Corporate bankers typically work in relationship management or business development, or (increasingly) their job is really a hybrid of the two. Most corporate bankers need to manage current clients and develop their business by pitching to potential new ones.
A relationship manager is a single point of contact for corporate clients, providing co-ordinated access to loan, trade-finance, cash-management and other products and services. But it is no mere middle-man job. You need to do plenty of groundwork before you suggest financial products to clients as they could have huge positive or negative consequences for their business. This involves not just poring over the numbers of company but regularly meeting its senior executives to understand their longer-term strategies such as acquisition targets or equipment upgrades.
While investment bankers can close a massive one-off deal, celebrate, and then move on to the next client, the transactions you’ll work on as a corporate banker are smaller, so you’ll need to keep on getting repeat business from your clients over a long-term period. This means building a personal rapport with key people within the companies you cover in order to be seen as a 'trusted advisor'.
The transactions you’ll work on as a corporate banker are smaller, so you’ll need to keep on getting repeat business
The job of a corporate banker involves selling a wide range of your bank’s products in response to business requirements that your clients have already told you about – but it also involves you proactively suggesting ways they can expand or improve their operations. The latter is much trickier, which explains why most corporate bankers are specialists with a deep understanding of their sectors rather than just a knowledge of loans and other financial products.
“My job is largely about business development within the SME division, which means that there’s a lot of customer interaction and a need to constantly engage with my clients to help them grow their businesses. 60% of my job involves meeting with customers,” says Goh Soon Hong, managing director, institutional banking group, at DBS in Singapore. “These meetings help me better understand their needs and enhance my relationship with them. This can involve travel around the region to places like Indonesia, Vietnam and China, where my clients have businesses.”
“My key duties are to understand my clients’ businesses and to advise them on a range of issues, from microfinance and working capital solutions, to funding their capital expenditure and overseas expansion,” adds Goh. “20% is spent meeting with people in the business to discuss the strategy for the SME division, and the remainder of my time is spent with my team.”
If you’re not up for a client-facing role but still want to work in corporate banking, you have options such as operations or treasury management. Risk management/credit analysis teams – responsible for reviewing credit ratings and analysing the creditworthiness of companies – also tend to be well-staffed because the provision of loans is such a major part of any corporate banking business.
Corporate bankers are expected to have a knowledge of credit analysis themselves and to work closely with their credit teams to ensure they are making viable lending decisions. The best RMs keep an eye on their clients’ business performance via regular meetings and site visits and are tough enough to turn down their requests if needed, while still maintaining their trust.