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Investment Banking Career Path: Case Study

investment banking career pathI talked about my life as an investment analyst here. What are my bullpen mates and I are doing now?

Let me show you where we landed after 10 years of joining a typical investment banking analyst program in New York.

My Investment Banking Career Path

I guess it’s easiest to use myself as the case study.

Stephanie’s Background

After graduating from the University of Chicago with a dual degree in Economics and Public Policy Studies, I was recruited to the M&A department of a global investment bank in their New York headquarters.

Two years later, I went to Hong Kong and joined the Telecom and Media Corporate Finance team at Morgan Stanley. It was the height of the dot com boom. One of my projects, the US$28 billion acquisition (technically an LBO) of PCCW for Hong Kong Telecom, was rewarded Deal of the Year in 2000.

The new company had an urgent need for someone with experience in corporate finance, and they invited me to join their finance team, where I worked on numerous refinancing exercises, including a Yankee bond, convertible bond, samurai bond, and several rounds of syndicated loans. There are also opportunities for more M&A as PCCW sold 20% of itself to China Netcom and bought Sunday communications, its competitor in the mobile phone area.

As you can see, Investment Banking can open many doors for you, whether you aspire to be the MD in the corner office, a rainmaker in a major hedge fund, or ultimately, have a more work-life balanced life in the corporate world.

Is I-Banking Your First Job? Where did You Start?

Yes, it’s my first job. I was recruited by Lehman Brothers as part of their 2-year analyst program. I was promoted to be a third-year analyst but switched to Morgan Stanley’s Hong Kong office, where my boyfriend (now husband) lived.

Why Lehman Brothers?

Well, it might have sounded crazy, but Lehman was one of the best investment banking firms at that time (4th largest until its collapse). I liked the people I met on Super Saturday.

Also, Lehman was the first firm to give me an offer, and I didn’t really have enough time (and money) to fly to New York several times a month for the final interviews.

I love Lehman, but in hindsight, I probably should have visited other firms as well to give myself more choices.

Why Did You Leave Banking if It’s Such a Great Job?

There are several reasons. First, it was hard work, and my health began to deteriorate with all the late-night work.

Second, I had to think about work-life balance as John, and I planned to get married and wanted to have kids.

The most important trigger: I was being offered a position similar to my current work but from a different (and more interesting) perspective.

What’s Good and Bad about Working in a Corporate Job?

Good – much better and more predictable lifestyle. I was finally able to plan my vacations without being called back. The job was also more stable job because corporates tend not to fire and hire as aggressively.

Bad – less pay and perks. Less glamor.

What are You Doing Now?

My last corporate job was as a director in private wealth management specializing in strategic planning in a major North American bank. I am now running a series of accounting and finance exam prep websites and recently wrote a book (published by Wiley & Sons) on how to pass the CPA exam.

What are Your Banking Buddies Doing Right Now?

My experience is not typical because most of my former colleagues are in the finance and investment industry.

  • A handful of them never leave i-banking and are currently MDs of various seniority.
  • 2-3 switched from banking to research or other parts within banking, but most actually went back to investment banking.
  • Quite a few left banking after the analysts’ program and are working in private equities and hedge funds. A couple of them work in management consulting.
  • A fewer number of them joined the corporate world. Most of them got an MBA in between.
  • And, of course, some choose to be stay-home moms but keep themselves busy with volunteer work and activities within their community.

A number of them got fired during the financial crisis, but all of them could re-enter i-banking (if they chose to).

Notes from Stephanie

I hope I’ve shed some light on what a realistic investment banking career path looks like.

No matter what you end up doing 10 years later, the training and exposure you get during i-banking are yours for life.

For Your Further Reading


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