Degree Apprenticeships or Graduate Schemes
The indisputable three stages of a fulfilling life are; Learn, Earn and Serve. Most successful politicians and business leaders who are serving on FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 boards have all been through these three stages. I believe investment banking is one unique profession that allows you to use what you have learnt to earn so well in the early part of your life, giving you a chance to serve and give back to society in the latter stages of your career without have to worry about bills.
Mark Carney (the former Governor of the Bank of England) is a typical example of someone whose ‘Learn’ phase included an Economics Bachelor’s degree at Harvard and Master’s and Doctorate degrees at Oxford. His ‘Earn’ Phase saw him rewarded seven-figure earnings during an illustrious 13-year career at Goldman Sachs. His ‘Serve’ phase includes leading the Banks of Canada before taking the helm at the Bank of England.
Sajid Javid, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer is also another notable example. From studying Economics at Exeter, to board level (£3m per year) positions at Chase Manhattan and Deutsche Bank, before taking a 98% pay-cut to serve as a politician.
So, what does it take to break into investment banking?
Start your preparation early
For most city/wall street investment banking roles, early preparation helps you to build an ideal profile. Once you have made up your mind early in your career, you will need to choose the ideal subjects and push for the right grades at A Level/College and Uni. Subjects like finance, economics, accounting, mathematics, and Engineering tend to be natural fits for city jobs, but most investment banks are now open-minded and accept candidates from practically any academic backgrounds.
Allow enough time for the typically lengthy recruitment process. The entire process can be tedious and very time-consuming.
Expand your network by connecting with recruiters at campus recruitment fairs, investment banking clubs and ….
Connect online with investment banking seniors, recent graduates and alumni who have just joined city / wall street firms. As insiders, they would know where the hidden ‘unadvertised’ opportunities are, the key contact in the firms, the rules of the game and the buzzwords that will impress interviewers.
Use your network to ask questions to help prep yourself on potential questions asked in interviews and what are the key things to make you outshine your peers.
Cast your net wide
Apply to as many top investment banks as well as middle-market firms and smaller brand boutique investment banks. This will increase your chances of getting more interviews, and in the process, this can also help fine-tune your interview skills. Don’t forget some smaller elite firms may have more attractive unique opportunities and can act as a stepping-stone before joining bulge-bracket global banks.
What can make your application shine
Apart from your top grades or your mathematical, economics or finance acumen, there are other things which can help set you apart. Even if you are not coming from Oxbridge, a Russell Group Uni, an elite school or typical investment banking feeder school/college, you can still enhance your CV unique by:
– Join college/university clubs and extra-curricular activities that can highlight your analytical prowess.
– If you participated in any clubs or sports, especially at an elite or professional level, put on emphasis on this.
– Highlight any achievements or leadership roles at school or Uni as they demonstrate your assertiveness and confidence track-record.
Prepare a top-notch CV and cover letter
Most City/Wall Street investment banks look out for the following on your CV / cover letter when evaluating candidates:
– Top grades in the ideal subjects and degrees
– Knowledge of the organisation, their core values and unique features. If you have met or are connected with any key insiders, try mention them in your cover letter
– A high level of enthusiasm both for the profession as well as for the bank itself
– Any outstanding extra-curricular performance including athletic achievements or club leadership
– Attendance to a feeder school/college/Uni can enhance your chances of success
– Placement or internship experience in an investment banking or related environment
Have your placement/internship experience on your fingertips
Internships and summer placements are a crucial sweetener that can significantly give you a competitive edge. Most recruiters believe that candidates with junior role experience in the profession have a competitive edge over their peers.
Expect a thorough scrutiny of your placement/internship experience in the interview. You could be quizzed on anything including; types of clients, transactions values involved, key achievements, how you fitted within your team and challenges encountered. Remember to emphasis on your strengths but still being honest.
Knowledge of the industry and the bank is key
It is crucial that you build extensive knowledge on the industry. Immerse yourself on on:
• Who are the key players?
• Industry insights and latest developments.
• What the bank you are applying for specialise in?
• What is their current market position?
Prepare to answer why you are applying
Every interviewer must find a way of clearly highlighting that the bank they are applying for top of their selection criteria. Make sure you don’t appear as too confident or too humble – find a way of striking a balance – showing a keen interest but not being overly zealous. Prepare for questions like:
• Why does the position exist and what are the role’s requirements?
• How do you see yourself adding value to the business?
• Be prepared for a strict recruitment process:
• Prepare yourself for long working hours (sometimes 50+ hours per week)
Prepare for some Investment Banking Technical Skills questions
Be prepared to answer technical Investment Banking questions prove familiarity or proficiency in areas such as:
• Financial modelling and advanced Excel
• Financial Statement Analysis
• Mergers and Acquisitions
• Financial sales and corporate communication
Differentiate yourself from fellow competitors by doing an MBA or qualifications such as the ACT, CFA, CFI or CISI
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