How to build a banking investment career

How to build a banking investment career, including education, training and how to find a job.

Investment banking is deservedly one of the most respected career paths available today. The profession involves challenging work at every level, attracts the highest caliber of employees, and pays top dollar. As a result, the screening system to get a foot in the door is rigorous, and once you've successfully secured an investment banking job, you will find yourself in fierce competition with your colleagues for top bonuses.

Entry Points for Investment Banking Careers

There are three traditional entry points for investment banking careers: as an analyst, as a post-MBA associate, and in one's later career. Let's examine each one.

Every investment bank recruits a large class of analysts each year from the top undergraduate institutions. The analyst position offers an unparalleled degree of challenge and responsibility for young professionals, but the experience typically demands more than eighty hours a week for two years straight. Virtually all analysts are hired directly out of four-year undergraduate institutions. All possess stellar grades, a poised interview presence, and a very timely approach to interviewing and resume preparation - analyst interviewing typically occurs in September and October of senior year.

Investment banks also recruit large classes of associates from top MBA programs. Although a few analysts go on to become associates, the associate position is usually seen as the beginning of the investment banking career path - from associate to vice president to managing director and beyond. Associates assume responsibility for all aspects of investment banking marketing materials (pitchbooks), and deal execution. Virtually all associates are hired from summer associate positions at the same bank - meaning interviews in the first year of business school are very likely to determine job choices later on.

Finally, there are those who join investment banking later in their careers. This is the most cyclical of all investment banking intakes. Some years banks are desperate for people, and other years there are hiring freezes and it is impossible to enter the industry. When opportunity strikes, it pays to be prepared. This means having a resume with significant experience at either a smaller boutique investment bank, or a major commercial bank or asset manager. Furthermore, it means keeping in touch with contacts in the industry so you will know when banks are soliciting resumes.

Once you're in the door, it's time to build your successful interview into a successful career.



Principles for Excelling in Investment Banking

Relationships are Everything. Banking products, like equity, debt, and advice, are essentially commodities. What separates one bank from another is the relationships its bankers have built with their clients. Investment banking is a relationship business, where credibility and golf ties make all the difference. At every level, the most respected bankers will be those that have established credibility with their clients.

Don't Lose the Forest for the Trees. Relationships are qualitative. Numbers, though, are the foundation of the advice and recommendations that investment banks provide their clients. Associates and analysts frequently get so carried away with simply finding & collating digits that they forget to check for obvious errors. Computational accuracy is critical to establishing a good reputation as a junior banker.

Deals Count. Getting deals done puts experience on your resume and in your bank's pitchbooks. It also familiarizes you with the processes banks go through to get their product offering to market. Your banking career will be best served by staying close to the deals, and that means aligning yourself with groups and individuals who seem to be deal centers.

Commitment is Critical. Banking is cyclical, and even on specific deals there are bound to be highs and lows. Bankers sometimes get yelled at by clients, or snubbed publicly; and junior bankers sometimes find themselves in over their heads with huge deadlines looming. Banks go through bad bonus years. To a greater degree than with other professions, a certain amount of your banking success is dependent on your ability to stick with it through the bad times.

Transition with Care. Moving to another investment bank is an institutionalized practice, with many senior bankers having worked at two to three banks, and sometimes more. There are three good reasons to move: (1) more money, particularly with a guarantee, (2) more reputable bank, or (3) a better fit in terms of industry focus or geographies covered. While these are all good reasons, bankers should take care not to switch too often as frequent moves between banks is not well regarded in the industry.

Investment banking is a challenging career that's well suited for confident, well-prepared people at the top of their game. With these tips, you will be prepared to stay ahead of the pack and deliver enduring value to your employer while earning an excellent living yourself.

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