From the monthly archives:

February 2011

If your ideal investment banking job requires skills you don’t have … or if you have been let go recently and you’re unemployed … should you settle for a lesser job or something easier to land? Not according to Win Sheffield, a New York City career coach, whose job search wisdom was highlighted in a recent article in Forbes online.

Turns out the deciding factor in many hiring decisions isn’t a candidate’s skills. It’s their enthusiasm for the job, says Sheffield. Recruiters confirm it. Put yourself in the employer’s shoes. All else being equal, wouldn’t your rather have a candidate who’s dying for that job and ready to do anything to learn it, rather than someone who’s simply applying because it’s the best option they have at the moment?

The trouble is, not being able to land a job, or losing your job, tends to undermine your self-confidence. So after a while, you may begin to narrow your search and go after lesser job options, simply because they may be easier to get. Sheffield lists a bunch of examples: 1) going after jobs in sectors that don’t interest you; 2) pursuing a lower-level job, because it might be easier to land; 3) only looking for entry-level jobs, if you are new to an industry or function and don’t have a lot of experience; or 4) only looking for jobs that closely match your past or current job description, even if you weren’t happy with this work.

The truth is, people change jobs all the time. And today’s graduates will work in jobs and industry sectors that may not have even existed 5 years ago. So employers today are looking for candidates who really want a particular job and can demonstrate their enthusiasm for it, above all. If you wind up getting hired for a job your don’t really want, sooner or later you’re going to feel bored or unmotivated. And employers know this.

That’s why Sheffield suggests that you only pursue opportunities that light your fire. It makes the arduous process of hunting and landing that job easier, too.

If you’re not happy with where you are now, take a look at what has inspired you in the past. What are your interests? What are you curious about? By pursuing your passion, your enthusiasm in the job interview shines through. It also leads you to jobs that you may not even know existed.

What about you? Have you reached the point of frustration that you’re finding yourself applying for jobs that aren’t in investment banking, or really what you’re dreaming of? Add your comments below.

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At a time when the big banks in New York, London and Europe face closer scrutiny and political backlash against big bonuses for those in investment banking jobs, the action seems to be shifting eastward.

Total investment banking revenues from the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) jumped 56% in 2010 to $12.2 billion, rising to nearly a quarter of the industry, according to data from Dealogic published in The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal cites fund-raising efforts by Chinese companies as helping to make Hong Kong’s stock exchange the busiest the world for the second straight year. The Agricultural Bank of China’s IPO, for instance, raised $22 billion last year in Shanghai and Hong Kong, a close second to the largest IPO, General Motor’s $23.1 billion in 2010.

Global investment banks are focusing their diminished bonus pool on their fastest-growing region, Asia, and the battle for top talent in the region is also heating up. A regional head of equity capital markets, which focuses on initial public offerings and public stock placements, can earn between $1 million to $3 million in cash and stock.

Bonuses will vary greatly from bank to bank. But lower industry revenues overall and small bonus pools are creating a distinct polarization between stars and also-rans, as opposed to spreading the bonus pool around. Senior bankers who aren’t top rainmakers are less likely to get big bonuses because they are less likely to jump ship in this environment.

“A banker working on two large IPOs or M&A transaction may get a higher bonus than a banker that works on 10 smaller IPOs or deals during the same year, whereas traders will have a small (or no) bonus in a bad year and very good bonuses in bumper years,” according to Marco Kaster, a mergers & acquisitions consultant for Asia Pacific at Towers Watson.

The real estate sector is hot in Asia, spawning a number of IPOs. Bankers predict more real estate-related deals this year. Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Holdings, the property flagship of billionaire Li Ka-shing, is set to raise around US$3 billion in from a yuan-denominated IPO, which is a first outside of mainland China.

What’s your take? Are you seeing a shift in your firm toward more activity in the Far East? Add your comments below.

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We focus a lot on skill sets for an investment banking job in this column. We’ve talked about how important it is to know the numbers, to be able to crank out Excel spreadsheets and financial models with your eyes closed. But there is apparently another skill set that can earn you a pile of money in an investment banking job in a short period of time: the golden rolodex.

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has come under fire lately in his campaign for Chicago mayor for his 2 ½ year stint in investment banking. In 1998, as Emanuel left his post in the Clinton White House, he was recruited by Bruce Wasserstein, a major donor to Clinton and other Democrats, to join the Chicago firm of Wasserstein, Perella & Co. 

Despite having no previous experience in investment banking, Emanuel became managing director at the firm and reportedly had a hand in several major deals, according to an article in the Chicago Sun Times. One was an $8.2 billion merger between Chicago Unicom and Philadelphia Peco, that created Commonwealth Edison, one of the leading energy companies in the Chicago area. Emanuel also oversaw GTCR Golder Rauner’s purchase of SecurityLink from SBC Ameritech. His firm, Wasserstein, Perella, was sold twice during his tenure, as well, which added to Emanuel’s profit.

All told, Emanuel ended up earning $18.5 million dollars as an investment banker in the 2 ½ years he spent at the firm. But that’s not surprising or unusual for the handful of individuals who can connect business leaders at the very highest level.

“Look, he’s a smart guy, he knows a lot of people — he’s got a golden Rolodex, incredible access, great recognition, he can get the right people in front of the decision-makers,” said Jeffrey Golman, head of investment banking for Mesirow Financial.

Others concur: “You don’t need any special training to be a good banker,” agreed John Canning Jr., chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners and an Emanuel supporter. “He understood synergies and he understood business. He had the interpersonal skills, and he also had the smarts, and he’s aggressive.”

So clearly there are two paths to the top of investment banking. Either the hard slog of working your way up from analyst and slowly developing your network. Or parlaying a golden rolodex into a position of deal-maker at a top firm.

Fair or unfair? Or just reality? Add your comments below.

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Investment Banking Job Pay Jumps to Record Levels

February 7, 2011

Total compensation and benefits for jobs at publicly traded Wall Street investment banks and securities firms hit a record of $135 billion in 2010, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. That’s up 5.7% from 2009. The increase was driven by higher revenues, especially at the larger firms reporting their results. However, deferred […]

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