Investment Banking: Rich rewards for the bold

The pickings in investment banking are huge - but are you ready for 12-hour days?

Money makes the world go round. Even a decadent drunk in a Weimar bar knows that. The trick is to understand how. And to excel as an investment banker, you have to be as interested in the world as you are in money.

Money makes the world go round. Even a decadent drunk in a Weimar bar knows that. The trick is to understand how. And to excel as an investment banker, you have to be as interested in the world as you are in money.

Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs - these are golden names in the public imagination, suggesting an Aladdin's cave of riches. And the rewards in investment banking are excellent - after starting at about £30,000, you can be earning six figures within a few years and millions at the height of your career. But you will have to work for it; 12 hours a day or more is the norm. To survive the hours, you need to be motivated by curiosity as much as money.

The selection process alone would test the mettle of the most confident. Mark Beith, 22, is typical of the fierce competition you will face. Now a mergers and acquisitions analyst at Morgan Stanley, Beith joined the graduate training programme after notching up a first in history from Cambridge University.

He believes it's not enough to be money-motivated. "Learning is the most important thing, and the challenge," he says. "You wouldn't enjoy yourself if cash was your only motivation. But if you get satisfaction from problem-solving, playing with numbers and pushing yourself to achieve, it is a rewarding job."

Mergers and acquisitions - the buying and selling of companies - involves an understanding of markets, business and finance. But you can pick this up on the job, and intelligence and diligence matter more than an economics background.

"I chose investment banking partly because it was so different to everything I'd done before," Beith says. "I thought it would be a fantastic chance to learn about the business world. And I'm not sure there are any other careers where a 21-year-old gets as many chances to interact with the bosses of FTSE 100 companies."

Mergers and acquisitions are traditionally investment banks' biggest business, but in recent years the greatest area of recruitment has been in capital markets. In interest-rate derivatives markets, bankers take on risks for companies, such as a floating loan, where the risk is of rising interest rates.

Interest rates are driven by a wide range of range of financial, economic and political factors, and your job is to advise companies on how to match changes in rates to their own business. So you need a grasp of everything going on in the world, and to be able to translate that information quickly through the mechanisms of the market.

Pooja Bhatia, 24, is an analyst in interest-rate derivatives with JP Morgan. After completing an economics degree in India, she studied management at the LSE and did three months' work experience in foreign exchange (FX) markets at JP Morgan before getting on the graduate recruitment programme. FX is very different from derivatives, but it served as an introduction to the business. "It's a big, bad, difficult world," Bhatia says. "You have to see what it's like before you commit."

Bhatia is part of a bold new generation, not cast in the traditional image of a banker but confident that they will be judged on their performance. If, like her, you have the brains and guts to see it through, the rewards are tremendous. "Traders are going ballistic, your clients are too," Bhatia says. "I enjoy the excitement. It's not something everyone can do, but if you're successful it's a high, it's a kick."

Most investment banking is a mix of understanding businesses and the market. But there are some areas where internal business affairs have little influence on your decisions, and there's a greater need to understand market mechanisms and the way the world drives them.

This is the case with foreign currency markets. Iva Jovanovic, 23, works in fixed-income foreign currency sales at Goldman Sachs, advising clients on which currencies to invest in and which to avoid. She was turned on to investment banking during an internship at the end of the second year of her degree at Warwick.

"Before the internship, I didn't have much of an idea about banking," she says. After getting a first, she joined Goldman Sachs as a graduate trainee. She chose FICC sales because it combined maths with client contact. Like everyone in the industry, she puts a premium on curiosity. "It can be hard to understand movements in the markets. You're looking at why things have moved."

And if you want to understand more about business, Jovanovic has simple advice. "Give it a shot, it's worth trying. Even if you decide it's not what you want to do for your whole life, it's a great experience."

i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Life and Style
The new model would be a “pedal assist” bike in which the rider’s strength is augmented by the engine on hills and when they want to go fast
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Trainee Sales Executive

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Trainee Sales Executive is re...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Cambridgeshire - £23,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Front-End Develo...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower