Operational investment bankers need to possess excellent numerical and analytical skills and a hard-working attitude to deal with the high level of responsibility assigned to them
The operations team is responsible for the processing and settlement of all the financial transactions made at an investment bank or investment management firm.
As part of the operations division, also known as the 'back office', you would provide support to the client-facing departments, such as trading, corporate finance, and corporate banking - sometimes known as the 'front office'.
The front office generates business for the bank, and operations ensure that the business is administered in an efficient, controlled, risk-free and timely manner. In this role you will ensure that products, services and money change hands how they are supposed to.
As an operations professional, you will be involved in developing new systems in order to maximize efficiency and profitability for the bank. You will also ensure each transaction is cleared, settled and reconciled according to regulatory and control requirements.
Operations covers a range of activities. Following the buying and selling of financial products and services by the bank, operations staff ensure that each transaction is:
The structure of departments varies from bank to bank, but your tasks would typically involve:
As a manager of an operations team you will:
Salaries in operations do not reach the levels of the revenue-generating front office roles, such as trading, but still remain high compared to similar roles in other sectors.
Remuneration packages in investment banks often include benefits such as health insurance, life assurance and subsidised gym membership, plus discretionary annual bonuses (based on individual and company performance).
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Investment banks have a reputation for long working hours. While this is true for divisions such as corporate finance, working hours in operations tend to be more regular, typically 8.00am to 5.30pm or 6.30pm, Monday to Friday.
However, when working on projects or towards the end of the month, longer hours and some weekend work may be necessary to meet deadlines.
Flexible or part-time working is becoming more common, especially in the regional hub offices sited away from the City.
To enter a graduate-level job, you will need at least a 2:1 degree as well as strong academic and extracurricular achievements.
The entry into operations tends to be either as an administrator, or as a graduate trainee, normally known as analysts.
Typically the banks will accept applications from graduates of any discipline, but the following subjects may be helpful:
Applicants from non-related disciplines will not be at a disadvantage, but they will need to show an understanding of, and keen interest in, the business.
Graduate schemes are very competitive, and some employers require a first class degree.
Applications from people with postgraduate degrees are welcomed, though they are not likely to receive any preferential treatment.
Those with a Masters of Business Adaministration (MBA) and certain other postgraduate degrees plus two to five years of relevant work experience, may be able to apply for a higher-level training programme as associates, but it's worth noting that these programmes are usually aligned to front office roles. Search for MBA courses.
Each bank will be looking for slightly different characteristics, but generally you will need to show evidence of the following:
To gain an interview for a graduate programme, you will need a full CV, perhaps with:
Operations professionals are recruited by investment banks.
Graduate scheme deadlines vary so check on the companies' websites. It is advisable to apply as soon as possible as they often interview before the closing date is reached, and recruit on an on-going basis.
Investment banks come in many shapes and sizes, from smaller, niche players, such as Rothschild and Lazard Ltd, to large, global organisations, such as:
The banking sector is a volatile one and investment banks are affected by economic cycles, which have a knock-on effect on graduate recruitment.
London and New York have dominated financial employment in the last few decades, but the increased growth in emerging markets, such as Russia and China, have lead to other financial centres growing around the world.
Look for job vacancies at:
You can find vacancies in operations through specialist financial or banking recruitment agencies such as City Jobs, although many of these will require relevant experience.
You will be trained on the systems and products that your department supports. As these change regularly, all employees will undergo training at least yearly.
Sponsorship towards professional qualifications is often offered to those identified with the potential to progress up the ranks.
If you are on a graduate development programme, you will undergo a structured set of training courses and coaching sessions to develop the knowledge, skills and experience to become a manager, typically over a two-year period.
Trainees will also usually start working towards a professional qualification relevant to their area. The Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) provides a range of qualifications for the financial services industry, some of which can lead to chartered status. Qualifications include:
There are various other professional bodies that offer training and support, such as the:
Your career may progress in a linear way leading to promotions that encompass more responsibility, such as:
Continued success can lead to promotion into senior management roles, although competition for these roles is high, and progression is likely to be slow.
It is often possible to move, either temporarily or permanently, into project management or into a specialist role, such as IT or HR. Moving into these areas can provide breadth and balance to a career, but may affect career progression in the short term.
Movement from operations into client-facing roles has become more common, though still fairly rare as the skills sets required for these roles are very different.