How reading got me into investment banking

law got into investment banking

Are you wondering how to become an investment banking analyst?

Graduated from Law School, now what?

After graduating from law school in the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas, Venezuela, I knew that, even though it might be an abrupt change, I wanted to go into finance. My time at law school helped me organize my ideas. It gave me structure and encouraged me to think logically and understand the bigger picture. Law school gives you a framework that is applicable to other areas. Even though I loved what I studied, I wanted to complement it with experience in the financial sector. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make the transition but I knew that I would find find a way.

I had done some reading and studying on finance on my own. I had read a couple of books and had always been interested in the markets. After considering various options, I narrowed it down to three firms in which I would have liked to work for. In any of these three firms, the learning curves would be steep. The options I had narrowed it down to were a local private equity firm, one of the top four consulting firms still in the country and another local investment banking firm. Options are scarce in Venezuela and they continue to shrink because of the situation in which the country finds itself in. I knew that I wanted to understand the numbers behind businesses and working in any of these options would give me exposure and experience.

I had investigated that VIPCapital, one of the top investment banking firms in Venezuela, was very strict in its recruiting procedures and very selective in who would become part of its team. I talked to people who had previously worked for the firm and had gone to pursue other jobs or their MBAs in top schools in the US. Their insights were that the team was very technical, very focused on the financial aspects of a business. M&A, debt and equity raising, corporate and structured finance were some of the areas covered by the services they provided. Both founders worked in investment banks in New York with a focus on Latin America. One of them focused on the credit team and the other in project finance. They taught courses on company valuations in the top postgraduate school of the country, IESA, so they expected their firm to follow their principles.

The team was composed of top of the class, honor students that had gone on to enroll in finance masters in IESA as well. Most of them not only took classes, but also were assistant professors and taught to their own classmates. I had done pretty well in law school, but this had nothing to do with what they did in their daily routines. I knew I had to try and add value another way. Most importantly I had to maintain my openness to learn.

Investment Banking Analyst Interview

One of the firm’s partners and a VP both interviewed me at the same time. The question that significantly altered my chances to get into the firm regarded the books had I recently read. I mentioned Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan and that caught their attention. But the VP, whom also taught a valuations course in IESA’s finance master, drilled down. What had I learned about Taleb’s Black Swan? My mind went blank for a moment, thinking that I had dug myself up into a hole. I didn’t remember anything from the book. After a while, the central idea of the book came back to me. The impact of improbable events and how we humans find explanations for these events in retrospect. This was a surprise to them, taking into consideration that it was an intense book. By no means was I an expert on the matter but I had the curiosity to explore tough topics on my own time. I didn’t know but I had demonstrated that I wanted to learn and would be willing to push to find an answer if I didn’t have one.

This question was a hurdle that I had been able to clear and we moved on to talk about different books that I had been reading at the time. I had chosen a theme, and stuck to it, related to democratic transitions in countries in crisis around the world. Very relevant to the situation that was and is currently happening in Venezuela. The topic of finance, which was one that I had no expertise other than several public company tickers, was left behind. Reading was a hobby that helped me get through the door. It gave me the opportunity to prove myself.

Advice for someone looking for an investment banking job

I think that the best advice that I can give to anyone looking for a new job or switching careers is to read constantly. This helped me in getting my first job out of college in an area that specifically wasn’t related to what I studied in college. It also helped me despite the fact that I didn’t know anything about finance. Reading helps you learn from situations that have already happened. You learn through somebody else’s experiences. Experiences that may have elements that are applicable to your life or to your work. Situations are never identical, but the principles applicable to one may be applicable to another. This is why reading is key. It gives you insight into areas that you might not otherwise know of.

The signal and the noise

Keeping yourself updated in this fast-paced world is very important. However, we must try and differentiate between the signal and the noise. There is an ever increasing amount of content to be consumed and more is created every second. The key is not to consume more information, but to be selective of what you want to spend your time on. This is definitely easier said than done. I try to keep myself updated by listening to podcasts, reading newsletters and constantly reading books. I am a fan of Tim Ferriss, Patrick O’Shaughnessy, Village Global, The Investor’s Podcast, and Shane Parrish. Their podcasts offer amazing knowledge on a wide range of topics. I am more skewed towards business and investing which are areas that I want to learn and improve in. I am also constantly reading newsletters from The Hustle & Trends, Fortune, Axios, Morning Brew, and several others. I have too many newsletters to handle so I might not be following my own advice! However, I try to curate information so that the information I digest will add personal value and help me obtain my objectives, which are improving as a person, and to grow in business and investing.

A book which I would like to recommend, which was a page turner for me was Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. I am a firm believer of the potential human beings have to push through adversity and achieve new heights no matter what stands in their way. Howard Roark is an example of sticking to values and principles which ultimately lead him to become successful in what he was passionate in.

By: Ernesto Vogeler

About myself: 

Ernesto Vogeler graduated with honors from law school in the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas, Venezuela. After graduating he worked as an investment banking analyst in VIPCapital, one of the country’s top investment banking firm. He is also a member of the board of directors of Protinal Proagro, a public company in Venezuela, and the Fundación Eugenio Mendoza, specializing in entrepreneurship and culture. He is currently focused on investing and launching a company with his partners in Venezuela. 

Also read How Talking to total strangers on trains got me my first job as Summer Intern J.P. Morgan

How reading got me into investment banking

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