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Investment Banking Stereotype Breaker

What pops into your head when you think of investment banking? Could it be visions of the trading floor, screens buzzing with stock exchange figures, with suited and booted salesmen flapping their arms around and barking “Buy, buy!! Sell, sell!’ down the phone under incredible amounts of pressure, by any chance?  

Hollywood movies and some stories in the press haven’t exactly done the investment banking industry image many favours in recent times. It’s a common idea that it’s a notoriously competitive field to get into; that nepotism is rife, and that diversity is an issue. And that opportunities available to young keen graduates are few and far between. But is this really the case? Oh, and then there’s the salaries and bonuses…

What’s the real deal?

The financial crisis hit the investment banking industry hard in terms of its graduate recruitment, but The High Fliers 2015 report states that the accounting and professional services and investment banking increased their graduate recruitment by 500 vacancies. So there are opportunities out there if you’re smart enough and wise enough to get right experience.

It’s true that the competition is high, and to make sure you are in with a chance as a graduate you need to get work experience with an investment bank and get networking. A spring scheme could lead to an internship… and an internship could lead to a job! So networking, rather than full-on nepotism is the key. The High Fliers 2015 report has stated that 74% of graduate vacancies at investment banks will have been filled by graduates who have already completed work experience with the employer.

It’s possible to get into investment banking from a non-finance degree, but investment banks will be on the lookout for finance related degrees – usually maths, finance, or business orientated disciplines.

In the pit

Investment banking isn’t just about trading stocks and shares. Trading can also deal with other types of assets such as commodities (things like gold, rice, tea, and fossil fuels such as natural gas and crude oil), foreign currencies, or even alternative investments like antiques. What’s more, there are also roles in sales (who negotiate between clients and the bank’s traders), wealth management and wide-spanning roles in areas like research in investment banking too. You don’t have to be a trader!

And how about life on the infamous trading floor? Well, nowadays your average trader or broker will monitor a number of screens with various information showing the progress of the markets – decidedly less shouting down the phone. Technology rules the roost in modern trading; and in fact the better the technology, the more chance of making money! This said, the gift of the gab will always help in a sales role, no matter what you’re selling, so expect to find the same personable characters you’d imagine in the flesh on the floor. It is an intense environment to work in, and snap decisions under pressure are innate to roles in the sector.

It’s still a predominantly male industry, but recruitment is very much open to and encouraging of female applicants who want to progress at a bank or investment firm, and things are changing!

One thing’s for sure: the bonuses you could bag in investment banking can be serious money. It’s probably one of the most lucrative industries you could get into; graduates start on an average of around £45,000! If you can handle the pressure and the long hours (which aren’t for everyone), then the financial rewards can be massive.