How exactly does one get into private banking?

GibsonLA's picture
Rank: Baboon | 127

Hi all,

As a Junior I'm a little confused as to how one gets into private banking. This past summer (sophomore summer) I did an internship at a private wealth management firm. To clarify, a small firm that managed around 120MM with client portfolios starting at $250,000. I learned a lot and found the work stimulating but I couldn't picture doing it long term. The strategies used were very redundant. Mostly long-term conservative growth. ETF's, broad based mutual funds, and municipal bonds comprised the majority of client's portfolios. There were only 3-4 clients who actually had money invested in individual corporations.

Anyways.... I found the underlying work and analysis stimulating and fun to do. Which is why I'm interested in Private Banking, wealth management for the extremely wealthy, as this industry requires a more complex investing strategy and I could actually see myself doing it long term. (Not to mention the handsome boost in compensation as opposed to regular wealth management). Only thing is I don't really understand how one breaks into this small field.

My school (Semi-target west coast, think LA) gets all of the large name institutions and most middle market firms to come and recruit. They all recruit for i-banking, general corporate finance, and general wealth management but I have yet to see any sort of recruiting for private banking. Is it not typical for Private Banks to recruit talent straight from undergrad? Is it more of a field that one transitions into? What can I do to help myself break into it?


Comments (18)

Sep 13, 2009

Glad to see a question about PWM. I spent time in private wealth, though I've moved on to a different group now. We would do 5mm+ for legacy clients, but now prefer 10mm+ for new accounts.

It's good to see someone on the boards who isn't all Rah-Rah-IB-is-the-only-way-to-success. PWM can be interesting... a few points I'd make, though:

1) It seems like you want to work at a larger firm... what you call private banking. It's still called PWM, but I guess I've just always assumed it's all called Private Banking, since I've never been at a smaller shop. SO... the thing about larger shops is that it's kind of tough to work your way up to portfolio manager from within wealth management. You'll start out in analytics or backing up a RM, and unless you go for your CFA or MBA, could end up doing that 10 years before you have the chance of actually managing money. And even then... at big shops, you're only doing 'macro' money mgmt. You aren't picking stocks, you're selling equity/fixed income platform products.

2) The bigger shops have centralized equity platforms. So if you are in the 'private banking' department, you are really mostly managing relationships and asset SECTOR selection. It will lean towards sales and marketing, as opposed to portfolio management. So figure out what you want to do - if it's portfolio management that you're interested in, you should key in to smaller shops that offer more diversity in what an entry level job entails... otherwise, go to a big shop, and you may end up backing up a relationship manager until you are 30. And you don't want to do that, because it really doesn't hone the fundamental skills that are required to manage money. I might suggest thinking about the research/analytic side of the business in your early years, to prepare you for a PM position by the time you are in your early/mid 30's, have your CFA/MBA, etc.

I'm speaking from personal experience on this one... I saw the PWM side of the business, wined and dined the big clients, had to listen to them talk about tossing a collection of Hermes ties (wanted to punch him).... talk about the last plane they bought, and how much less comfortable it was than the learjet... really some of the shit will make you sick when you're with the UHNWI's. SO think about it is all I'm saying... it's nice to hand out business cards with 'private banking' on it, but in your early post-college years, you should really consider a job that will hone fundamental money-management skills. And entry level jobs at the big PWM shops will not really do that.

SO if you still want to get in... it's easier to break into than IB. Same general concepts - networking is a must. If you come from $$ and run with the right circles, that's really a key draw for a small PWM shop looking for new blood. I did my gig in private wealth, then moved on to research. PWM was a good springboard... but I wanted to make investment decisions. All said, I will probably finish up a few years in research, finish my CFA, then see where the market takes me ;)

Do you want to stay out west, or come to NYC?

Sep 13, 2009

AssociateGuerilla thank you for the insight into the PWM industry. I have a few questions which I hope you can answer.

  1. At the big shops (assuming JPM, MS etc) if you are placed in the analytic side of the business as an analyst what type of work do you actually do?
  2. What are the exit opps after a 2-3 year stint as an analyst in the analytic side of a PWM firm especially if you are interested in PM?


Sep 13, 2009

Isn't PB grouped under PWM for most banks, it just has the larger clients as in only 10mm+.

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Sep 13, 2009

Why study Accounting if you want to work in a PB?

Sep 13, 2009

Accounting is not for private banking. As a private banker you have to be a salesman - very outgoing, interesting, likeable, understand the financial world and markets...accounting has a completely different connotation.

Do what you want not what you can!

Sep 13, 2009

Ive been looking into PB and spoke to some PBrs. I think I will get pigeonholed too much and wont be able to move. For working hours, i once read that you need to be available 24 hours in case a client phones... know idea how true this is.

You dont need accounting for PB, agreed. Finance maybe, but you mostly need sales skills and a network. Maybe look into AM if you're studying acc + fin ?

Sep 13, 2009

I'm really not picky when it comes to location. While staying in LA would be nice, if the right opportunity came up I wouldn't hesitate moving to San Francisco, Chicago, or New York.

Thank you by the way for that wealth of information. The general notion I got from your post is that private banking is in fact something that you would transition into (after gaining analytic experience). So does this mean a few years in IB or ER before transitioning over? I actually don't mind a mixture of analytics and sales/marketing. Not to come off pompous, but I'm a fairly charismatic individual and client relations/sales has always come pretty easy to me. Although, I would prefer to actually think and use my brain (something not usually found in IB).

Sep 13, 2009

For somebody that went to a top 10 liberal arts school, you are behind the ball. You should have thought about this stuff during your freshman and sophomore years.

    • 1
Sep 13, 2009

For somebody that went to a top 10 liberal arts school, you are behind the ball. You should have thought about this stuff during your freshman and sophomore years.

This. Although you still have a chance, you should be aware that you are at a disadvantage and you need to put everything into getting a good internship lined up as soon as possible. You also need to work out a story as to why you waited until senior year to try and get into finance.

Sep 13, 2009

What held you back? Are you an athlete?

Sep 13, 2009

Until the beginning of senior year I'd been planning to go for a PhD in economics right after graduating, and then after a junior summer research assistant position I realized I really didn't have the personality nor the drive to keep publishing papers my whole life and I had generally lost a lot of my interest in econ. Most of my friends were also going to grad school and I just kept myself extremely busy with academics like them my whole senior year (graduating in a few weeks now).

Sep 13, 2009

So any advice beyond getting some sort of internship, like how I should go about doing so?

Sep 13, 2009