Career paths in investment banking operations

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Investment Banking Operations Career Paths

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If you start out in investment banking operations, the likelihood is that your graduate training programme will fast-track you through lessons in financial markets, financial transactions and the all-important ‘lifecycle of a trade’. The idea is to get you up to speed with all the different areas of operations as quickly as possible.

You start out as an ‘analyst’, the same job title as the lower ranks of any investment banking division, a role you'll stay in for three years before progressing on to associate. Associates stay at this level for at least two years before moving up to vice president (VP), then director (or executive director, depending on the bank) and finally managing director.

If you’re working in clearing or settlements, you will develop expertise around one particular business area, whether that’s stocks, commodities or derivatives, and generally focus on one particular geographical area.

“As an analyst one would, initially, accompany more experienced staff on their accounts with the aim of becoming fully autonomous as soon as possible,” says Barry Simmons, managing director, head of global financing operations, London, Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking.

“Associates would have primary responsibility for a number of accounts and would also act as a back-up on several others. More experienced staff (generally associate level and above) would be expected to handle more complex or sensitive accounts,” he adds

Paul Lacey, director, operations at Wells Fargo Securities, says that junior operations staff can expect to see their responsibilities and career develop in three core ways.

“Early in your career, you will find yourself firstly learning processes, controls and developing skills which fulfil the firm’s objectives and self-goals. Then impacting the organisation directly through effectively leveraging the skills developed in the learning phase; and finally shaping the organisation by establishing strategy and affecting directional change within the firm,” he says.

Essentially, what the ultimate aim for any operations professional should be is to make themselves indispensible. And, in a vocation that has been hit by automation and offshoring in recent years, this means being able to eventually direct the strategy of the department.

The ultimate aim for any operations professional should be is to make themselves indispensable

“I use the analogy of a pyramid. Early in your career, your role is to establish a strong foundation with diverse experience. As you move up the pyramid, the specialisation within your career increases but with that strong foundation in place, you are able to establish strategy and provide direction. Senior leaders are in a position to build a sustainable strategy,” says Lacey.

In front office jobs, making it to managing director means an increase in pressure to bring in revenues for the bank and ‘originate’ deals. If you’re in the back office, senior roles mean an increase in scope.

“Seniority is often accompanied by a wider remit encompassing either cross-product or cross-regional responsibilities, or possibly a combination thereof,” says Simmons.

"Delegation is generally a challenge as you get more senior, as it is about letting go and developing someone to be as good as you are. But you need to replace yourself in order for you to develop other skills,” says Carol Chan, managing director, global operations at Credit Suisse.

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