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10 features of the top 40 investment bankers under 40

How to make it to the top in investment banking before you're 40

How to make it to the top in investment banking before you're 40

If you want to ascend to the pinnacle of investment banking and own three race horses before the age of 40, Financial News has produced a helpful clarification of what it takes. The paper’s annual ’40 under 40 investment banking’ list is a catalogue of top achievers in European IBD, all of whom are under 40 and several of whom are under 35.

For those of you who don’t have the time or stomach for the full list, which has the potential to engender sensations of inadequacy in anyone aged 30+, these are the points of commonality between Europe’s top young investment bankers.

1. Top schools 

Top bankers go to top schools. Oxford and Cambridge Universities feature disproportionately on the Financial News list. The London School of Economics is there too, as are top French schools such as École Polytechnique and HEC.

Nor is it simply a question of getting a top school on your CV. It helps if you have a top school and top marks at that top school. Take Dominic Ashcroft, a 34-year-old managing director in high yield at Goldman Sachs, who has a double first in economics from Cambridge University.

2. Multilingualism

As we noted last month, British bankers aren’t popular in London on the grounds that they’re often lazy and monolingual. Looking at FN’s list of the bankers who are popular, you can see why. Most top IBD professionals in London have an accumulation of European tongues. Take 39-year-old Alessandro Dusi, head of Western European corporate and sovereign derivatives and head of EMEA equity derivatives at Goldman Sachs, who reportedly speaks five.

When Britons do make it to the top in investment banking, foreign languages are a help. 35-year-old Tom Duff Gordon, director of public policy EMEA at Credit Suisse, studied modern languages at Oxford.

3. Masculinity 

Like it or not, being a man seems to be a boon if you want to make it in IBD. There are 40 hot young under-40s bankers on the Financial News list; three of them are women.

4. High stamina sporting achievements

As befits their high-achieving, ultra-masculine, incredibly-demanding profession, successful young IBD professionals like to wind-down with some high-stamina endurance sports. Calvin O’Shaughnessy, the 32-year-old head of metals and mining EMEA for UBS, is a ‘keen athlete’ who intends to compete in three iron man challenges in 2015. 36-year-old Pieter-Jan Bouten at Greenhill is a ‘keen kite-surfer’. He also, ‘cycled unsupported up the highest road in the world in the Himalayas’, although that was 11 years ago before the desk-job took its toll.

5. Work before play

Successful young investment banking professionals prioritize work above sleep and pregnancy-rest. 36-year-old Luisa Leyenaar, director in utilities, RBC Capital Markets, closed a big deal two weeks before having her first baby. 30-year-old Serge Mouracade, vice-president at Zaoui & Co, only took five days off last year. And Bernard Mourad, a 39-year-old managing director at Morgan Stanley, only sleeps four hours a night.

6. Loyalty to the cause

If you want to make it while you’re young in IBD, it helps to find an employer who likes you and to stick around. Take 32-year-old Lazard director Julian Knott, who joined straight from (Bristol) university in 2005, or 39-year-old Alessandro Dusi, who joined Goldman Sachs as a summer analyst in 2000, was running the firm’s derivatives business in Southern Europe in 2004, and has plowed the Goldman furrow ever since.

7. Timely exits to boutiques 

While hot bankers under 40 don’t job hop, they do make calculated leaps to boutique firms and small investment banks offering the opportunity for rapid promotion. 36-year-old (Cambridge graduate) Simon Dowker quit UBS for Jefferies in 2011 and was promoted to managing director in 2013. 32-year-old Merrill Lynch alumnus (and Oxford graduate) Anthony Doeh joined Moelis in 2012 and has worked on several big deals since. 34-year-old (Oxford University) graduate Simon Elliott, quit Deutsche in 2013 and is now head of healthcare at Evercore.

The moral of the story is….boutiques can offer rapid promotion and good deal-flow.

8. Flagship deals

If you want to catch the eye of a journalist making a list of top performing bankers under 40, it helps to play a pivotal role on some pivotal deals. 34-year-old Ashcroft at Goldman Sachs hasn’t just worked on any old high yield deals, he’s worked on, ‘the record-breaking $10.9 billion high-yield bond offering for French cable operator Numericable in April 2014’. This deal reportedly helped gain Goldman fourth place on the high yield revenue ranking league tables.

9. International perspective

If you don’t have a double first in economics from Cambridge University or speak three European languages to mother-tongue standard, you might want to spend part of your education or early career working abroad. We’ve already noted Goldman’s predilection for hiring international students, and it seems that many of the exceptional young bankers under 40 have spent part of their lives living or working overseas. Take the exquisitely named Alexis Taffin de Tilques, a 38-year-old graduate of HEC who grew up on the Ivory Coast, and in Fiji and Indonesia. He now works for BNP Paribas, pricing bond issues for the countries he grew up in.

10. No MBA 

There’s a notable absence of MBAs on the FN list. Yes, Fahd Beg, head of internet and digital media for EMEA at Citi has one (from INSEAD), but plenty of others don’t. Could it be that the two years required for an MBA are a hindrance rather than a help if you want to make it to the top of banking before you’re 40?


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