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The one skill every junior banker needs to become a somebody on Wall Street

After a quarter century as an executive search professional, I have come to realize that the most important factor in the success of a senior level professional is the degree to which he or she “owns” the relationships.

Whether an individual is focused on investment banking, research or private wealth, “owning” these relationships mean the difference between having a certain economic professional value or just knowing senior level people but not having real relationships.

“Owning” these relationship allows an individual to theoretically generate a consistent level of material annual revenue, good luck and adverse economic conditions notwithstanding of course.

It would also allow this professional to make strategic job moves and potentially guarantee a larger compensation package when doing so.

Such an individual is that much more valuable to his or her current and prospective employer if you can lay claim to this fact.

The value of “owning” relationships and how to attain them is a major factor in just how successful one has managed a career.

When you are a senior professional you should already have attained them; when you are more junior, you should think strategically about how to gain such relationships.

It is not always possible, however, as you will soon see.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

The associate research analyst whose support is critical to the success of the senior analyst – responsible for most of the report writing and financial model maintenance – but who has little or no contact with the institutional client (therefore, no votes).

The private banking product specialist who works with relationship managers in the marketing of the product but whose client relationships (and most of the revenues associated with it) is with that manager.  If the specialist moves to another employer, it is unlikely those client or their assets will follow.

The mid-level investment banker who executes the advisory transactions but who doesn’t necessarily play much of a role in originating and closing the transaction (hence, not close to the client and also unlikely to be transferable).

If you are a senior professional, it therefore behooves you to know who your clients are – particularly the most valuable and prolific ones.  They are the ones who will get you paid either in your current or future job. Get to know them better and stay close in whatever appropriate form your particular job allows.

Sad to say, but not all senior professionals with whom junior and mid-level executives work will necessarily help them reach this next level because they may be viewed as current or future competition.

It is therefore imperative that more junior professionals take charge of this relationship-building process as early as they can because it will bring great dividends in the future.

I have interviewed many senior professionals over the years that had an impressive resume but, after delving more deeply in their jobs and career, it turned out that their relationships actually belonged to someone else.

This strategy of developing strong and transportable client relationships – whether you are a senior or more junior professional – should start as early as possible in a career on Wall Street.

Richard G. Lipstein is a managing director at Gilbert Tweed International.  A long-time member of the New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA), he is currently Vice-Chairman of its Board of Directors.

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