20 Skills Every Aspiring Investment Banker Must Have

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Updated on:
March 11, 2021

Investment banking is one of the most difficult paths to take for your career. Needless to say, it’s not for everyone.

To be successful in this field, you have to have the guts to take on the challenges.

More importantly, you will need specific skills.

What exactly do you need? This article will be listed on the 20 most needed investment banking skills for every aspiring investment banker.

Let’s start with one of the most important one – entrepreneurial skills.

#1. Entrepreneurial

Investment banking is a business. You will be, at some points, a salesperson. And as part of your company’s sales force, your end goal is to earn for your bank.

You must understand that the revenues of each transaction must be always greater than the costs.

How to improve entrepreneurial skills?

Read books about salesmanship or entrepreneurship.

If you have a family business, try being involved in the daily operations. It doesn’t matter if the firm is in the finance industry or not.

What is important is you will get a sense of achieving the primary objective of business – profit.

#2. Relationship Building

Don’t expect you can sell your firm's services without the need for good customer relationships. After all, your counterparties are human too. Humans are social in nature.

From time to time, you get to meet investors or investment bankers alike.

Building healthy relationships with them, even you still have no business with them, could prove beneficial in the future.

How to improve your relationship-building ability?

Try to win more friends than you have right now. Try talking with people you don’t usually speak up with.

Try listening more about their interests or problems. Be more personal with them.

Every time you go to a store, observe how employees treat their customers.

From time to time, you’ll be able to get juicy hints on how you can be more efficient in building good relationships with clients.

#3. Intellectual

An intellectual capability is without a doubt one of the most sought skills for investment bankers. It ignites thinking out-of-box - a very much needed skill when looking for unseen opportunities.

The investment banker must also be a quick thinker.

Just imagine when you are at an important business meeting deal, and the investor asks you a question about an investment you are unfamiliar with.

You must be ready to reply wittingly. Seasoned investors can easily spot if you know your thing or not.

If you answer nicely, you’ll probably get the deal.

How to improve intellectual capabilities?

Intellectual capabilities are enhanced by reading a lot.

The more you know, the more intelligent you get. Since you are into Investment Banking, reading books about finance, accounting and economics will help you a lot.

You can also benefit from reading books about improving soft skills like deal negotiation or leadership.

#4. Discipline

Investment banking jobs are usually stressful. These posts will make you work long hours and under tight deadlines.

Due to stress, there would be a lot of temptations for you to stop working and enjoy a leisurely life.

If you are someone without enough discipline, you will quickly give up on the job. That’s why recruiters look for individuals that are disciplined enough to get their work done.

How to improve discipline?

Discipline can be developed through real-life exercises. Try accomplishing tasks on time, on a consistent basis. Once this becomes a habit, you’ll improve your discipline.

In your interview, you might be asked, “How did you study during your college days?”.

This question is to determine how disciplined you are as a student. You must answer what your study routines are.

Be sure to mention that these routines are consistently done so that you can prove your claim that you are disciplined enough for the job.

Perhaps, the best proof of your discipline would be high grades.

#5. Global Outlook

There are only a handful of rouge countries nowadays. Chances are you will be employed by a multinational firm.

You will be exposed to a lot of transactions that are done on a global scale. You might also meet other professionals from foreign lands.

Nevertheless, even if employed by a local firm, it’s inevitable that you will be exposed to global transactions as well.

Besides, all countries are connected one way or another.

How to improve your global outlook?

Read the global section of newspapers like the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg. Make sure that you are always updated on global news.

Reading these types of publications will not just improve your knowledge of the news; it will also expose you to more advanced techniques your foreign colleagues might be employing.

You can use those strategies to further enhance your efficiency at work.

Remember, you cannot excel just by being like everyone else; you need to be ahead of them.

#6. Analytical

In an investment banking job, you will be asked a lot of complicated questions.

To answer these questions, you need to see every angle of the scenario. Not all people can accomplish this.

Why? Because not everyone has enough analytical skills.

Analytical skills are crucial to breaking down clients’ problems or creating different financial models.

How to improve your analytical skills?

Solve at least one puzzle a day. It could be a crossword, Sudoku or even Rubik’s cube. You can also play mind games like Chess.

One of the best things you can do is to answer one business case every day.

It would be nice if that case would have a suggested answer so that you can compare it with your conclusions.

#7. Presentation Skills

As an investment banker, don’t expect your job will end with the finalization of the financial model.

You will still have to present it to clients or your team. The trickiest part of being a presenter is the fact that you are going to face a lot of different people.

How to improve your presentation ability?

Always be eager to volunteer as the presenter in your classroom or office. Watching Youtube videos like this one will also help you out.

In every meeting or conference, sit on the front row. This will greatly boost your confidence once it’s time for you to face a broad audience.

#8. Communication Skills

Communication skills are closely related to presentation skills. Usually, if you have good communication skills, it translates to excellent presentation skills.

Learning to communicate to professionals is a very specialized one. It’s very different when you’re talking to your friends or your family.

Talking with colleagues requires a warm but professional approach.

How to improve your communication skills?

There’s no better way than to talk regularly with people. Not just everyone, though.

Talk with professionals. Watch movies like Wall Street so that you’ll be more acquainted with the environment of a financial institution.

#9. Leadership Skills

You wouldn’t like to be an associate all your life. When you’re already an investment professional, you must aim to climb the corporate ladder.

Besides, financial institutions don’t like pessimistic individuals. They like associates who are assertive and who are aggressive about going to the top.

How to improve your leadership ability?

Be an active volunteer in group discussions.

You need not be the leader; you just have to show how eager you are in helping out the team. If you’re consistent with this method, eventually you’ll be seen as a leader, and will always be voted as such.

Take inspiration from famous investment bankers.

See how the led their companies into success. There are also non-IBs who are worth studying for like Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg.

#10. Networking

There are a lot of people you’ll meet in your career. Most of them can give you help one way or another in the future.

It’s good if you’ll accumulate relationships, and increasing the list through networking.

How to improve your networking ability?

Increase your friends by asking your friends to introduce you to their other friends. This will train you in networking.

You can also use social media here. After all, social media is about networking.

Try reaching out to professionals who you think will help you in achieving a career in investment banking.

Introduce yourself to them in a nice way. After some talk, you can try asking them for tips or even recommendations about your career.

#11. Linguistic

This is not just about being good in English.

There are investment banks which are looking for individuals who can speak languages other than English. Because of globalization, there had been an increase in demand for investment bankers who are capable of speaking more than one language.

How to improve your linguistic expertise?

Study English first. You must at least be at the conversational level. Afterwards, you can study more languages online, through websites like this.

The most in-demand third languages today are Spanish, Chinese, German and French.

But, take note that investment banks have a preference for those who are native speakers of those languages.

If you want to pursue a career using a third language, you must have something more to offer than the native speakers.

#12. Creativity

In the real corporate world, you wouldn’t be given ready-made data for solving financial problems. At times, you won’t even know that there’s a problem!

Being creative lets you see the situation in a bigger perspective. You will see angles others won’t.

You’ll be more valued by your company if you can perceive problems or solutions average bankers can’t.

How to improve your creative expertise?

Painting or instrument-playing will surely improve your creative skills, but, you are not in the arts field. You are in the finance industry, so your needs differ from artists.

Try picking out daily one finance related issue from the News. From your perspective, write a plan on how you think this problem will be solved.

It doesn’t matter if you are always right or not. What is important is that, over time, you’ll be developed into someone who can take a creative approach to real-life business problems.

#13. Innovative Skills

Due to the advent of technology, process routines don’t stagnate.

Managers always expect their associates to be innovative in doing their responsibilities, that is, they must always come up with new methods that are more efficient and more efficient.

How to improve your innovative expertise?

Reading a lot of unique feature article about investment banking will hone your innovative skills. Try reading articles about new technologies or processes.

You can also use the present problems to improve your innovative skills. For example, you can think of a better way to solve a current investment banking problem.

#14. Resilience

Throughout your career, you’ll be facing a lot of criticisms from your bosses or your colleagues.

There are times when you thought you already got the best idea, but later on, will turn out a bad one when you hear your colleagues’ comments.

Don’t be too sensitive. Take their comments as learning points. You’ll grow faster if you are resilient.

How to improve your resilience?

In your everyday life, you would, of course, receive criticisms. Take them. Don’t be angry with those people who mock you.

Be professional. Be more positive. Reflect on yourself if you receive criticisms like this.

#15. Authority

You must learn how to project authority over others. Don’t be too assertive, though.

Often, people associate authority with intelligence and morality. Try improving these two things in your life.

How to improve your authority?

If you think you are right, don’t be afraid to stand up for your beliefs. Let them know that you know what you are talking about.

Refuse to go down without putting up a reasonable fight. Be more assertive.

#16. Math Skills

No doubt you need math skills. As an investment banker, you’ll be dealing with a lot of numbers. You better always be ready with your math skills.

How to improve your math expertise?

Answer business mathematics questions. If you like only a particular field of business mathematics, so be it.

#17. Accounting Skills

Accounting skills are needed especially when you are interpreting financial statements. It will also prove useful if you will be creating adjustments on the FSs, in preparation for your financial models.

How to improve your accounting expertise?

Grab a financial statement at least once a week. Interpret the whole set of financial statements. If there are terms that are unfamiliar to you, research them over the Internet.

This way you’ll be able to understand more about accounting, and how it could help in your future career.

#18. Bluffing Skills

You will encounter a lot of individuals who are too good at taking advantage of their knowledge of psychology.

During a meeting, they will try to make you behave or answer the way they wanted you to.

Bluffing can help you shield yourself from these types of people. If for example, you don’t know the right way to react, bluffing will make them guess what you are thinking. Bluffing will give you more time to think.

How to improve your bluffing expertise?

During some of your class discussions (or meetings), don’t show reactions whenever others suggest ideas.

Think of it as your real-life practice. Don’t do this always, though.

Or maybe, you can play poker.

#19. Influencing Skills

There would be times you need to influence others to follow your idea. This is particularly the case if you think your solution is the best one.

Furthermore, if you promoted to a higher position, you need to have influence over your subordinates.

You also need influencing skills when making recommendations to clients or investors.

How to improve your influencing expertise?

Take on leadership roles. If you can make others follow you or if you can create successful projects, then, you are making significant strides in developing your influencing skills.

#20. Ability to Negotiate

You wouldn’t like to just accept everybody’s terms.

You might end up in a situation wherein your costs are far greater than your expected benefits. What’s worse is when it will give your company a negative value rather than positive ones.

How to improve your negotiation expertise?

You can start by evaluating every responsibility being given to you by your classmates or your colleagues. Does your responsibility represent a fair share?

If not, try reasoning out to them that you should either take less or more responsibilities for one reason or another.

Key Takeaway: Investment Banking Skills

Create a list of all 20 Skills mentioned above. Use this as a self-assessment tool. On a scale of 1 to 5, five being the highest, rate how well you are at each skill.

Afterwards, get the average of your scores.

If your average is at 4 to 5, then, you are on the right track. Never stop learning, though; try always to find something you can improve on.

If your score is 3-3.9, you need quite a lot of improvement. Assess your weaknesses and find a way how you can overcome them.

If your average is less than 3, rethink if Investment Banking is the career path you want.

If you answered yes, then, be serious in following the improvement suggestions stated for each skill.

Having a low average is not the end, it’s just an indication that you need to work more for your dreams.

Be the best investment banker you can ever be!

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