Find your way in finance

Interested in banking but not sure where you belong? The Gateway's flow chart tells you where you might fit in

M&A

Your role: To advise companies involved in mergers or acquisitions

Team size: Flexible

Working hours: Unpredictable, project work

Core skills: Client management, persuasion

To work in M&A you need to have a combination of client management and corporate finance skills. You do need to have some specialist knowledge but quantitative ability is not essential, and in-depth corporate account analysis does not play as big a part here as in corporate banking. What is essential is great project and client management skills. An outgoing personality is also very important, so that once you've drawn conclusions, you're able to persuade the client that you're right and build good relationships with them.

Corporate banking

Your role: To help corporate clients raise funds

Team size: Small but sometimes flexible

Working hours: Unpredictable, project work

Core skills: Risk evaluation, relationship building

A role in corporate banking is similar to one in M&A , but whereas M&A bankers tend to value companies, corporate bankers help clients to solve problems, generally related to funding. In this role, you need to be able to assess financials and to value risk. People working in corporate banking require relationship building skills and outgoing personalities to an even greater degree than those in M&A because they spend a lot more time face-to-face with clients, are more likely to work with them on an ongoing basis and therefore forge much closer relationships with them.

Capital markets origination

Your role: To help clients raise funding through the capital markets

Team size: Small but sometimes flexible

Working hours: Determined by the nature of work being done

Core skills: Passion for markets, analysis, communication

To work in this department you need to understand and be interested in the markets and be aware of how their fluctuations can affect your clients. You'll be working with the markets every day, much more regularly than investment bankers or corporate bankers. For this reason, the hours won't be as long as in these departments and you'll rarely find people working weekends. Some people describe the role as a good blend of investment banking and sales and trading - you'll be involved in both setting up a solution and helping your client raise the funds through the markets. You need strong analytical skills, but you'll find that you'll be dealing with clients a lot of the time too, so your presentation and communication skills will also be important.

Sales

Your role: To advise clients on all the ways in which the bank can help them

Team size: Medium

Working hours: Regular, although very early starts and client entertainment take up extra time

Core skills: Persuasive, passion for markets, creative

An outgoing personality with the ability to persuade will form the backbone of a successful career in sales. It's client-facing in a different way from the other roles. Not only do you have to have a passion for the markets and keep on top of new products, but also you've got to really understand your clients' needs and how the bank's products and services can help them. In many ways, roles here are more creative than elsewhere in a bank. Whereas people in other departments perform specialist defined tasks for clients, sales people think more laterally to come up with new solutions for them, which sometimes can involve complex structuring work or planning market strategies.

Trading

Your role: To buy and sell securities and commodities to fulfil various objectives for the bank (proprietary trading) or external clients

Team size: Medium (5-15)

Working hours: Regular, but early starts are often required

Core skills: Analysis, quick decision-making

Trading is a very fast-paced environment that requires people with strong technical skills. You need to be very analytical, have good - for some roles, exceptional - numerical abilities and be able to make decisions very quickly. The job's all about grasping information, understanding it, and turning it around fast in order to be able to take action quickly or advise your clients how they should move forward. You won't be as involved with clients as in sales - your main focus is to stay on top of your portfolio and to ensure that it performs as well as possible.

Private banking

Your role: To advise the bank's high net worth individual clients on the management of their finances

Team size: Small

Working hours: Very regular, although client entertaining may require some extra hours

Core skills: Client relationship and communication skills, analysis, confidentiality

As a private banker, you'll be trusted by the ultra-wealthy to invest their money effectively. To do so, you need to be able to translate information into something easily digestible by your clients, who, unlike corporate clients, may not have a professional understanding of financial matters. To be successful, you also need to be able to build up trust, which means spending time entertaining, taking your clients out for lunch or dinner, or for a day on the golf course. Private banking is often seen as glamorous because you're getting paid to socialise, but you have to be professional at all times. It's also very important to be discreet about your clients' business affairs, which applies elsewhere in the bank but is particularly important here. Foreign language skills are also valuable in private banking as your clients will be based all around the world.

Risk management

Your role: To monitor and advise on the bank's exposure to risk

Team size: Small - medium

Working hours: Regular

Core skills: Analysis, decision-making, client management

You need to be very confident in your numerical ability to work in risk management as you'll be dealing with internal clients (that is, from the bank's other departments) who are very savvy in these areas themselves. Your job is to monitor the trading floor's activities so that the bank can decide whether or not it should be involved in a certain type of trading. A degree in either maths or finance is useful for this role because you will be asked to do a lot of financial modelling. There are masters degrees specifically in risk management that you can do, and graduates with these sorts of qualifications are looked upon favourably.

Operations

Your role: To ensure that all the services offered to clients by the bank run smoothly

Team size: Variable

Working hours: Regular

Core skills: Client management, analytical, process improvement

There are a variety of technical and client-facing roles in operations. The workforce here is a combination of people who improve trading processes and those who communicate these improved processes to clients. For the first group, having analytical skills and an interest in the workings of processes is essential. Not quite as much technical skill is required from those managing client relationships, as their main job is to ensure that clients are happy with the operations services that they receive. Operations is often wrongly viewed as a role where you won't deal with clients, but in fact client management and personal skills are highly valued here.

Transaction services

Your role: To assist clients with the logistics of their financial needs

Team size: Medium, variable

Working hours: Very regular

Core skills: Client relationships, presentation, project management, consulting

In this role you will work very closely with clients - some people think of the team as being like a high street bank, but for corporates. Your job is to ensure that transactions go as smoothly and quickly for the client as possible, which could include payroll assistance or helping clients with the logistics of running international offices. You will need to have good relationship skills, as this role involves a lot of work directly with clients. Having technical ability is not as essential here as in many other departments. More important is an understanding of the bank's products and how they can best serve the client, good presentation and communication skills, and the ability to listen to a problem and come up with a tangible solution. This role has slightly more of a consulting feel to it than many banking jobs - for example, you might be involved in the workings of a client's payroll, but wouldn't manage it for them day-to-day.

Technology

Your role: To construct technological solutions to problems faced by all the bank's other departments

Team size: Small, variable

Working hours: Regular

Core skills: Project management, problem solving

There are two major roles in technology - programmer and business analyst. To be a business analyst, it's key that you have project management skills. You also need to understand technology, but you don't necessarily need to be an IT expert. The key skill is to liaise with a client and a programmer to work out what the client needs and how a programmer can deliver a solution. Clients are primarily internal, for example, one of the bank's trading teams might be looking for new electronic ways to buy and sell currencies. Programmers take a proposal from a business analyst and use specialist computing and mathematical skills to put it into practice.

Research

Your role: To provide specialised information to other departments within the bank on a particular industry sector or product line

Team size: Small

Working hours: Regular

Core skills: Analysis, client relationships

Roles within the research division of the bank are extremely varied. The more technical roles require advanced mathematical and analytical abilities, often gained through a PhD in maths or physics. Other roles, however, are less technical and involve more contact with clients. Day-to-day tasks could include modelling, report writing and communicating with clients about your findings. Unless you're a quantitative specialist, modelling requires no specialised maths skills, but general analytical ability is essential. The ideal candidate for a job in research will also have a strong interest in the financial markets as you'll be working a lot with the trading floor.

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