Anyone who has worked in investment banking, particularly during their analyst years, will likely tell you they learned a lot more than their peers working in other jobs during the same period. The great part about investment banking is that you get exposure to large-scale, impactful deals and senior management in your early 20s, which can propel your career quickly. Aside from the client interactions, you will learn many technical and soft skills on the job that apply to working in other areas of finance as well as jobs in other fields.
Taking advantage of this training is important because it can set you up for success in future careers (whether you choose to stay in banking or otherwise) and because many of these skills are applicable in the real world (i.e., outside of your everyday job) too. Some of the best practices outlined below are key to making the most of your investment banking analyst training.
One of the first skills you learn as an investment banking analyst is how to communicate effectively with your deal teams and clients. The communication style will differ depending on who you are speaking to, whether it’s your associate on the team, a team member on the financing side of the bank, another bank you are co-advising with, an external advisor engaged by the buyside firm, or the client.
The most important piece is internal team communication. One of the best pieces of advice I got early on in banking was to be overly responsive. As a junior analyst, I first thought that responding to every email I got from my associate with a “sounds good, will do” or giving a general time estimate for completion would bother or spam them, but I was quickly told this was a standard in the industry to confirm receipt and let your team know you will be working on the task.
The general rule is that you should respond within 30 minutes of acknowledging that you saw the email, and perhaps even sooner if you’re on a live process or with urgent tasks. As the day goes on, if you’ve been busy and haven’t been able to finish the task, you will need to again over-communicate. Let your associate know via email or message what you still have on your plate and ask if they’d like for you to reprioritize your to-dos.
This was another great piece of advice I got: as the analyst, you can often tell when a workstream takes precedence, but asking the reprioritization question will allow your associates to talk amongst themselves if they want you to shift your focus. It takes the blame off of you if your team is getting frustrated with how long it’s taking you to get to the task and lets them know you’re not ignoring the request.
Both of these items are applicable in the real world in several ways. Being responsive in any job is a must, but being overly responsive is something that doesn’t come naturally to people who are used to working independently. This is a skill you can practice in other less time-pressured areas of life, such as responding to texts from family and friends on time (which a lot of us are guilty of not responding to sometimes due to our busy lives).
Also, it might sound silly, but over-communicating, if you’re delayed in giving a deliverable back, is a bit like checking in on someone you care about when you know they’re going through a hard time and could use some continued support. That’s all your job as an investment banking analyst is; you just have to make sure you’re present and teams know they can count on you to get things done.
Learn from your mistakes
Another great piece of advice I got in my early banking days was to never make the same mistake twice. While it may sound intimidating, it’s just a harsher way of saying you should learn from your mistakes to the point that you don’t slip up again. People will be forgiving of your many mistakes as an analyst, particularly in the first six months, and turn those into learning opportunities for you. Take advantage of that ramp-up period to learn as much as possible and ask as many “stupid questions” as you need to (but try to Google things first so you don’t look dumb if the answer is online).
If you’re in doubt about whether something is a dumb question, reach out to the second-year analysts in the group. Getting to know them is an important part of your first couple of months since they are a valuable resource with inside knowledge of how the group works. They can give you advice on their favorite people to work with within the group, how to handle recruiting for future positions, and much more.
The real-world applications of learning from your mistakes are plentiful, whether they’re in your relationships or other professional pursuits. People will always remember those who make the same mistakes over and over again, but they will quickly forget something they did a while ago if they’re able to improve upon that mistake and not have it happen again.
In my opinion, the most valuable part of working in investment banking is the network you build. Besides making connections with the other analysts, you should try to form genuine relationships with seniors at the VP and MD levels, whether that’s a coffee every few months or working under them on deals and showing them that you’re not only a hard worker but also a fun person to hang out with.
These people can help promote you within the organization or serve as references later on if you’re looking to move on to a job elsewhere. Also, you should make an effort to attend social events with the group or firm and join affinity networks if they apply to you to make connections with people across groups or roles.
At my old firm, we were added to an alumni network after leaving so that we could connect with other former employees of the firm for the rest of our lives. This just goes to show the power of working at an investment bank as an analyst, as these people will be accessible to help with your career progression for years to come. Take advantage of the training you get while you’re there, but don’t forget that leaving a good impression can last a lifetime.
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