How to build a career in investment banking

The Prepped Team

September 1, 2020

6 minutes


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The financial services industry is a broad space that offers the opportunity for a long and dynamic career. Not only is it one of the most innovative and exciting industries you can join, but it’s also an industry that allows you to learn and advance in a number of different fields. To get some insight into what it means to be in finance and what it takes to break into the industry, Prepped spoke to two experts: Jesse Coote and Joel Robinson.

A look inside the investment banking industry with trusted experts

Coote works as an analyst at RBC Global Asset Management. He actually started off in mechanical engineering before going back to school to get his MBA (Master of Business Administration).“Right now, I work for about nine or ten portfolio managers; each one has a variety of mandates. My day-to-day is very dynamic, which I love. I know a lot of people picture my job as an analyst as somebody’s who’s sitting there doing ETF (exchange-traded fund) models all day. It’s actually more holistic. I spend a lot of time talking with portfolio managers about ideas and how we can reflect certain trends we see in macro environments.” When Coote was asked about whether college or university was best for his current line of work, he had an interesting response. “I don’t think it’s that one is better, it’s what are you going to do with the opportunity it provides you. The MBA provided me with a very broad opportunity. I had the opportunity to explore and asked myself: do I want to go into consulting, do I want to go into finance, do I want to work in a different industry altogether? It opened those doors and allowed me to have conversations with people I otherwise wouldn’t have met.”

The skills required to get into investment banking

You may think that technical skills and understanding the industry are the most important assets in getting into financial services. And while those are critical pieces of information, Coote says it takes more than that. “The skillset that is desired in the industry goes well beyond just finance. A lot of what was useful or transferable was that I knew how to manage projects, and even my curiosity to learn were probably the most important skills that people were looking for and probably served me best in my career.” Joel Robinson works for Russell Investments as the regional director across southwest Ontario. He has a similar message when asked about what skills are seen as necessary to get into the financial services industry. “Having people skills is probably the most important thing,” Robinson says. “Some of the biggest advisor teams that I work with are managing well over a billion dollars. They’re very good at getting to know people, getting to know what makes them tick, reading people, and they’ll have people on their team do more of the technical things. So having a mix of technical and people skills is very important.”

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Remember to network and stay positive while navigating the industry

Even with the right mix of skills, getting the opportunity to showcase what you can do might not always be easy. Financial services is a competitive industry and one where you really need to be knowledgeable in order to advance. Robinson says the best thing you can do is not get down on yourself and be as persistent as possible when just getting started. “Don’t get discouraged,” he says. “I remember going to twenty different bank branches in Ottawa and dropping off my resume and no one calling me, but eventually someone did. I’d say try to meet as many people as you can. It’s about learning to leverage your network.” Log in to your Prepped account to gain access to professional templates that will set you up for success when reaching out to your network. Not sure where to begin when it comes to networking? Learn how to reach out to someone for a networking coffee meeting, or find out how to network like a pro with tips and tricks from networking expert, Kelly Hoey.

Designations to prepare you for the industry

When asked about specific designations that would be useful, Robinson says taking the time to get a CSC, which is a Canadian Securities Course, would be a good place to start. It helps give you a good overview of the financial and investment world. On the advisory side, Robinson suggests the CFP or PFP, which is the Certified Financial Planner or Personal Financial Planner designation.

Advice for newcomers to Canada seeking a career in financial services and investment banking

Can newcomers to Canada break into the financial services industry? According to Robinson, the short answer is yes. Starting at retail banking doesn’t take any of the above-mentioned designations and is a great way to “get your feet wet” in the financial services industry. “But once you start getting into a role where you start giving advice to clients,” Robinson says. “They’ll generally want you to at least do your IFC (financial licence) to get licensed to sell mutual funds.” Coote says for his position; there is no specific designation that’s required, although he does mention that the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) is “table stakes.” That just means it’s something most people in the industry have under their belt. Coote is currently working on level three of his CFA.

Start your career with help from Prepped

The financial service industry is an excellent career path for those seeking a fast-paced environment. It also provides an opportunity to work at a large bank or smaller asset management firms. There's a variety of roles to choose from within the industry. Especially for those interested in technology, depending on which sector of the industry you enter. Watch the full webinar with Coote and Robinson for more great insights about breaking into the financial services industry. And don't forget to sign up for Prepped so you can gain access to our learning library. We’ll help you identify your skills and capabilities and create an elevator pitch to help with networking so you can land the job you’ve always wanted.