At Wharton School some of the biggest investment banks including Bank of American Merrill Lynch and Citi hired 14% of the MBA class of 2015, up from 13% two years ago.
The percentage employed by the financial services sector overall rose from 35% to nearly 37%.
Alex Figueroa, a recruiter with Goldman Sachs, said that an MBA is beneficial to getting a job at the investment bank if you do not have a background in finance.
Goldman Sachs also values a high level of achievement prior to business school; self-confidence; and the ability to communicate high-level finance and investment topics, he said. “You need a high ‘investment IQ’.”
At Kellogg School of Management the top investment banks including UBS and Morgan Stanley hired 7% of the class, up by 2.5% on 2014. The financial services sector as a whole hired 5% more Kellogg MBAs this year; 19% of the class.
Roberto Rossi, Morgan Stanley’s HR manager for EMEA, said MBAs bring flexibility and adaptability to the world’s fourth top investment bank by fees earned.
“We target a lot of universities in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Russia,” he said.
But with savaged reputations, onerous regulation and falling pay, competition for talent among banks since the financial crisis has been high. “It’s a challenge for us,” Roberto said.
“With the rebounding of the overall economy and a strong IPO market, firms are hiring again in greater numbers,” said Regina Resnick, associate dean of the Career Management Center.
“Not only are they hiring for the investment banking function, but they also seek talented MBAs for private wealth management and research.”
At NYU Stern, a stone’s throw away from Wall Street, the business school forecasts that 27% of its MBAs this year were hired by investment banks. The data, although unconfirmed, will show investment banks hired 5% more Stern MBAs than three years ago — although this is flat on last year.
“The mergers and acquisitions marketplace is healthy, the start-up community is very active, and the financial institutions group on the consulting side is seeing growth,” said Roxanne Hori, associate dean of corporate relations and career services at NYU Stern.
As a result, “the banks have come back and recruiting for our students remains strong”.
At Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Citi hired more MBAs in 2015 than the year before. Overall financial services firms took on 20% of the class, up from 17% in 2014.
“Banking recruiting is strong,” said Sheryle Dirks, associate dean of Fuqua’s Career Management Center. “And we have also seen increased hiring into other types of finance roles, such as corporate finance, private wealth, asset management, private equity, venture capital and others.”
Meanwhile in Europe investment banking recruitment is stable, with 24% of MBAs at London’s Imperial College hired by financial services firms. “A relatively high proportion of Imperial MBAs end up working in the City,” said Mark Davies, employer relations manager at Imperial College Business School.
Nick Williams, a director at UK based Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Business schools provide a high-calibre of candidate for any top tier employer.” He added: “We have run formal partnership programs with various business schools successfully, and this remains an option in the future.”
Meanwhile at Stanford’s business school private equity firms including Blackstone, which has $334 billion in assets under management and KKR ($98 billion), hired 13% of the MBA class this year.
Financial services is the top employer of Stanford MBAs, hiring 31% of the cohort, up from 29% in 2014.
Demand for talent from buyout houses has put a premium on MBAs. Stanford graduates are being paid $152,500 on average by private equity firms. In venture capital the figure is $175,000.
“Compensation attracts an awful lot of people to finance, particularly private equity and venture capital,” said Maeve Richard, Stanford’s Career Management Center director. “Private investing is where you can earn the most. Big bonuses are best in private equity.”
At Harvard Business School the percentage of MBAs hired by private equity and venture capital firms has risen by 5% over two years from, from 10% in 2013 to 15% this year.
Harvard MBAs working at these firms are earning $150,000 average base salaries, and $25,000 median signing bonuses.