From IT Background to Post-MBA Investment Banking: Interview with Darden MBA | Director, CFA Institute

From graduating from a top 10 MBA Program at Darden Business School to post-MBA recruitment to HSBC Investment Bank and working in the London Financial markets, Amit Chakrabarthy has lived the dream career trajectory of most MBA applicants.

But the upward curve of his career doesn’t stop there. For MBA applicants who are keen on a CFA role, Amit is your man!

This blog is a must-read for anyone that has a post-MBA Investment Banking goal. When an Industry Leader gives you insight into how that industry works, I would suggest you grab a pen and paper and start making notes!

IT Background to post-MBA Investment Banking Career

Pre MBA, Amit came from a technology and sales background and worked for Steel Authority India Ltd. He went to one of the top 10 MBA programs in the world, Darden, made a switch to HSBC investment banking and worked in London markets. He then moved to HSBC investment banking, Mumbai, and progressed to a very senior leadership position in CFA. For people who are keen on CFA Amit is the person to go to now.

Amit has worked in one of the biggest financial markets in the world, London. It’s a playground for someone keen on a Finance career.

What’s interesting, and would help a lot of MBA applicants from the IT background is Amit’s MBA journey. We have seen business schools ask MBA applicants different variations of the essay questions, “Why MBA?”.

Amit explains his reasons for the same in great detail.

Why MBA?

This question has baffled MBA applicants year after year. How do you explain the exact reason why you want an MBA.

As Amit divulged into his background before an MBA, some interesting things came up. Most importantly, he talked about how his work and career progression exposed him to investment banking as a career option.

Amit:

I had done my undergrad in engineering, and I started my life as a management trainee, with Steel Authority of India Ltd. Eventually I worked in their software development centre in Hyderabad. Everything was going well and my job was fun. But I realized I didn't have enough money in the bank to do other stuff. This is where I got an opportunity to join a software guy working with Deutsche Bank in Singapore. So now I was doing software development for various corporate investment banking products.

Eventually, because of my interest, I moved into more of a business analyst role where I travelled across Asia-Pacific. I used to bring requirements back to Singapore and then get it developed out of Singapore and Bangalore and deploy it. While doing this, I realized like now that I probably wanted to be a frontline banker, like some of the clients I had.

Once he knew what direction he wanted to take his career towards, he didn’t jump into the Finance industry. For someone who had 6+ years of work experience in the IT sector, switching to the Finance industry would be a long process without education in Finance. He then reached out to his connections that were working in Investment Banking.

Amit:

When I asked around everybody said, “I think you've got some of the softer attributes required to be a frontside banker, but you probably need to get an education in finance and accounting, because that's kind of the alphabet for finance”. And that's when I realized that an MBA is probably the right way to go.

How did Darden help Amit’s Investment Banking Career?

Amit then went on to explain why he chose to apply to top schools abroad, Darden to be specific, for his MBA. His decision to go to Darden didn’t just help him launch his career in Investment Banking, it also, helped him thrive in this career and become a force to be reckoned with in the Financial Industry.

Amit:

So the first thing, when you're looking to make a carrier in Finance, I think is critically important that you get into a top school. Because once you get into a top school, that's half the battle won.

The second thing is, for a career switch, both learning and recruitment become important as one looks at a business school. So I carefully selected Darden, which is known for its rigour in terms of learning and also gives a lot of opportunities in the banking and financial sector.

As mentioned above, Amit worked in the highly demanding atmosphere of the Finance industry in London. This was another phase that his time at Darden had prepared him well for.

Amit:

Once I got there (London). Our associate class had people from Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, Michigan, London Business School, INSEAD, and a few other schools as well. I realized that I was probably the most well prepared in my entire class. And that's thank to the rigour of Darden. We were doing so much work, especially in the first year, that it prepares you for anything and everything. So I came up top. I did really well in my role at HSBC. And that's when the financial crisis hit. I went through 13 rounds of layoffs and survived. And it was entirely due to the preparation at Darden, and my hard work and commitment.

One-Year Vs Two-Year MBA for Career Switch: IT to Investment Banking

While working across the globe, as Amit explained, he recruited many MBAs as well. This puts him in a great position to be able to clearly distinguish the main differences post-MBA between graduates from a one-year and a two-year MBA.

Amit:

I will again go back to my own experience as well. When I applied for B schools, I was in Singapore. I applied to both one year and two-year programs. So I got an admit from INSEAD, and I had a couple of admits from two-year programs as well.

Luckily, INSEAD has a campus in Singapore and I visited that. I could not afford to visit MBA colleges in the US, but INSEAD was right there. So what a student at INSEAD in Singapore told me was quite interesting. And that's kind of stuck with me. And that's the advice I still give to students who are figuring out this one year versus two-year program.

What this guy told me was:

What's your objective of doing an MBA? Okay? Is it to learn? Is it todo a career switch? Is it to do both? Okay, so I said, it's to do both for me. Because I come from a software background, I needed to learn finance, which was one of the missing links in my profile. And I also wanted to become an investment banker.

He said that maybe it is not the right option for you then because INSEAD, or for that matter, any one year program is typically a 10 months program. You get one solid recruitment.

So either you're learning or you're recruiting or networking. Learning or networking. To do both is really difficult. It's not impossible, but it's very difficult.

So my advice to people is that if you are looking to enhance your learning and if you want to grow within your own industry, like let's say you work in finance and you want to move within finance to a different role or a different stream, then a one year program still make sense.

But if want a complete career change and you want to learn as well, I think a two-year program is much better. It gives you a lot of bandwidth to learn.

It gives you two opportunities to recruit, one for the Summer internship another one for a full-time job as well in case your summer internship doesn’t work. And that reflects when it comes to recruiting as well.

When I went to recruit people for HSBC, I did go to London Business School, for example. And I did go to INSEAD as well in, in Paris. I realized that people who were coming from a finance background or even from a consulting background but worked in the finance domain, they were well prepared for a job in investment banking.

How to make a career in Investment Banking without an MBA?

However, an MBA isn’t the only way to get into Investment Banking according to Amit. For applicants starting out their journey to an Investment Banking Career, there is a route to the same through Entrepreneurship, Corporate Finance and Consulting.

Investment Banking career through Entrepreneurship

Amit:

Investment Banking prepares you for anything that life can throw at you. So entrepreneurship, I think, is something that one can really easily explore. The passion, the drive and the focus that’s required to be an entrepreneur typically come in an Investment Banker as well.

Investment Banking career through Corporate Finance

Amit:

A lot more companies in India in particular now are becoming very professional in terms of their management. So corporate finance is a big part of most large companies, whether it's Reliance Industries are or Aditya Birla group. So a job as a corporate finance guy, where you're looking at the business strategy for that company, with the strategy to grow organic versus inorganic, inorganic, is definitely a job that one can explore.

Investment Banking career through Consulting

Amit:

Investment banking and consulting have a lot of respect within both industries. So it's not unknown for investment bankers to move into consulting and consultants to investment banking. So that role is also there. Hedge funds, private equity are also areas that a lot of investment bankers go into. Much more difficult to do, but possible.

Finally, working in a much smaller firm. So I spoke about the bulge bracket banks and all but there are a lot of small boutique investment banks where the culture is much smaller. But it's very satisfying because you're seeing a small business grow into a much bigger business because you’re bringing in the expertise of giving them the right strategy advice as well.

Amit’s advice is a goldmine for anyone looking to move into an investment banking role post-MBA. His experience as an industry leader is sure one to draw inspiration from, and a path that most Investment banking aspirants wish to chart. However, he still advises not to follow anyone else’s MBA journey but yours.

To watch his complete interview, play the video below.





Meet Jatin LIVE