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How to Shift from Commercial Banking to Investment Banking

Avadhut
|
Updated on: May 18, 2020

In this post, I will guide you to make a smooth shift from commercial banking to investment banking.

The fields of commercial banking and investment banking are poles apart.

The main agenda of commercial banks is to manage public money deposits such as savings accounts, fixed deposits, and checking accounts. The commercial banks issue loans to the public and earn from the interest with which loans are issued. They are governed by federal authorities as is established in all countries.

On the other hand, investment banking is about studying currency market positions, stock market performances, inflation rates, industry performance, and influencing economic environment factors that impact critical financial decisions within a company.

Investment Banking vs Commercial Banking

As an analyst, you need to have a keen eye to observe most prominent industry players and fresh start-ups to prepare financial reports on equity stocks.

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The report is generated for various stakeholders for them to inspect, clarify, and understand the facts and principles governing influencing situations. The work profile involves evaluating the organisational value and guiding clients towards making profitable business decisions.

In short, investment banking is all about studying market dynamics influencing financial decisions. It has nothing remotely related to mainstream commercial banking transactions.

Transitioning from commercial banking to investment banking is not easy. Education, industry knowledge and industry experience are going to be significant hindrances.

We often receive queries requesting help to switch from commercial banking to investment banking. Here are some interesting pointers.

How to Shift from Commercial Banking to Investment Banking

Commercial Banking to Investment Banking

1) Connect with Former Commercial Bankers

The number of people switching from commercial banking to investment banking isn't high; however, you need people to mentor and guide you into this transition. As such, finding former commercial bankers who are now well established into investment banking career will undoubtedly help.

How can you locate such people?

  • Look into your current network. There can be seniors who have undergone this switch. Talk to them and ask for guidance. Again, don't just network for help. Build relationships which will help in the long term.
  • Look into the LinkedIn network. If you don't have a profile there, create one now and start networking with both commercial bankers and investment bankers. Either of the categories must know people who have switched from commercial banking to investment banking and with some amount of relationship building and knowledge of your intent, they would be willing to recommend you.

Networking with former commercial bankers help in two ways:

  • They act as a guidance factor.
  • It helps in getting recruited. People who have made this switch are more likely to empathize with your current situation and be willing to give you a chance, which is what is needed right now.
  • You might get recruited in the same organisation as the mentor.
  • You might get recommendations from former commercial bankers for other organisations.

Connecting with former commercial bankers should be your first plan. Otherwise, starting from scratch and going the traditional hiring process is tough, with low success rate. Most of the time, you'll have a hard time convincing the recruiter why you want to switch from commercial banking to equity research. The 'right' push through the 'right' networking process works wonders.

2) Learn Investment Banking Thoroughly

Read through the guides in detail. We mention some other important points here as well.

  • Do an MBA in Finance. We understand that an MBA isn't a necessary qualification in commercial banking, but you need to do this before thinking of switching to investment banking. Join MBA course for professional careers.
  • Enrol for investment banking certificate courses. Depending on your location and its investment banking professional requirements, a certificate or diploma course helps too. Try clearing CFA levels.
  • Get an internship. Just to be sure you're ready to take the plunge into investment banking from commercial banking, you can join middle-market banks and boutiques and work for 3 or 6 months to gain some experience. Getting an internship may not seem like a good idea if you're a middle-level professional but think of this as a litmus test. The interning expertise will open up recruitment offers. Check out our guide on finding investment banking internship opportunities.

3) Cultivate Investment Banking Skills

Potential employers look for specific investment banking skills, and since you're already into commercial banking, there could be some transferable skills suitable in equity too. Experience is a factor in skill requirement, and since you're already banking professional, needs for you are going to be higher than what is expected from freshers.

Begin by learning equity concepts and Excel. You need to have keen analytical skills and logical bent of mind to prepare balance sheets, income statements and perform ratio analysis.

Critical thinking capacity is mandatory to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the existing problem. Working knowledge of financial modelling and smooth report writing skills work wonders. Report writing skills are essential for communication because a significant portion of your job responsibility will entail the preparation of research reports and other work-related documents.

You need to have independent thinking capability, ability to take decisions, complex problem-solving skills.

The field has a high learning curve, so you need to process and analyse new information fast because you're responsible for decisions.

You need to gather and assimilate information, and possess interpersonal skills like coordination power, negotiation, social perceptiveness and the 'right attitude'.

It's also a skill to remain abreast of industry trends and analyse how they are going to affect the financial situation of a company.

Team building skills are also necessary. You have to work with a team and take independent decisions too.

These are a gist of skills that investment banks look for in a new candidate.

4) Clearing the Interview Stage with Clever Strategies

Even before you meet the interviewer, he/she will have assumed three things about you:

  • You weren't smart enough to break into an investment banking right after college.
  • You don't have investment banking skills, especially financial modeling skills which, assumedly, aren't up to the desired level.
  • You don't have the mindset and attitude of investment bankers.

These are not personal perceptions, but professional perceptions about your capabilities and you've to break every single one of them if you want to enter the investment banking industry.

Perhaps the interviewers won't talk about these directly, but you need to address them, directly or indirectly. Otherwise, the perceptions will become facts for them. Do you want that? NO.

You have to refute them with evidence.

  • For the first one, you can honestly state that you weren't aware of the investment banking industry during college and had no industry knowledge and guidance to pursue it further.
  • For the second one, state what education (degrees and certificates) you acquired to get into investment banking. Talk about mock financial modeling tests, and if you did an internship, don't forget to talk about that experience. Also, talk about acquired skills and transferable skills from corporate banking.
  • For the third one, bring in skills again. State that you have read about investment banking lifestyles and that you're ready to invest long hours in it. Commercial bankers spend a lot of time working, so it's undoubtedly going to be an advantage.

These are certain situations that you need to anticipate in advance and refute with evidence. Make it a point to focus on skills.

Trying to convince interviewers will be tough because of your unique working background. Proving that you can belong in investment banking will take time. Be ready for 'why switch from corporate banking' question.

Preference will be given to those who studied and worked towards this field that someone who is switching over but don't worry, many people have jumped from commercial banking to investment banking with élan. You can do too with quick-wittedness, intelligent networking and strategizing.

Endnote

The decision to break into investment banking from commercial banking is a tough one. If you've decided, make sure to follow the correct steps – educational, experiential and communication – to land the best of investment banking jobs.

Try for middle-market banks, boutique firms and finance groups rather than bulge bracket banks in the initial stage. Once you gain a few years of experience, you can move towards top market finance groups.

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