Many students and graduates want to work in finance as it is known to be highly financially rewarding and thrilling. It is also, however, high pressured, stressful, and demanding. Investment banks often look for people who have the intellectual skills required for such a role, coupled with the psychological ability to survive in a very cutthroat environment. There are so many different careers within the finance field, from the front office to back office, buy-side to sell-side, but one of the most sought after and famous is investment banking. Investment bankers consolidate companies or assets through various types of financial transactions, or they aid transactions between the firm and the market (IPOs). We have spoken to a Vice President in Equity Capital Markets in a top-tier investment bank who has given her top tips on the skills needed to succeed in the industry. Many of the tangible ones can be measured, but some are intangible. Below is what she advises:
I’ve worked in this industry for a fair few years now. I’ve seen and interviewed many students coming through the graduate programs and so wanted to pick five critical things that these people need, not only to get into the industry but also to see them through a long career within it. Some are more obvious than others, and many of the skills can be learned or acquired.
1. Starting with possibly the most obvious one – Intellect: This job is very technical and analytical, and so you need a strong intellect with an emphasis on maths, economics, and analysis. Having this will aid you in your day-to-day job requirements; however you need to have smarts that go further than this. Your intellect needs to be curious with the ability to understand not only what you do but what the wider team does and the teams around you and how the whole puzzle fits together. Investment bankers generally get a thrill out of solving complicated problems but not just that; they like to try to create new and innovative solutions to these problems. Studying subjects such as mathematics, physics, engineering, finance, accounting and economics are good choices to hone in on a person’s natural problem-solving abilities and curiosity. Postgraduate courses like the CFA are also recommended.
2. Entrepreneurial: This one isn’t so obvious due to the rigor and structure involved in the job. It is, however, highly regarded, and those who perform at the top of their game can approach a problem or assignment in a way that may be innovative and original, developing a path for products and services. This quality is intangible and the ability to approach something in a way that is new and different is often driven by instinct; however, academics can certainly reinforce such behavior. Consider taking entrepreneurial business classes at college and some science and social science classes that can introduce a more innovative way of thinking.
3. Self-Discipline: Movies and newspapers frequently report on the amounts of money investment bankers earn and the multimillion-dollar bonuses that some of the top bankers have received. They often fail to report the grueling work and quantity of hard unsociable hours that go into getting those rewards. Whether you are an entry-level worker or an experienced MD, all investment bankers work in a highly pressured environment and are subject to intense scrutiny and demands. They need to ensure that they can perform well under these conditions in order to keep their job. Although these characteristics and traits are typically innate, learning them or improving on them in several ways is possible. You could sign yourself up for a challenging task that is out of your comfort zone. For example, if you get very nervous when public speaking, sign yourself up for the debating team. Put yourself out there, test yourself and see how you cope with it.
4. Relationship Building: This is hugely important to your career and its future, and it is tough to see on your CV.
As well as the technical skills that are required you need to have interpersonal skills also. It helps hugely if you are well-liked and get on with the people around you. You will have to learn how to deal with difficult people, including demanding clients, and yet always come across as the person who is upbeat and positive and who understands what the client wants and needs. Maintaining client relationships is crucial, as without the clients, your company doesn’t get paid so strong interpersonal skills are essential.
5. Global: We are all too aware of how globally connected the world is on every level, including business. In investment banking, it is seen as a big plus to be able to think globally and to have an insight into other cultures and countries.
Knowing how other societies are similar and different to yours and having experience of these societies is invaluable. Knowing another language or many languages is often a requirement of specific hiring desks but also having used those languages outside of the classroom and knowing the customs and traditions of that culture attached to it will be impressive on your CV. If you have studied/lived abroad, been involved in projects with other cultures and are able to demonstrate your fluency in a language at interview then this will stand you in good stead. Some languages are more valuable than others; for example, Mandarin and Arabic are sought after at the moment, as well as European languages such as French or German.
You can find more about the roles that are available within investment banking at Fmi Investment Banking pathway.