A brainy way to make money

Investment banks are hiring again - so now's your chance to open an account
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Hooray Henrys beware. Investment banking is no longer the exclusive preserve of wealthy hearties - the profession is recruiting the young, brilliant and determined to make the millions of the future.

Hooray Henrys beware. Investment banking is no longer the exclusive preserve of wealthy hearties - the profession is recruiting the young, brilliant and determined to make the millions of the future.

The outlook for banking is much improved, and 2005 is predicted to be a good year, with recruitment up as much as 30 per cent. A spokesman for one of the major banks says: "Recruitment is up and this is a natural progression from an improved business outlook for banks and the investment industry as a whole." Credit Suisse Group, for example, is offering superb new recruitment opportunities. Training is free and lasts two weeks. After graduating, recruits will be approved for full-time work and assigned fixed payment.

The most direct route to a career in banking is a good economics degree, followed by in-house training. MBA students are also joining banks as associate hires. Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, for example, are expected to double their European MBAs.

Many of the skills that recruits need - numeracy, good interpersonal skills and the ability to work under pressure and to tight deadlines, providing solutions to clients' needs - could well have been developed in other professional areas. These skills are also relevant to the related world of private banking, for example, which deals with the needs of high-net-worth individuals, many of whom will be directors or senior executives of the corporate clients of the merchant banks.

Whether you join investment banking as a new recruit or as someone with business experience, it is no longer the case that a good background - and the networking power of your family name - guarantees a warm welcome. In a meritocracy, a sound higher education and the right personal, social and business skills are essential. It is far more common today to find the new recruit from among those who have a good degree or a good track record in business, or an MBA from one of the major American business schools, than from a particular social set.

A spokesman for the profession says: "Despite the potentially long hours, the rewards one can reap nowadays can be exceptional.

"Working in an environment of extremely intellectual and highly driven individuals from a truly multinational background is immensely rewarding and broadens horizons beyond the City, both in terms of career and social footing. I found it exceptionally demanding but I would not consider any other area now."

A good MBA is held in the same esteem in some circles as a high-class honours degree was 10 years ago. It has to be said, however, that this enthusiasm is not universal. A senior recruiter for one bank says: "There has been a shift away from MBAs are far as we are concerned. Many people believe that a smart graduate just out of university is the person we need to begin with."

A career in investment banking can also be a means by which people who have followed a previous career path can jump ship, change direction and benefit from the rewards that go with banking. The banks themselves run training schemes, with first-class coaching and mentoring, and this can be a convenient way of developing the necessary skills for the job, whether you join a bank immediately after university or later.

A spokesman for Coutts says: "At Coutts we are committed to providing our clients with a first-class wealth-management service, and this ethos extends to the type of graduates we recruit to become our future private bankers. We run a thorough two-year training and development programme, in which graduates are introduced to the private banking industry and the unique culture of Coutts, as well as undertaking a variety of professional qualifications that will enable them to become junior private bankers at the end of their development period.

"We offer our graduates every resource to ensure their success, and each is partnered with a mentor, who will coach and counsel them throughout the programme and beyond."

Salarywise, there is little change from 2004 to 2005. Base pay for new recruits is about £35,000 to £40,000 with bonuses taking this to £45,000.

education@independent.co.uk

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