by Girl Banker®
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Having worked in both corporate finance and in the capital markets, I think the skill set needed is slightly different in each. That said, there are some universal requirements:
1. Learn quickly - no one is going to tolerate persistent mistakes;
2. Be personable - so that people enjoy working with you;
3. Have charisma - so that clients prefer you over your competitors.
Let's look at the two divisions in turn:
1. Analytical + super assimilator of information
Whether you're a trader or a salesperson, you need to take in a lot of information and process it to either relay to clients or to make a trade.
A customer can call at anytime to ask random questions like, "What's 6-month LIBOR been doing in the last two weeks and where do you expect it to go now? Is 3-month LIBOR doing the same? Is that your bank's take or your personal opinion?"
Trust me, there will be days when you get asked a question so random that you have to blag your way off the phone to find the answer!!
If you like to work on something and finish it off completely before moving onto something else, you'll hate the capital markets. You are always working on several jobs at the same time and just as you start getting into the project at hand, you'll need to move onto a more urgent task.
It's a stressful environment. People will swear and shout at you - so what? - dust yourself off and forget about it. If you're very emotional you'll struggle. Don't take things personally. It's entirely normal to have a shouting match one minute and be laughing with that same person five minutes later.
1. Analytical + highly structured
Model building requires you to be decent with numbers and to think in a highly structured way. More often than not you will not be building a model from scratch but the better your understanding of financial statements, accounting rules and how the different line items relate to each other, the quicker you'll be able to sort out any modelling problems.
All corporate finance deals are based on a team unlike in the markets (sales & trading) where once you have learnt enough you often work on your own. You will, of course, want your contribution to be valued but if you are aggressive about it you will turn your peers off.
With tact and diplomacy your individual contribution will shine through without putting others off.
3. Low sleep requirements
The long hours you hear about in banking are not just rumours. You will work very long hours and what's more, you will not only get used to it but you'll start to think of it as "normal". A year into my role as an analyst at Goldman Sachs I got home around at 5:00 p.m. one day and I actually felt strange. I had become so accustomed to my long day that I thought, "What do people do with all this time?" I kid you not.
Fun fact: did you know that the longest recorded period without sleep is a gobsmacking 33 years, endured by Thai Ngoc, a 64-year old Vietnamese man. Apparently, after an illness in the 1970s he lost his need for sleep!?! Jealous? Yes I am. I need 8 hours of shuteye to feel normal. I can get by on 7 but less than that on a regular basis and you don't want to be near me!
Jokes aside, the hours are long and the less sleep you need, the easier life will be for you.
I created my investment banking blog in 2012 as soon as I resigned from i-banking & published my book, To Become An Investment Banker.
Initially published at girlbanker.com, all posts have now been subsumed into my personal website under katsonga.com/GirlBanker.
These blog posts make it as straight-forward for you as possible to get into a top tier investment bank.
I have 7 years of front office i-banking experience from Goldman Sachs and HSBC, in both classic IBD (corporate finance) and Derivatives (DCM / FICC).
I'm also a CFA survivor having passed all three levels on the first attempt within 18 months - the shortest time possible.