards an investment banking career after earning my MBA from Wharton. The idea of working on large corporate deals was intellectually exciting to me. Plus, the prospect of applying my strong quantitative foundation, along with the ability to interface directly with clients, was extremely appealing.
What are some of the most rewarding aspects of working in investment banking? Some of the most challenging issues?
The most rewarding aspect of being an investment banker was becoming a subject matter expert on the real estate industry and the companies that comprised it, both at a financial and operational level. Additionally, as an industry specialist within a larger investment banking division, I enjoyed partnering with other groups in the firm such as M&A, restructuring, or capital markets to complete a deal successfully for the end client.
Investment banking can involve long hours and extensive travel, especially when trying to meet a deadline. However, I truly enjoyed my time as an investment banker. It allowed me to form strong, lasting bonds with my colleagues. Also, I enjoyed interfacing with clients directly at an early stage in my career.
Additionally, the extensive financial modeling skills required is a necessary down payment as it allows for a deeper insight into how a company operates. These skills were invaluable as I moved into the Private Equity industry at Warburg Pincus.
How did your MBA prepare you for your investment banking career?
My MBA prepared me for my investment banking career through both coursework and building my network. With respect to coursework, I chose to concentrate on finance, investment management, and statistics courses. This was extremely beneficial in preparing me for the extensive quantitative work that investment banking requires.
Also, it was incredibly helpful to learn from the experiences that my fellow students had in investment banking before coming to business school. The deep friendships that I gained with my fellow MBA students gave me an inside view into the investment banking industry—especially concerning the different cultures of various firms—which allowed me to target my career search process strategically.
What was the career path that led you to this position? What do you think helped you most on your journey to becoming an investment banker?
As an undergraduate and graduate student at Wharton, I had several internships, both domestically and internationally, across consulting, investment management, and investment banking. As I considered the range of my experiences, I found that investment banking best spoke to my skills and interests.
Earning my MBA was the critical element in my decision to become an investment banker. Learning about investment banking from classmates that had taken this path before business school gave me a sense of the career progression, as well as the challenges. The rigorous coursework gave me the confidence that I had the quantitative and qualitative foundation needed to succeed.
What advice would you give to students considering pursuing careers as investment bankers?
First, I would advise students considering an investment banking career to learn as much about the industry as possible. This includes networking with investment bankers across various functions and firms.
Prospective students should understand their own skill sets and interests. Investment banking requires both a robust quantitative foundation coupled with the ability to interact with clients.
Finally, an investment banking career is one of the best ways to start a career in finance. It gives you the necessary skills to pursue a career in related areas such as Private Equity or Venture Capital.
Since graduating from Wharton, Puja spent over 12 years in financial services. She began her career at UBS as a real estate investment banker. She then joined global private equity firm, Warburg Pincus. There, she helped raise over $44 billion for their private equity funds as a Director in the Fundraising and Investor Relations Group.
As a member of the recruiting team at Warburg Pincus, she helped to recruit students from elite business schools. Puja is also an active alumna and ambassador for the Wharton School and has served as an interviewer for the MBA program.
This professional spotlight on investment banking and SBC consultant Puja originally appeared on OnlineMBA.com.