Given these potential financial gains, it’s no surprise that investment banking is a top career choice for business school graduates.
However, succeeding in this field is a multi-step process that requires a combination of top-notch education, ambition, skill, experience, and connections.
What is an investment banker?
Investment bankers organize large, complex financial transactions, such as mergers or initial public offerings (IPOs).
Investment banking deals primarily with raising money for companies, governments, and other entities, including underwriting new debt and equity securities for various types of organizations.
Investment banks also facilitate mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, and broker trades for institutions and private investors.
In essence, investment bankers are experts who have their fingers on the pulse of the current investment climate. They help their clients navigate the complex world of high finance.
If you land a role as an investment banker among your many responsibilities will be:
⇨ Performing valuations on a company's worth
⇨ Assisting businesses with financial strategies
⇨ Advising clients on investment opportunities, private equity transactions, and stock and bond management
⇨ Conducting research, analysis, and financial investigations
⇨ Preparing financial documents and presentations
⇨ Managing initial public offerings (IPOs)
⇨ Complying with legal and regulatory agencies
⇨ Setting initial stock prices to raise funds
⇨ Assisting in the process of acquisitions, mergers, and other deals
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What are the key investment banking skills?
Proficiency in financial modeling, valuation, and the analysis of financial statements is fundamental for investment bankers.
This includes understanding income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. In terms of hard skills, proficiency in Excel is crucial.
Investment bankers often juggle multiple tasks and projects simultaneously. They need to efficiently prioritize and manage their time to meet tight deadlines.
"I think what's underappreciated is the level of multitasking that goes into the role, both in a corporate setting and in consulting," says Conrad Lochovsky, an associate at Morgan Stanley and an INSEAD MBA alum.
"Working on five to 10 things at a time is not uncommon."
Investment bankers frequently work on deals and transactions, which require strong project management skills.
This involves planning, coordination, and execution of various aspects of a deal.
"You've got four or five objectives you need to manage, and you have to figure out where your trade-offs are. How do you leverage the resources around you? It takes organization and the ability to manage time and limited resources," explains Conrad.
Clear and effective communication is essential. Investment bankers need to convey complex financial information to clients, colleagues, and other stakeholders.
Both written and verbal communication skills are important.
“Students need to have strong verbal and written communication skills as they will be building relationships with colleagues, clients, and various stakeholders in the finance industry,” Fatim Lelenta, associate director of career coaching at NYU Stern, says.
There are many complex and important points you will need to convey to a wide range of people, so learning how to effectively communicate those is essential.
"You need to have very good communication skills because you're always talking to different people, whether it's clients or brokers. You need to be clear and concise in how you speak to people," says Farooq Rohaizat, an EM rates trading analyst at Morgan Stanley and a graduate of Imperial College London Business School’s MSc in Finance.
It will also allow you to handle the many tasks you will be juggling better.
Nadia Zaman, vice president in investment banking at Evercore and an MBA grad from Cornell University’s Johnson College of Business, emphasizes the importance of communication when dealing with multiple demands and deadlines.
"Projects have competing deadlines all coming at the same time, so you need to be able to communicate clearly, stating, 'I have this other project going on; I can get to this at this time,'" she says.
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How to become an investment banker?
So, the question is: how to become an investment banker?
The journey to becoming an investment banker is a multi-year process, and you need to be prepared to invest time and commitment. If you are committed to the challenges and intensity of the investment banking lifestyle, you might want to consider the following steps.
Go to business school:
Whether you choose a master's or an MBA, business school is an excellent place to enhance your skills, both hard and soft, and build connections throughout your industry and beyond.
Sasha Rosenburg, associate director of relationship management at NYU’s Stern School of Business, discusses how business school prepares students for the demands of investment banking both through a rigorous curriculum and a range of external activities.
“This combination of subject-matter expertise, technical interview training, and direct preparation for the day-to-day demands of the job allows students to be well prepared to succeed in the investment banking industry,” she says.
For Conrad, business school also prepared him for the intensity of the investment banking lifestyle.
"The ability to manage an MBA helps the challenge of investment banking, especially at a place like INSEAD; it's kind of fast and furious. You drink out of the firehose," he says.
Gain experience through an internship:
Internships provide students with experience, connections, and a potential path to full-time employment in almost every industry, including investment banking.
Landing an internship offers you the opportunity to explore your desired field, gain exposure to the culture, acquire work experience, and make a positive impression on potential employers. It's an tried and tested way to advance to the next step in your career.
“Those who participate in internships over the summerideally receive offers for a full-time position after graduation, and there are very limited additional full-time opportunities, making the internship even more important,” says Fatim.
Networking is essential for developing your career opportunities in various industries, and investment banking is no exception.
Investment bankers spend their time selling and must convince people to invest significant amounts of money. They deal with mergers and acquisitions of Fortune 500 companies, initial public offerings (IPOs) of private companies with stratospheric valuations, and other high-finance deals that generate enormous fees.
Networking and utilizing interpersonal skills are therefore a critical part of the job, particularly for those seeking to enter the field.
"When you meet someone from a bank, don't hesitate to ask any type of question, and don't hesitate to send anyone messages on LinkedIn as well. You never know who might reply to you," Farooq advises.
Before you're selling deals, you need to sell yourself. A major way to land a job is by connecting with people who have the power to hire you or recommend you to those who do the hiring. But you need to make a lasting impression.
Apply for jobs and perfect your interview skills:
Once you have completed these steps, it's time to apply for positions. The industry is highly competitive, so make sure you are well-prepared and have practiced before applying and, especially, before interviewing.
"Just make sure your personality shines through in the interview. Banks are interviewing candidates left and right; it's a very popular job," says Nadia.
Interviewing for an investment banking job will be rigorous and recruiters will be looking to hire people with a well-rounded skillset, so be sure to show this in the process.
“In interview preparation, make sure to balance preparing for both technical and behavioral questions. Many students, in reflecting on the process, mentioned they focused on one over the other and felt this hindered their success,” Sasha explains.
For more information on how to launch your career in investment banking, including free advice from b-school careers experts, download our BusinessBecause Careers Guide: What's Next After Business School?