From the monthly archives:

December 2013

Investment banking is a unique career. Even if you’re on the lowest rung of the ladder, you’re making what in any other field of endeavor would be considered a very nice living.  If you get laid off, you’re handed a severance package which proves that it pays better to be out of work on Wall Street than to have a job anywhere else.

If you even suspect you’re not worth the job, you’re done for. To land an investment banking job, you need to have more brass than a tuba factory.

Fortunately, experts have identified at least five steps to make the interviewer to show you the love you so obviously deserve.

  1. Sit up straight. An Ohio State University study suggests a link between good seated posture and believing that you’re qualified for the job. Findings published in the European Journal of Social Psychology showed that 71 students were much more confident in their capabilities as future professionals if they were reminded to sit up straight and stick their chests out while performing activities at computer terminals.
  2. Embrace the silence. According to Payscale.com contributor Jen Hubley Luckwaldt, don’t chatter nervously. You may feel like you’re filling an awkward silence, but your interviewer is more likely to just be pausing to sort out his or her thoughts before moving on to another topic.
  3. Don’t talk — converse. If you’re really confident, then you can roll with the moment. You don’t need to rehearse everything you’re going to say. Don’t put yourself in a position when you’re just letting the other person talk because it’s his or her turn. Be an active listener and responder. You shouldn’t be afraid of other perspectives, especially if they’re sanctioned by the corporate culture you’re looking to join.
  4. Care. There’s something to be said about being your authentic self – a person with honest emotions. That’s the one thing that there’s just no app for. Remember: You’re meeting with a hiring manager from the front office. Enthusiasm goes a long way, according to content marketing expert Sean Platt. “Be happy and excited, and allow the world to see it,” he says. “Your joy will be infectious, your confidence contagious.”
  5. Don’t be a name-dropper. This is a bit of a fine line, admittedly. After all, they’re going to ask for references so you’d better know somebody. Even so, you do need to back-pedal a little here. According to Grindstone.com contributor Lisa Marie Basile, a lot of it has to do with delivery. “Instead of saying, ‘I was totes bests with Sarah — your assistant director — in college,’ go for, ‘I had the pleasure of knowing Sarah, your assistant director, during college. I’ve learned a lot from her.'”

Both Platt’s and Basile’s articles provide even more sage advice about displaying confidence, whether you feel it or not. Follow their advice and likely you’ll feel even more confidence heading home from the interview than you did heading there in the first place.

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Chances are, if you’re pursuing an investment banking career, you’ve sent a curricula vitae to UBS and any number of its tangled nest of affiliates and subsidiaries. It is, after all, the biggest bank in Switzerland, making it the largest conglomeration of private wealth in the world.

Chances are also pretty good you got exactly nowhere there. UBS laid off 5,000 bankers and, as of this writing, have planned 10,000 more job cuts as it winds down its fixed income operainvestment banks hiringtions.

The good news is that, if you’ve got UBS on your resume, you probably will have little trouble teeing up a new job. But even if you couldn’t find Basel with Google Maps, a GPS, and a Predator drone, you can still take aim at where the jobs are going.

According to British web site eFinancialCareers.com, the biggest surge in hiring former UBS bankers was by cross-town rivals Credit Suisse, with JPMorgan a very close second. After that, the deluge: Citigroup, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, and Deutsche Bank. Then comes the Japanese banks Mizuho International and Nomura.

But then something odd happens with the histogram put together by reporter Paul Clarke: Interspersed with the other bigfoot investment banks are a number of boutique investment banking houses that count UBS’s loss of talent as their gain. You’re probably already alerting Goldman Sachs and HSBC of your immediate availability and willingness to relocate, but what about VTB CapitalCanaccord GenuityBTG PactualKnight Capital, or Macquarie?

The thing about that list is that it focuses on quantity. Boutique firms have been aggressively courting and winning some of UBS’s top-tier talent. If you’ve never heard of Code Advisors, Liberum Capital, AgFe LLP, or Broad Securities, well, don’t worry. Neither have we. But they are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hiring the movers and shakers whom UBS has shaken off.

UBS-boutiques

Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of these organizations are going to hire any specific individual with a UBS pedigree. It certainly doesn’t mean that they are hitting “refresh” every minute on their inboxes waiting for your resume.

But it is illustrative of one very important aspect of the job hunt: you don’t need to be with a big bank.  And you certainly don’t need that in order to make the most money. You don’t need it to have the highest prestige. You don’t even need it for career advancement, considering how people in the investment banking industry jump around once they get past the entry level.

If the big banks are downsizing, maybe it’s because smaller, under-the-radar players are wooing away their top talent. Maybe your path to a satisfying investment banking career is through a less well-recognized firm – but one where you can make an immediate impact. All you need is to know where to look.

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Every year, somewhere between $35 billion and $50 billion in capital is raised via initial public offering of company stock in the United States. According to Renaissance Capital, that accounts for around one hundred and two hundred new ticker symbols a year — not exactly standing still, but not exactly a torrid pace. It is, however, a steady pace. With the exception of the go-go days of the tech bubble in the late 1990s, trading in equities has been considered the sleepy, unimaginative end of the financial services sector. Certainly, it wouldn’t appear there’s a lot of room for investment banking job growth there, whether it’s in IPO advisory services, securities trading or company research.

So why is it that equity options is so hot right now? Then again, who cares why? It’s growing prodigiously, so maybe that suggests a more target-rich environment for finding Wall Street jobs.

According to an industry group called the Options Industry Council, almost 361 million contracts on equities or exchange-traded funds changed hands in October 2013, almost a 24 percent increase over same period the previous year. Even so, the year-to-date growth doesn’t quite break 2 percent.

Therefore does it make sense that, as the Aite Group reports, there were only seven U.S.-based equity option exchanges in 2010 but there are now at least 12? Consider also that volumes dropped — as you’d expect — during the early days of the Great Recession, and then dropped again — this time taking open interest with it — over the course of 2012. Further consider the technical glitches that have always been part and parcel of derivatives trading. Finally, consider the regulatory scrutiny that is currently being directed at Wall Street.  According to Aite senior analyst Howard Tai, the real question is whether or not 12 is enough.

While we puzzle that one out, let’s just roll with one takeaway: they are hiring.

You might want to make an inquiry at any of these young bourses:

As you might suspect, working at these exchanges involves a certain information technology savvy that goes beyond the typical analyst’s SAS and Microsoft Excel capabilities. Still, if you’re looking for an financial services career, maybe it’s time to embrace that the future is now and come to grips with the fact that programming skill is quickly becoming an integral part of the investment banker’s toolkit. That holds true even if you’re applying for positions at such venerable options exchanges as NYSE Euronext, Nasdaq OMX or the Chicago Board Options Exchange.

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