Skills & Talents
Getting in the Door
Links & Resources
Facts & Trends
Job Market Outlook
Life as an Analyst
Life as an Associate
Investment Bank List
Trip to New York
Skill and Talent Requirements
Investment banks want employees with a combination of strong
analytical and interpersonal skills. Some jobs lean more towards one skill set than
another (e.g. brokers need to be mainly sales people). A typical job of an equities analyst
requires both analytic and interpersonal skills. The skills involved include:
|Key Skill Area
|Ability to synthesize:
- Hard Work Expected and Respected
- Investment banking is a high work, high risk, high reward profession. When you start
your hours will typically be long but the work can be exciting. Be prepared for moments of
frustration where you are stretched too thin and moments of exhiliration where everything
- Tough to Break In
- It's relatively hard to break into investment banking. You need to be prepared to pursue
firms on your own after you have thoroughly prepared yourself.
- Believe it or Not, Bankers Have Social Value
- Investment bankers have been the subject of social scorn in movies like
the Vanities for decades--a sentiment that reached a fever pitch in the recession of 2008/2009. Are
investment bankers really greedy narcissistic scum? Some probably
are. But keep in mind that they play a crucial social role of helping to direct capital to
companies with great ideas that make people better off.
- Analyst Jobs Are the Best Entry Point
- Many college graduates start in investment banking in an analyst
position. To succeed in these positions you need to be extremely dedicated, have good
spreadsheet skills and be analytically fluent. Your next step will be to become
an associate. Same skills, just raise the volume.
- Communication and Completion Abilities Key
- In mid-career, your success usually will depend on your ability to communicate with
clients and get deals done. At this level it is also important to have a good
understanding of market trends, the political and macroeconomic environment and deal
- Math Skills Can Help
- Some jobs in investment banking call for very strong mathematical ability. If you are
good at math think about getting an advanced degree in a technical field (studying areas
such as stochastic calculus and differential equations), then take some advanced finance
courses in options pricing or bond valuation and apply to a research department on Wall
Street (Carnegie-Mellon's MSCF
program is a leader in training mathematicians and
physicists for Wall Street jobs).
- Accounting Skills Valuable
- The ability to analyze accounting numbers critically is important in most analyst
positions. Ultimately, you should aim for the CFA
designation if you would like to
be a securities analyst. The CFA helps you become much more mobile over time. If you have
ambitions too "bail out" some day and become a corporate financial analyst you
might also want to consider the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) designation.
- Traders are Multi-Talented
- It's hard to define what makes a good trader. A good understanding of the market, quick
reactions, analytical skills and the ability to bluff help. Read Liars Poker
by Michael Lewis to learn more about sales and trading.
- Get Used to New York
- Most large banking firms operate out of New York. Even if you are interested in working in
another location, your general interviewing activities are likely to be centered there.
Other places you should look at include Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Moscow and Singapore. If
you go looking for a job in investment banking using informational interviews in the U.S. it is
crucial that you make several trips
to New York.
- Teamwork Crucial
- A crucial success factor in investment banking is teamwork. Being able to pull together
persons with large egos to get a presentation together for a client is a challenge and is
likely to be rewarded highly.
- Scientists and Lawyers Wanted
- There's definitely an interest in people with backgrounds in science and law. Scientist
types can work on everything from derivatives algorithms to biotech banking. Lawyers can
help design new securities, sell leasing business and use their analytical prowess to talk
to clients. This said, you have to sell yourself. It often doesn't hurt to go
back and get an MBA from a top school, and then try to repurpose your career into
- Contacts are Everything
- The key to breaking into investment banking is a good network of contacts. You may
already be blessed with such a network, but if you don't have one, you can start to
develop one by going on informational interviews, attending industry conferences, finding
alumni from your school in the business etc. Our contact lists
may be helpful in this process.
Keep in mind that your network might not
really "pay off" for some time. If you are young and haven't gone for an MBA
degree, try to get into the best possible school and then go for quantitative and
- Getting Things Done is Important
- Starting off in an investment bank, you are usually responsible for getting projects
done well and on-time, whether it be writing reports, running spreadsheets, trading, doing
research or coding programs. Later, once you get involved with clients and ideas for
generating revenue, you will be rewarded greatly if you can bring in business. At higher
levels (usually Director, Managing Director and up) you are exposed to much greater risk.
At this level, people are often fired for non-performance, whereas at lower levels you may
not be scrutinized as closely.
"To this day, the willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense
investment advice to grownups remains a mystery to me. I was 24 years old, with no experience of, or particular interest
in, guessing which stocks and bonds would rise and which would fall. The essential function of Wall Street is to allocate
capitalóto decide who should get it and who should not. Believe me when I tell you that I hadnít the first clue.
Iíd never taken an accounting course, never run a business, never even had savings of my own to manage."
Michael Lewis, author of
"Failure is hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you're successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever."