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Singapore’s Finance (and Insurance) sector accounts for approximately 12.4% of the country’s GDP, suggesting more than a plausible reason for why the country has remained constant in its quest for retaining financial hub status in the Asian region.
With four major universities churning out graduates at lightning pace, it is common knowledge (especially across the Legal and Finance industries) that the sum total and quality of one’s internships often compliment high enough academic grades to maketh one’s hiring viability.
Partly due to highly exaggerated locker room conversations of a particular lifestyle coming from inflated remunerations (all justified by equally ridiculous working hours) and a career path that could only go North, the buzz words Investment Banking (IB for short) have been on the lips of many a finance undergraduate seeking to find direction post-degree. We take a look at how one can break into the industry as well as the culture that surrounds some of the reputable Investment Banks…
A quick Google search provides a slew of overall descriptions for this subset of the finance industry. Investopedia summarises it well:
“The Investment Banker acts in a Capital Markets advisory capacity to corporations and governments, rather than dealing directly with individual investors. Investment bankers help their clients raise money in the capital markets, provide various financial advisory services, and assist with mergers and acquisition activity.”
Breaking into the Industry
The phrase getting one’s foot in the door is commonly thrown around for good reason – our degree very often only takes us as far as our first position – after that it’s how we sell ourselves and advance through the experiences we are afforded. IB is no exception to this cause.
The efinancialcareers website came out with a comprehensive and exhaustive checklist on the different ways to enter the industry, apart from the already mentioned internships and seemingly obvious tapping of one’s network, the other points on the checklist provide for partial guidance for undergraduates/graduates. Among the suggested paths are applying before one graduates or while one is doing an acclaimed master degree. Other paths include a lateral progression from Law, Consulting or the Military (who would have thought?).
It seems that persistence and tenacity pays off here.
Just like most other industries (bar the medical, legal and engineering fields – basically those touted as professional services), there is no one-way or singular educational discipline that paves the way for a direct path into IB. Financial acumen will propel one’s chances higher (for obvious reasons) but the industry – especially in recent times – has often cast a wider net in its hiring approach.
One skill that is often ignored by prospective candidates in their search for employment is the ability to write proposals. This is one of the cores of the role – especially at the analyst/entry level – and will set one ahead of the pack if its ability is honed well and early. This coupled with the ability to communicate and present effectively will assist in one’s advancement within the industry. The website, Career-in-investment-banking.com ranks “people skills” as a key skill area of high requirement for innvestment banks looking to hire.
Although it is clear that the industry does hire from a wide range of academic backgrounds, most roles do require a sound understanding of mathematical principles, skills on option pricing, bond valuation techniques as well as stochastic calculus and differential equations will set one apart from the competition and put one ahead of the competition.
The Industry/Environment itself
What better way to tap on the internal workings of the industry than to talk personally with someone who was in the mix himself. Venture Capital Investments Associate Bennett Lee from Golden Equator Capital started his career as an Analyst for BNP Paribas, equipped with a tenacious work ethic and a keen interest in the finance industry. Successfully scoring himself a position within the bank in his desired field, he experienced the real world of IB first-hand with all the intensity that the industry had to offer.
Bennett says that 16-18 hours are the norm, with everyone in the industry already aware of the fact that they have to make themselves count. He also goes on to highlight the fact that the whole team is usually aligned with similar sharp skillsets and a critical thinking mind-set. The Analysts and Associates do a lot of the groundwork while anyone above has the task of getting business for the company.
Rumours of 23- hour workdays with showers and back to the office work cultures aside, the IB playing field is a tough one – peppered with regular over-nighters and the need for a healthy dose of tenacity mixed with good old-fashioned elbow grease. It’s certainly not for everyone but then again, that’s the reason why pay scales in the industry come with equally high and attractive bonuses.