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MBA for PE?

Quick background on myself:

  • Business degree, Chartered Accountant, and CFA Charterholder
  • Worked as an accountant for a number of years, earning the Charter proved helpful in recently making the switch into (boutique) IB

Very satisfied with my new career presently, but my long term (multi-year) ambition is to get into private equity.

So to the original question, I’m thinking that at this stage of my (decade-long) career, I have a sufficient number of ‘letters’, and now it’s all about accruing good deal experience - which I am in my current role - and building my network.

However, interested to hear opinions/advice from those with PE experience - in terms of the strategic and operational side of the industry, how much value would an (E)MBA materially add to my future candidacy? Or, given the above, would I be seen as having sufficient skills and experience to be considered?

Thanks in advance for your insights.

how did you go from accounting to IB?

"You want a quote? Haven’t I written enough already???"

RIP

Four steps:

  1. Tailored my resume toward relevant transferable skills and experience
  2. Networked till I eventually ended up in front of the right person(s)
  3. Had taken an online modeling course. Helped with the case study portion of the interview
  4. Had done my homework - was able to convey genuine knowledge of and interest in this line of work

Crucially also, I was realistic about my options - accepted an offer from a small mid-market boutique. Happy as Larry though. Same work, more people-friendly culture.

I don’t think being a Charterholder was determinative in being granted an interview, but I guess it might have broken a tie if they were 50:50 about seeing me.

CFA doesn’t mean anything in the PE world, you can probably get into PE anyway from IB directly, but MBA from a top 10 school will definitely help you in the long-term given you think the cost-benefit is favorable in your individual case. 

IB to PE is the most common path unless you come from an operational role (though you’ll likely stay on the operational side).  Still IB to PE is not easy and it becomes increasingly more difficult as you get more senior.  As klaud’s said, CFA doesn’t really help much in PE.  Top-10 MBA is still the preferred path.  

I think if you do full time MBA, any school in top30 will give you a good shot at PE front office role.  Now, if you go to say USC which is #24, you might not end up at Google Capital or Blackstone but YOU will land a FO role in either real estate PE or venture fund PE that is lesser known.  After a few years there and some connections, who knows Blackstone may be in reach….

All I am saying you don’t have to go for Mount Everest straight out of the gate - you just need the right start, in which case top30 MBA will be suffice.  

Be yourself. The world worships the original.

Bad idea. If you want to go into private equity, you should definitely do it before business school. Most of the people that go to private equity after business school already had pre-MBA experience. And, going to a top business school actually isn’t helpful because despite getting a good pedigree, you’ll actually complete with *more* people that had pre-MBA experience in private equity.

I worked in private equity before business school and then transitioned to hedge funds. A lot of people at my school got private equity jobs but I can’t think of more than one, maybe two of them, that didn’t already have private equity experience beforehand.

I have several friends who got into PE with zero PE/IB experience post-MBA. It is doable if you know how to network. And they did not even go to M5 or M7.

Not saying you are gonna get mega PE offers, but smaller ones sub 5bn very doable imho. 

^ What are they doing at their respective PE firms? Are we talking specifically about investment professional roles, and if so, what are their day-to-day responsibilities?

I could be wrong, but not one person that I’m aware of from our class went into a transactional role in private equity that didn’t already have IB/PE background before business school, and pretty much all of them had private equity experience. I just don’t think they’d know what to do as a senior associate or VP at a bigger buyout fund if you didn’t have PE experience beforehand, even if it isn’t rocket science.

Maybe that varies at smaller funds - I’d say sub $1B; can’t think of anyone off the top of my head at $3B+ AUM shops that didn’t have pre-MBA PE experience but feel free to show me a bio of someone if you come across one, since I am curious if hiring practices have somehow changed more recently.

I guess it’s different in the US but they are working in Singapore and Asian countries, all transactional and operator roles. A little hard to imagine someone with pre-MBA IB experience not getting into any PE fund though, especially from a M5.

OK, thanks for clarifying. I could understand how hiring practices might differ a lot from one geography to another, and from clients I’ve worked with I’ve definitely seen what you’ve described as being more common in Asia than in the United States.

On the U.S. side of things, I think the biggest difference I see with people that move up in private equity versus the entry level roles is there’s much more of an emphasis on having a nose for value. It’s not just investment banking which is primarily process driven and oriented around getting the deal done; you have to think much more critically about the price you’re paying and the value you’re getting as you move up the private equity rung. To your point though, at the pre-MBA levels I’d say that private equity experience has more in common than not with what you’d be doing as an investment banking associate.

Thanks for the feedback so far guys. Appreciate the perspectives.

I have a couple of inter-related follow-on questions:

  1. In my position as a 1st year IB analyst in my early 30s, when would be considered the optimal time/level of experience to attempt a move into PE?
  2. If getting an MBA was seen as strongly advantageous/material to my prospects, would an EMBA ‘count’? I’d be somewhat reluctant to take significant time out of my career at this stage. Interested to know how they compare from a cost-benefit perspective

Thanks again for your input.

  1. Some people get recruiting calls in the first year very early, and move to PE around 2 year mark or earlier after getting their bonus
  2. EMBA is really for people who are already in their ideal line of work, if you want a career switch FT MBA is still the way to go. You don’t get the same level/access of career services with most EMBA programs.

I’m not in bulge bracket or part of any program, so not sure whether I’d get recruiter calls.

Regarding E/MBA, I was thinking the value of one would be to complete the circle for PE guys - adding ops and strategy credentials to my technical background and deal experience?

If it’s just about access to a career’s office…perhaps I’d be better off saving the time and expense, and try to network my way in like I did with IB?

You get plenty of calls at boutique, if it is relatively well-know. But yea if all you want is the prestige associated with the school go for the EMBA or a part-time one. Biggest value add for most FT MBA is the internship, career services, etc. 

Am not hung up about prestige for its sake. Only interested in what’s useful.

If MBA is mostly about the internship opportunities and career services, with no material academic boost to my existing credentials for PE application, then I’d have to consider the (opportunity) cost-benefit at this stage of effectively paying considerable sums for hiring access, versus simply persevering and trying to network myself in directly.

Turn the looking for job dial on in LinkedIn and you’ll hear from lots of recruiters 

rawraw wrote:

Turn the looking for job dial on in LinkedIn and you’ll hear from lots of recruiters 

Sounds horrific.

"It is a rational thesis that we are all within a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake." - G. K. Chesterton

WBH wrote:

Am not hung up about prestige for its sake. Only interested in what’s useful.

If MBA is mostly about the internship opportunities and career services, with no material academic boost to my existing credentials for PE application, then I’d have to consider the (opportunity) cost-benefit at this stage of effectively paying considerable sums for hiring access, versus simply persevering and trying to network myself in directly.

Yeah sounds like you don’t need it. It’s mostly a prestige and networking thing. If you are comfortable where you are and can get to PE without it why spend 2 years and 200k on a degree? The academics are not as useful as real work experience…

rawraw wrote:

Turn the looking for job dial on in LinkedIn and you’ll hear from lots of recruiters 

most recruiters - not HR at companies  - are comparable to Ford used car salesmen.  

Be yourself. The world worships the original.

I’ve gotten most of my jobs either through scuttlebutt network or recruiters. I think many people who view recruiters negatively do not understand the industry. I know it quite well and have had good experience. You just have to know when to say no and not take the interview. Get to know RHI or or KFRC and you may understand how the business works to take advantage of it. Here are the basics:

First, staffing firms have sales people. These are the people who get the go ahead from hiring managers and HR to attempt fill a position. They work a lot with CTOs, CFOs and CIOs. It is relationship driven, but the staffing firm needs to have a license to do business with that company. Want to work at XYZ hedge fund? Find out if the recruiter has a license to do business there.

Then there are the recruiters who call you on LNKD. These people work the position once the sales person has cracked it. For them, they need to get the job filled and in a timely manner. They may only work with specific companies because they are on a team related to specific sales person or vertical. Tell them what company you want to work for and in what geography. Be specific about what type of position you are seeking. If they can’t help you, then they will drop you quick. This is good, because if you lead them on then you are just wasting everyone’s time.

That’s it for now. There are some good recruiters, but generally remuneration is lower for recruiters than for some other positions so most recruiters aspire to get into a sales or management role. Perhaps obviously, this varies by the level position for which they are recruiting.

It’s whatever, just make it count.

- kDot

To add to the discussion, I’m at Wharton right now (presumably the MBA program with best PE placement) and almost everyone who is getting PE interviews right now for summer internships has pre-MBA PE experience (myself included). The ibankers are having a tough time and anyone else is even worse off. That being said, there are 1 or 2 each year that can snag a U.S. PE investing role. Point is, Numi is spot on. Top MBA won’t really help you land in PE unless you were already in PE before MBA. Keep hustling though man….accountant –> IB is a great start and if you keep going at it there are possibilities.

Ramos4rm, CFA, CAIA

so what was the point of you doing an MBA if you want to stay in PE?

"You want a quote? Haven’t I written enough already???"

RIP

WBH wrote:

Quick background on myself:

  • Business degree, Chartered Accountant, and CFA Charterholder
  • Worked as an accountant for a number of years, earning the Charter proved helpful in recently making the switch into (boutique) IB

Congratulations on making the accounting to IB switch! How many years did you spend in accounting and in which position? I am taking the same route except I am working for the CFO office at a F500 and getting strategy exposure so I am hoping the transition would be doable… It is my first year and I want to do 2 years there then rotate to IB boutique or consulting either way. I am hoping that I can pass level 1 and 2 of the CFA through hard work as well to add some credentials to my profile.

Do you have any advice/recommendation from your personal experience so I can maximize my chances? Congrats again on the new role and good luck with PE recruiting!

PS: I come from non-target with a 3.7GPA finance (does not mean much I know), but I have great ECs.

Ramos4rm wrote:

To add to the discussion, I’m at Wharton right now (presumably the MBA program with best PE placement) and almost everyone who is getting PE interviews right now for summer internships has pre-MBA PE experience (myself included). The ibankers are having a tough time and anyone else is even worse off. That being said, there are 1 or 2 each year that can snag a U.S. PE investing role. Point is, Numi is spot on. Top MBA won’t really help you land in PE unless you were already in PE before MBA. Keep hustling though man….accountant –> IB is a great start and if you keep going at it there are possibilities.

You were in PE before and you want to go back to PE after your MBA? What made you think you really needed an MBA?  I guess this has to do with many factors out there.  I am doing EMBA at Columbia in my early 30s.  Here is why I did not go full time MBA when I was in my mid 20s - purely my opinion.  I was working for an equity HF in NYC since 22 and by the time I was 25-26 I was certainly not a rain maker but making decent money - made 270k all in back in 2012.  I thought to myself, why give this up to go for an MBA for 2 years and pay $120k in tuition when I will probably be in the same place afterwards?? I ain’t gonna be making 600k straight outta MBA so……I stayed in the work force.  Now in my 30s, I am doing EMBA not for the education but for the sake of my resume and more importantly, new friends and connection WHILE still working.

Of course I didn’t score a crazy GMAT score like yourself but nonetheless, I want your take on why you quit your (most likely) lucrative career to go back to school only to go back to the same job 2 years later.  Why not EMBA or even PT?

Be yourself. The world worships the original.

One of my friends was forced to do MBA since his firm doesn’t promote usually, so you either had to jump to another place which might be difficult, or go to business school. 

I am in a similar boat. Wanted to do MBA for PE but above posters seem to be unanimous in saying that its very difficult. I am in EQR so even more difficult than IBD.

infinitybenzo wrote:

Ramos4rm wrote:

To add to the discussion, I’m at Wharton right now (presumably the MBA program with best PE placement) and almost everyone who is getting PE interviews right now for summer internships has pre-MBA PE experience (myself included). The ibankers are having a tough time and anyone else is even worse off. That being said, there are 1 or 2 each year that can snag a U.S. PE investing role. Point is, Numi is spot on. Top MBA won’t really help you land in PE unless you were already in PE before MBA. Keep hustling though man….accountant –> IB is a great start and if you keep going at it there are possibilities.

You were in PE before and you want to go back to PE after your MBA? What made you think you really needed an MBA?  I guess this has to do with many factors out there.  I am doing EMBA at Columbia in my early 30s.  Here is why I did not go full time MBA when I was in my mid 20s - purely my opinion.  I was working for an equity HF in NYC since 22 and by the time I was 25-26 I was certainly not a rain maker but making decent money - made 270k all in back in 2012.  I thought to myself, why give this up to go for an MBA for 2 years and pay $120k in tuition when I will probably be in the same place afterwards?? I ain’t gonna be making 600k straight outta MBA so……I stayed in the work force.  Now in my 30s, I am doing EMBA not for the education but for the sake of my resume and more importantly, new friends and connection WHILE still working.

Of course I didn’t score a crazy GMAT score like yourself but nonetheless, I want your take on why you quit your (most likely) lucrative career to go back to school only to go back to the same job 2 years later.  Why not EMBA or even PT?

I get where you’re coming from. For me, I would have had to have done it anyway at a certain point for advancement and I also wanted options to go to other PE funds. Also, half of the reason I went was to take a break from working. MBA is about more than getting a job. It is certainly a goal but it is also about building professional and personal relationships. There is certainly work in classes and recruiting involved…but a full-time MBA is also a blast and in my mid-late 20’s it is one last hurrah before slaving away again at a desk in my 30’s and beyond. MBA is like undergrad again but with money.

Ramos4rm, CFA, CAIA

macron wrote:

Congratulations on making the accounting to IB switch! How many years did you spend in accounting and in which position? I am taking the same route except I am working for the CFO office at a F500 and getting strategy exposure so I am hoping the transition would be doable… It is my first year and I want to do 2 years there then rotate to IB boutique or consulting either way. I am hoping that I can pass level 1 and 2 of the CFA through hard work as well to add some credentials to my profile.

Do you have any advice/recommendation from your personal experience so I can maximize my chances? Congrats again on the new role and good luck with PE recruiting!

PS: I come from non-target with a 3.7GPA finance (does not mean much I know), but I have great ECs.

I worked in accounting for about 5+ years, latterly in management accounting, where the analysis and strategy piece was more sellable to IB.

Re advice/recommendation for getting into IB boutique, I’ll refer you to my response to Igor555 at the top of this thread (who asked, “how did you go from accounting to IB?”).

Overall, my experience was that a combination of relatable experience, a compelling story, personal drive and some luck got me in. CFA (or any exam really) alone is not a panacea sans some/all of the above, but in concert I did feel it added to my profile.