If the prospect of helping businesses fund their operations and offering advice to clients on financial markets sounds appealing, consider these pointers on how to get into investment banking
1. Be sure this is the right job for you
Unlike many other finance roles, investment bankers often come from a range of backgrounds, and may even use their transferable skills to join other related professions further down the line, possibly moving into a research, trading or structuring post.
However, as The Guardian UK 300 2016/17 has revealed, those interested in investment banking and investment as a career often fit a certain person profile. This research took into account the respondents degree subject choice (see below) and the fact that many of these students were on the lookout for a demanding - and potentially stressful - job.
Although it can be challenging, especially in terms of the demands it places on your time, the financial rewards are worth it for many who choose this profession. For example, a corporate investment banker and an operational investment banker can earn around £30,000 to £40,000 and £25,000 to £50,000 respectively when starting out.
Understanding what's expected from the outset can help you to remain focused on taking advantage of any job or work experience opportunities that come your way.
2. Choose your career path
As well as different career options, there are also various roles for those working in investment banking - and while there are similarities, they do require different skillsets and personal attributes.
If you're working on the operational side, your team will be responsible for the processing and settlement of the many transactions made at your bank. You'll need to be hard-working and possess excellent numerical and analytical skills.
Corporate investment bankers provide financial services to other companies as well as other organisations. You could be working on mergers and acquisitions, lending or bonds and shares. As you'll be providing strategic advice to your clients and working under extreme pressure, you'll need to be good at negotiation and have strong interpersonal skills.
A common entry-level graduate role is that of the investment analyst.
3. Study for an investment banking degree
Employers dedicate sizeable resources to training their investment banking staff, but a Bachelors degree is still typically needed. While this doesn't necessarily have to be in a finance-related subject, it should have a strong maths focus.
The Guardian report found that respondents were most likely to have studied a maths, economics or business/management degree, while a 2:1 or above is typically required by leading recruiters.
If you're contemplating applying for university and are already set on a career in the financial markets, there are a number of specialist degree courses. Firstly, there's the three-year full-time BSc Finance and Investment Banking at the University of Reading. The London Institute of Banking & Finance offers the industry-recognised BSc Finance, Investment and Risk (includes an optional work-based learning module), with the BSc Banking and Finance to be made available from September 2018.
CFA Society UK offers the entry-level Investment Management Certificate (IMC) award, delivering the threshold competency knowledge in research analysis, portfolio management and other key investment activities. You can either do this through self-study and by registering for the IMC exam yourself, or through a training provider such as Kaplan.
As you consider continuing professional development (CPD) and studying for further finance qualifications, you can enrol on to the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) - an internationally-renowned investment management qualification (equivalent to a Masters). For eligibility, you either need a degree, four years of professional work experience, or a combination of work and study totalling four years.
The London School of Economics, Cass Business School and Warwick Business School are just a selection of institutions that run postgraduate courses in finance. If this is something you'd like to explore, search for a Masters in investment banking.
4. Do an investment banking internship
Many of the top banking institutions including Barclays, J.P. Morgan and the RBS Group, offer summer internships in investment banking.
For instance, J.P. Morgan offers a nine-week programme for penultimate-year university students where interns learn key technical skills by working on deals and transactions for the company's clients.
On-the-job-experience and practical skills training gives you the perfect grounding in investment banking and the best-performing students may receive full-time job offers upon completion of the programme.
However, it's important to get the facts you need before you apply so you can make an informed decision. To do this, you can first learn about the different work experience opportunities and choose one that best suits your interests. By watching short videos of employees sharing their career stories, you'll get an idea as to whether investment banking is for you or not.
When preparing your application, it's worth investigating what's required in the selection process. In addition to ensuring your CV stands out and is a true reflection of your skills and abilities (such as collaboration, self-discipline and perseverance), it may also involve writing an essay. Make sure that your CV is tailored to the job description and specific internship you're applying for and show there's a clear match.
This advice is applicable to those looking at finance graduate schemes while still at university, as it will give you good practice for making applications once you're about to graduate.
It's also the case that as investment banks place such strong importance on work experience, to progress to a graduate scheme, your chances of success will be greater if you've already undertaken an internship or work placement with them.
5. Attend events and network
This links in with work experience opportunities, as by making the most of your university careers service, you can sign up for information sessions and visit stands of leading employers in this industry at on-campus recruitment events. Virtual talks held online can also provide a taster of what your day-to-day-work as an investment banker may involve.
Meanwhile, there's no excuse not to be well-connected with employers on networks such as LinkedIn. Many people end up finding a job through social media, so take a look at the benefits of engaging with employers on social media.
When you land your first role, whether this is a full-time position or internship, you should always keep in touch with your peers. Not only can they provide valuable careers guidance, they may even aid your career progression further down the line.