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How To Become An Investment Banker In The UK: A Guide

Nikki Dale
Nikki Dale June 16, 2023
How To Become An Investment Banker

What is an Investment Banker?

An investment banker is a financial professional that helps businesses and individuals to make the most of their financial assets. They provide advice based on knowledge, expertise, and analytics to help individuals and businesses increase their assets while preventing losses.

Investment bankers can work in financial institutions like banks or stock brokers, but they can also work on a consultancy basis or as part of a specific investment company.

Why do people work in Investment Banking?

Investment banking is a fast-paced type of financial work, whether that is on a commercial basis working with companies or on a personal basis working with high-net-worth individuals.

Those with a good analytical mind who enjoy working with others will find a role in investment banking to be exciting and lucrative - they work hard and are rewarded for their efforts through bonuses and commissions.

Investment banking can come in many forms, from being on the floor in a stock market to supporting global businesses through acquisitions and mergers, and using financial expertise to make sound recommendations.

There are plenty of career progression options for investment banking, moving up in the company as they gain more experience, but also allowing for sideways moves into similar roles in other financial institutions.

Key Roles and Responsibilities of an Investment Banker

The headline role description for an investment banker is relatively simple - provide advice and support that helps businesses or individuals grow their assets. However, there are more granular responsibilities that this covers, too:

  • Provide advice about different financial assets - stocks, bonds, and other investment opportunities
  • Research and analysis of financial instruments
  • Provide valuations for a company's worth
  • Instigate and manage Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and set initial stock prices to raise funds for a business
  • Prepare documents for presentation
  • Help create robust financial strategies
  • Help with mergers, acquisitions, and other deals
  • Comply with legal and regulatory agencies

The Investment Banker Landscape

The financial industry is in great shape at the moment, despite current uncertainties in the global market - and more and more businesses and individuals are looking to grow assets - which means they need relevant (and qualified) advice.

Some of the biggest wealth management companies have seen billions of pounds made in investments, and there is an almost unlimited earning potential for a successful investment banker.

While most investment bankers come into their careers at an early age - often straight from graduation - there are those who take their experience from other related industries to the investment floor to help businesses and individuals make the most of their money.

Essential Skills and Qualifications to be an Investment Banker

While there are no specific qualifications that you need to be an investment banker, most roles will require you to have achieved at least an undergraduate degree, preferably in a related subject - such as business, accounting, or economics.

Before you will be allowed to advise people or businesses as an investment banker, you need to register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency (FINRA), which involves taking a test. You can also get certified by recognized bodies such as the IMC and CFA.

Aside from this, you will also need the following skills and abilities:

  • Mathematical competency
  • Numerical reasoning
  • Data analysis
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Negotiation
  • Creative and innovative thinking
  • Analytical and critical thinking
  • Self-discipline
  • Motivation
  • Logic and cognitive skills
  • Computer proficiency

Pathways to Becoming an Investment Banker

To start a career in investment banking, you will need to work towards a bachelor's degree. During this time you can get some exposure to the industry by looking for work placements and internships at some of the companies that hire investment bankers - this can be banks and wealth management services, or you can look for experience with the Financial Conduct Authority or a venture capital organization.

There are often graduate placements available at these organizations, and in many cases, a graduate program will also include extra certifications as well as registration with FINRA.

Experienced professionals can leverage their previous work experience to become an investment banker.

Competition for graduate placements (and for other roles in investment banking) can be fierce, so it is in your best interest to prepare as much as you can for the application process as you will have to impress the recruitment team and outperform other candidates in assessments and the like.

What does the career ladder for an Investment Banker look like?

The usual career path for an investment banker follows the same pattern as many corporate roles, with promotions related to both seniority and ability.

Most investment bankers will start as an analyst. Analysts do much of the data gathering and analysis to support associates and other professionals in the business. Once they have developed the necessary skills, they will move up into an associate role. Usually, this is the first time that they will be working directly with clients, supported by analysts.

Following this, senior associates might get bigger clients to manage, or they might be expected to work in a line manager role, supporting junior staff.

The rest of the career ladder for the investment banker moves through the seniority hierarchy of the business - Vice President, Director, and Managing Director.

Associates usually choose to specialize, whether that is working with a specific type of business or providing advice on one class of financial instrument, for example. There are often 'sideways' moves into similar roles at other companies, too. Some investment bankers choose to start their own businesses once they have enough experience in the industry.

What are the average Investment Banker working hours?

Investment bankers work long hours. They are often in the office before the market opens and stay late to talk to international clients. Sometimes evening and weekend work is needed too.

Most investment bankers thrive on the high-pressure environment on the floor, however, and the long, unsociable hours are often offset by excellent remuneration in the form of commission and bonuses.

What is the average salary for an Investment Banker?

An investment banker is essentially a type of sales role, and as such the basic salary might not seem that high - especially for the amount of work (and qualifications) that is needed.

According to Indeed, the average salary for an investment banker is £33,623.

This is bolstered, as with similar roles, by bonuses and commissions, making six-figure salaries for successful investment bankers much more likely.

What are the best companies to apply for a role as an Investment Banker?

Investment bankers are typically hired by banks and other financial institutions, specifically stock brokers and wealth management agencies. Some of the best companies to work for as an investment banker includes:

For all of these employers, you can expect a robust application process, including challenging pre-employment assessments such as numerical reasoning, situational judgment, and logical reasoning. Practice these types of tests to give yourself the best chance of starting a career as an investment banker.

Nikki Dale June 16, 2023

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