Q&A with Cliff Hoppe on University of Chicago case competition and what it takes to get a start in investment banking


Case competitions are often a highlight for undergraduate students interested in Corporate Finance and serve as a valuable preview for those seeking careers in investment banking. Recently, Societe Generale Americas Head of Equity Capital Markets David Getzler joined bankers from our Chicago office as judges for the University of Chicago competition. Cliff Hoppe of Societe Generale Americas Coverage and Investment Banking group and a graduate of The University of Chicago Booth School of Business was one of the judges and shared his insight on the event as well his advice on the skills and approach necessary for incoming banking analysts.

How do classroom skills at institutions like the University of Chicago transfer to a sophisticated banking environment like Societe Generale?

When you look at students from top tier universities like The University of Chicago, you know you are getting driven individuals who are highly intelligent. The curriculum demands superior work ethic and encourages and rewards critical thinking, both of which are essential skills needed to succeed in investment banking. Having received my MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, I have a special admiration for the culture the University fosters among its students. Individuals are empowered to challenge conventional thinking and pursue original ideas.

What are some of the key success factors you see for incoming analysts?

Incoming analysts need to be highly motivated, proactive and creative thinkers. I find the most successful analysts are those who ultimately demonstrate the most well-rounded skill sets. Being able to analyze complex ideas is just as important as the ability to breakdown and articulate those ideas to others.

What themes stood out for you most in the University of Chicago student case submissions?

Across the board, the Societe Generale Americas panel was extremely impressed with the quality of the case submissions and the subsequent presentations. It was a complex transaction with many intricacies to consider. All the teams did an excellent job of breaking down the deal, constructing comprehensive valuation models and developing sound strategic rationale for the deal.

What were some of the deciding factors in choosing the winning case?

The key factors we looked at were the depth and understanding of the transaction’s strategic rationale, the identification and mitigation of key risks of the transaction, the quality of pitch decks and group presentations, and the thoroughness and attention to detail in the financial modeling.

A compelling argument could have been made for any of the three finalists to have been selected the winner. However, one team separated itself from the others by identifying a key nuance in the valuation of the transaction and providing a more detailed analysis in favor of a Merger of Equals (MOE) structure.

Any advice for college graduates looking toward a career in investment banking?

Following the presentations, we had a good discussion with the finalists around the importance of building relationships, which is what led to Societe Generale Americas being mandated as Financial Advisor for this transaction.

Just as our success is built on the depth of our relationships with our clients, prospective investment banking analysts with the deepest relationships will have the most success getting hired. I’d encourage graduates who want to work in investment banking to go out of their way to develop as many relationships within the investment banking community as possible. This can be done through case competitions, attending seminars and conferences, working internships and leveraging personal and professional connections.

While telling a prospective analyst to network seems cliché, it truly is a crucial factor in getting hired, especially when you need to differentiate yourself from other highly capable peers at The University of Chicago or other top tier institutions.