Interview with Adil Khan: Investment Banker turned MBB Consultant
Summarized by Caleb Guo and Morgan Tannis
This month, we were lucky enough to speak with Adil Khan, a WCM, Western, and Ivey HBA 2021 alumnus. During his time at Western, Adil was the Head of the WCM Educations Portfolio, an IBR Senior Editor and author, and held executive positions on Ivey Finance Club, the Ivey Case Competition Team, W5, Western Founders Network, and the Ivey Energy & Resources Club. He has completed wealth management, M&A, and investment banking internships at RBC Dominion Securities, Constellation Software, and Rothschild & Co respectively. More recently, Adil joined Boston Consulting Group (BCG) as an Associate.
Caleb: Great to see you again, Adil! Could you start us off by walking us through your path to consulting?
Adil: For sure. I didn’t walk onto the Western campus knowing that I was going to be a consultant. I thought I was going to be a doctor because I come from a family that does medicine. Late into high school I started to think that maybe medicine wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I applied to Western and Ivey because it seemed like a good, honest business program.
When a lot of people say that they want to do business they don’t actually understand what it means. Maybe they think it’s like what they’ve seen on Suits, but they don’t actually understand what the derivatives of business actually are. The door to Ivey opened for me and when I got to Western, I started thinking about a lot of different options. Based on what people were talking about, I thought about consulting, entrepreneurship… a lot of different things. When I decided to go into banking it was because of the great clubs with really smart people I stumbled into at Western. I looked up to the people in the clubs which ended up getting me internships from RBC, to Constellation, to Rothschild. I realized that I was good at traditional finance-type internships. I got the return at Rothschild and did a year and a bit there before transitioning over to BCG.
Caleb: That’s fantastic, and a very motivational story! I was wondering if you could speak a little bit more about your experience at WCM and other clubs at Western?
Adil: The way I think about it is a circle of giving back. The people who are more actively involved in the clubs in fourth year are usually those who were on the receiving end of the most support in first year. When you look at me when I was in first year, I knew as close to nothing as you can possibly get. When I went to the meetings, I had no idea what was going on and the people in the clubs probably ended up being my closest mentors and friends. Anything that I was able to achieve was largely and functionally due to people in these clubs in this community helping me out.
When you’re a first year and somebody basically gives you their entire career, there’s really nothing you can do to repay them. So, the way you give back is by recognizing that all the people that are mentees on these clubs were mentees within the same community. The only way you can really give back to them is to give to others the same things that you were given. The reason I was so involved with the club and the reason I wanted to be involved in educations, specifically, was because of all the joy that I got from teaching and mentoring. It’s almost like an obligation of this is what I owe from what was invested in me. That’s how we kind of keep the cycle going, right.
Caleb: For our first and second years, is there any advice you have for navigating recruiting and getting as much as possible out of clubs at Western?
Adil: At the highest level, before getting into the nuances of finance recruiting. The best advice that I can give is this. Before you absolutely devote yourself to a single path, make sure that you are at least taking a second for yourself. Be introspective. Think about what you want and your long-term career prospects. What is your measure of success? What is the framework that you will use when you’re 75 years old, to measure whether or not you lived a life that you wanted to live?
Caleb: Can you walk us through some of the insights you have gained from your various internships and full-time roles?
Adil: The best advice that I have when it comes to succeeding in the recruiting process and your internships is to be personable.
When I was in first and second year, I thought that the way that I would get a great job is by just knowing my technicals better than every single other person right. I knew the guides like the back of my hand, right? What you quickly realize is that no matter how good you are at technicals, you are going to know so much less than even an analyst that has been at the job for a year. No matter how good you are, you are always going to know so much less than them.
Caleb: Is there anything that you wish you had done differently during your time at Western or Ivey or in your career?
Adil: This might be a little bit different. But my biggest thing is that I wish that I had more fun. The reason I say that is that I think that there is a mentality that you need be working 1 million hours a day and skip formals and do all that to study and all this kind of stuff, and to a certain extent it is true.
You’ll find that there are so many people who are able to do all that but then also build meaningful relationships and have fun going out.
Morgan: How would you describe what your work in investment banking and consulting is like on a day-to-day basis to someone who doesn’t know what either of those fields are?
Adil: I think that people have a rough idea of what investment banking is.
I think that everybody kind of has this picture of investment banking, you know, you’re either raising capital or you’re advising on either the buy or sell side of the side of transactions and you’re working on these huge 1-billion-dollar deals and making market moving transactions. And it is true, however, I think that it is romanticized to a certain extent.
At the most junior levels, whether it’s banking, consulting, whatever it might be. You are just focused on execution, right? You are building models and putting different bits of analysis together. You get certain instructions that vary daily completely laid out, and you’re executing on them.
Morgan: Previously, you mentioned that students should think about their framework that they use to measure success kind of at the at the end of their careers, can you speak to that a little bit more?
Adil: So, man, when I was in when I was in fourth year, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had secured a full-time offer and it felt like the first time in a very long time where didn’t have anything to do. I had this entire time to really think a little bit more about what I want, and I did some coffee chats.
When I was coffee chatting, I would make this assumption that if the person that I’m talking to loves what they do and is happy, I would also, in their shoes, be equally as excited and equally as happy right. I would get off the call with someone who does distressed debt investing and think “oh man, I want work in distressed debt investing”. It felt like my life was changing every single time I got off a call, and the mistake that I was making was that I was using whatever frameworks the people I was talking to had that they used to define whether or not they were happy with their lives.
Then I started to think “Okay, we all are very independent and have our own path”. I realized I could apply the frameworks of the people I was talking to and objectively analyze how I would feel in the same situation. The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all framework.
For the present, the goal is happiness maximization and regret minimization.
Caleb: Thank you for your insights, and that wraps up all our questions. On behalf of Western Capital Markets, we appreciate your time and your continued involvement with the club!