Investment/Merchant Banker

The Job and What's Involved

Investment or merchant bankers provide financial services for companies, institutions, government departments and wealthy individuals. They help clients to finance their business activities and get the most out of their investments. There are three main specialist areas: investment analyst, corporate financier, operations.

Investment Analysts - study financial markets throughout the world to enable fund managers to advise their clients on the best possible investment.

Corporate Financiers - provide advice to clients who manage finance for large organisations, including acting on the client's behalf in financing, managing or defending mergers, acquisitions or reconstructions. They also arrange bonds or loans or the issue of shares.

Operations Professionals - manage day-to-day processes, develop new systems, and manage change to gain the maximum efficiency and profitability for the bank. They deal with all incoming queries from clients, resolve incorrect payments and make sure that client details are correct for the payment of funds.

An investment banker's tasks could include:

  • Advising clients how to raise finance to expand their business.
  • Arranging loans to fund expansion.
  • Advising clients on merging with or taking over other businesses.
  • Arranging financial backing for new businesses.
  • Managing the investments of business and private clients which can total billions of pounds.
  • Taking action to protect them from changes in currency exchange rates and interest rates.
  • Trading in stocks and shares, securities and bonds.
  • Buying and selling large property developments.

Investment bankers usually work in teams. They liaise with a range of people including lawyers, accountants and team members. They tend to specialise in a particular sector, such as telecommunications, energy and utility, or retail, or in a particular geographical area such as the Far East. They spend a lot of time doing research and attending meetings, and use computers regularly.

Investment bankers work long and irregular hours to meet deadlines and close deals. They are often at their desks from before 8am until after 6pm. The long hours can seriously affect social life.

They are mainly office based, but experienced bankers may travel extensively in the UK and overseas to visit clients on site.

Smart dress is generally expected.

Starting salaries may be around £30,000 to £35,000 a year. There are usually performance bonuses and generous benefits, including private healthcare, pensions, share options and gym membership.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Prospects for investment bankers are determined by the global economy. When markets are poor, many investment bankers can find themselves out of work. There is considerable movement between banks and headhunting is common, often for successful teams as much as for individuals.

Good salaries and attractive packages make investment banking a very competitive job market, and there are always far more applicants than jobs, even when the global economy is sound.

Investment bankers work either for investment banks or for one of the large High Street banks with a merchant banking division. Most jobs are in London, with some in smaller financial centres such as Edinburgh.

Jobs are advertised in specialist sector publications, in The Times (Thursdays) and with recruitment agencies specialising in financial and banking careers. Job vacancies can also be found on specialist websites such as www.efinancialcareers.com.

Education and Training

Most investment banks recruit people with a 2:1 or first class honours degree. The minimum entry to a degree course is two A levels/three H grades, but banks generally expect graduates to have had at least 300 UCAS points.

While a degree in any discipline is acceptable, many companies prefer related subjects such as accounting, economics, mathematics or statistics. Increasingly, entrants have a second degree such as an MBA or MSc in a related subject. A second language is also useful.

Relevant experience is very important. Taking a summer placement or internship before the last year at university can help entry to a graduate training scheme. Some banks offer jobs to as many as 60 to 95 percent of interns.

It is important to apply early in the final year of a degree course. The selection process is rigorous and could involve a presentation to an interview panel and psychometric and aptitude tests.

Operations divisions sometimes offer training programmes for school leavers with A levels/H grades with passes at degree entry level standard. These schemes last between three and five years. However, graduates can generally expect faster promotion.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most people start on a graduate training scheme, which provides a complete business overview. They are generally expected to study for qualifications which appear on the appropriate examination list, maintained by the Financial Services Skills Council (FSSC).

These qualifications will depend on their specialism, but might include:

Operations - the Securities and Investment Institute (SII) Diploma, Diploma in Investment Compliance or Certificate in Investment Administration.

Corporate finance - SII Diploma, Investment Analyst Qualification (IAQ).

Analysts - the UK Society of Investment Professionals (UKSIP) Investment Management Certificate (IMC).

Many investment bankers then progress to the internationally recognised Chartered Financial Analyst qualification which is administered by the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute in the UK. It has three levels, each requiring around 250 hours of study, and takes about three years to complete.

Many employers pay study and exam costs.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Investment bankers need to:

  • Have a good memory for facts, events and news, and be able to link them together.
  • Have the confidence to make difficult decisions.
  • Have good verbal and written communication skills.
  • Have strong analytical and mathematical skills.
  • Be self-motivated and able to work under pressure.
  • Be a good team player.
  • Have a thorough knowledge and understanding of financial markets.
  • Be well informed about trends in their specialist sector.
  • Be trustworthy.
  • Be able to build good working relationships with clients.
  • Be committed to continuous learning.

Your Long Term Prospects

Most investment bankers spend their first three years as analysts. With experience, they can become fund managers at associate level. They can then become vice presidents after a further three years.

Many investment banks have international links providing opportunities for extensive travel.

It is possible to move into related careers such as accountancy, banking or general business management.

Get Further Information

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute,
10th Floor, One Canada Square,
Canary Wharf, London E14 5DY
Tel: 020 7531 0751
Website: www.cfainstitute.org

The Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (CIOBS),
Drumsheugh House, 38b Drumsheugh Gardens,
Edinburgh EH3 7SW
Tel: 0131 473 7777
Website: www.ciobs.org.uk

The Financial Services Authority (FSA),
25 The North Colonade, Canary Wharf,
London E14 5HS
Tel: 020 7066 1000
Website: www.fsa.gov.uk

Financial Services Skills Council (FSSC),
51 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HQ
Tel: 0845 257 3772
Website: www.fssc.org.uk

Institute of Financial Services (IFS), IFS House,
4-9 Burgate Lane, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2XJ
Tel: 01227 762600
Website: www.ifslearning.com

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