One of the best kept secrets in all of finance is the strength of certain schools in Canada.
There are a number of universities in Canada that have made an impressive name on Wall Street for themselves over the years, even besting many prestigious U.S. schools. These schools have cultivated strong finance communities and consistently send graduates to the top investment banks and investment firms in the world.
Just like in the United States, there are certainly a small handful of schools in Canada that tend to dominate investment banking recruiting. If you’re a bright, motivated student but you’re not at the right school in Canada, the odds you break into banking are going to be greatly diminished.
Our goal in this post is to use data to understand which schools are and are not Canadian target schools. We’re going to establish this view by looking at the actual data of where alumni from each school works. The complete table is here and we'll walk through the methodology and data below.
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Our goal is to do this as objectively as possible and we of course need reliable numbers to do so.
Here was our approach:
Aggregate all Investment Banking Analysts in the world (~22k people)
We collected profiles from LinkedIn using the help of a mechanical turk program and a proprietary data provider.
We collected the profiles of anyone with “Investment Banking Analyst” as one of their job titles.
We are most interested in knowing who the target schools are today, so we only looked at people who graduated between 2014 and 2019. We think this parameter is important because the rankings of schools can change within a couple of years.
This resulted in ~22k global profiles around the world.
Screen for all U.S. and CAD based jobs only (~15k people)
To screen for geography, we are only including people who work in the U.S. and Canada. Many top candidates from Canada work in the U.S. so we think it is important to include both sections.
This resulted in ~15k profiles in the U.S. and Canada.
Screen for reputable global and Canadian investment banks (~9k people)
We want to screen for high-quality firms because by looking at target schools, we are interested in schools that send candidates to the best firms. There are a great number of small boutiques with just 1 or 2 investment banking analysts, which we feel would distort the numbers.
We reviewed the data and tried to only include high-quality global firms and established Canadian firms – the grouping process is explained below
This resulted in ~9k profiles in the U.S. and Canada.
For this screen, we tried to cast a pretty wide net and we settled on the following groups:
Top Bulge Bracket and Elite Boutiques
The best Canadian finance schools will send a few students to the best firms in the world. Many of these placements are in the U.S., but many of these global firms have satellite offices in Canada. The firms in this list were covered in the previous post on target schools and include: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Evercore, Lazard, etc.
This group will account for people who go to Goldman New York as well as the people who go to Bank of America Calgary.
Mid Market and Other
We include the next category of global investment banks as well. These firms may not be as dominant in investment banking, but many still have meaningful presences in the U.S.
This category includes firms like Harris Williams, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Rothschild, etc.
Canadian Big 6
Of course, in Canada, the majority of investment banking jobs are offered by the big banks. The Big 6 are RBC, BMO, TD, Scotia, CIBC, and I guess National Bank can be here too. Every school has at least a few analysts at each of these firms.
Broadly speaking, I would say that most Canadian Big 6 firms would be less desirable than a global firm.
Canadian Investment Banks and Boutiques
And finally, we carved out a section explicitly for the Canadian focused investment banks and boutiques. We included these firms because they do represent a large number of jobs as well and the jobs almost exclusively go to Canadians.
Our cutoff on whether to include a firm as a boutique or not was whether or not they had at least 5 investment banking analysts over the past 5 years. We interpreted that threshold of one analyst per year to mean that firm had a consistent hiring demand. When we applied that filter, the list of firms roughly lined up with who we understood as notable boutiques.
This list has many firms including: Canaccord Genuity, Cormark Securities, Echelon Wealth Partners, Origin Merchant Partners, Haywood Securities, etc.
We end up with ~9k U.S. and Canadian investment banking analysts who graduated between 2014 and 2019 and who worked at one of the firms defined above.
Note: Our data source predicted that this still likely only represents 50-60% of the actual Investment Banking Analyst population (some people don’t have LinkedIn, some have restricted public access, or have hidden / different titles). This is a statistically significant sample, but should not be viewed as a complete dataset.
Canadian Investment Banking Target Schools
After reviewing the data and categorizing it, we sorted the entire list of schools by the total number of hires.
Then we cut it one final time to only include Canadian schools.
This brought our dataset to ~1k people. That means there have roughly been ~1k investment bankers from Canada over the last 5 years, which feels about right. We were then able to easily segment the schools as such:
Targets – the schools with by far the most amount of investment banking hires. These schools send good numbers to the top global firms in the U.S. and they have extremely strong coverage at all Canadian firms.
Semi-Targets – the schools with a modest amount of hires at Canadian firms. They send very few people to the U.S. but still occasionally break into the global firm satellite offices.
Non-Targets – everyone else. Maybe they’ve carved out a particular geographical or industry niche somewhere or send students to a particular Canadian bank. But really, only the anointed ones from these schools can directly break into the U.S.
In Canada, it’s quite clear who the best finance schools are: Ivey and Queen’s. Both schools send impressive numbers to the U.S. and top banks. Ivey and Queen’s generally both have on-campus recruiting or partially reserved spots at many top firms in the U.S. Both Ivey and Queen’s send over 1/2 of all their investment banking hires to global firms.
From a Canadian market share perspective, Ivey and Queen’s send 1.5 to 2 times the amount of students to the Canadian Big 6 firms as the semi-targets. And collectively, Ivey and Queen’s accounts for more than 1/2 of all hires at Canadian boutiques.
But the divergence between these two schools is also stark – Ivey is by far the best school for investment banking and it’s not that close. Ivey’s investment banking population is 80% more than that of Queen’s. This list doesn’t show it, but Ivey also has a consistent pipeline of students that go straight to the buyside. Even compared to U.S. school standards, Ivey ranks as a semi-target, besting many other top U.S. colleges.
The third best finance school is McGill. And McGill’s Global Firm % actually really impresses me; they send a handful of extremely bright people every year to Wall Street. I hadn’t realized they sent such a large proportion of their hires to the best firms. Unsurprisingly, McGill also dominates the few global firms that have offices in Montreal.
Western vs. Queen's
Just to accentuate the point, let's do a comparison of just Western and Queen's so we all plainly know which Canadian school is truly the best for investment banking. Let's look at job placements only at the top firms (which we described in the main target school rankings post). Remember that the numbers will be slightly different because this includes jobs in Canada (e.g. Goldman's Toronto office).
Western has 122 investment banking hires during this time period, while Queen's only has 49 (which funnily enough is roughly equivalent to 6 years of QUIC executive teams...). Aside from Lazard, Western has more or the same number of hires as Queen's at every single firm. It's worth noting that relative to the rest of the firms, Queen's has a disproportionate amount of hires at Goldman Sachs.
Having gone to Western, I can tell you that part of Western's excellence is in part based on its success in a couple of specific offices. Over the course of several years, Western has built rare relationships with offices like Evercore (New York), Credit Suisse (San Francisco) and Moelis (Los Angeles) that generally keep its numbers steady.
After the top finance schools, there’s a hodgepodge of overall good schools that in my opinion don’t yet have a strong finance community. All of these semi-target schools have some presence at every Canadian Big 6 firm, but their presence in the U.S. and at global firms is much weaker. On average, they probably send 5-15 students into investment banking per year.
I predict that Waterloo, with its extremely successful co-op program, is going to one day become a definitive target school. The ascent of Waterloo as a finance school over the past decade is undeniable. Their co-op program allows them to compete for off-cycle internships and get high-quality work experience at top firms. Anecdotally, I’ve also seen them carve out a real presence at west coast tech firms in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. It definitely takes several years to build a finance reputation and consistent recruiting though, so it depends on the continued strength of the program.
The other school I’ll make mention of is UBC – and I really just mean the legendary UBC Sauder PMF program. It would not be a stretch to say that UBC Sauder PMF is the best finance program in all of Canada, even better than Ivey on a per capita basis. In fact, UBC Sauder PMF sets you up with extremely coveted buy-side internships that are so prestigious, that it would make even the top student at Wharton feel insecure. The glaring issue is that it’s only 6 or so students per year and anecdotally it seems like the rest of UBC Sauder is nowhere near as good.
The rest of the semi-targets in my mind are relatively similar. Decent placement at all of the Big 6 and a few alumni here and there in the U.S.
Outside of this list of schools, breaking into investment banking is going to be significantly harder. You'll have to really rely on networking grit and the off-cycle path.
Some of the remaining Canadian schools may have carved out a geographical niche in a particular location (e.g. Montreal and Alberta), but the overall recruiting options are dramatically lower.
Special shout out to the one guy from Guelph who broke into investment banking in the past 5 years.
If your goal is the U.S., the recommendation is obvious: go to Ivey or Queen’s. Although investment banking recruiting is pushing into second year, transferring to Ivey for your third year is still a time-tested strategy that has produced some of the most successful Ivey finance alumni that there are. Having gone to Ivey, I can tell you that the transfers were consistently some of the most intelligent and hardworking people in the class.
And if your goal is investment banking in Canada, you have a reasonable chance of breaking into investment banking in Canada from any of the targets or semi-targets.