A career in finance is akin to a game of musical chairs. Whether they like it or not, people in finance tend to spend a lot of time either nervously sitting in their own chairs or waiting for the chance to squeeze someone else out of a better chair.
This results in constant, industry-wide attrition – even at the most coveted and prestigious firms.
I know plenty of people who started in satellite offices at regional firms and made a couple of well-timed moves to catapult the trajectory of their own career. Through careful positioning and informed decision making, they took full advantage of great lateral options and ended up at significantly better banks.
Coming from Canada, I know plenty of Canadians in Toronto who worked at much smaller Canadian firms, switched to a bulge bracket in New York after a year, and then successfully pursued buy side recruiting the following year. And if you missed out on the private equity recruiting on-cycle timeline, your only option is the off-cycle.
The point is that the value of recruiting intel is extremely high. When hiring for lateral positions, firms are more concerned about hiring people quickly. That’s because lateral positions typically open up if someone just left or if there’s a lot more work to go around than expected. The frantic nature of these lateral processes leads to great opportunities for well-positioned candidates.
Here are the channels you have to keep tabs on in order to stay the most informed about new opportunities.
New Senior Hires
Let’s just reference this quickly because it’s super obvious. You need to have an extremely strong pulse on your own network and take diligent steps to keep expanding your network. Don't be afraid to talk to people across different geographies. It’s all about frequent touchpoints, finding reasons to keep in contact, and keeping people updated so you’re the first person they think of if an opportunity comes up.
If you’re trying to lateral, you absolutely need to be doing the following things on a consistent basis:
Keep in contact with all of your key professional contacts every 1-2 months: By key professional contacts, I mean whoever has some decision-making ability or who would be in the know about a relevant opening. So if you’re a college student, this means a 2nd-year investment banking analyst or hiring manager. If you’re an investment banking analyst, this could mean PE senior associate or VP.
Try to talk to one new stranger per week that you don’t know over coffee or over the phone: Even when I wasn’t actively recruiting, I always found it to be a good idea to try to expand your network by meeting 1 new person a week. 1 new person per week is sustainable and not too draining.
Check your LinkedIn every day to see which of your peers took new jobs: If you know people that moved firms, that means there could be an opening at their old job. It gives you a sense of which firms are hiring.
There are some great, free finance daily newsletters out there that track specific personnel movement. Sometimes, I’m actually shocked that it’s free and publicly available, but I think it’s an amazing place to look for potential leads.
Fortune’s Term Sheet for example has a section at the bottom of their daily newsletter that mentions people that were hired to new firms. This is a great source of free information.
If someone joined a new firm, that means there’s more than likely going to be an opening at their old firm. This is the game of musical chairs. Every spot taken means a spot has opened up.
If I was trying to lateral, I would look up the people on Term Sheet on LinkedIn and try to get in touch with someone from the firm they just left.
Vlaad & Co. also runs a similar newsletter focused on the Canadian markets called Bill’s Buzz.
3. New Funds
Similarly, any time a new fund is created, you know they need warm bodies to fill out their ranks. Every time you hear a new fund is being raised or has just launched, it’s worth reaching out to people at those firms to see if they’re hiring. You could again use Fortune’s Term Sheet, which explicitly breaks out which new funds were raised.
Another way to efficiently do this is to set up Google alerts for various finance and funding news sites. If you search:
If you do this search, you’ll be able to see all of the new articles that news site post about funds being raised. For example, searching the following in Google will get you all of Techcrunch’s articles that mention funds.
You could repeat that with many different news sites, e.g. Wall Street Journal, NYTimes’ Dealbook, Bloomberg to keep easy tabs on the market.
A great example of new funds hiring is a couple of years ago when Softbank started its legendary Vision Fund. I’m pretty sure Softbank saved a bunch of people’s careers by hiring them in the off-cycle or as lateral hires with nice titles.
4. New Senior Hires
The last source of fresh new lateral jobs would be to follow new senior hires at firms. If a firm hires a new very senior person to lead a new practice, you can bet that they’ll bring in a bunch of new people as well. I found this to be an extremely reliable channel in investment banking, when hiring away the competition’s biggest rainmaker is extremely par for the course.
Fortune’s Term Sheet does a good job of showing these hires, but it also helps to follow finance news pretty closely.
One example from my own career is when Evercore hired Bill Anderson from Goldman Sachs to lead the Activism practice. When Bill was hired, Evercore ended up building a group from scratch and hired a bunch of new investment banking analysts and associates. I saw my analyst class size increase by 10%+ out of no-where.
All in all, recruiting for lateral jobs is very much about grit and determination. It’s about identifying opportunities when others are too lazy to.
Pure networking is important, but it’s a much better use of your time to reach out to people where you know there’s an opportunity. It’s not only about reaching out – it’s about reaching out to the right people.