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How to get into the investment banking industry

Merchant or investment bankers offer financial services to institutions, companies, governments and individuals. Their role is to help their clients finance their business activities and to maximise the return on their investments. They often work long, irregular hours, as the demands of deadlines and closing deals need to be met.

Despite being hit hard by the economic downturn investment bankers are still hiring new employees. The major multinationals and smaller boutique firms are all in the market for new blood and there is increasing interest in entry-level positions among graduates.

Employers in the investment banking industry expect applicants to have at least an upper second-class honours degree in a financial or related discipline, although some will accept candidates with degrees in other fields. Increasingly, however, a higher degree is also required. They are looking for candidates with good memories for facts and news, are self-confident and possess excellent communication and analytical skills.

New entrants usually spend their first three years as analysts. During this time they undergo company-based training that includes initial induction followed by introductory training. They focus on essential knowledge and skills that you will need to progress in the industry, including:

  • Services offered by the employer.
  • The technical aspects and processes of investment banking.
  • The building of structured financial models to develop forecast skills.
  • Aspects of accounting and risk analysis.

These training programmes are usually interactive and are very much hands-on, simulations and case studies forming a large part of many as practical experience is highly valued in the investment banking industry.

With the three years’ experience behind them, analysts usually progress to become fund managers with associate status, after which further promotion comes with talent and experience.

Another route into the investment banking industry is through accounting. Qualified accountants are often snapped up by banks because of their financial experience.

Also, to foster interest in the industry, banks often offer “insight” programmes for undergraduates in their first or second year. These short programmes are usually held during university holidays are designed to introduce participants into the banking world. In many cases they have the opportunity to shadow working analysts to get a deeper insight onto their work.

Investment banking jobs can lead to an interesting and highly lucrative career and are, therefore, highly sought-after. Competition for vacancies is stiff, so potential job candidates need every advantage they can get. Qualifications are important at the entry-level and extra help is available from professional recruitment consultants.

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