A career in banking can undoubtedly be lucrative. From day one, in the ambitious race for promotion and bonuses, it takes a sophisticated demonstration of technical skills and soft skills to distinguish oneself from other analysts. Played well, if an analyst was to leverage her abilities from the start, her success - and her compensation - could be astronomical.
Yet, while there are countless accounting and finance accreditations for graduates or financial professionals who invest in their business development, most do not prepare students for the specific demands of investment banking and corporate finance.
In 2003, after working as an investment banker and later as an equity research analyst at JP Morgan in New York, Matan Feldman noticed this disconnect between the finance he studied before joining the bank and the training he received within. Undergraduate academic exams and practising interview questions may get a young professional into a bank but they do not set on-the-job expectations to excel on the desk, he says.
To answer this need, Feldman founded Wall Street Prep catering to individual students wanting to get a foothold in an investment bank. Initial courses were shipped as books and CDs until the company migrated online in 2005, a time when online learning was still new.
Seventeen years later and the company has leveraged to become a full-scale financial services training company running over 120 training programmes, on-campus boot camps and corporate training. Today, sixty per cent of Wall Street Prep’s business is from investment banks, financial institutions and private equity firms while the rest comes from students and professionals trying to break into the industry. This means aback office finance professional wanting to better understand industry-specific financial modelling or recent graduates hoping to fast-track their career can opt for the same courses the world’s most prestigious investment banks are using to train their employees.
“It's been an evolution but we maintain one foot in the consumer side for students trying to break in and the other in the corporate learning side,” says Feldman.
Courses cover the spectrum of industry-specific theory and modelling, including Project Finance Modeling that teaches how to model infrastructure projects, there are LBO Modelling, 13-Week Cash Flow Modelling and an Oil and Gas Modelling courses that include O&G accounting and financial statement analysis, O&G projection drivers and Net Asset Value modelling.
“Industry-specific versions of modelling have become popular,” says Feldman. “For example, right now in the US and globally, you have this unprecedented amount of bankruptcies taking place and restructuring. The modelling for that has some idiosyncrasies. The underlying finance legal aspects are different. So we created a great course because, again, there's nothing out there that bridges this type of bankruptcy concept with modelling on the job.”
Other Wall Street Prep courses tackle broader but essential skills for investment bankers and private equity managers. On the productivity side, for example, students can learn Excel VBA, an excel fundamentals course structured specifically for finance professionals. There is also the PowerPoint Crash Course — a reflection of the reality that financial professionals need strategies and techniques for building better pitchbooks, client decks and other presentations.
Then there is the Premium Package - the largest and most popular program. It is the largest global online financial modelling training program and is used at eight of the top 10 investment banks to train their professionals, as well as leading academic institutions such as HBS, Columbia and Stanford.
The Premium Package teaches the range of financial and valuation modelling, financial statement modelling, DCF, Trading and Transaction Comps, M&A and LBO. The course uses a combination of videos, Excel model templates and financial reports to teach students and professionals how to build, analyze, and interpret financial models in a step-by-step fashion at their own pace.
As expected, students who enrol on the Premium Package are motivated and ambitious, spending on average 70-90 hours to complete all modules.
Perhaps unsurprising, in 2020, Covid19 has changed how banks do banking, how professionals work and how students learn. “Covid has completely validated that you can learn on your own if the course quality is engaging and effective,” says Feldman.
Even on the corporate buyer side, where traditionally there has been greater resistance to virtual learning, Feldman has seen an upsurge in the shift to online training.
“We recently ran a programme for a large investment bank with five instructors and we trained their employees from all around the world - they didnt need to fly everybody in,” he says. “Companies are realising massive amounts of cost savings,” he says. “As platforms and methods of delivery have improved, our clients and students realise you come out of a self-study course better off than if you had a live instructor.”
“With Covid, obviously we have the unfortunate dynamic that people are staying at home. So we’ve seen a massive uptick not only in enrollment but also just how engaged people are with the content,” he says.
While Covid is rapidly changing how and why we work, in the banking sector ambition and drive remain a constant - if not more scrupulous than before. If anything, the students who use the time to their advantage may leverage a significant competitive and financial advantage over other analysts. Put simply, it could pay to be prepared.