Want to become an investment banker? Here’s what you need to know

Want to become an investment banker? Here's what you need to know
People walk by Wall Street Bull in the Financial District on March 7, 2023 in New York City. Source: AFP

Why do you want to learn how to become an investment banker?

Perhaps in today’s rapidly changing world, pursuing a degree that leads to a progressive career is becoming increasingly important.

Or maybe you’re aspiring to become the likes of Jamie Dimon, John Paulson, or Lawrence D Fink, who have cemented themselves as top leaders in the investment banking space.

Regardless of the reason, choosing this path can lead to a respectable, stable and even six-figure-salaried career — which explains why so many are drawn to the world of finance.

Why become an investment banker? 

This career is often coveted because a successful investment banker can enjoy a high salary and the ability to play a highly visible role in company success stories.

Payscale data indicates that investment bankers earned an average annual salary of around US$118,199 as of December 2023. Entry-level investment bankers may make up to six figures each year.

That said, this demanding role often entails workdays that are 12 or more hours long, adding up to 100-hour work weeks.

This can be hard to swallow — especially when you compare it to other well-paying careers in technology and other parts of the finance world with better hours and more flexibility. 

Those who choose to stay, like Vince Iyoriobhe — who put in 90-hour weeks at Bank of America, sometimes going home only to shower — are willing to do it for the minimum time necessary so that he can include “investment banker” on their résuméss

Now, Iyoriobhe works at a private equity firm.

“I knew banking was going to be tough,” Iyoriobhe told The New York Times.

But his attitude was: “I’m going to do it for two years and then go on to something else.”

Likewise, Chon, an entrepreneur whose YouTube video about leaving his job as a healthcare banker in JPMorgan Chase’s San Francisco office, posted in February 2021, which garnered over 100,000 views says: “It’s kind of like going through boot camp.”

While he appreciated all that he had learned as an analyst, Chon added: “You don’t have control of your lifestyle, and you’re working even when you don’t want to.”

People walk along Wall Street in New York City, the symbol of the Financial District. Source: AFP

How to become an investment banker in the US, UK, Europe and Australia

1. US

Usually, undergraduate finance courses in the US include commercial and investment banking, corporate finance, and asset management. 

Take a Bachelor of Science in Finance at Long Island University. This degree provides a broad-based understanding of the principles that govern financial institutions and the strategies they employ to maximise investor returns while minimising risk.

Upon completion, you’ll develop your competencies as a finance professional and prepare yourself for a wide range of careers in the field, which includes investment banking.

While you can enter this field as a financial analyst at an investment bank, many investment bankers complete their master’s degree in a financial field, including business administration or corporate finance.

To work as an investment banker in the US, you’ll need to register as a representative of your respective bank with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Here, you have to pass a specific exam based on your field of expertise to qualify for registration. 

You can also pursue optional certifications, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification, which involves completing the CFA programme and passing an exam.

While Wall Street is often linked to investment banking, there are now no longer any major banks located here. Source: AFP

As to where you should work, here are some of the best investment banks in the US:

  • Goldman Sachs: Goldman Sachs is one of the most well-known investment banks in the world. Headquartered in New York City, it has offices in major financial hubs around the globe. This company is known for its elite training programme and high salaries.
  • JPMorgan Chase: JPMorgan Chase is one of the largest banks in the US. It offers a wide range of financial services, including investment banking. The company is headquartered in New York City and employs over 250,000 people worldwide.
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Bank of America Merrill Lynch is a leading global investment bank with headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. It provides a wide array of investment banking services, including mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, and research.
investment banking

The offices of Investment banking company J.P. Morgan is seen in London, England. Source: AFP

2. UK

There are a number of options when it comes to specialist investment banking qualifications in the UK.

You can consider a CFA-affiliated programme like the BSc Finance (Investments) at the University of Reading. The London Institute of Banking and Finance also offers the industry-recognised BSc Finance, Investment and Risk, as well as the BSc Banking and Finance, which includes an optional one-year industry placement. 

What’s more, the CFA Society of the UK (CFA UK) offers the entry-level Certificate in Investment Management (IMC) award, delivering the threshold competency knowledge in research analysis, portfolio management and other key investment activities.

You can either do this Level 4 qualification through self-study and by registering for the IMC exam yourself or through a recognised training provider such as BPP or Kaplan.

While it is possible to work as an investment banker in the UK with a bachelor’s degree, the sheer competition for talent is fierce.

Hence, if you are considering studying for further investment banking qualifications, you can enrol in the CFA programme. To be eligible for this internationally renowned investment management qualification, you’ll need a degree, four years’ professional work experience or a combination of work and study totalling four years.

Pedestrians walk over the London Bridge with the City financial district on the background, in London. Source: AFP

Apart from working in branches of top banks in the US, here are other banks in the UK you can consider to kickstart your career in investment banking:

  • Morgan Stanley: Morgan Stanley is one of the preeminent financial services firms, with longstanding client relationships and a leading role in many landmark transactions. It has been operating in the UK for over 40 years since it opened its European headquarters in London in 1977. 
  • Barclays: Barclays is one of the only non-US, full-service rivals to the biggest US investment banks. Its two-year Investment Banking Expert Programme focuses on helping you develop specialist expertise in as an analyst.
  • Citi: Citi has had a presence in the UK since 1902 with the opening of IBC’s (International Banking Corporation’s) London office. Today, the UK is the headquarters of Citi’s Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, which consists of operations in 54 countries and does business in another 61. 
how to become an investment banker

The European investment banking sector is a key component of the European economy, so there’s no better time to learn how to become an investment banker. Source: AFP

3. Germany

Studying investment management in Germany can be a lucrative career option.

According to the World Bank, the German economy is one of the strongest in the world. Pair this with its low unemployment rates, and there is a lot of demand for qualified professionals in this field.

To enrol for investment banking courses in Germany, you would need to complete a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, or economics to get an entry-level position with an investment banking company or a bank.

The IIM SKILLS comprehensive Investment Banking programme, for example, is expertly structured by subject matter experts aligning every topic from basic to advanced levels. More so, their investment banking course curriculum focuses on making you job-ready as soon as you complete your course.

It is in sync with industry conceptualisations and best practices, which makes it one of the best investment banking courses in Germany.

Since Germany is known to be a financial hub, many of the world’s top financial institutions — such as EY, Barclays, and Citibank — are known to have branches within the country.

Office workers walking past a National Australia Bank (NAB) sign in Sydney’s central business district. Source: AFP

4. Australia

There is no specific degree you should do to work as an investment banker in Australia. Generally, it is advantageous to have a bachelor’s business degree in finance, economics, administration, or commerce with a banking or finance concentration. 

For example, a Bachelor of Finance from Monash University helps you understand how the Australian financial system works and develop the skills you need to manage money well for big corporations, small businesses, and governments. 

Given the competitive nature of the industry, a master’s degree in economics or business management or choosing to do an honours year can help you set apart from other candidates.

Unlike in other countries, there is no requirement for you to secure a professional qualification in order to work as an investment banker within the country. 

Here are a few banks you can consider to start your investment banking career:

  • Macquarie Group: Headquartered and listed in Australia, Macquarie is the world’s largest infrastructure asset manager and the country’s top-ranked mergers and acquisitions adviser.
  • Chase Bank: JPMorgan Chase Bank NA of Sydney operates as a bank. The company offers investment banking, treasury and securities services, asset management, private banking, card member services, commercial banking, and home finance services.
  • National Australia Bank: It is one of the four largest financial institutions in Australia in terms of market capitalisation, earnings and customers. NAB was ranked the world’s 21st-largest bank measured by market capitalisation and 52nd-largest bank in the world as measured by total assets in 2019