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Inside Story: Working At A Global Investment Bank

By Jianna Schroeder

Working for a global investment bank is not easy, even in the best of times. Finance people say it is one of the toughest places to get a job, but well worth it if you can get yourself in the door.

Mark (not his real name) is a 26 year old, James Madison University graduate with a bachelor's degree in Economics and a minor in finance, who been employed at a global investment bank in NYC for the past 21 months and holds the title of Product Controller (he has also held the titles of Financial Analyst and Business Analyst at the same company) gave us an insider's view on how the company really works.

The interview process was a rigorous one when Mark was looking for a job he would be content with.  He signed up with a recruiting agency and he says the following about the interview procedure once walking through the company doors; 

"I had three rounds of interviews for my first job, the first round was with an Assistant Vice President, the next was with a Vice President and the final with a Director.  As I found other jobs I was interested in within the bank I had to network in order to get an interview.

"The second position I held was a direct result of volunteering to assist another team on a project.  After this project I interviewed with a director and worked with the team from 6-9pm and weekends after which I was given the decision to join on a 30-day temporary basis.  After the 30 days were up I was offered the position. For my current role (Product Controller), I was referred by two co-workers, and met with two Assistant Vice Presidents of the division and a Vice President."      

"They were thorough!  The bank is making an investment in their employee and they want nothing less than the best.  In most corporate jobs a meeting with Human Resources and your future boss will suffice."

As Mark explained, literally everyone is involved in the hiring process from your direct supervisor to the Vice President of your future division of the company.  When asked he described obtaining this job as "very difficult."

Mark started at the bank as a Financial Analyst.  He was responsible for analyzing the copy center, food services, car services and travel expenses for the bank.  He also created financial reports and managed the balance sheets for his department. When he moved on to the position of Business Analyst his role changed entirely. As a business analyst he worked directly for the Chief Operating Officer (COO) in Global Management where he managed and assisted senior management with budget analysis.  He also analyzed the financial impact of the global real estate portfolio. 

In his current position as a Product Controller he works directly with the traders of a Repo and Bond desks ensuring their P&L are accurately reflected. He also performs month end adjustments and reconciles the books and records of the bank. Mark explains that his  most recent position as his best fit; "Product Control is the best position in this company for my personality.  It deals with heavy modeling and accounting which I excel in and it is also a pressure intense position, which really motivates me."

Regarding  the pros and cons to working at such a prestigious company and he was very candid in his response;"I think the pros to all of the positions here is that they gave me insight into the different aspects of a Global Investment Bank. I was encouraged to pursue higher education and all of the people I work with are motivated and intelligent. The cons are that I have to work long hours, usually about 65 hours a week during the busy season.  The most I have ever worked was 90 hours a week, and yes that was lots of coffee and Red Bull. I am also required to work weekends in order to meet deadlines.  It is a rarity that I even get to take a lunch break.  

Tight deadlines and long hours- sounds like exactly what you would expect of a finance career right? But did you know about the perks?  The tuition remission benefit, the motivation from co-workers, and being involved in very important business dealings within a couple months in as a new hire are serious advantages to working for a prestigious, well managed company.

As for growth potential within the walls of a Global Investment Bank, Mark  says it is entirely dependent on the Market; "In a good market their always growth potential, in a bad market very there is very little potential for growth. Typically it takes about 2 years to be promoted."

But as you can see from Mark's  career, thus far he has moved three departments in 21 months! Clearly, options within the company are wide open and you just have to grab the opportunities when they come to you. This is not a company afraid of trading people between departments.  It seems they invest in the person being hired as someone who they would like to keep in the company for the long haul, regardless of what department they get hired into or move to.  There is a lot of opportunity to grow into the role that best suits you in the great world of finance."

Asked about the top five qualities that managers look for in a finance employee,  Mark explained that through the interviewing process and all the months he has worked there that the traits necessary to succeed in a career such as his are pretty concise. "You need to be dedicated, intelligent, a team player, problem solver and willing to learn to be a real success in a financial career."

Mark shows real passion behind his words -- he seemed driven, determined, and most importantly like he loved his job.  As he put it,  "if I could recommend any company and any job in finance it would be my job as Product Controller, in New York for a Global Investment bank.  It is a fantastic place to have a career."

Jianna Schroeder is a freelance writer in New York City.

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