When most people hear the words “investment bank,” certain associations immediately spring to mind. Namely, overworked young bankers struggling to keep senior bankers happy, or pressure-filled senior bankers struggling to keep clients happy.
Yet an investment bank has a lot more to offer prospective employees in terms of a career path.
Let’s take a look at five of the most common finance-related jobs you’ll see at an investment bank — that don’t involve any actual investment banking.
There are some similarities between trading and investment banking, to be sure. Both help facilitate deals in order for assets to change hands. Yet there are also some very real differences: Bankers typically work longer hours (traders’ hours track more closely with market hours); traders typically don’t work on the long-range deals that bankers do; and bankers typically need a deeper understanding of relevant math concepts.
It’s also fair to say that while traders need to develop a keen sense for reading markets, the personal touch (as in client cultivation) doesn’t loom as large as it does in investment banking.
Risk modeling and compliance
Here you’ll be focused on assessing risks based on market trends, reports and other variables. An analytical bent — and a background in math — is helpful as this is a job that requires quantitative analysis and use of modeling software. Areas of focus for most risk managers include: market risk, operational risk, credit risk and liquidity risk.
Compliance can sometimes be a tricky job on a personal level, as you’ll be tasked with protecting the firm when it comes to deals — something that can create friction with deal-makers who have a financial stake in pushing a transaction through.
If you’d like to work at an investment bank — but you’re looking for the exact opposite of 80-hour, high-stress work weeks — a position in the accounting department might make sense. That’s not to say accounting is always easy; the hours can be long depending on the time of the year, and the work can be slightly repetitive. Certain accounting jobs can also be a bit stress-inducing in their own right — particularly management and regulatory reporting roles.
Overall accounting is probably the least pressure-packed financial division in an investment bank. It’s an essential one, however, which makes it a steady and potentially rewarding career path — even if the money doesn’t compare to banking.
Bankers help clients decide what to do with their assets — but who decides what a bank does with its own assets? The answer to this question is “the treasury.” Treasury management professionals help decide how to manage a firm’s capital, liquidity and funding to best serve the bank’s overall strategy. In other words, you’ll help a bank determine how to best invest capital while still having enough in reserve to serve clients and ride out unforeseen market developments.
This is a job that requires serious strategic thinking and problem-solving skills. Yet it’s also a critically important position that gets to the very heart of a firm’s viability, so it’s also an interesting and formidable challenge.
Financial technology plays a key role at any bank — think about the impact of the development of the ATM, for example. At investment banks, technologists work on things like helping reduce the time it takes to make a trade, infrastructure support and project management.
Programming skills or a computer science are preferred in more technically-inclined IT roles, but it’s possible to land a position on the tech side as a business analyst or project manager with a combination of well-honed soft skills and moderate technical chops.
Banking isn’t the only rewarding career route at an investment bank. If you aren’t sure that banking is for you, consider some of the other equally viable options outlined above.