Investment banking career is lucrative. Building a strong career in this industry is tough. Tougher is when you want to build long term investment banking career in a single firm.
People join investment banking with enthusiasm, raring to go and with ‘conquer the world’ attitude. Stagnation sets in a couple of years down the line. Changing firms is often a preferred role to break career stagnancy; however, many investment banking experts suggest that changing firms isn't always the best of solutions. Sticking around in the same firm and taking strategic steps to build a long-term career is entirely possible.
In this article, FinanceWalk presents you with 10 tips to build long-term investment banking career in a single firm.
10 Tips for Long-Term Investment Banking Career
Here they are:
1) Intellect and Doggedness Pulls You Through
Academics will pull you through the investment banking entrance but to keep walking and succeeding, you need more than academic prowess. You need doggedness to pursue and win.
Investment bankers don’t sell products; they sell a possibility to clients, a possibility of bringing financial returns to clients. Convincing is tough. Every pitch of yours won’t be successful, no matter how many hours were spent in preparing the presentation. Remember that your competitor put in the same or more amount of effort too.
Continuous pitches and failures will tempt to quit but that is where you need to persevere. You need to be dogged about pursuing investment banking goals. Academic brains and dogged pursue of targets catches the eye of senior management.
Climbing the career stairs become a tad simpler.
2) Proactive Decisions Work
Forget an investment banking career if you get easily hyper and flustered with situations. You need to be a smart situation handler, especially when you’re working in a team.
An error made by a team member, client presentation rescheduling, urgent meetings; client complaints are some situation which can easily fluster anyone. Investment banking depends on time, depends on taking timely decisions.
You can’t take a rash decision; remaining calm and composed in pressing situations is a required trait of an investment banker. Remember how you react in difficult situations because it will definitely determine how the career shapes up plus the bonus factor can’t be missed.
3) Belong to Decision Making Community
Investment banking isn't an isolated job. First, you’re working with a team and second, it isn't feasible to know everyone in the workplace when you’re working in a big firm. Still, experienced and senior investment banking executives suggest it is in your interest to make way into the inner circle of the management.
An ex-Goldman Sachs personality, Graham Ward, says “getting to know and being trusted by the people who lead all the different product areas and geographical divisions is a long-term process and not something that can be easily transferred across”. In other words, if you want to establish a long-term investment banking career in a firm, you have to make inroads in the inner circle.
Belonging to the inner circle, the inner community will play an important role in career success.
4) Talk and Influence
“A successful investment banker is a part salesman and part lawyer”, says Jonathan Rowley, the chairman of M & A for EMEA at UBS. In generic terms, an investment banker can’t be an introvert or a meek person. Your main portfolio is to dole out advice to clients and it will take years of relationship with people to turn them into clients.
The client will pay for listening and following your advice. Moreover, you have to watch your back because competitive investment bankers are ready to pounce and win clients.
It will be a career dampener if senior management realizes your inability to build client relationships and network. It is in your interest to possess sales abilities, interpersonal skills, initiative nature, excellent communication skills, competitive nature and ability to comprehend information quickly to build a successful long-term investment banking career.
5) Observation is Key
A major component of investment banking is data crunching and creating investment advice based on latest market trends. Observation skills play a central role here.
As an investment banker, you have to prepare, read and analyze reports. A small error on your part can lead to significant damages. You need to be an excellent observer to pick up market trends, analyze market repercussions, rectify errors and ensure that client is always given the right information.
6) Accept Deadlines and Overtimes
Forget maintaining a balance between professional and personal life being an investment banker. Deadlines and overtimes are a part of the job description. Challenges are there in every work aspect. You need to work extra hours to handle these challenges and the sooner you understand this and condition yourself to the working conditions, it improves chances of long-term investment banking career success.
Moreover, investment banking is a time-bound portfolio. For instance, if you’re ready to leave the office around 7 PM and if you receive a notification to create pitch book in the next 12-hours, you’ll have absolutely no choice than to stay back and submit the same within the designated deadline. Delay can cost the investment firm a client and you, your job obviously.
Call it dedication or unsafe work practices, whatever you may call it, the fact is how well you handle such untoward situations heavily influences how your career in the firm is going to shape your image within the firm and how it will benefit the career path.
7) Accept Mistakes
Being egoistic and practicing defensive tactics won’t get you anywhere in an investment banking firm. Often, especially when you’re new and inexperienced, you’re going to make mistakes because that’s a part of the learning process. Never try to hide and cover up mistakes. If you’re caught, be honest enough to accept it. If you aren't caught, be prepared because someday you will be caught.
As you gain experience, you’re automatically aware and observant not to make any mistakes but, to err is human. If the MD catches you making one, always accept it and never repeat the same mistake.
8) Learn a Language
Now, what has learning a language got to do with investment banking career?
Businesses are truly global these days. Money isn't restricted to a certain class of people unlike before when only a handful of people from a country belonged to the moneyed class.
Today, the number of millionaires and billionaires are increasing frequently. People have money to invest and as an investment banking analyst, you should be able to build relationships with such people.
These people may not be native English speakers. Learning another prominent language will further career and cement your growth in the organization.
Investment banks prefer bankers who know more than one language or are eager to learn it on the job. For instance, if your investment bank has a good base of Japanese clients, learning the Japanese language will be seen in good stead, especially when you take the initiative.
9) Build a Support Network
This is an extension of point number 6 above. Working 100-hour weeks is a ‘given’ practice for an investment banker. A lot of studies tell us hectic investment banking work hours wrecks havoc on personal life, such as broken personal and familial relationships.
It is therefore recommended to build a support network outside the work zone. Stressful periods of time impacts client relationships. It seems you’re a human automaton and no investment banking firm can accept a human zombie appearing in client meetings. It’s bad for business and repeated setbacks will impact your short-term career scope.
Therefore, build a support network. Remain connected with yourself.
10) Follow Organic Appreciation
Another ex-Goldman Sachs personality, Ziad Awad, who now runs Dubai-based Awad Advisory boutique firm comments “The most common thread of people who have had a successful career is reinventing yourself in the same organization, but this doesn't have to be a big leap.”
Natural or organic career appreciation is the key to a long-term investment banking career growth within the same firm. The fact is a couple of years as an analyst will become monotonous and you will seek change. You can choose to move from trading to syndication and after some time, move from syndication to capital markets. In another couple of years, you can move into M & A too.
All these changes will come organically, based on work record, internal relationships, knowledge of various departmental workings and host of other factors.
There is no manual here. If you reread everything, all are basically common sense, some practical advice, and strategies, which when followed to the ‘T’ will assist along in creating a long-term investment banking career in a single firm.
At the end of the day, no employee is indispensable. What if the investment banking firm goes bankrupt? You’ll be released from employment. The point is that until the time you’re associated with an investment banking firm, always analyze and evaluate what its needs are and match your skills and experiences to fulfill those needs. Consistently focus on building long-term relationships.
Most importantly, attach yourself to the core working group, prove your mettle and rest assured to remain with the investment banking firm for a long, long time.