MBA Jobs in Banking Are Back, Look Different

by Vault Education Editors | June 28, 2011

Are jobs for MBAs in banking returning after a two-year drought?

A recent story in BW reported that, following the 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman brothers and the ensuing economic collapse, the typical MBA finance jobs were hard to come by. At Goldman and Morgan Stanley, for instance, there was, respectively, a 41 and 21 percent drop in hires from Booth, Wharton and Columbia between the two years prior to the crisis and the two years following.

With the usual go-to firms cutting back on b-school hires, MBAs started diversifying their options. Career offices started pushing private wealth management jobs, which one Darden career development dean described as “very much a sales career,” according to the article. Hedge funds have become more attractive than some investment banking jobs because of the allure of real responsibility and the opportunity for immediate impact. Places like Amazon and IBM out-hired usual suspects like Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Bank of America at Wharton last year, according to the school. At places like Duke and MIT, Apple has become a top employer.

Companies that wouldn’t normally be considered conventional destinations for MBAs have begun shopping around b-school campuses more. These companies aren’t looking to pick up batches of grads; just one, maybe two. Recruiters in K-12 education, for instance—perhaps owing to dual trends in the privatization of public education and the need among youth for meaningful, socially conscious careers—has been scouting data-analysis-savvy MBAs for administrative jobs in school districts and charter school organizations.

And now, are the jobs in banking and finance suddenly back?

One sign of the resurgence came from the GMAC recruiters survey, released in May, which showed that the finance (and consulting) sector planned to ramp up MBA hiring. Only those plans seemed to mostly exclude jobs in investment banking. But a recent FT story touts both the return of finance and banking jobs—a shock, given poor intern hiring, a typical indicator of the quality of the coming hiring outlook.

At Harvard Business School, Jana Kierstead, managing director for MBA careers, says that although the return of finance companies has been faster than expected, banks have had to recruit heavily this year because of low levels of hiring in the past two. “They became very thin in the associate layer and they have a lot of work now,” she says. All of which is good news for the career prospects of this year’s graduating class. “For MBAs it’s great because there is no one ahead of them for two years.”

Morgan Stanley and Goldman, though, said they recruited about the same number of business-school students this year as last, according to a recent WSJ article. Same, not more? What surge, then, if not at two of the biggest banking employers? These days, more MBAs are choosing to take hedge fund jobs, more private equity gigs, more private wealth management positions. Not only that, but with the business landscape increasingly global, many of the jobs are coming not just from the US, but from Europe, India and China.

With growth has come diversity, says J.J. Cutler, deputy vice-dean for career services at the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania. “The world of banking is growing and getting more eclectic. There are careers beyond investment banking, sales and trading.”

 

 [FT, BW, WSJ]

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