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Six things you need to know about investment banks’ training programmes

Investment bank training

Hundreds of new investment banking analysts around the world are set to start their careers in the next few months. They’ve beaten thousands of other applicants to a coveted front office job, but now comes the hard part – training.

The first few weeks of an investment banking analysts career are spent in the classroom. There will be a corporate on-boarding process, regulatory training and exams if needed, but most importantly a technical training programme that usually lasts two to four weeks.

I’ve worked as an interest rates and equities trader at both J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley, but now I head up the U.S. division of a firm that trains analysts and associates during their first few weeks on the job. Based on training thousands of new bankers, this is what I think you need to know to get the most out of your training programme.

1. Arrive at the office on your first day prepared:

It’s unlikely that you will have got through the application processor internship without a solid understanding of the business area you’re joining. However, before you even walk through the door on your first day a lot of employers will offer you some pre-learning materials. If you haven’t majored in finance, this is an opportunity to gradually start levelling the playing field with more knowledgeable analysts. Also, use the financial press to understand the current market trends and come armed with questions about what’s happening in the news.

2. Speak up and ask questions:

New analysts are accustomed to an academic environment, but your technical program is a chance to learn interactively. You’re not in a lecture hall, you’re in a workplace and your questions and observations are a key part of learning. Youmight be in a room with 100+ analysts, but speak up – if there’s a question nagging at you, there will be at least five other analysts wondering the same thing. Your trainer wants questions, we want to keep the energy levels up in the room and encourage interaction. It will also impress your colleagues, and us. If your question is too far off topic, don’t be offended if the trainer suggests discussing the matter offline during a break.

3. Make some friends:

You’ll be given group exercises by your trainer, like coming up with a capital structure for a deal, or pitching a trade idea.These exercises are a chance to learn from your colleagues and strengthen relationships. Even if you’re convinced your solution to the problem is perfect, give others a chance to contribute and try to make everyone feel involved. Acknowledging that someone else’s suggestion is better than yours is a sign of maturity.

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your peers, take the time now to start to forge some real friendships. Set up study groups ahead of exams. Help people out when they are struggling. Be the one to suggest grabbing a bite to eat or a drink after class.

Being well-liked by your colleagues and managers will make career progress a lot easier. Being helpful to non-finance graduate colleagues on my own analyst training program at JP Morgan led indirectly to AMT Training spotting my potential as a future trainer. You never know when a good deed will reap rewards, but they usually do.

4. Pass your regulatory exams first time:

This might be easier said than done, but really front-load your revision here so you pass first time. Whatever time you think you need to invest to pass your exams, add an extra 20% to avoid the risk of having to re-sit. Whether the re-sit study clashes with your technical training program, or happens while you are on the desk, it can be a major distraction and will impact your ability to learn other things.

5. Get the basics right:

First impressions really do count – turn up on time and dress smartly from the minute you step through the door.

6. Keep your confidence in check:

Yes, you may have achieved a lot simply by getting through the door, but this doesn’t mean you’ve made it yet. Every year on our summer programs a few of the apparent top dogs in the class get a shock when the first set of exam results come out. Try to be humble in general – almost every graduate recruit at a major financial institution has been a superstar in academia, sports, the creative arts, or all three. It’s good to be self-confident but remember you are joining at the bottom of the tree and you’ll have to earn your reputation the hard way.

Stephen Herlihy worked as a trader in JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley in London, before moving into financial training with AMT Training, where he is the head of AMT’s US business. Stephen primarily trains analyst and associate groups at major financial institutions, as well as M&A boutiques and buy-side institutions in London and New York. AMT training has offices in London, New York and Hong Kong and delivers a wide range of learning solutions, from tailored in-class learning and web-based classes, to self-study e-learning and hard copy publications. 

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