We know this sounds like an enormous cliche but we promise it’s true: there isn’t one set of finite skills that are needed for you to succeed in investment banking. While it’s most common to enter the workforce after studying a degree like commerce or accounting, if you’re sitting here reading this when you should be studying your degree in zoology or anthropology, you can still make it into the world of banking! The reality is, the skills an investment bank will be looking for come down to much more than the grades you got at uni (although that is definitely also considered). We’ve highlighted some of the most important skills that are crucial to succeeding in the investment banking world.
Do you thrive in situations where the pressure is on to quickly wrap your head around new information or a new concept so you can apply it your work? Love problem solving a complex task with many moving pieces? This is the sort of skill recruiters will be testing you for, which we can broadly consider as ‘analytical thinking.’
This isn’t really about book smarts, or your academic grades but instead demonstrating the ability to quickly understand and apply complex pieces of information. Investment banking is all about intellectual curiosity and agility, whether it be related to absorbing new data, managing a project or meeting a new client.
Whether you’re working in a front office or back office role, to excel in an investment bank you’ve got to have the gift of the gab! The great challenge of working in the world of banking is that you’re often faced with explaining complex financial information to groups that might not share your excitement or understanding of futures, IPOs or the intricate details of the stock market.
The tough reality is that even if you can perfectly calculate a case study while interviewing for a role, but can’t talk about it or explain it clearly, you probably won’t be considered a great fit for investment banking. Strong, professional communication that can be adapted to be most relevant for specific audiences is an essential skill, and one that can help set you apart from other candidates.
Investment bankers love innovation. When you’re interviewing for a role, recruiters will be looking out for applicants who can bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to the company. Even as a grad, if you have the ability to identify creative ways the company can improve a process, or ideas for growth, you’ll be an asset to the bank.
There is no doubt that investment banking can be a high pressure environment, with long hours, tight deadlines and high stakes. Having strong personal resilience, the ability to bounce back when things get tough, is crucial to succeeding in investment banking.
Keep in mind that resilience isn’t just about being able to soldier on in the tough times, truly resilient people have a strong sense of self which helps them know what they need and how to balance competing demands, both personal and professional. When demonstrating your personal resilience to recruiters, think about times you might have pushed through under tough circumstances, or took on board some constructive feedback to improve your performance.
While we think the skills listed above are crucial, there are so many attributes and experiences that will help you thrive in investment banking. Think of how you can show off your strengths or experience in any of the following:
The Australian market heavily draws upon clients from across the world, especially Asia. Speaking another language, understanding global politics and economics, or even just an appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures can help you stand out as an applicant.
While most investment bankers start out as a analyst or researcher, teamwork is what really makes the dream work when it comes to investment banking! Demonstrating you’ve had experience working in and leading high performing teams will be a huge asset.
While it’s more important that you have strong analytical skills rather than be a walking and talking calculator, you definitely need to have strong financial literacy and confidence with numbers to make it in investment banking. If this is an area you don’t feel as confident in, invest in brushing up on your skills before you apply!
We’ve probably all been tempted by a sneaky bit of ‘find and replace’ when applying for applications in bulk! But for those reviewing an application, it’s often obvious when someone hasn’t taken the time to consider why they want to apply for this bank and more broadly why they want to be an investment banker, as opposed to any other financial services role.
To get this right, you firstly need to know what are the skills specific to the world of investment banking rather than commercial banking. While there is a huge amount of crossover between the industries (and more so all the time), there are some important distinctions. Investment banking roles will commonly require higher level communication and public speaking skills, as there is a heavier focus on pitching to clients. Entrepreneurial skills are also considered more important within the investment banking scene.
But to really set your application apart, make sure you give yourself the time to think about and articulate why you actually want to join the investment banking workforce. Beyond any of the other skills listed, a passion for the job (and not just an interest in the salary) is considered crucial.