Is a Job in Investment Banking Right for You? 9 Ways To Tell

According to Glassdoor, a U.S.-based jobs firm, the average annual starting salary for London-based investment banking analysts just touches £50,000. That’s well above the median for new university grads. No surprise then that investment banking jobs are in high demand.

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Not sure you have what it takes to make a go in the rough and tumble of i-banking? If you have these nine traits, plus a strong background in maths or business, you’re off to a promising start.

  1. You’re Willing To Play By the Rules—At Least, To Start

“Disruption” gets all the attention these days: disruptive ideas, disruptive personalities, disruptive business models.

There’s a place for disruption in the investment banking world. Some of the most successful i-banking firms made their names by betting against conventional wisdom.

But the place for disruption is not at the bottom of the corporate ladder. Young investment bankers thrive when they recognise and embrace that they’re part of a much larger team.

Early on, “you need to fit in and be a team player [and show] a strong willingness to learn from all the big egos around you,” says Graham Ward, former head of the equities desk at Goldman Sachs. If it irks you to chart a course that’s been trodden many times before, you may be better suited to a more individualistic career.

  1. You Don’t Mind Changing Jobs

Successful investment bankers tend to change jobs more than the average worker bee. This is due in part to the competitive nature and high stakes of the i-banking industry, where failure is always an option and tends not to be forgiven.

“I held several positions during my decade or so in the City,” says Sanjay Shah, whose investment banking career spanned from the late 1990s to the late 2000s. “I joke that I’m liable to forget one or two of the jobs I held over the years.”

Shah ended his investment banking career as head of the derivatives desk at Rabobank, a prestigious position for a 30-something banker. Not all bankers rise so quickly. Be prepared to spend years or decades in the trenches, probably at multiple firms, before reaching the side office. If you’d prefer a job for life, or at least the longer term, consider a more staid niche like accountancy instead.

  1. You Don’t Give Up Too Early

If you resist the urge to become discouraged by the learning curve at each new investment banking position, you’ll thrive in this field. Early on in your tenure, you will be the weakest link on your team. The secret lies in being as strong as possible within that context—and not allowing others to make you feel as if you’re singlehandedly holding everyone else back.

“For your first 3 months you will be a burden,” writes an unnamed investment banker in a candid confessional for Business Insider. “Just try to be a small burden.”

The writer suggests refraining from asking “questions that you haven’t at least tried to think through yourself,” but further advises young bankers to stop hesitating once they’ve failed to reach a conclusion on their own.

If you’re a “questions first” kind of person, you might be better served in a more nurturing industry—one that doesn’t attract lots of Type A, short-fuse personalities.

  1. You’re Able To Hit the Ground Running

This follows from point No. 3. Unfortunately, as the unnamed i-banker above notes, you’re going to be judged on your merits—or lack thereof—right from the start. If you’re the type of worker who prefers a longer runway before you’re evaluated against the rest of the team, you’re not likely to thrive in an investment banking setting. (And you might not last long enough at your first role to learn definitively that you’re not cut out for the job.)

  1. You’re Never Satisfied With Your Performance

“Good enough” is a phrase you don’t hear very often in investment banking circles. Investment bank bosses expect junior analysts to deliver excellence consistently and without complaint. If you’re a natural perfectionist, you’ll be much better suited to field their demands now and tomorrow.

  1. You’re Willing To Work Harder Than Your Peers

It’s no secret that investment banking is a grueling line of work. New hires can reliably expect to work 70 to 80 hours per week. True stars set themselves apart with even longer hours, including at weekends. If arriving back to your flat by 6 o’clock is important to you, you’ll burn out quickly in this business.

  1. You’re Attentive to Detail

Investment banking is a detail-oriented business. Sloppiness simply is not tolerated at any level of an organisation, if only because clients literally can’t afford it. Put another way, hard work isn’t enough: A single figure out of place can upend weeks of painstaking activity and cost the firm thousands.

  1. You’re Outgoing and Charming

Not every finance job demands regular, face-to-face interaction. In recent years, financial firms have staffed up with “quants,” or maths geniuses who run the numbers to spot hidden market opportunities (and avoid potentially disastrous pitfalls).

However, finance firms maintain healthy demand for “traditional” i-banking types—outgoing sorts who feel just as comfortable in the meeting room as in the trading room. The i-banking professionals who last the longest and rise the farthest tend to be those who cultivate the most genuine, durable relationships with clients and superiors. If “always be networking” doesn’t sound appealing to you, look into another line of work.

  1. You’re Willing To Make Personal Sacrifices

Hard work requires sacrifice, no matter the industry. During the first few years of your career, you’re likely to see a significant amount of overlap between your social and professional circles. If you like your co-workers and wouldn’t hesitate to call a few your mates—or at least to share a few pints with your department after work—then you’ll fit right in to most i-banking firms. If you prefer to maintain strict separation between work and the rest of your life, a more traditional 9-to-5 may better suit.

Are you keen on an investment banking career?