The highs and lows of investment banking careers

Career decisions as a uni student can be incredibly challenging – we make it easier with this short summary of the highs and lows of investment banking careers.
Team GradAustralia
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Career decisions are some of the most difficult choices you’ll need to make in life, and knowing the highs and lows of each industry can give you the insight you need to make a decision. Here are the pros and cons for university graduates working in the investment banking industry.

Let’s start on the best bits!

Rapid learning curve

The fast-paced and intense nature of investment banking means it offers one of the fastest learning curves for those interested in the world of finance. While the hours can be big (more about that in a bit), the benefit of this is just how much learning you’re able to cram in. Investment banking also offers the chance to work in close teams with some really impressive and clever people, and nothing makes you smarter than hanging out with clever people!

#GlamourLyf

If you google the ‘perks of investment banking’ you’ll hear a lot of people going on about just how impressive the salary is. There is no denying it, working in investment banking certainly pays the big bucks, even at a grad level...but investment banking delivers the #glamourlyf through more than just the salary alone. The workforce carries a certain level of prestige, sounds great on your Tinder profile, and means you get to dress in snazzy corporate wear. After slaving through a uni degree on Mi Goreng and scouring through op shops, the financial security that can come from a job in investment banking is definitely a perk.

Global opportunities

Investment banking is a truly global industry, and some of the best places to further your career will be overseas. Many of the bigger investment banks operating in Australia (like UBS or Credit Suisse) are just one branch of a huge multinational corporation, which means it’s even easier to transition your career to a new, exciting city. Whether you’re inspired by the hustle, bustle and dim sum of Hong Kong, or you need to further your hipster status and trade in Brunswick for Brooklyn, investment banking is a career which will set you up for an intrepid future.

Careers after investment banking

You might start investment banking and think ‘this is exactly where I’m supposed to be’. But it’s just as likely, if not more so, that at some point you might want to pivot into a new career. Research suggests that young Australians are likely to have 17 different jobs over five careers in our working life. So how is that a perk of investment banking? There is no denying that any role within an investment bank will train you in adaptable, transferable skills that will set you up for the future. With your freshly sharpened analytical tool chest, you’ll find yourself in a strong position to transition into the buy-side of banking, or move into consulting, or launch your own business or a huge range of other options (we’ll deep dive into those later on).

But we can’t ignore the tougher parts…

The hours

We’re not talking about the Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman film (which is always a good thing). This is the biggie, and the one that you’ll often find people bringing up if you mention to them some interest in getting into investment banking. Any role within investment banking is likely to come with hours above and beyond the norm. While the 100+ hours a week cliche is probably overblown, there will be times when you’re working late and have to be back at the office early, with not much room for a life in between. One of the toughest parts about this is that you won’t actually be smashing it out all day everyday. Instead, there can be a decent amount of ‘face time’ required, staying at the office and being available while you wait for direction or feedback from your boss or client.

The Client is Boss

All professional services are driven by the client, and this totally makes sense, they’re the ones paying the big bucks! But this can mean your work is often at the whim of the client and highly unpredictable. Whether it be coming in on a weekend to urgently finish a pitchbook your client needs, or the anxiety of being on call basically 24/7, when working in an industry in which the client rules, it can be harder and harder to get downtime from work. Bottom line, you need to be prepared to pull the hours to get the result. Cancelling social engagements, having to tell your friends you’re sorry you can’t meet them anymore or having your phone by your side ‘just in case’ at a weekend lunch may become the norm.  

Managing the pressure

While the high stakes and fast paced nature of work in an investment bank are what can make the learning so rapid, there is no doubt there will be times you’ll be under a lot of stress. It’s not only about long hours, but the need to deliver high quality work on a tight turnaround. Investment banks can also be a competitive space, with graduates competing for opportunities and future job prospects. Navigating the pressured environment of life in an investment bank is crucial to thriving in the world of investment banking.

Visit our banking and finance advice page for more information, or browse our graduate employers here at GradAustralia.