eFinancialCareers
Need to know:Working for a boutiqueDownsides of the Big FourAddicted to the job

So…why do you want to work in investment banking?

In ten years of interviewing graduate candidates both here in London and in Asia, I can remember only one truly excellent response to this bog standard question.
It came from a young man who was very much in the middle of his assessment centre group that year. He had scored reasonably well but not brilliantly on the various tests and activities and his fate was, therefore, going to be decided entirely by his interview.

When asked the entirely predictable, ‘So why do you want to work in investment banking?’ he answered, ‘I’m a naturally lazy person and I need to work in an environment that doesn’t allow me to be because everything is immediate and everyone is accountable’ (or words to that effect).

This was clearly a risky answer: admitting to laziness in an interview is not a technique that will always work; but it has stayed with me and certainly put him at the top of my list at the end of the day. The unexpected nature of his response woke me up from my fairly robotic, going-through-the-motions interviewers’ headspace, and forced me to engage with him in a much more active manner – not least to discuss whether his assessment of the investment banking environment was accurate.

It may not always be possible, or indeed sensible, to adopt such a risky strategy but as it is certainly a question you will be asked, it makes sense to prepare something better than ‘I want to make lots of money’.

Money, or rather earning power, tends to be the elephant in the room when you’re asked about your motivation for going into banking. By all means mention it, no one joins an investment bank to make the world a better place, but have something else to say as well.

Here are a few other angles you could take….

Skills

Pick something that you believe fits into the investment banking model and spin it to show you have stretch capabilities and ambition. Eg. A mathematical background can easily turn into a desire to work in program trading or derivatives because you want a career that allows you to combine the use of complex mathematical models with client contact and see the traditional gap between the skill sets as a challenge.

A specific area of interest

If you’ve had experience as an intern or even covered an area in your dissertation or degree course then feel free to focus on your supposed love for a particular product area.

Saying that you were dumped on an FX trading desk during a summer internship but grew to love it because has real weight because you are speaking from experience rather than through rose tinted ‘trading is glamorous’ spectacles. Equally, explaining how something in your course relates to your burning desire to be at your desk at 6.30 in the morning works well.

Ambition

Ambition is fine in small doses, and as long as you really know what you’re talking about.
Put simply, investment banking is somewhere where results matter and you are judged on your production and promoted accordingly. Wanting to work in a competitive atmosphere because you believe it will bring the best out of you is fine and perfectly acceptable, but be prepared to provide some original real life examples. Otherwise, bear in mind that whoever’s interviewing you will probably have heard this hundreds of times before.

Comments (5)

Comments
  1. An excellent article!

    Out of interest, what are the authors credentials?

  2. Q: why do you want to work in investment banking?
    A: [back then] prestige, high flying, creating synergies, blah blah
    A: [now] because I am an idiot

  3. The main point is not that you are an idiot but the skill how you can transfer your disadvantages to advantages. However, I wouldn’t hire such a person, the words “I need to work in an environment that doesn’t allow me to be because everything is immediate and everyone is accountable” would imply he/she has to be always pushed. This doesn’t display real motivation.

  4. @Anonymous – sorry for the long delay in responding. He’s a senior markets person in a European bank.

  5. He should of said that he just wants to be fed tasks like draft pitch books all day, maybe some photocopying and maybe some financial modelling which requires slightly more intelligence than the average ant…isn’t that what investment bankers do anyway.

React

Screen Name

Required

Email

Please enter a valid email address

Consult our community guidelines here

Tell Us Your News

Email the editor with your feedback, news, tips or topics.

Tell us your news

Please fill out the following form:
First Name:

Last Name:

Email:

Your Story:


Thank you. Will contact you shortly.
A server error occurred. Please try

Invest in your career!

Want to boost your financial career? Why not find a course or training in finance through eFinancialCareers. Find the best course that suits you.

Search through over 25,000 courses on Springest.

Find out more

The Career Guide

Careers in Financial Markets 2014
The graduate guide to finding work in the financial sector »