A Powerful Insight into Finance Careers Through the IB Trek

Cecily Liu

The Investment Banking or "IB" Trek has always been a highlight for INSEAD students curious to learn more about shaping a career in the finance industry and this year has been no exception.

Organised by the friendly INSEAD career development centre team, the trek brings a selected group of students to meet finance professionals working in London, many of whom are INSEAD alumni. They were so excited to see us, and extremely eager to share their stories, insights, and sincere advice – exactly the type of guidance they have once appreciated during their student days.

This year I was lucky to be amongst dozens of classmates attending the IB Trek.

We interacted with representatives from a wide range of companies – Credit Suisse, Actis, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Citi, and Houlihan Lokey. Taking place across two days during the break between P1 and P2, this event is truly a rewarding and inspiring activity that took my mind away from the P1 exams, and gave me a boost of energy ready to start P2.

Each firm had about six to seven representatives, who had generously volunteered their time to speak to us. Their level of seniority varied across the range – from Associates to Vice Presidents, Managing Directors, or heads of a team. Each meeting started with a general presentation, about the firm’s strength, culture, trends and opportunities, as well as the presenters’ personal journeys – from their INSEAD days to eventually leading a successful career at their organisation.

They shared many personal stories, of how they chose a career in finance, how they quickly learned the tricks of the trade, the best moments and highlights, the unforgettable challenges and how they overcame them.

Very often companies emphasise their unique culture as a key selling point, and I feel our interaction with company representatives is what brings this culture alive – after all, these will be the people who would become our colleagues and mentors if we join their firms.    

Sitting in the audience, I felt that these stories gave real faces to organisations that otherwise we would only know by name. These moving stories are not what one would expect in an official company presentation, and gave the chats a very friendly atmosphere. I also truly enjoyed the breakout rooms, where each company representative had very detailed interactions with a small group of three to five students, where we felt comfortable asking questions that were more personal to us.

The company representatives shared top tips on how to submit a successful application – including CV, interview and preparation suggestions. Just as importantly, they gave us the sincere advice that if we decided finance was not for us, do not go into it. They spoke with such sincerity that I knew they cared deeply – they know that as MBA students we are making an important career decision which will impact us for a number of years to come, as they were once on this journey themselves.

I am amazed by the INSEAD career development centre’s amazing ability to put this event together.

I am also incredibly impressed by INSEAD’s friendly, collaborative and fun alumni, whom we met during this Trek and they are such role models for us to aspire to.

Although this year’s IB Trek had to take place via Zoom (as opposed to going to London!) I felt that the experience was not at all compromised. We received so much insight, information, and opportunities to form meaningful bonds with the company representatives. We shared openly, and the chat rooms were filled with engaging discussions, sincere advice anda  fun atmosphere. I could tell that the company representatives truly enjoyed interacting with us too, as one representative said, “this is the exciting time of the year to meet talented students, it makes me feel 10 years younger!”