In this series we will be interviewing successful women in different job roles to understand how they got their role and what their job is actually like! This week, we talk to someone working at a European Investment Bank.
What is your job title?
My job title is SSA DCM Analyst
What do those acronyms mean?
SSA stands for Sovereigns, Supranationals and Agencies, which is our client type, so basically government debt organisations and also development organisations like the world bank. They’re all very highly rated, triple A rated, which means they’re considered a very safe credit… so their debt is cheap, effectively. They get money for not very much money. Urm, and DCM stands for Debt Capital Markets, so it basically means that you’re issuing debt; you’re helping these organisations borrow money.
Could you give a bit of a summary of how you got there?
Yeah, so if you want to get into investment banking as a graduate [Bachelors level] you need to have done an internship in investment banking and if you wanna get an internship in investment banking, you need to have done a Spring week… and to get on the spring week you need to have some kind of experience prior to applying, which is first year of Uni. So for me, I did 8months in consulting in my gap year [year out, after A levels], and then I used that to springboard and show I was equipped for a working environment and all the rest. That enabled me to apply to a spring week which I did in my first year of University, I did a few of them and then because I had that experience I could get a summer internship, which I did between second and third year of uni and then I got on the grad scheme when I graduated.
Is there anyone who’s doing what you’re doing who didn’t follow that path?
Urm… There are a few people that are older and that have done long term internships having finished University, so you’ve still done the internship route but just done it later on – done more like 6month internship, onto a year long internship, and got in through that. But effectively if you want a job in an investment bank as a junior you have to have an internship.
In what way do you typically work? Like, is it desk based? What’s the style?
It’s very desk based. We’re very client focused and there’s strict rules about like the phone not being able to ring out, so you are at your desk all day. I might have a few meetings, there’s quite a lot of travel, sometimes you’ll be taking a client on the road but there always has to be someone from the team at the desk so when you’re in the office you spend most of your time at the desk. As a junior it’s a lot of excel, powerpoint, sometimes reviewing legal documents, those kind of things. And then if you need to have meetings or discussions, a lot of them will happen at the desk as opposed to in a meeting room.
How would you describe what you do, to an alien?
Haha, what I do on a day to day basis or what my role is?
Like, your job spec…
Urm. I look at lots of numbers and try and spot patterns in them. And I put information into presentations. And I talk to people a lot.
How big is your company?
I think there’s around 60,000 employees Globally, maybe more.
Is that typical for your industry?
Yeah, I mean, there’s different types of banking, there’s definitely boutique investment banks. For what I do, there’s not really any boutiques, you have to be at one of the big investment banks so you’re gonna be in a Global Company with offices all over the world.
What would define a boutique? Is there a certain size?
Not really, but you’ve probably got boutiques up to a couple of hundred people. But they’ll be a lot more specific in what they do, so you might have a boutique that focuses on Mergers and Acquisitions, and then they’ll work with maybe bigger companies or bigger banks on certain transactions.
What character traits would you say are valuable in your profession?
Resilience is really key. It’s a very tough environment, so you need to be able to be shouted at and kinda leave that stress in the office and not carry it with you. For what I do specifically, you need to be very outgoing, confident and very talkative, it’s very client focused so you basically have to be able to pick up the phone to anyone at anytime and talk to them, like, walk into a room and just chat away. And teamwork is also really key, you have to be able to get along with others. And there’s also a level of mathematical understanding required.
Is there much mobility in the job you’re doing, or is progression quite a channel?
It’s definitely a channel. You can hop industries more and more but I think thats the same thing that’s happening globally that people are becoming more multi-hyphenate and like, people do jump around a lot more. But, for what I do, the people in my team expect me to be doing it in ten years time.
What’s the culture like?
Hideous *laughs*. Urm, it has good and bad aspects. A good aspect is that it’s very sociable, especially with the clients and the other firms so there are quite a few drinks events – it’s a very sociable culture, everyones very chatty and talks a lot. But that comes with a flipside of quite an aggressive nature within the office as well. So people will be having blazing rows at the desk, but then two hours later be chatting about their weekends and their holidays. So it’s quite a work hard, play hard, everyone’s quite hot-headed. But if people are aggressive it’s not personal, it’s just they get very stressed and a lot of people don’t know how to deal with that stress in the right way.
Is there anything which you wish you’d known in advance, going into your field?
I think, from the outside, I thought it was a very impressive place to work, you know, because you needed so much experience and internships and spring weeks to get the job… and the recruitment process is so tough, I kind of assumed that everyone there would be incredibly intelligent… and I guess it’s like most things that seem great from the outside, you get in and it’s just normal people. There’s a few people who are crazy, highly, intelligent and a few people that are crazy good at their job and a few people who are crazy driven, but I wouldn’t say in general… From the outside people can try and make you feel inferior but actually everyone is just as confused as you are.
How diverse is it as a workplace?
It’s not. Urm, everyone is White, British and Privately Educated. There are quotas around diversity. They know that it should be more diverse but I think, by nature of the characteristics that you have to have, it’s a lot harder to be a woman in it… The diversity, I think it will slowly increase but at the moment, it’s low.
Do you get free tea and coffee?
Yep, I get three free coffees a day and as much tea as I want
Is there opportunity to travel?
Internationally… so someone 2years Senior, I know that in the last two months of last year he went to: South East Asia, North Africa and Australia, within a 2month period, so there’s a lot of opportunity to travel.
What do you think should be factored in when deciding which profession to go into?
The kind of people that you want to be around, I think is number 1. I think, when you’re junior the kind of tasks that you’re doing are quite similar wherever you are but what really does change is the culture and how that impacts the people that you’re around, so you know, you need to look at whether you’re a hot headed person or whether you’re very stable headed. Whether you’re Type A, whether you want to be in a very driven environment or whether you want to take it a bit more chilled, what kind of hours you want to do. But I think that all comes down to the kind of people that you want to be around, and what you want their drivers to be.
Making sure the things that are important to you, match the people that you’re going to be working with.