Scaling the investment banking ladder

We spoke to a director from Barclays to hear how she progressed from being an analyst to her senior position within the investment bank

Marie-France Guay is a director in Barclays debt capital markets division and also heads up their European commercial paper origination team. In some ways, her career is typical of the modern day investment banker: she's worked across countries and divisions, reached seniority after being recognised as a potential leader, and even found time to return to education to pick up an MBA. For those considering a career in the sector, hers is an example worth following. So we asked Marie-France to give us a step-by-step account of her career to date, and for her advice for those who might want to follow her path.

Step one

1995 - university to retail banking

I'm from Canada and when I finished university I went to work for HSBC's retail banking division there. In Canada, the investment banking market is much smaller, so it was common to start out in retail and corporate banking before making your way into investment banking. In retail banking I always worked with corporations, rather than individuals, and while the products and clients were very different to those investment banking analysts work with, some of my experiences were similar.

I wanted to show early on that I had the drive and confidence to do well and that was recognised, just as it is with our analysts at Barclays today. Whichever division you enter as an analyst, you're green! Everything is, essentially, new. I learnt very early on that if you're open to new challenges, keep taking different opportunities to develop your skills and learn lessons quickly, then the contribution you make to the team will be recognised.

Step two

2001 - back to school

After six years with HSBC in Canada I decided to return to education and did an MBA at HEC Paris. I'm bilingual, so doing so was a great opportunity for me to experience European and French culture, to meet new people and to learn, and I'd definitely recommend studying abroad to anyone. It also worked out brilliantly for my career, as Barclays organised some on-campus events that I attended. I was offered an internship by the bank and then got a permanent position.

Step three

2003 - associate at Barclays

Having cut my teeth in retail and corporate banking, I was eager to move into investment banking in London, because the opportunities are so much greater here than in the Canadian market. Nowadays, analysts have opportunities to work abroad, which I think are very valuable. I joined Barclays as an associate in liability management within debt capital markets, which was a new group within the bank at that stage. My job was to restructure debt, and it allowed me to use my analytical skills but also to meet and pitch to clients. Because it was a new group, I had the opportunity to become an expert in the area quite quickly. Furthermore, there was only one other person in the liability management team, so we had great visibility - if we did a good job, it got noticed.

Barclays is a meritocracy, and if you show confidence and initiative you will stand out. The firm gives you every chance to develop your skills and they'll help you find a place in which you can excel. As a junior team member, you'll often have the chance to try different groups, work out which one suits you best and presents the best opportunities for you to develop as part of a successful team.

Step four

2007 - head of origination, European commercial paper

Barclays is an industry leader in debt capital markets, and liability management is an important area within that. I took on responsibility and helped the department grow. My achievements were noticed and in 2007 I was appointed head of origination for European commercial paper, in addition to my existing responsibilities in liability management. This really interested me because it was a new opportunity that allowed me to widen my skills. It was also an exciting time for the product, as it had significant focus at the onset of the credit crisis.

It's essential to consider how you hope to develop your capabilities in your role, and to keep yourself open to different opportunities that might present themselves outside of your usual skill set. In an organisation like Barclays, it's possible to map out your future in this way since there are many opportunities to develop a long-term career.

Step five

2012 - the future...

I've been with Barclays for nine years now, and I'm still always looking for opportunities to broaden my experiences and develop further with the firm. I think investment bankers tend to have a sense of ambition and drive and I like to know that I'm making a strong contribution to the team. So far, that's resulted in success that's been recognised.

I tell the analysts that I work with, manage and advise that there are plenty of opportunities here. It's up to you to make the right decisions and consistently take time to consider future steps that will help your career to develop because Barclays will support you with all the training and advice you need to find that right path.