Corporate banking is the broad term applied to the various banking services offered to large companies – those worth $25m and above. This may sound simple, but it’s not.
It can mean arranging loans (a service which comes in various forms), offering cash management services – such as helping minimise tax paid by overseas subsidiaries – managing changes in foreign exchange rates, or offering treasury solutions.
Corporate bankers target different industries. They often carve out niche areas of expertise. Those servicing energy, mining or utilities companies, for instance, might be project finance experts, working out the business case for funding a new power
plant or mine.
While most graduates joining a corporate bank will be expected to undertake a qualification, such as the Professional Certificate in Banking in the UK, they can also expect on-the-job training. Junior corporate bankers often start out as credit analysts, assessing company balance sheets and deciding whether or not to issue loans. You may also accompany senior sales and relationship staff as they try to sell products to corporate customers. One banker describes this as ‘bagcarrying’ – picking up tips without having much influence on the deal.
Senior roles in corporate banking are more client-focused. There are business development managers, who attempt to bring in new customers, or relationship managers, who look after existing clients. Both involve wining and dining chief executives and finance officers but are also quite technical.
Relationship managers have a support team. But when the company needs to raise finance, the relationship management team also provides transaction and structuring advice.
“Always keep in mind we are a service industry and you are dealing with clients, so they come first. You must always have the drive and the energy to respond to your clients’ needs. There is no room for lethargy; you must always be on your toes,” says Mike Redferne, managing director for investment banking Europe, BNP Paribas.
If you’re not up for a client-facing role but still want to work in corporate banking, you have the option of working in risk/credit assessments or product, operations or treasury management.
Graduates usually start on about $35k, according to the banks we spoke to, and a senior relationship manager can earn up to $210k, according to recruitment sources.
In Hong Kong, a relationship manager can earn $30k-70k in their first four years on the job, according to recruiters Robert Walters, rising to $115k-192k at the senior end.
The range for the same level of experience in Europe is $120k-142k.
You have to be affable to win business and maintain relationships but you also have to be a ruthless number cruncher.
“Financial or technical knowledge is an important criterion in corporate banking but candidates should also be able to demonstrate communication skills, creativity, tenacity, teamworking skills, an ability to think quickly and the determination to excel,” says Matthew Henderson, regional head of Asia- Pacific campus recruiting at UBS.
Also, because many roles cover a number of geographical locations, you will have to be aware of the regulatory hurdles and the cultural sensitivities of doing business in several countries.
“You need understanding of commercial businesses’ goals, strategic thinking, communication and collaboration,” adds Margaret Scopelianos, treasury solutions executive for specialised industries, global commercial banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “To succeed, you must be versatile, able to cultivate relationships, make ethical decisions and be willing to take on tough assignments and take prudent risks. You need to be able to focus on results and have a passion for innovation.”
“Clients look for balanced advice, so candidates need to be knowledgeable, driven and self-confident,” adds BNP Paribas’ Redferne. “It is not about selling the product but about building up a relationship of trust. You can even point out the shortfalls of a product and that may gain you the client’s respect and trust, which is one of the secrets of success in corporate banking.”
Corporate bankers will be given a lot of responsibility relatively quickly, so employers want to see evidence of maturity and tenacity even at a graduate level.
“We are looking for graduates to be energetic, enthusiastic, engaging and hardworking, willing to challenge the status quo when appropriate and innovative in their approach,” says Ann Deacon, people strategy manager, corporate and structured banking at HSBC.