Bank of America Merrill Lynch
In September 2008, Bank of America made just about every headline in the world, announcing that it would buy the investment bank Merrill Lynch. This made BofA the biggest US bank in terms of assets, the largest of the leading investment banking advisory firms, and one of the world’s top wealth management firms.
Hours and whispers.
- Generous compensation
- High-level client projects
- Friendly, smart team members
- Solid growth opportunity, ability to transfer to different areas
- Big plans for growth in Europe
- Top class facilities
- Integration issues with regards to the Merrill Lynch acquisition
- Gruelling hours and poor work/life balance
- Antiquated IT systems
- Too large and too political
- Poor communication from management
- Relatively new kid on the block in Europe
If you haven’t heard of Bank of America prior to September 2008, you’ll probably recognise them now. As Merrill Lynch stumbled, almost collapsing into bankruptcy during the financial crisis of 2008, BofA saved the illustrious investment bank by acquiring it famously in an all-stock deal worth approximately $50 billion. Overnight, BofA became the largest bank holding company in the US by assets, the second largest by market capitalisation, and the largest financial services firm in the world. The deal also saw a major leap forward in its wealth management, with the assimilation of Merrill Lynch’s almost 50% stake in US investment management firm, BlackRock. However, despite its name and headline-grabbing dealings in the US, BofA has a significant international presence, with 6,000+ offices across over 30 countries.
A Bit of Background
BofA’s earliest predecessor was the first bank to be formed after the Treaty of Paris recognised America’s independence in the late 18th Century. Chartered only one year after attaining sovereignty, the Massachusetts Bank was set up by a small group of Boston’s leaders in 1784, exercising their newly won freedom.
Fast forward 150 years or so, and the bank has endured depressions, wars – Anglo, civil and world – natural disasters and pretty much everything else it could have had thrown at it. In 1957, next door neighbours American Trust Company and Commercial National Bank joined forces to create American Commercial Bank. Then two years later, this newly formed entity merged with Security National Bank of Greensboro to form North Carolina National Bank (NCNB). Using a ‘hometown bank’ model – where each branch had the autonomy to mould itself to the needs of its community – the firm expanded both aggressively and successfully. In 1979, NCNB completed two $100 million mergers, then in 1982 it bought the First National Bank of Lake City, Florida. The latter, while not a major acquisition, nevertheless represented a giant step. Using a little known provision of Florida law, the bank exempted itself from the prohibition against out-of-state banks operating there. The result: a strong provincial foothold and a consequent string of bolstering mergers.
After years of investing heavily in communities across the States, NCNB acquired Atlanta-based C&S/Sovran Corporation in 1991 and took the new name NationsBank. 1998 brought yet another acquisition, but with it, it also brought the name change: NationsBank assimilated BankAmerica and the firm finally became Bank of America. In 2004 and 2005, the firm snagged two more banks, FleetBoston Financial and MBNA respectively, before historically merging with the renowned Merrill Lynch in 2009.
A Closer Look at Divisions & Departments
BofA and its numerous affiliates offer its clients a wide range of services, including investment banking, capital market support, equity financing, global cash management, credit card services, consumer lending, traded market products, trade finance, leasing and financial advisory services. Amongst the firm’s clients, which include corporations, institutional investors and governments, you’ll find big names in almost any industry you care to mention, such as British Aerospace and Remy Cointreau.
Since the now legendary merger of 2008, the firm’s global corporate and investment banking (GCIB) activities operate under the Merrill Lynch subsidiary and provided mergers and acquisitions advisory, underwriting, capital markets, as well as sales & trading in fixed income and equities markets. It has one of the largest research teams on Wall Street and its strongest groups include leveraged finance, syndicated loans, and mortgage-backed securities.
The global wealth and investment management arm is one of the biggest players of the US wealth managers, and has five primary lines of business: premier banking & investments, the private bank, family wealth advisors and Bank of America specialist. But by far and away, the firm’s largest division is consumer, where it generates 90% of its revenue. Global consumer and small business banking (GC&SBB) is the largest division in the company, and deals primarily with consumer banking and credit card issuance. This business unit includes over 6,100 retail branches and over 18,700 ATMs across the length and breadth of the United States. However, BofA is not only about investment banking as corporate philanthropy is an important part of the company’s philosophy, making this global leader a diverse employer.Read all 10 employee quotes
If you want a graduate or summer position with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, you must come armed with no less than a 2:1. Provided you spent more time checking out your textbooks rather than the local pubs near your campus, you can apply to any of the firm’s European locations – the most common are London, Frankfurt, Milan and Paris. Entry level applicants can choose from investment banking, capital markets, sales and trading, product services, technology, risk management and global middle office. If you’ve got three years of work experience under your belt and an MBA, then you can apply for the more advanced associate programme.
If this sounds good to you and you’re keen to apply for an internship or graduate programme at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, your journey begins with an online application form, which will question you on your career choice and academic background. This will be followed by an online numerical reasoning test, which is pretty standard and will last around 30 minutes with 20 to 30 questions to be answered – if you’re not familiar with these sorts of tests you better get practicing. If you did your homework, you will be invited to a first round interview with another numerical reasoning test to pass and a 45-minute technical interview to master. The initial vis-à-vis will encompass the usual questions about your CV and employment history, but also be prepared to demonstrate your problem solving skills, your commitment and desire for a role at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Congratulations, you made the next round! Please make your way to the assessment centre for a half-day of case studies, interviews, tests, more interviews and group exercises. For the case study you are likely to be given a lot of information to read through in very little time so remember to stay focused. The group exercise will test your relationship building skills so make sure you play the game and show off the team player in you.
Although these activities will vary by region and office, hiring reps will observe and rate your analytical skills, teamwork and judgement. Interviews are not designed to trick you as interviewers are interested in finding out more about your personality and knowledge so try and be as engaging as possible. You’ll then have the opportunity to meet the people you hope to be working with and ask them some of your questions. You’ll also get a feel for the place and most importantly, find out if you can see yourself working there for the next few years.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch boasts various entry level positions for graduates keen to launch their careers as analysts or associates, while those with a PhD or an MBA are also welcome to apply. However, beware that obtaining a place in one of the firm’s graduate programmes is not easy as Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s standards are high. The firm’s after unpretentious folks so there is no need to brag about how excellent a leader you are or what a great analytical brain you possess. While confidence in applicants is appreciated, don’t overdo it and stick to the truth – you might not grow a Pinocchio-style nose if you exaggerate the facts, but you’ll be found out sooner or later.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch is fairly flexible when it comes to hiring graduates for its analyst positions as the firm accepts candidates of all academic disciplines. A lot of the analyst roles are available across EMEA so a second language would certainly not do your application any harm. Graduates can apply to various divisions such as international corporate treasury, consumer and small business banking, capital markets, research, and compliance. Analyst programmes usually kick off with an induction and training programme, after which you can expect to work on live transactions, provide financial advice and business solutions, and keep in touch with clients.
Thinking of Becoming an Associate or Quant at Bank of America Merrill Lynch?
Then you better have strong academic credentials and a fancy MBA or PhD. The global investment banking, sales and trading, and research departments have associate schemes on offer that are specifically aimed at MBA grads. These programmes are generally management-based and client-related, requiring candidates to possess natural leadership qualities. Final-year PhD students can apply for the quantitative analytics associate programme, however, a very high level of mathematical and analytical abilities are required and you need to demonstrate strong commercial awareness on top of that.
While there are fewer graduate programmes available for associates than for analysts, associates are rewarded with a trip to New York – where they will set in motion their formal training programme at the beginning of the scheme. Here you can expect an introduction to the company, the financial market, and learn more about business/analytical skills. It is not all about work though as associates will also be given plenty of opportunities to mingle with other associates from all over the world and enjoy New York’s bubbly nightlife!
Bank of America Merrill Lynch offers various international internship programmes, but the most coveted is the firm’s summer placement running from June to August, and aimed at students in their penultimate year of study. During the fixed nine-week period, you’ll get a taste of what life as an associate or analyst is really like. You can intern in corporate banking and markets, HR, risk, technology and operations, as well as in wealth and investment management so if this is something you desperately want to do, make sure you know the ins and outs of banking – and don’t even dare to apply if you don’t! Just kidding, BofA is not so much interested in your technical ability, but in your ambitions and reasons for applying, particularly if you’re not from a finance background.
You’ll face a busy schedule as an intern with a host of networking and social activities putting you in touch with some of BofA’s senior executives. Additionally, personal mentors will ensure that you don’t get swamped with work and discuss any issues you might want to raise with them.
If you’re looking for long-term placements with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, an off-cycle internship would probably suit you best. These are on hand throughout the year and can last three to nine months in total. Specific industrial placements in the technology department are also available and would particularly fit those with strong interests in business and technology solutions. While these internships can be taken up in almost any part of the world, London, Madrid, Moscow, Frankfurt and Paris are the hot spots. As always, speaking a foreign language is a definite plus when applying to Bank of America Merrill Lynch and in some cases it is even a must.
BofA Merrill Lynch Graduate Recruitment Info
Tel: +44 (0)20 7996 3528
No. of employees: Approx. 283,000
No. of graduate roles: 250
Interns: £1,000 to £2,500 / week (Approx.)
Analysts: £32,000 - £50,000 (Approx.)
Associates: £50,000 - £75,000 (Approx.)
Vice President: £70,000 + (Approx.)
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No. of offices: 6,100+
2 King Edward Street
London EC1A 1HQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7174 4000