Entry & Qualities to Investment Banking

Hi, I've been a member here for a few months, just casually reading through various content.

Luckily enough, I received an internship in London this summer (I'm still uncertain as to how that happened), but I'm starting to doubt some of my abilities. I have been trading for several years, and been fairly successful doing so. Alongside that I have been writing macroeconomic pieces and posting it on Linked & Facebook, plus co-founded a trading society at my university. So that's how I got the internship without any credentials.

The issue is; I'm simply not very good with maths. I'm pretty good with pattern recognition (from trading), but complicated mathematics is just not my thing. Neither do I have finance as a subject at university - I'm a marketing student. I've just always been more artistic, which is why I believe the macro side of finance suits me far better.

My question is - how screwed can I be here considering my maths levels are rather weak? And I mean maths from a general population perspective, not finance professional average...

Because this can get rather embarrassing..


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Comments (7)

Apr 7, 2018 - 1:39pm

Hey man I know that feel and it's easy for it to get to you but you gotta realize banks operate on risk in every aspect, especially when it comes to recognizing talent. I'm sure the fact that they picked you means that you are an exceptional candidate. Also, it's just an internship and I know people on this site make internships seem like they're the direct pipeline to a job, but in the true purpose of an internship the idea is just to get experience and see what you're suited for.

Apr 7, 2018 - 1:45pm

Agree with the above^^. Don't be too hard on yourself; I'm sure you're competent enough. Also, there won't be any complicated math involved in IB so don't worry.

Best Response
Apr 11, 2018 - 4:29am

The product you trade matters a lot. Flow products aren't particularly mathematical. You won't be doing any trading as an intern. You legally can't unless they give you a prop book, which they won't. Mostly, you'll be getting the other traders coffee, tea, breakfast and lunch. Your job is to get them to talk to you about their job. They don't really have any incentive to train you. You need to provide that incentive. You do that through showing up earlier than the rest of the desk, and sticking around until the last guy leaves, since that's the guy who is likely doing the P&L reporting. He's also probably an analyst, and wouldn't mind the company after the markets close.

It takes a little while for the guys in risk to do whatever it is they do before coming back to the desk to let you know if there are any discrepancies. This is your chance to learn something from the analyst or associate who is there with you, since the desk won't trust you to handle that job on your own. If they're an analyst, they almost surely don't own a book yet, so they are largely in the same boat as you. Even most associates don't have their own books. It takes a while before the bank really trusts you to take risk and manage it on behalf of the firm, so asking them about the markets and about how they'd be positioned is like porn for them. No one asks their opinions on the desk on a regular basis, so getting to talk about their ideas for the book they're going to get one day is a great way to engage them in a conversation they want to have.

You can ask questions during the day, but people have other shit to do during the day (their jobs, for instance). Since you're not terribly mathematical, I would try to focus on more liquid/flow products. Cash equities, spot FX, FX forwards and corporate bonds are all very simplistic. Options desks are obviously more complicated mathematically. The thing is, you really just have to be able to understand the risk and position management software your firm uses. Even on an options desk, the traders aren't coding their own options pricing tool. I bet most options traders at major banks can't do that anymore. That's not their job. That's the job of the quants and structurers. As a trader, your job is to manage risk in a way that makes money for the bank.

Given that you like writing market commentaries anyway and are more artistically inclined, you might enjoy sales more than trading. I used to disdain the idea of working on a sales desk because I thought it was for morons, and I wanted to be seen as clever. That's stupid. Salesmen on trading floors can make as much money as traders, they have far less career risk, and probably better exit opportunities from the markets (since they have a network and traders do not). They get off work earlier, they get to take clients out (which gets old, but when you're 22 or 23, drinking on your corporate card is fucking great), and they get to talk about the market all day without ever really being held to account for being wrong. In short, being a salesman is far less stressful. Moreover, the work you do as an analyst is never quantitative in nature on a sales desk. On a trading desk, there is some risk that you might be asked to code a macro for a spreadsheet a specific trader wants to use. If you can't do that, but you want to be a trader, I strongly suggest you learn. On a sales desk, however, that's never going to happen.

That said, if you really want to be a trader, don't let anyone dissuade you. But it's smarter to focus on your strengths and exploit those as opposed to struggling to overcome your weaknesses for some perceived bounty that might not be as great as you imagine.

Apr 11, 2018 - 5:43am

If you really wanted to get a full time offer in investment banking, there are only three things you need do. Those are:

  1. Shut up and listen. Take notes and don't let people repeat the same thing all over again. And follow through exactly on whatever the senior people tell you to do.
  2. Be humble. Even if you think something is above you, try to swallow up and get it done. People will willing to do more for you when the times come. That increases your likability.
  3. Take real interest in people. Write down what everyone like in the office. And also try to build real interest in people. Sometimes you just want people not to hate you. You really don't need everyone to vouch for you. It makes a very big difference. A lot of junior people think that if there are 10 people, if 6 people vouch for you - you will get that job. Most of the time, what I see is that people who get ahead are the sort of people that "no one object" him from getting hired. In another word, 6 people don't need to say that you are the best; you just want all 10 people to nod their head when your turn comes. What you really don't want is even when 8 people vouch for you, this 1 person really hate you that - he will try everything in his power not to get you hired. If that is a MD you are gone for sure; but even if it were VP/Associate/Analyst, they can still manage to get you off that offer list. So do not offend anyone in the office even if they are executive assistants or cleaners in the office.
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