M&A intern: missions, recruitment and perspectives

M&A intern: missions, recruitment and perspectives

To learn all about M&A internships, we met with a business school student who is currently working in his first M&A boutique. He shares with us how he worked and prepared for these interviews, the steps he went through and his advice.



Read more: How to maximize your chances of getting an M&A internship?



Can you introduce yourself? Can you tell us about your background? 

Hello, after graduating from high school with honors, I did two years of preparatory classes in Paris. In September 2020, I entered Audencia Nantes Business School.



You are currently in your gap year and working as an M&A Analyst, how did you find your internship?

I did my first part of my gap year as an intern M&A analyst in a mid-cap M&A boutique located in Paris, specialized in several sectors such as infrastructure, healthcare or transportation. I found my internship by looking at Linkedin ads. In fact, I had subscribed to all the M&A boutiques on Linkedin to see when they published internship offers.



Finance recruitment processes are known to be long and complex, how did yours go? 

The questions you find in interviews for M&A internships are often similar: technical questions (more or less advanced depending on the boutique), fit questions (personality) and sometimes questions about the boutique itself (for example: Why our boutique rather than another one? Do you know some of the deals we have done? Our key areas? etc). 

In my store, I had several fit questions and some technical questions. I had also been interviewed in another boutique, a mid cap in Paris, where I had a 45 minute technical test on paper. There, the questions were quite technical, for example: write in 15-20 lines what you know about LBOs, analyze an income statement, or give the WACC formula and explain it. 


In general, there are between 2 and 3 rounds: one round with an analyst for the fit (quite short), one round with an analyst again, this time accompanied by an associate or a VP (there are usually technical questions and the fit), and sometimes a third round with a Partner to check that everything is ok and that he fits well with you too. 


With friends, we were well prepared for the questions and we reviewed together from time to time, especially when we had the same interviews. We tried to pull each other up. The goal was not to compete with each other. We wanted everyone to do well and we did. We also experiences some downs when we received rejections, eliminations in the last round, calls to tell us that even if we had been good, we didn't have enough experience and that the person who had been selected had already done an internship in finance... but we stuck with it.



Read more: Focus on a must for M&A interviews: the sell-side process



What were your missions as an M&A Analyst? 

The missions as an M&A intern depend a lot on your exposure within the boutique. During my first part of the internship, it was mostly market research, monitoring, and the creation of Company Profiles (a brief presentation of a company in one or two slides). I also helped to create IM (Info-Memorandum), Teasers, etc. I also had to update an Excel sheet every day with recent deals that could potentially be of interest to the store I was in (concerning our sectors, our regular customers etc). 

Every Monday, we had a meeting to talk about the current files, during which we were "staffed" (list of tasks you are given to do, usually with deadlines). The chance I had during my internship was that I could be staffed by a Partner as well as by an analyst or a MD (Managing Director), which allowed me to work with different profiles and to learn a lot, especially in terms of rigor, etc.    


Currently (for my second part of the internship), I am in a regional boutique where I am much more exposed. I do client meetings, I pitch, I contact company managers to propose ideas for operations (transfer, fund raising, acquisitions, etc).



We often hear that finance requires to be fully commited and to give up on your personal life. Did you notice this during this internship?

Finance is a particular universe, quite codified (I'm talking about corporate finance, anyway), from the way you dress to the hours you work to the culture of the boutique you're in. Each boutique has its own culture: some require, for example, that interns stay until the partners have left, others are more flexible, others require a tie... it all depends. 

The working hours are also very different from those generally found on the job market. You have to accept to finish sometimes around 10-11pm-midnight having done for hours some very time consuming tasks all day long. Sometimes I had to make slides without even knowing why or for what purpose. And again, I never worked on weekends, but I have a friend in M&A who had to work on Easter Monday to finish a pitch in a hurry... 


In general (even if it's not always the case), the bigger the store, the less exposure you'll have, the smaller the store and the team, the more chances you'll have to be in client meetings, to pitch, to do business valuation, to work on data rooms, etc. 



What did you get from this first experience in finance?

It was a difficult experience, especially at the beginning. I had no experience in corporate finance before I started my internship so obviously when you are told to make clean slides, to source everything you do, to use software you have never used before, and all that, as fast as possible... you are lost. 

The first 3 months were particularly difficult because it took time to adapt... I had already been talked down by my superiors because I had no rigor in what I was producing at the beginning, whether it was on the slides, the sources used etc... Then, little by little, I started to develop certain reflexes that I have now totally assimilated. 

Furthermore, the hours, the fatigue, the monotony of certain tasks, the reproaches, etc., all this can get on your system and sometimes you are not far from giving up and asking yourself why you are doing all this. 


But in the end, it allowed me to acquire a great deal of rigor, a good understanding of the world of finance and business, and to surpass myself. I know today that I am able to work hard hours if I have to. All this also allows you to build a network, to meet experts in their field, company managers... 

The M&A internship may seem totally meaningless at first glance (spending hours on slides lining up your logos or checking that there are no double spaces...) but I think it remains the best school for learning rigor, understanding the world of business and finance, as well as surpassing yourself. 



Any advice for students who want to go into finance during their gap year? 

My advice for landing an internship: work hard on the technical questions (some platforms like Training You allow you to practice and prepare well), and network hard. Sometimes, by calling people on Linkedin for example, you can find someone who will pass on your CV or talk about you to their superiors (this is rare but you should maximize your chances). 

Don't hesitate to make unsolicited applications as well, in some cases it can work. I have a friend who got his M&A internship by sending his resume to the partner of a boutique, who offered him an interview and he was taken after 2 rounds. 


Once in the internship, you have to hold on. You will often feel down, you may wonder if you made the right decision by going to your internship etc... You may feel that you are not learning anything... But this is not true, later on, for your future internships, you will realize that you are in fact much more at ease, very sure of yourself, and that you have a very good capacity to synthesize information, to master Excel or Powerpoint, to analyze profit and loss accounts, to know the news, etc.

You will also learn to resist pressure, to face your superiors' remarks, to manage difficult schedules, etc. It's 6 months where you have to hang in there and give it your all to do what you want to do afterwards. Even if you want to work in a start-up, in the financial department of a large group, or even in strategic consulting, your skills will be highly appreciated and the recruiters will know your skills and your assets. Thus, you will pass the screenings much more easily. 


Read more: Finance: ranking of the best Masters in 2023