What it's like to be Indian in M&A

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Measured in terms of employment, India is a big market for international investment banks.   Morgan Stanley has two investment banking support offices in Mumbai and Bengalaru and Deutsche Bank has 9,500 employees in the country. Goldman Sachs has office space for up to 10,000 people in Bangalore.

Historically, however, its been hard for Indian bankers to escape their home country and make it to London or Wall Street. This is especially the case when it comes to M&A and advisory jobs. There are plenty of junior staff crunching numbers for western M&A pitch books in Mumbai, but Indian-born deal-makers are few outside of Asia.

"You see plenty of Indians working in securities roles here, but hardly any in M&A and advisory jobs," says Ranesh, an Indian-educated MBA graduate working for a top European bank in London. "Indians are seen as quants who can run models - they're not seen as smooth operators who can work with clients."

Banks target MBA graduates of Indian business schools like the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM Ahmedabad), which is famously harder to get into than Stanford and Harvard. However, while IIM-A MBAs litter sales, trading and structuring roles in London, banks like Goldman are understood to have stopped targeting Indian MBAs for their associate-level advisory roles.  "I'm pretty much the only one from my class who went into M&A," says Ranesh, who was hired a few years ago.

Banks themselves are reluctant to talk about their Indian hiring efforts. However, the head of recruitment at one British investment bank said Indians are seen as very "technically gifted" and are therefore a popular choice for roles on the trading floor and not much else. Hiring from the subcontinent has become easier since the British government changed the immigration rules, he added. Jonathan Goldsworthy, an associate who deals with cross border employment issues at Bird & Bird, agrees. Anyone who earns more than £152k ($254k) falls into the 'unrestricted category' of migrant into the UK, says Goldsworthy. High earning Indian traders (of whom there are plenty at Deutsche Bank) easily satisfy this criteria.

Ranesh says London tends to be the first stop-off for Indian MBAs seeking an international banking career. "It's just much harder to get into New York - you need an H1B Visa and most banks have specific allocations for them. A lot of people want to work in New York eventually, but short term London is closer to home."

What's Ranesh's advice for other highly qualified Indians who want to work in M&A for a bank in London? "There aren't too many options," he says. "A lot of people try to start out in model-building and pitch-book roles at home and then to move on, but that's almost impossible." If you're based in Mumbai and you want a Western M&A job, you'll need to be "very aggressive" and to network heavily, he suggests.

Any networking will probably have to be done with bankers themselves. If you're an Indian banker in Mumbai and you want an M&A job in London, it's probably not worth sending your resume to a recruitment firm. "We get so many CVs that whenever I receive one from India I just bin it to be honest," confesses one M&A recruiter in the City.