How to become an investment banker? – Career Guide and Outlook

Each aspect of society is monetized and restructured by the discipline of finance and economics. Take any area and there would be a space that can be aptly filled by these professionals. Investment banking is one of the highly sought-after careers led by these graduates.


Drawn by the allure of six-figure monthly salaries, fine suits, and fat bonuses, new graduates and post-graduates for decades are choosing investment banking as the hot professional destination. Mind you, the road to becoming an investment banker is everything but a bed of roses.


Statistics by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the employment of securities, commodities, and financial services to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. It further states that the demand for investment banking will likely create employment growth.


If you find Mathematics, Finance, Statistics, Economics, Computer Science, and related disciplines, interesting, and have a strong disposition for investment banking, you can break into the industry with ease when armed with right tools. Here’s a roundabout of how to prepare yourself for a career in investment banking.


Who are investment bankers? – Lynchpins of Business and Finance


Investment bankers are experts at determining worth of a business. They work at the intersection of business and finance, by bringing capital seekers and capital providers together. Say, for example, a tech company need funds for expansion, scaling up operations and turning a profit, its top management can turn to an investment banker who can help them look for investors and raise capital. Similarly, established companies can rely on investment bankers to execute a merger or acquire a company.


How do you get in?


The entry points to the industry are marked by substantial long days and nights of hard work. To top that, getting hired in Bulge Bracket firms is more difficult, formalized and competitive. Bulge Bracket investment banks are the largest and most profitable investment banks of the world, of the likes of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and others.


If you are still not deterred, here’s how you can prepare yourself for an investment banking career.


1: Finish High School


There is no doing without high school for a career in investment banking. If you are still in this phase and you know you want to become an investment banker, here’s what you should do. Take mathematics and business as subjects. Additionally, get yourself involved with computer software programs, MS Office Suite (especially Excel and PowerPoint), etc.


2(a): Get a College Degree…


Pursue a degree in finance or economics, as typically possessed by entry-level investment bankers. Other commonly pursued disciplines include accounting, commerce, and mathematics. Though liberal arts majors can also aim for a career in investment banking, you will be tilting the odds in your favor with traditional fields of study.


Try to aim for good grades. Graduating at the top of your class will give you good positioning and draw positive attention of recruiters and hiring managers.


(b): …Preferably from a top-tier school


New investment bankers are often plucked from top-league institutions during recruitment drives. Pursuing a degree from a top-tier school could tip the odds in your favor. That said, you can still achieve your goals if you could go to a less prestigious institution with the right field of study.


3: Nail down an internship


This will be your stepping stone to obtaining full-time employment at an investment bank. You can also aim for a part-time gig during your bachelor’s period. This will give you an opportunity to try out your desired field and gain exposure.


 4: Get advanced qualifications


Pursue an advanced degree or industry certifications to improve your career prospects. You can pursue a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), Finance, Mathematics, or other relevant disciplines from a top university. In addition, you can take the route as pursued by certified investment bankers, i.e. undergoing an industry certification in investment banking or finance certification, which can provide you concentrated knowledge to court investment banking jobs.


Skills you must have


Before you can cash-in those big fat bonuses, you must carve yourself right for the job. You should have following soft and hard skills for an investment banking career:


Hard Skills:


• Accounting
• Analytics
• Spreadsheet
• PowerPoint
• Financial modeling
• Math
• Fundamentals of Business


Soft Skills:


• Achiever streak
• Good verbal and visual communication
• Time management
• Creative
• Persuasive
• High Emotional Quotient
• Situational fluency


Career Trajectory – And time to get promoted?


Andrew Guttmann, a former investment banker tells, “The typical investment banking associate or analyst can routinely expect to work 90-100 hours per week or even more. A typical workday during the week might be 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m.” Here’s how the career of an investment banker progresses. You may join in as an intern, or analyst, or an associate. Here’s how the career progresses in investment banking industry.


1. Intern or Summer Analyst – Assistant to the Analysts


Entry Point: Anytime during bachelor’s
Time to get promoted: Depends upon one’s performance


2. Analyst – Workhorses of investment banks


Entry Point: Bachelor’s or above
Time to get promoted: 3 years


3. Intern or Summer Associate


Entry Point: Anytime during MBA
Time to get promoted: Depends upon one’s performance


4. Associate – Better-Trained Analysts


Entry Point: MBA or Promotion
Time to get promoted: 3-4 years


5. Vice President (VP) – Manager of the Analysts and Associates


Entry Point: Promotion
Time to get promoted: 3-4 years (It’s harder to get promoted from Associate to VP, than to go from Analyst to Associate. To reach this level, you need to show leadership and client management skills.)


6. Director or Senior VP (SVP) – Manager and Rainmaker-in-Making


Entry Point: Promotion
Time to get promoted: 2-3 years (Highly dependent upon one’s performance)


7. Managing Director (MD) – Rainmaker (King of the Jungle)


Competition is fierce and the industry lined up with the remains of many well-intentioned primates. Prove your business acumen with a certification. Opting for an investment banking certification can help you get the handsome pay courted by investment bankers.


Certifications provide professionals with concentrated knowledge, which ensures clients that they are versed with the latest trends of the industry.


I just find myself happy with the simple things. Appreciating the blessings God gave me.