How to become an investment banker

Investment bankingIf you are wondering how to become an investment banker in India or abroad, your friends probably told you that it helps to get an MBA from one of the best MBA colleges in the world that open the doors to investment banking jobs. But the best investment banking courses in India or abroad won’t help if you don’t have the right traits and attitude.

A former bulge bracket investment banker who prefers to go by his pen-name ibanker shares helpful tips that you can use to become an investment banker in India, UK, USA and pretty much everywhere else.
 


How to become an investment banker in India and abroad

by ibanker

An investment banker is one of the most fascinating characters of our time. A high-flying man or woman of finance with razor sharp mental ability, juggling billion dollar deals in fancy suits while traveling the world and making lots of money.

Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of young people around the world dream of joining this league of extraordinary business people.

So you’ve decided that it is a path you’d like to pursue and are committed to becoming one of these global jets-setters. Read on.
 

How I became an investment banker without the right degree and experience

I didn’t have the typical profile investment banks sought from candidates. Before banking I worked for two tech startups. I did some development work in the Caribbean and the Middle East.

What’s more, I was always trying my hand at different things on the side. Little entrepreneurial ventures here and there. In fact, I had so many positions in my CV bank recruiters always worried I’d join and leave within 6 months.

I even moved to Hollywood for nearly a year to pursue a career in film. No joke.

So when I first applied to investment banks I had no traction. I got rejected time and time again. But I was determined to get into banking. I was relentless and I spent time building relationships – one of, if not, the most important thing you can do. Eventually I found a back door.

After gaining deal experience within an investment bank, I set up my own investment company and I now do deals with clients from all over the world, including India.

In the paragraphs that follow, I’ll provide some advice that will hopefully help you get there.
 

Believe that you can break into investment banking

First things first, you must get over any self-doubt.

“Do I have what it takes to become an investment banker?”
“Can I handle the investment banking job?

You do. You can.

I’m not just saying this. I mean it 100%. There’s nothing magical about the craft of investment banking.

The hard part is breaking in.

I’ve worked with people you’d never in a million years think they had what it takes to become bankers.

When you run into an investment banker who’s been in the business for at least a few years and you get impressed, always keep in mind that they very likely underwent a transformation.

They received training, got deal experience and have been surrounded by more professional people, through whom they learned a lot. Anyone in that position will change and become a better business person over time. You will too.
 

Haven’t studied at an Ivy League, Oxbridge, IIT, IIM, etc?

I’d be lying if I told you that where you studied is irrelevant. The better the business school, the easier it is to break into the investment banking industry. BUT, it’s still difficult even if you went to the best school.

Where you studied isn’t a make or break. Most students from top schools who chase the banking dream never get in. There aren’t enough positions available.

What’s more, when you look at the bios of most bankers you see that a significant proportion didn’t go to the top schools.

I know many people who work in banking in financial centers like London, New York, Mumbai, Singapore, Los Angeles and more. Most didn’t attend the top schools.

If you haven’t studied at a brand name school you just need to compensate for it in other ways.

No single path to become an investment banker

There’s no sequential set of steps you follow and then break into the investment banking business.

Just because Venkatesh broke in one way, Farhan got in another way and Bhupender made it using his own strategy, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to follow one of them.

You need to chart your own path. It’s like setting sail across the ocean…many paths can get you to your destination.

And you can’t predict the trajectory because forces outside of your control (e.g. storm) can meet with you along the way.
 

The world isn’t fair

Some of my friends were extended internships and investment banking jobs without having to do any work. Daddy knew this person. Mommy knew that person.

That’s life. It’s not going to change anytime soon, if ever.

An extremely powerful recommendation: When you witness this phenomenon at work, do not get into the habit of blaming the system.

You must believe that you are in control of your fate. Otherwise, for every little bump you hit, and there will be many in life, you’ll play the blame game.

Most people love to blame. Makes them feel better because, according to that mechanism, it’s not their fault if things don’t turn out the way they would like them to.

Don’t blame and believe you can control your destiny. It’s the only way you’ll achieve great things.
 

Failure is good

You learn so much from failures. Ever successful person, from finance to philanthropy, has had more than their fair share of it. Learn from those experiences.

It’s better to act than do nothing – and remain boring!

Just because you read articles or watch television programmes that show the vast accomplishments of an individual don’t think it’s all been a joy ride for them.

When things don’t work out, remember that it’s temporary. Think about what you can take away from the experience.

Failure is experience. Get a lot of it.
 

The illusion of ‘busyness’

In the early 20th century, an Italian named Vilfredo Pareto came up with what’s become know as the Pareto Principle. He observed that, surprisingly, 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the people.

Different ways to look at this:

  • A small number of families own the majority of real estate in Mumbai
  • A small percentage of Bollywood actors make the big bucks
  • A small number of your irritating habits will end up embarrassing you the most
  • You catch my drift…

In short, cut out the 80% you’re wasting time on and focus on the 20% that makes a difference. Most people keep doing the wrong things over and over.

Putting in hours isn’t enough. You’ve got to spend your time on the right things. Especially when chasing a banking job given the competition out there. Work smart.

So don’t spend all your time reading about the best investment banks in India or otherwise. Get out there and meet with senior bankers face to face. That’s how you really learn about an institution.

Plus, you build relationships, which is key. The investment banking industry is a people-based business. A senior investment banker can open a door for you, if he or she detects drive and hunger, even though your application may not be perfect.

Most people lock themselves in a room and study investment banking interview questions for hours and hours doing nothing else. That won’t get you a job. Yes, it will keep you busy but that’s not your aim.

You must find that 20% (or less) that will give you an edge over the competition.
 

Show leadership

There are so many things you can do to stand out. For instance, if you’re still in business school then you can establish and become the founder of a new society or other organization.

It can be focused on investment banking, finance or a related area. You can then use that entity to invite speakers (e.g. senior investment bankers) to come and present. It enables you to build a relationship with them.

Good luck!
 


How to become an investment bankerBio: The ibanker is a former bulge bracket investment banker who founded a family office-backed investment company. He has co-founded several startups and undertook actor training at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. His debut novel, a fiction story about a young investment banker in London, is set to be published in 2014. The ibanker regularly travels to India and hopes to play in a Bollywood movie some day.

The ibanker’s blog: theibanker.com | Follow him on twitter: @theibanker.com


Here’s the story of an MBA student who became an investment banker after spending many years in other industries: Investment Banking career after MBA.

Read more posts on:
– Overview of careers in finance.
– Other articles on investment banking.


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

25 Comments

  1. Udit Agarwal says:

    One thing I like most about it, its closeness to reality. Informative, motivating and something to look upto. My list of bloggers I follow increased today.

  2. Samrat says:

    Agree that one should stand out and show leadership. Everyone is the same on paper. More or less. What can you do so that the bankers look at your cv and say, impressive!

    Glad to hear it’s not rocket science!!

  3. Nitin Negi says:

    I literally felt relieved after reading these words otherwise i was very confused about this “investment banker” terminology .

  4. Sumit says:

    I am an engineer,and I wish to make my career in investment banking. Could you suggest distance learning courses related to it?

  5. ankita says:

    Hello sir, i have completed my mba in finance from a average bschool n want to pursue a career in investment banking..can u guide me with the needful.
    Thank you

  6. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Sumit: Front office investment banking jobs are highly competitive. A distance learning course will not help much.

    @Ankita: Your careers team would be able to share resources and leads. If that hasn’t helped, check with placement agencies. Be aware though that most of the jobs might be in back office roles.

  7. Bhavana Nayal says:

    can u please provide me the detail info regarding Investment Banking and CFA course with proper institute and fees structure in my inbox(mail)..and how long wil the courses take in india as well as in international countries

  8. Anubhav Jain says:

    Can u please provide me the detail information regarding Investment Banking and CFA course with proper institute and fees structure in my inbox(mail)..and how long will the courses take in India as well as in international countries.

  9. shefali agrawal says:

    Hi..i have just passed 12th with 93.6% in commerce without maths..can u suggest the ug course that i shoud opt for to become an investment banker..

    • Hitesh says:

      Hi Shefali,

      From what I’ve heard, you can always do an Economics major or a degree with strong accounting and finance background..
      This will help you understand the business and technical sides of things..

      Good Luck!

  10. Shipra Bishnoi says:

    Hey, I just completed my graduation in Economics (BA Hons. Economics). I want to know what all CFA is about and how does it lead you to become an Investment Banker ? I know internet has all the answers but isn’t it always great to speak to the ones who have been there, done that?
    I would really appreciate a call or something though.
    New Delhi

  11. Sumeet Raj says:

    Hello Sir,
    i found your Information very important and understanding on a point that how to make our vision our goal more realistic.
    but now i have come forth with a new set of problems.. i mean the questions..
    is it like we have to keep in touch with people who need money and for those people we keep sticking to the market as well as we also keep in contact with the bankers who provides us clients with money and then it becomes investment n then yet their is a risk of what the money is invested n how much loss or profit it brings to us..!
    is that something like wall street money never sleeps..!
    and how to reach a point where people play with this bankers also they take away the money as a part of the investment and in a day the shares drop and the dream is blown up..!! :(
    then again more people come out with more bluff.. so is their any bluffing we have to face even..??
    and if its there then how to identify one or to trust even somebody who may be telling truth..
    i think its about availab’n money to the big corporations for their purpose but its up to us how to study those clients who need money as well as one who are searching for the right money investment..!
    so that’s how its not a joke..!
    or what i said is all my night mares ?
    my brother my friend .. i am passionate about it i neither belong to any b-school or have any of the base for compelling it..!
    but what i have is only a dream a desire to become one..!
    i haven’t seen as much money in my life n i am centered on money ..
    but its not like i can’t help my leg shaking for money ..
    i want to earn it honestly not like through corruption ..!!
    yes i am ready to take dive in career because what we believe and choose for ourselves is what indirectly becomes our career..! isn’t it..??
    sir i need a big explaination on this plzz sir i need it and when you came out with such a helpful blog or say article it means that you have a passion of helping and awakening one who desires it..!
    so sir i being completely honest with my thoughts and you here in open comment box..!
    hahahaha….
    i am being talkative but all i want is only a big damn satisfying answer..!
    i have saved the bookmark..!
    and going to add you on google+ too.!
    okay till the time i keep waiting for the reply and dive in to what i am dreaming of..!

  12. hoozan says:

    I am just a 12th passed student and i plan to carry on my bachelors in Management Studies. Along with my BMS can you advise me what else could i do.. i was planning to take up Company Secretary as a course and pursue it with my BMS
    I would really appreciate your views over it. Thank you!

  13. Vikramm says:

    Sir, i am vikram pursuing chartered accountancy final course, and also i completed my bachelors degree b.com , i am interester in investment banking career, kindly prospect me about this course and what is the structure that how i can pursue , kindly mail me ur valuable quotes .

    • Hitesh says:

      Hey Vikram,

      From what I have heard, you can apply for an internship with a Boutique Investment Bank and then look to build your skills to move to bigger companies..
      Your Accounting and Business background will be really helpful for the same!

  14. shalini says:

    Hi,

    I have read your article, it’s really very inspiring.
    I am qualified Chartered Accountant, currently working in Investment Analysis/Accounting/Reporting profile, but want to switch in “Investment Banking”.
    Please guide me neccesory steps to be taken to proceed.

    Regards,
    Shalini

  15. Jail Singh says:

    Plz tell me course fee sir
    My email is jailsinghrajaputra@gmail.com

  16. Neha says:

    Hello Sameer
    I am a chartered accountant having experience of 1 year. Would you please guide me about career in investment banking. I have tried a lot but not getting any start in it. It will helpful for me If tell me how can I have career in investment banking.

  17. Siddharth Prajapat says:

    Hi I am in 10th class and I want to know which subject I should choose in 11th to become an investment banker.

  18. Parag says:

    Hello sir this is parag gangle I am civil engineer but having interest in finance also I desire to be investment banker could u please suggest some courses other than MBA fr investment banking

  19. Ankit says:

    Hi, I am Ankit Jain Study at School of economics DAVV Indore. I completed my 1st year in MBA and i will work after MBA in Investment banking. Can any one suggest me or guide me what can i do for job in Investment banking after Complete my MBA….. or any kind of certificate which help me for job in Investment bank…..

  20. Sanchit says:

    Hello sir I am a student of chartered accountant and i want to become a investment banker so can you please teel me the procedure and qualifications required to become a investment banker.

  21. himanshu joshi says:

    Hello sameer, I had completed my bcom. & I also want to become a investment banker can you suggest me something that how can I get into this banking system.
    Please mail me your valuable suggestions.

  22. Amit Singh says:

    Hi,
    My name is Amit, your back story is somewhat similar to mine. I have worked in two start-ups, tried as writer in bollywood. Now i am very much interested in Investment Banking. I know it’s a tough road ahead but this is what i want to do.
    You inspired me and I am very much interested in hearing back from you.
    Thank you.

  23. Ali Basir Rizvi says:

    Hi, I am Ali basir. I have completed my company secretary course and now i want to work as Investment banker.Can any one suggest me or guide me what can i do for job in Investment banking….. or any kind of certificate which help me for job in Investment bank…..

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