As an investment banker in the UK, you'll be expected to work hard for your sizeable salary by putting your excellent number-crunching ability to good use - so discover how to get into investment banking
What is investment banking?
The aim of an investment banker is to help raise capital to fund their clients' activities. Your role may involve processing large and complicated transactions for companies, such as mergers, acquisitions and business structuring. You could also be looking to expand their business while acting as a corporate financial adviser.
1. Be sure this is the right job for you
Unlike many other finance careers, investment bankers often come from a range of backgrounds, and may use their transferable skills to join other related professions further down the line, possibly moving into a research, trading or structuring post.
However, those interested in investment banking and investment as a career often fit a certain person profile - particularly graduates on the lookout for a demanding and potentially stressful job.
Although working for one of the top investment banks can be challenging, the financial rewards are worth it for many. Indeed, you can earn around £30,000 to £40,000 starting out as a corporate investment banker, and £25,000 to £55,000 as an operational investment banker, with rapid salary progression the norm in this industry.
Understanding what's expected from the outset can help you to remain focused on taking advantage of any investment banking job or work experience opportunities that come your way.
2. Choose your investment banking career
As well as different career options, there are also various roles for those working in investment banking. While there are similarities, they 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 transactions. You'll need to be hard working, with excellent numerical and analytical skills.
Corporate investment bankers provide financial services to other companies and 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.
Working as an investment analyst is a common entry-level graduate role.
3. Study for an investment banker degree
Employers dedicate sizeable resources to training their staff in this area, but a Bachelors degree is normally expected for most investment banking graduate jobs. It doesn't necessarily have to be in a finance-related subject, but it should have a strong maths focus, such as economics, business or management. A grade of 2:1 or above is typically required by the top investment banks.
If you're ready to apply for university and already set on a career in the financial markets, there are a number of options when it comes to specialist investment banker qualifications.
Firstly, there's the three-year full-time BSc Finance (Investments) at the University of Reading, which is an affiliated Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) programme.
The London Institute of Banking & Finance offers the industry-recognised BSc Finance, Investment and Risk, as well as the BSc Banking and Finance, which includes an optional one-year industry placement.
The CFA Society of the UK (CFA UK) offers the entry-level Certificate in Investment Management (IMC) award, delivering the threshold competency knowledge in research analysis, portfolio management and other key investment activities. You can either do this Level 4 qualification through self-study and by registering for the IMC exam yourself, or through a recognised training provider such as BPP or Kaplan.
As you consider continuing professional development (CPD) and studying for further investment banker qualifications, you can enrol onto the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) programme.
To be eligible for this internationally renowned investment management qualification (equivalent to a Masters), you'll need a degree, four years' professional work experience or a combination of work and study totalling four years.
You can also study a part-time Retail and Digital Banking MSc through Cranfield University's School of Management, which covers aspects of investment banking.
What's more, this postgraduate course is accredited by the Chartered Banker Institute (CBI), and provides a pathway to achieving the Chartered Diploma Professional qualification and gaining Chartered Banker status.
The London School of Economics (LSE), Bayes Business School and Warwick Business School (WBS) are just a selection of other institutions that run postgraduate courses in finance.
If this is something you'd like to explore, search postgraduate courses in investment banking.
4. Do an investment banking internship
Many of the top banking institutions, including Barclays, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and the RBS Group, offer summer internships in investment banking.
For instance, J.P. Morgan offers 10 to 12-week investment banking internships for penultimate-year university students. You'll get to learn key technical skills by working on deals and transactions for the company's clients.
On-the-job-experience and practical skills training give you the perfect grounding in investment banking. The best-performing students may receive full-time job offers upon completion.
However, it's important to make an informed decision by first learning about the different work experience opportunities and choosing one that best suits your interests. Watch short videos of employees sharing their career stories to get an idea as to whether investment banking is for you.
When preparing your application, discover what's required in the selection process. In addition to ensuring your CV is a true reflection of your skills and abilities (such as collaboration, self-discipline and perseverance), ensure it's tailored to the job description and specific internship you're applying for.
This advice is also applicable to those looking at finance graduate schemes while still at university. 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.
If you're interested in working as an apprentice for a major investment bank, see the top UK banking apprenticeships.
Search for banking and finance internships.
5. Attend events and network
You can sign up for information sessions through your careers service, and you'll find opportunities to speak to employers at recruitment events. Virtual talks 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 with help from social media.
When you land your first investment banking job, you should always aim to keep in touch with your peers. Not only can these industry professionals provide valuable careers guidance, they have the potential to aid your career progression further down the line.
Find out more
- Search all investment banking graduate jobs.
- Consider other finance qualifications.
- Get an overview of the UK's financial sector.