By Eric Peghini in collaboration with peers
It has come to the attention of the SSHB editors that while the Bocconi Students PE association (BSPE) has established itself as a source of buy-side content (a sore but welcome thumb given our host’s title), there still remains bewilderment surrounding the university that houses our esteemed association.
This post is an attempt to demystify Bocconi as an educational institution sans braggadocio and bull[run. edited]
My background: Current final year MSc (Master’s of Science) Finance student from North America who completed his undergrad at a UK non-target.
I primarily chose to undertake an MSc because in Europe it is highly regarded in the financial world. I also needed to differentiate myself from other applicants at London banks by attending a target school. It could well be true that somewhere in the black box of IB recruiting, acceptable CVs are binary – meaning either you attended a “target” (tick!) or a “non-target” (…) and that’s how resumes are initially filtered. Of course, this is no rule but rather an opinion and there’s plenty of literature on this site to help those from non-targets break in.
Be that as it may, while most banks in the US and Canada recruit directly out of undergrad, banks in the UK will accept around half-bachelor students and half-masters. In continental Europe (Germany, France, Italy) it’s fairly necessary to have at least a masters. Of course, in the Americas MBAs are a big deal but in Europe you’ll find fewer summer associate positions.
Bocconi is certainly a target school for banking in the UK and Europe and is also highly regarded in Asia. While respected in NA, the majority of Americans might only know LSE, Oxford and Cambridge of the European universities.
The MSc Finance is the flagship program at Bocconi with a current Financial Times MSc finance pre-experience ranking of 8th place. What I believe the ranking doesn’t consider is the network. For instance, some universities ranked higher are more geared towards preparing for careers in cities such as Frankfurt or Paris rather than London. Bocconi is one of the best represented non-UK institutions in The City and Canary Wharf. So please consider the location where you’d like to pursue a career before taking a top-down approach to applying using the rankings.
Also consider that UK MSc programs are one year in duration while in Europe they are typically at least 18 months (two years for Bocconi). The two years offers more flexibility for internships whereas the one year is great for those looking for a quick resume filler. UK institutions are usually more than double Bocconi’s yearly tuition of about EUR11,000. Bocconi also seeks to attract international interest and it awards 50% tuition waivers to those who score roughly 700 on the GMAT (100% waivers to those with +750); GPA will also be a factor in the algorithm although strong test scores seem to be a surefire way of entering the program.
The classes of the MSc Finance are very quantitative. On top of valuation and M&A, courses include Econometrics, Derivatives, Theory of Finance…. just anticipate to memorize a lot of proofs. Through this, Bocconi students develop a holistic view of the bank, not only understanding corporate finance but also futures & options, risk management and regulation. This is beneficial when working for the financial institutions.
Other finance-related programs include MiM (Master’s in Management) which also does well to place graduates in IB as does MSc Accounting, Auditing and Control to a lesser extent.
The careers services at Bocconi will not hold your hand. I recall one instance (and the university can lament if it likes but it’s a true story) of a colleague entering the careers building asking for help to position himself for banking, to which the careers personnel responded, “You’re at Bocconi, you’ll get a job.” While I found this confidence equally hysterical as arrogant, it wasn’t entirely helpful.
Granted, careers services do well to organize events. There are several “in company training” visits to highly regarded financial institutions and corporates in various cities including London, Paris, Frankfurt, NYC and Hong Kong where students can ask questions and meet industry professionals. Also, as a target university, Bocconi has “Investment Banking Days” or info sessions from the top banks’ London teams on campus in late September. During these days, students are invited to network with bankers, listen to their presentations and participate in case studies and trading games. There may also be some on-campus interviews during this time as well as networking drinks and dinners which seem to be the auspicious methods of receiving an assessment centre (superday).
Many Bocconi students place in top banks in London. Beware though because there is a correlation between accepting Bocconi students and maintaining an Italian speaking quota. Foreign students place well on average (especially the German students who return to Germany) but the Italians tend to take the most prestigious roles. Having said this, there is still a fair number of foreign students working in banking in London. As for jobs in Milan, go for it, if you’re fluent in Italian.
When it comes to studying…. the Italians work incredibly hard. Do not enter the course with any preconceived notions about the work ethic of Southern Europeans. In Italy, companies are reluctant to offer internships with a duration of less than 6 months. Therefore, few students have relevant work experience and so they compensate with flawless transcripts. There is no 80%:20% rule at Bocconi: the Italians will put in the extra days’ study if it means the difference between a 29/30 and a 30/30 (the grading scale is a mess, don’t ask me why). Because you will be graded based on the relative performance of your peers, expect to clock into the library a fair amount in order to find yourself on the agreeable end of the curve.
There are also plenty of associations to join as a Bocconi student to broaden the network and meet new people. Several of these are business oriented as Bocconi is first and foremost a business university however, there are some fun ones such as the surfing society and Bocconi Wine.
Although you study a bit, there is still some free time allowing students the opportunity to explore Milan.
As an American who studied in the UK, the food is remarkable – but that’s really no headline. One could arguably visit a different restaurant for each day of the two-year degree and prices tend to be reasonable. A great way to get to know fellow classmates is to organize aperitivos which are very common Northern Italian dinners involving an all-you-can-eat spread with the purchase of a cocktail for about EUR10. For the thirsty, there is a plethora of exceptional cocktail bars and don’t forget that when in continent, feel free to BYOB to the park or along the canal district.
Nightlife is also solid in Milan with several clubs to choose from. The venues are good fun yet most attempt to channel a swanky vibe. Don’t expect any college-like venues. Do expect massive queues and rejections at the door if your group arrives too late, doesn’t have an appropriate gender ratio and/or is unwilling to purchase a table. If liquidity isn’t a constraint, then you’ll have an incredible time.
The city also attracts tourists globally as fashion is an aortal aspect of Milan. Fashion shows and parties emerge during the fashion weeks which keep students entertained and out of the library.
For sporting events you have two great football clubs, AC and Inter Milan, playing in the top flight of Italian soccer and in Europe. Also, there is the Italian GP in Monza for F1 fans.
And that’s really it. Good luck in your search and stay tuned.