An investment banking career involves raising equity and debt capital for companies, and is an attractive option for recent university graduates or professionals with a few years of experience. While competition for these positions can be downright ferocious and the hours daunting, the profession remains a highly-lucrative option for young professionals looking to earn high levels of income in addition to executive-level experience.
Investment banks provide a myriad of finance-related services, including underwriting, raising capital for companies by issuing equity or debt securities and facilitating mergers. When raising capital for a firm, an investment bank is acting as an intermediary between investors and the issuer. Capital raised can come from private investors (each of whom often has a high net worth), or from pools of capital obtained within the public markets.
Investment banks also provide merger and acquisition (M&A) services, both on the buy and sell side of a deal. The buy side involves identifying and facilitating the acquisition of a target company, while the sell side involves taking a client company to market at auction and identifying and facilitating the sale to a high bidder or acquirer with a strong strategic fit. Alternatively, investment bankers may also help a company restructure its equity or debt, often to ease financial distress.
Investment bankers need to be effective team players with excellent communication skills in order to avoid disconnects and wasted effort. Applicants with a true passion for finance, market and organizational analysis should apply and reapply for investment banking roles, conduct self-study on finance, business, management and leadership. They should also secure impressive standardized test scores, differentiate themselves by volunteering or leading groups, and network with current or former investment bankers.
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Why Does This Matter So Much?
- Your story sets the tone for the entire interview, and a poor first impression is impossible to overcome.
- It’s easier to fix your “story”than to “fix” your lack of finance/accounting knowledge. We’re talking hours vs. weeks.
What Is This “Story” Business?
It’s your answer to the “Walk me through your resume / CV” or the “Tell me about yourself” question that you get at the beginning of every interview.
Sometimes it’s phrased differently and sometimes it’s not always the first thing they ask, but the idea is always the same:
Who are you and why are you here?
So How Do You Tell Your “Story”?
You structure it around these 5 points:
- The “Beginning”
- Your Finance “Spark”
- Your Growing Interest
- Why You’re Here Today
- Your Future
You want to start your story… at the beginning! Sorry, this is not a Quentin Tarantino film and even if Pulp Fiction is your favorite movie you still can’t jump around chronologically.
There are 3 good places to start your story:
- Where You’re From / Where You Grew Up
- Where You Went to University
- Where You Went to Business School
#1 is good if you’re still an undergraduate, #2 is better for the MBA level or beyond, and #3 is better if you’re way beyond that (which should be almost no one reading this, but hey, just to be complete…).
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Why are young bankers so uniformly miserable? After spending many, many hours in their company, I think at least three factors explain why Wall Street is a singularly unpleasant place for young people to work.
- The Hours
Wall Street is notorious for the long hours it imposes on its worker bees. (One young banker bragged to me about working the “banker 9-to-5,” defined as 9 a.m. until 5 a.m.the next day.) But lots of professions – law and medicine, to name just two – work their underlings hard. What this means, in practice, is that young bankers live in a state of perpetual anxiety, and advance planning becomes impossible. Boyfriends and girlfriends get upset about broken dinner plans, friends and family members become estranged, and phones function as third limbs.
All eight of the young bankers I followed entered the financial industry after the crash of 2008 and saw a wildly different scene than they’d imagined as college students. Thousands of bankers were being laid off, firms were chopping off entire divisions, and pay for everyone had come down to levels that, while still lucrative by any real-world measure, were far lower than they’d been before the crash.
It might sound strange, but many young people come to Wall Street expecting to make the world a better place. This is partly the fault of recruiters, who tempt college juniors and seniors with promises of “real-world responsibility” and rhapsodies about socially responsible investing.
Bankers wanted to do something, make something, add something to the world, instead of simply serving as well-paid financial intermediaries at giant investment banks. It doesn’t hurt that creative jobs.
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When you’re a junior banker on Wall Street, you’re expected to learn a lot — what a “discounted cash flow model” is, and how to use an Excel macro. That when you order a “Bear Fight” at a bar in Murray Hill, you get an Irish Car Bomb, followed by a Jäger Bomb. And, perhaps most importantly, you learn your place in the pecking order.
The typical Wall Street food chain starts with interns, then moves up to analysts, associates, vice presidents, managing directors, partners and executives. “Front-office” investment bankers sit higher on the totem pole than “middle-office” compliance officers or “back-office” IT workers. And private equity and hedge fund workers command more respect (and money) than regular investment bankers.
The financial crisis of 2008 mixed things up a bit — for a few years, back-office workers were being promoted while front-office workers were being laid off. But now, five years later, the caste system has returned to normal — though, for junior bankers, some of the allure has faded due to shrinking bonuses and prestige. Some young guns came into the industry expecting Champagne and caviar but got Adderall and all-nighters instead. Over the course of their two-year stints, analysts start to change. They learn to pronounce “finance” like a real banker. (“Fin- ANCE,” not “FI-nance.”) They gain weight from too many Seamless meals eaten at their desks, and they start speaking in business school jargon. They grow apart from their non-finance friends. For those who make it through the two-year analyst gantlet and want to keep working in finance, the next step is often applying for jobs on the “buy side” — normally a private equity firm or a hedge fund.
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Many banking sector jobs are based around generating revenue and people working in these roles are usually referred to as sales employees. Other workers in the sector are primarily concerned with saving money and mitigating risk.
Tellers are the bank employees who have the most contact with customers. They accept deposits, cash checks and handle uncomplicated customer service issues. Generally, teller roles are entry-level positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average teller earns an annual salary of $24,100.
You can transition from a teller job into a head teller or supervisory role. As a supervisor, you must coach your team to follow industry rules as well as your employer’s operating procedures.
Banks generate money by issuing loans, which means loan officers have a key role to play in a bank’s success. Junior loan officers can write automobile loans and originate applications for unsecured products such as credit cards. You have to pass a background check and register with the National Mortgage Licensing System before you can originate home loans.
Banks employ salaried loan officers who are also responsible for opening transactional accounts such as checking and savings accounts. Some loan officers focus solely on business loans. Additionally, most major banking corporations employ mortgage lenders.
Technically, banks do not employ investment representatives. However, you do find licensed brokers in banks because these individuals are employees of a division of the holding corporation that owns the bank.
As with securities sales people, insurance representatives are employees of the bank holding corporation rather than the bank. Nevertheless, branches have insurance sales goals and employees make referrals to insurance agents who work on-site.
Banking centers are regularly visited by in-house auditors who are tasked with detecting fraud, clerical errors and reducing the bank’s operational losses. Banks employ low-level auditors who have no accounting experience but have previously worked as tellers.
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The banking sector may create up to 20 lakh new jobs in the next 5-10 years, helped by issuance of new licenses and efforts being made by RBI and government to expand financial services to rural areas, experts say.
The hiring trends may get a further boost from the public sector banks, as many of them would need to hire fresh talent in the wake of nearly half of their workforce scheduled to retire in the next few years.
“With the new banking licenses, which are likely to be issued in the first half of 2014, the banking sector is poised to create big career opportunities in the near future,” Randstad India & Sri Lanka CEO Moorthy K Uppaluri said.
Enthused further by the government’s financial inclusion plans to expand banking to rural areas, Uppaluri said: “With only less than 30 per cent of the Indian population having access to bank accounts, top banking firms are looking to expand and venture into the untapped rural markets that have so much potential to boost growth and profitability”.
Reflecting similar views, talent assessment company MeritTrac Services’ CEO Vasu K Saksena said that “hiring in banks is likely to increase in the next couple of years” owing to expansion of banks into new cities and rural locations.
“Along with new banking licenses, the reason can also be attributed to the large numbers of retirements that banks will witness during this year and the next,” Saksena added.
According to Manipal Academy for Banking, about 4 lakh people applied for jobs in public and private sector banks last year.
Of these while public sector banks hired 60,000-70,000 candidates, private sector hired another 40,000 job aspirants.
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The banking industry creates about 50,000 jobs in India each year and with the economic environment conducive for opening of newer banks and old banks adding in more number of branches this number is set to cross the 15 Lacs mark in the next 5 – 10 years. With IDFC Ltd & Bandhan Financial Services getting the preliminary go-ahead on their banking license application and about 20 more applications still in fray, certainly the Indian Banking Industry is looking to open up once again. The Industry which saw no new banks being added post Yes Bank in 2004 is set to generate newer avenues for both employment & newness in services.
Newer bank licenses are not the only one’s which would be generating employment, the existing banks especially the existing private sector banks are also looking to expand and penetrateinto rural areas in the years to come. The other set of recruiters would include the PSU’s which would also have a large chunk of their aged workforce retiring during this period. This trend is quite evident with Bank PO examination now trying to look for good candidates in the mid and lower level management levels.
With academic institutions launching banking courses in a flurry and tempting aspiring students to join them. To ensure this happens banks also need to start looking out for partners who can help their new employees develop this skill set and get them day 1 ready employee, which reduces pressure on the business cycle. As banks will now just cannot hire graduates and post graduates and expect them to learn on the job. For banks their task is cut out and for the aspirants they need to start choosing wisely on the correct course to reach their dream job.
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The prospect of a career which the profession of banking has to offer has been frequently discussed from various points of view, and the changed conditions following on the war have brought home the far-reaching importance of the subject, not only to those directly affected, but to the business community as a whole. Mr F. E. Steele dealt with the subject in a most interesting manner some months ago, in the monthly review of one of the lending joint stock banks, and although it is pleasing to note that he sees in the changed conditions a more favorable ﬁeld for the aspiring bank clerk, it is evident that there is still a wide scope for improvement.
This principle of standardizing is carried even to the higher posts. Managers, for instance, being as a rule selected from the most conventionally correct type, such social qualities as suavity of manner and address are more in demand than originality and vigorous business ability, the main object being to placate the board of directors. Such training and selection would cause no surprise to those critics of our banks who used to contend that their policy was to encourage the attraction of deposits with the object of investing them in London. No doubt these critics sometimes overstated their case, but it has been remarked by merchants on more than one occasion that if the pained expression of the ordinary bank manager when a business proposition was put before him for consideration might be taken as an index of the general attitude of our great banks, it did not augur well for the assistance and encouragement the British trader might hope to receive at their hands.
Looking to the future, we do ﬁnd some hope in the advent of the joint stock banks into the foreign field, the expansion of the private banking houses in this same direction, and more especially in the new oversea institutions that have recently been formed. Whether these hopes are justified will depend very greatly on how the present leaders in the banking world meet the demands of new conditions. They are at parting of the ways, and if this venture into international banking is to be successful, they will have to broaden their vision and discard much of the worn-out tradition which has shackled their minds.
Our banks now want alert and intelligent men for the world-wide expansion that is open before them, if they use their present opportunity; they can get them in plenty if they make the right use of the material under their hands.
Slammed by declining revenue, the trading businesses inside the biggest global investment banks are expected to suffer job losses that could run into the thousands by the end of the year, according to people at the firms and recruiters who specialize in financial-services positions.
The culprit: a persistent gap between revenue and employment. For the 10 largest global investment banks, trading revenue for fixed-income, currencies and commodities, or FICC, units in the first quarter plunged 15.7% from the same period a year earlier, according to data from research consultancy Coalition. The number of FICC traders, researchers and salespeople, meanwhile, fell just 4.8% over that period.
But bankers increasingly worry that the downturn in trading that started last year is part of a broader sea change. Tough new rules on risk and capital, along with a sharp slowdown in market volatility, have made trading less profitable for big banks in the past few years, and banks are coming to grips with the possibility that conditions will remain weak long into the future.
Barclays PLC this week laid off several hundred people in its investment bank, mostly in its FICC unit, under a plan announced last month to cull 7,000 staff over the next three years and retrench from certain businesses.
Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC plans to eliminate hundreds of jobs in its U.S. trading businesses over the next few months as it prepares to comply with new regulations, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. The cuts, which will be carried out over the next 18 months, could total as many as 400 and will be concentrated in the asset-backed securities business.
Traders are trying to find places to land even before they get laid off. Mr. Stein of Caldwell Partners says he has received between 17% and 19% more calls in the past month than in the same month a year earlier from managing directors inquiring about job opportunities. Managing directors inhabit the top rung of the Wall Street career ladder.
“AN INVESTMENT banker was a breed apart, a member of a master race of deal makers. He possessed vast, almost unimaginable talent and ambition.” So wrote Michael Lewis in his 1989 book, “Liar’s Poker”. Mr Lewis charted the ascent into investment banking of the most talented graduates in the 1980s, a situation that still held true as the financial crisis struck in 2007. Then, 44% of Harvard’s MBAs landed a job in finance; 12% became investment bankers. Yet in the class of 2013, only 27% chose finance and a meagre 5% became members of Mr Lewis’s master race.
The trend is the same at other elite business schools. In 2007, 46% of London Business School’s MBA graduates got a job in financial services; in 2013 just 28% did, with investment banking taking a lower share even of that diminished figure. At the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, the percentage of students going for jobs in investment banking has fallen from 30% in 2007 to 16% this year.
Since the crisis, investment banks have culled the recruitment schemes through which they once hired swathes of associates straight from business schools. Instead, they rely more on recruiting the brightest undergraduates, in the belief that it is more productive—and better value—to develop cohorts of junior analysts in-house, rather than those with fixed ideas honed on expensive MBA programmes.
A few banks are trying to change their culture, taking a tougher line on sexual harassment of female staff and advocating a healthier work-life balance, perhaps even allowing the odd work-free Saturday. For the business schools’ brightest and best, though, all these may not be enough.
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