We take a look inside the life of an Investment Banking VP. Kristin is a former banker at a bulge bracket Wall Street firm who I interviewed for our client newsletter this month. I asked her about the secret to her success in the job search process coming out of a top-5 business school and what she remembers most about her experience moving up the corporate ladder.
1. Why did you decide to go into Investment Banking after your MBA?
In terms of skill sets: Investment banking provides you with a set of skills that are incredibly valuable to anything you do after i-banking. To list some of them: analytical ability, financial valuations, presentation skills, project management, executing deals, working with senior management and top bankers, managing junior teams, working under tight deadlines and under pressure. You become extremely marketable. In terms of timing: It’s really difficult to go into investment banking without the campus recruiting process. It was either then or never.
2. What was the hardest part about the recruiting process?
Keeping up with the recruiting process itself. You are drained completely after each day going through various events, information sessions x 10! You have to remember that it’s a marathon not a sprint and to try to pace yourself so that you don’t burn out.
3. What was it about your own resume that set you apart?
Having various experiences, not a cookie cutter type of resume. For example, I worked for a non-profit before my MBA and recruiters / interviewers always picked up on this and would try to ask a question in a negative way. However, I had a good story to tell and it worked as a positive factor to get them to notice my resume and remember me.
4. When you started in Investment Banking, what surprised you the most?
Because I went into investment banking coming out of MBA, I don’t think anything really surprised me. Most people with an MBA go into banking with eyes wide open. The most painful surprise was how bad the hours could be. You hear about it but you really feel it especially when you are trying to land an offer as a summer associate. The pleasant surprise is the adrenaline rush you get from working on a live transaction – it is crazy but I would like to believe that most people who land the job are the types that “thrive under pressure.”
5. How much financial modeling did you have to do?
You are involved in ALL financial models for all projects you are working on – you are either reviewing the model or building it yourself. I built more models when I was a junior associate but as I became more senior, I focused more on reviewing if the numbers made sense and how the result of the financial analysis would impact our overall recommendations for the client.
6. The analysts who worked for you, what was the key difference between the good and bad ones?
It’s a combination of many skill sets that set the good analysts apart. Basically, having a good analyst makes the associates’ and VPs’ jobs much easier. I will give a few concrete examples:
- Strong analytical skills: Good with excel, good with numbers (always remembering to “ballpark” figures to be able to give senior bankers a high-level view when asked in a meeting).
- Good, frequent communications: Always over-communicating than under-communicating. Keeping associates/VPs updated on their work progress. Email turnaround time less than 10-15 minutes (checking emails often).
- Organized: Save backups at all times. Having printouts ready before the meetings without being told. Dialing into calls ontime. Taking good notes and circulating them after the meetings.
- Takes initiatives: Taking a stab at writing a few bullets for presentations without being asked.
- Attention to detail: Understanding directions well. No spelling errors. Never repeating the same mistake twice. Thoroughly incorporating all comments.
7. Can you tell us about your most intense week of work?
We worked on a live-pitch for a very important client – I say “live-pitch” because it was as intense as running a live deal. I believe I slept for 11 hours total over 7 days and the analyst on the team slept for 7 hours over 7 days.
8. Is the compensation as good as people say it is?
It depends on your performance. The base pay is a lot higher than most jobs out there so you can’t complain. In terms of bonus, it fluctuates significantly depending on many factors: market conditions, your bank’s overall performance and most importantly, your performance.
9. Were you promoted, and if so, how did you make sure you were successful?
I got promoted to VP from an associate after 3 years. I would say 3 things are important:
- You have to plan ahead and make sure you understand the promotion criteria so that you can check all the necessary boxes. For instance, you want to have exposure to all soft skill sets like managing junior teams and working with product groups as well as different types of deals including financing and M&A.
- You have to have a strong performance and have a champion who can recommend you based on your past successes and reviews.
- Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. You should clearly state why you should be promoted verbally and in writing early and often.
10. What are you doing now? Are your Investment Banking skills relevant at your new job?
I am working in Business Development now and am an executive at a large Fortune 500 entertainment company. The skill sets that I have gained from investment banking has been tremendously helpful for getting this role as well as being successful at my current position.
Huge thanks to our friend Kristin for sharing her insights with us about the Life of an Investment Banking VP.
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