How to compare different banks' job titles

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How to compare different banks' job titles

Bankers are jumping ship as they grow frustrated with the lack of promotion opportunities as firms take longer to promote a smaller number of staff to managing director.

HSBC is reportedly among those firms hiring directors from rivals on the condition they will be fast-tracked to managing director as more senior bankers hang around at the top of organisations.  For example, last year it hired Sam Barnett, who was a director in corporate broking at Morgan Stanley in London, and promoted him to managing director.

There was a time when it was a case of ‘up or out’ at big firms and while that’s still the case, some firms are struggling to keep their brightest prospects happy. The time it takes to get to the top varies from firm to firm but on average it takes anything from 15 years to move from analyst to managing director.

The variation comes down to the differences in structures within and between European and US banks.  The job titles can be confusing and are often interchangeable but here’s a guide to help you navigate

Most European banks: analyst, associate, AVP, VP, director and MD

Of the European banks, Deutsche Bank and Barclays have the same structure. Both have analyst, associate, assistant vice president, vice president, director and managing director. Every other bank has their own twist. HSBC differs in that it has analyst, associate, associate director, director and managing director.

Meanwhile  the career path at UBS spans associate director, executive director, managing director, group managing director and global executive board member.   Associate Director, Executive Director, Managing Director, Group MD and GEB member.

Former investment banking boss Andrea Orcel introduced a further horizontal layer, vice chairman, which sits alongside managing director and GMD in terms of seniority.   In the past banks have ‘chairmanised’ senior bankers when they want to move them out of management roles, often as a precursor to them leaving the organisation. But Orcel recognised the value of super-experienced bankers to UBS’s model. The Swiss bank is not armed with a big balance sheet so it’s offering is all about senior relationships – so offering a vice chairman role was a way of attracting and retaining this level of talent who might not want the shackles of management. 

In Europe BNP Paribas has still not adopted formal corporate titles and still does not have them in its European business, despite adopting a structure that is more similar to US banks since building out its corporate and institutional bank. But some bankers in Europe refer to themselves as managing directors, while the title of senior banker is the most revered. In US, the bank resembles its Wall Street rivals with analysts, associates, directors and managing directors. “In the US they introduced this a few years back so people had something to strive for,” said former BNPP staffer.

U.S. banks: analyst, associate. VP, ED, MD (maybe) 

U.S. banks are a bit different. JP Morgan has analyst, associate, vice President, executive director and managing director, a structure that is similar at Morgan Stanley.

Citi’s analysts have the most rungs to climb to get to managing director, as they pass from associate through vice-president, to senior vice president, and director to managing director.  

Bank of America’s global banking and markets business has a shorter route to the top  with analyst, to associate then vice president, and onwards to director and managing director.

Goldman's job titles are different again

Goldman Sachs is the exception among U.S. banks because it has the elite partner managing director (PMD) class.  Goldman still has associates, but effectively analysts move straight to executive director or VP, depending on  where they’re based. If they’re in New York it’s  VP, and anywhere else it’s executive director. 

From there, it’s a long leap up the ladder to managing director, before reaching the hallowed turf of PMD or shortened to partner.

“Basically, when you’re promoted to MD you get told: ‘Well done. But everything you’ve done to get here is now irrelevant.”, said one former banker.   Fortunately, MDs with a shot at partnership are are sent to Pine Street, an internal training programme in New York where they are given the skills to help them reach the very top. Not everyone makes it of course, and that pool is about to get more elite as CEO David Solomon aims to reduce to size of the elite pool.

Job titles at the French banks 

French banks previously eschewed job titles but are now normalising. BNP Paribas is following in the footsteps of SocGen and introducing corporate titles to its investment bank in Europe. Good luck with that. Investment banks' job titles are a nightmare and headhunters who navigate them daily say they've become even more hideous as banks have introduced new tiers into their hierarchies. BNP's attempts to tag its investment bankers with corporate titles could be fraught with disputes as a result.

Either say, this is what you need to know if you work in HR at BNP and are tasked with categorizing people. Or if you're a senior associate at one bank and are wondering what you'll become if you move to another one.

Photo by Gabriel Alenius on Unsplash

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