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Guest comment: So you want to be a banker?

Rick Jansz, managing consultant at BSI People, on what it really takes to work in the top- tier investment banks.

“Christmas is all around me, and so the feelings grow,” is a line sung from the film Love Actually. Christmas may be in the recent past, but with bonus time almost upon us, there is a buzz around investment banking. The atmosphere and feelings are good due to another great year in the financial markets globally. And the feeling is growing with the increase of applicants looking to enter the ‘game’ as analysts and associates.

Much has been written about banker salaries recently from the graduates earning just over AU$60k to managing directors on over AU$1m plus bonuses and other perks. But like everything in life, to be successful, you have to love what you do and sacrifices must be made if you are to reach those higher echelons.

Investment banking is a tough place to work, with high expectations. It is a highly competitive environment both externally and internally. You have to be extremely intelligent, motivated and confident, with strong financial acumen. You must have the ability to learn quickly, coupled with the tenacity and drive that comes from being a high achiever. Possessing the will and self-determination to put in 80 to 100 hours a week, every week, does not give you time for the ‘personal day’. Yes, there may be some slow times, but rarely. Not if you are in a tier-one bank. So just imagine that out of the 168 hours there are in a week you are spending more than half of that at work. It does not leave much time for family, friends and sleep. Can you see yourself checking your email at 2.00 am?

And we must not forget the pressure and challenge of the work itself. Financial modelling, number crunching and relationship building are not something you do on cruise control. The deals are big so please bring your quantitative, qualitative and influencing skills.

Fortunately, if a balanced lifestyle is not what you are seeking then a career in investment banking may be for you. And the first step is a process that includes at least three to five in-depth interviews before you get the green light. And be prepared to have your background and schooling thoroughly checked just in case you decide to exaggerate on some achievements or dates of employment.

With potential giants like China, India, Russia and Brazil becoming integrated into the international financial system the future is looking good and a career as an investment banker is “Love Actually”.

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