Smart students – Choose investment banking


Following up on my previous post on career choice, this post explains why I think investment banking is a great career choice for smart students.

So you’ve got into the top schools in Singapore, scored distinctions, and represented your schools or even Singapore to compete in all sort of brainy competitions. Australian Maths Competition, American High Maths Exam, Maths Olympiad, Physics Olympiad, Chemistry Olympiad, National Software Competition, IOI, you name it…

Ok, so you’re smart. Heck, maybe you even do well in other areas – sports, drawing, music, dancing, dating, mahjong, etc.

You’re really smart and capable.

How about challenging yourself to make a million dollars before 30? Too easy? How about $10m before 40? And achieving that without burning your dad’s savings on starting some lousy startup, or doing high risk stuff like betting on stocks, options, futures and commodities.

Possible? Definitely. IF you are smart.

Here’s my suggestion:

  1. Get into a good university. I’m talking about MIT, Stanford, Cambridge, and the Ivy League unis. Try to get a bond-free scholarship (more on scholarships another day another post).
  2. Do extremely well in university. Nothing less than an A-. Better yet if you maintain perfect GPA. Challenge yourself with extremely tough courses like advanced computer science theory, advanced econ, advanced math, advanced statistics, econometrics, advanced financial calculus, etc. You get the idea.
  3. Seek internships with the top investment banks. Only consider the bulge bracket ones, i.e. Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers, and maybe Bear Stearns, Credit Suisse, Citi, Deutsche Bank, and UBS. Don’t forget to get a good testimonial at the end of the internship.
  4. Then graduate as valedictorian (or close to), and go for interviews. It won’t be too hard to land a job in investment banking, possibly with a starting pay of US$100k upwards.
  5. Better yet, get into the top business school (“B-school”) and get an MBA. You can do this right after college, or after a couple of years in Wall Street.

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  6. Im 30 yrs old and still planning to continue study hoping a higher pay after study. If i confidence i could get a 1st class honours, will you advice me to take degree in investment banking? or just simply take a Master in Financial Engineering? or any field in finance is better?

  7. June, sorry to burst your bubble, but my honest advice for you is to continue to work hard and work smart in your current job and perhaps do a related part-time degree / postgrad course.

  8. Dear Salary .sg,

    Your post advice assumes that smart students are of one type only:

    1) They will do anything and everything for lots of money and high status.

    2) They definitely have potential for high FQ (Financial Quotient).
    After all, you did mention in another post that ‘High IQ does not equal Wealth’:

    3) There is only one place for them: at the very top socio-economic class, isolated within their much smaller community, away from the majority of people.
    In Singapore, this would likely mean disconnecting greatly from heartlanders.

    I wish this lucky minority great happiness in their exclusivity.

  9. fynyx, thanks for your comments on this site. To respond to your comment above,
    1) No, I do not assume that. I was merely giving them a financial challenge.
    2) Yes, they have the potential, especially in countries like ours which give them too many opportunities.
    3) No, I do not assume that. I’ve met some very smart people who deliberately choose not to be there.

  10. Dear -admin- (at Salary .sg) (February 26th, 2008 at 10:20 pm) —

    Thank you for clarifying your personal stance on the post.
    I’m gratified that it was a financial challenge, issued to those who have the potential, and possibly the will and interest.
    It’s also comforting to learn, that some choose other roads truly their own.

    Thank you too, for responding to my first reply on this blog;
    in particular to a post written last year.
    Please keep up the honest efforts!

  11. There is no way you can get into a top MBA program without work experience. I agree with you though that business school after a few years in Wall Street is good.

  12. It is possible to go to a top MBA program w/o work experience. I have seen a friend who is doing the JD/MBA at 21 at Columbia. Nothing is impossible! (:

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