Becoming successful in any field requires a lot of work and a bit of luck. However, when you step into highly competitive and often unpredictable career fields such as investment banking, you’ll need more than that.
In fact, Wall Street is full of washed-out bankers who did everything by the book, yet somehow they found themselves on the wrong end of the stick. If you want to become successful in investment banking, you’ll need to develop some of these 7 habits that top-tier investment bankers have.
1. Persistence is Key
Determination is everything in investment banking. This business is largely about whom you know and how good of a relationship you have with them. Selling a good pitch to a potential investor is all it takes to get your hands on a massive chunk of capital, yet not everyone can do this. Persistency is key when networking.
Get yourself out there and make sure that your name is known within the circles you’re trying to infiltrate. Just like marketing and customer satisfaction matter for a business, they also matter for your personal reputation.
Be where they are, frequent the same bars, go to the same golf courses, eat at the same restaurants. Most importantly, learn how to negotiate.
2. Work on Your Charm
If you’ve ever seen Mad Men, you’ve probably familiar with the character of Don Draper. Although he’s a completely fictional character, the writers of the show did get one thing right — the power of charm. Don is an ad man, which is a whole different ballgame compared to investment banking, yet his ability to sell a pitch is something most investment bankers could benefit from.
Reaching that level of charm and self-confidence can turn you into a proper weapon in this business. Your degree, your experience, and your ideas won’t matter much if you can’t put on a good show in those 30 minutes you’ve got to do a presentation for a potential client. Fortunately, charm is something you can actually work on, contrary to popular belief.
3. Adapt and Overcome
Bear Grylls isn’t an investment banker, at least not to our knowledge, but his universal advice works in this field as well. You need to be able to adapt and overcome whatever challenges come down your way. And there will be challenges, be sure of that.
Working with demanding clients, taking care of issues with different accounts, people pulling out of deals last minute, you name it. In fact, figuring out how to get into investment banking is a good example of one’s ability to adapt to adverse situations and overcome challenges. Simply landing a job in a good firm will put you through your paces.
4. Be Their Friend, Not Just Their Investment Banker
Working with clients in investment banking will place you in a position where you have two choices — maintain the professional relationship you have with your clients, or go a step further and become their friend.
Once again, we have to reiterate that relationships are everything in this business. Who you know and who you’re close with can determine the outcome of a pitch. Becoming a friend with a client means establishing rapport outside work, but more importantly, taking care of them during work hours. Talk to your client and figure out what they need.
Learn how you can help them grow their business and what you can do for them on your end. Showing this kind of effort will not only make them appreciate you more, but you’ll establish a relationship that will last for years to come.
5. Don’t Be a Stranger to Risk
Taking risks in any industry is preferable, if not necessary for growth. Of course, not all risks are worth taking, but if an opportunity arises that can greatly improve your career, take it. Take it even if it puts your way outside your comfort zone.
Raises and promotions often come with a caveat that may or may not align with your current goals. If you make your goals flexible and accept such offers, you’ll quickly find more and more of them coming your way. Before you know it, you’ll be a partner in a massive firm.
6. Grow a Thick Skin
It’s no secret that investment banking is a highly stressful field. You’ll be dealing with all kinds of situations as you advance through the ranks. Your clients will be unhappy at times, your bosses will scream at you for whatever reason, and sometimes you’ll yell at other people. The key is to not take any of it personally.
This business is constantly pushing people to their limits. Those who can’t take the stress will often let their emotions take over. If you can eliminate your emotions from the equation that is investment banking, you’ll be ahead of the curve as far as stress goes. This is one profession where having thick skin is a valuable asset.
7. Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Enemies Closer
Another truth about investment banking is that it’s a highly competitive industry. You’ll be constantly working against at least several other investment bankers who will do their best to snatch your business any chance they have. Focusing on clients is a good strategy, but you also need to keep an eye on your competition.
Depending on how far up the food chain you are, you might need to be more aggressive with information gathering. Staying one step, or better yet two steps ahead of the competition is a great way to keep your business and always maintain a solid lead.
The Work Never Ends
Lastly, most successful investment bankers don’t have work hours. The work never ends. Depending on who your clients are and who you work for, you can expect calls in the middle of the night.
Maintaining this kind of lifestyle without losing your sanity is arguably one of the most important precursors for success in investment banking. We hope you’ve found these tips at least somewhat helpful. Don’t worry if you can’t check all the boxes on this list. After all, most of the stuff we’ve discussed above can be learned.