Career Spotlight : Investment Banker

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Manish Srivastava, 24, is an analyst at a boutique (Wall Street vernacular for small-sized) merchant banking firm in New York. Before this job, he worked for a year and a half at a much larger global investment bank also based in New York. Manish emigrated from India with his family when he was a year old, and grew up in St. John's, Ottawa and Montréal. He graduated from McGill University in 2001 with a BA in economics and a minor in management. During university, he was employed at a Montréal-based bio-medical research firm and a Toronto-based new media firm. He is now a third-year analyst.

Stephanie: What made you decide to become an investment banker? How did you become an investment banker?
Manish:
I really didn't know too much about investment banking prior to joining, although I had an older brother in investment banking at the time. During university I was always more interested in computer programming, politics and the Internet, with a little microbiology on the side. I was working in a small new media firm in Toronto during my last summer vacation, and I decided I really liked the entrepreneurial environment that running your own company had to offer, but I wasn't brave enough to start my own thing right away! So I figured the best way to get credentials and solid business experience was to either get myself into management consulting or investment banking. I interviewed in both fields and liked investment banking better.

Stephanie: What does an investment banker do?
Manish: The job differs quite a bit depending on your position. In a nutshell, analysts use lots of Excel and lots of PowerPoint. Analysts and associates are very heavily involved with analyzing a company's financials with supervision/direction coming from more senior-level bankers. Pretty much, we are trying to find how much a company is worth, i.e. its valuation, and how it is doing in its industry. The reason being, most aspects of banking are either to do with raising capital (money) or mergers and acquisitions (joining or buying another company). In either case, companies need to know how much they are worth and how they are doing relative to their competitors in order to buy something, sell a part of themselves or raise some money. This is an overly simplified view, but the bulk of the nature of the work is to do with financial analysis (the Excel) and then presenting your findings (the PowerPoint). Depending on what aspect of banking you are in, the daily nature of your work can change a great deal.

I didn't know any of this when I started (nor do most people when they start), but there are some good Web sites and books that you can read that provide a pretty good overview. Almost all banks have a formal four- to six-week training program before you join your group and actually work with other professionals and clients.

Coming out of undergrad, you normally join for a two- to three-year commitment as an analyst. After that most analysts leave, but some are promoted to the associate level. Associates are mainly recruited from graduate schools - most have MBAs - but sometimes from law school also.

Stephanie: What do you like about your job?
Manish:
I really like the exposure you get to very senior management at such a young age. Going to meetings with CEOs, CFOs and board members is really cool. When I am in a client's meeting room, I am almost always the youngest person there by many years. I also like the amount of responsibility that is given to you, which is quite a bit.

Stephanie: What is your least favorite part of the job?
Manish:
The hours can be very bad - I don't remember too much of my first year here. A lot of people underestimate how bad the hours can be. Seriously, there were times when I worked 110-130 hours per week for many weeks in a row. Realizing that there are only 168 hours in a week, it doesn't really leave much time for things you take for granted in university, like watching TV, working out, or just hanging out with friends. There are times when I would go home only to shower and change my clothes and then come back in.

Another thing that really gets to me, even though I am used to it – unfortunately – is not really having control of your life. I have seen and heard people cancel everything at the last minute, from dinners and movies to honeymoons and vacations.

Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming an investment banker?
Manish:
You should try to know exactly what you are getting into and only join for the right reasons. A lot of people join for the money or thinking that they will be hanging out with CEOs on corporate jets. They don't realize how hard you have to work continuously. The best way to experience it first-hand is to try to get a summer internship at an investment bank in the summer before your final year.

Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be an investment banker? What kind of education did you get?
Manish:
To join a Canadian investment bank as an analyst, I would suggest a business degree; they seem to prefer it to the other undergraduate degrees. The US banks don't really show a preference to a specific degree, as they routinely hire undergrads from engineering, science and even history. The US banks, however, recruit from a small number of schools in Canada; mostly McGill, Western, Queens and the University of Toronto. It is pretty competitive to just get an interview so I would suggest keeping your GPA very high. The current market for finance jobs is really tough; it has become even more competitive as banks are hiring less than they did a couple of years back.

I received a BA in economics with a minor in management from McGill.

Stephanie: What is your favorite number? Why?
Manish:
I don't really have one, but I guess 7.


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