Dy­namic world of in­vestors

In­tel­lec­tu­ally alert, busi­ness-ori­ented self­s­tarters with high en­ergy can as­pire for a ca­reer in in­vest­ment bank­ing, writes Kirsten Lees

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Carrer One -

WHEN I grow up I want to be an in­vest­ment banker’ is not a com­mon catchcry in play­groups and parks around the coun­try. Af­ter all, a dark suit, and a daily com­mute to a city of­fice do not have the ap­peal of, say, driv­ing a train, from the per­spec­tive of an av­er­age four-year-old ca­reer plan­ner.

Yet when we do grow up, in­vest­ment bank­ing is one of the most com­pet­i­tive fields for top grad­u­ates with — ac­cord­ing to Cathy Tomkins of Mer­rill Lynch — a ra­tio of around 100 hope­fuls to ev­ery suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cant. But un­less you have had di­rect ex­po­sure to the world of in­vest­ment bank­ing, it is dif­fi­cult to know ex­actly what it is all about.

It is a world An­drea Fletcher knows well. She has spent 13 years work­ing in eq­ui­ties sales, first in Lon­don with UBS and sub­se­quently with Cit­i­group in Syd­ney. Since the day she first walked onto a trad­ing floor (‘‘It was like walk­ing onto a foot­ball pitch — noisy, manic, full of men’’) to to­day, she says her work­ing life has been one of ex­cite­ment, in­tel­lec­tual chal­lenge and con­stant variety.

I went straight from univer­sity to a trainee­ship with UBS. I didn’t re­ally know what to ex­pect. But there was a great train­ing scheme — a se­ries of three-month ro­ta­tions around the busi­ness ex­pos­ing you to all its ac­tiv­i­ties. In my first year I found my­self visit­ing vast pa­per mills in Swe­den and even had a chance to drive their mas­sive log­ging trucks.’’

Now An­drea is di­rec­tor of eq­uity re­search sales and head of ac­count man­age­ment at Cit­i­group and her role spans both that of eq­uity sales with a port­fo­lio of in­sti­tu­tional clients to whom she pro­vides in­vest­ment ad­vice, and a more strate­gic role head­ing up the ac­count man­age­ment team.

In prac­tice, this means that An­drea has to know a lot. I might need to un­der­stand the pro­duc­tion profile of an oil com­pany, or pro­vide a per­spec­tive on whether a fash­ion house has shipped in too many jack­ets for the win­ter sea­son, for ex­am­ple. I may have one eye on the hur­ri­cane sea­son off Mex­ico and an ear to de­vel­op­ments in treat­ments for sleep ap­noea.’’

It’s this need to know, to be in a po­si­tion to pro­vide an in­formed opin­ion on a con­sid­er­able range of in­dus­tries and busi­nesses and their vi­a­bil­ity within lo­cal and global eco­nomic ebbs and flows, that ex­tends the role of eq­uity sales be­yond the of­fice and en­gages it in ev­ery­day com­merce and with daily life. We deal with busi­nesses as di­verse as tiny com­pa­nies in In­dia, or some­thing as global as Mi­crosoft. Some­times you need to sit down with a CEO, to see the whites of their eyes, if you are go­ing to judge whether they can re­ally make their busi­ness do what they say they can. You don’t know if Wool­worths is a good fresh food re­tailer if you have never vis­ited a Wool­worths, for ex­am­ple,’’ she ex­plains. It also means An­drea has to be ready for any­thing.

It is a very dy­namic en­vi­ron­ment. You can be hav­ing a rel­a­tively re­laxed day, and sud­denly there’s an­nounce­ment like Wes­farm­ers is mak­ing an of­fer for Coles. You need to have an opin­ion straight­away. Clients want to know what it means for them and whether they need to do any­thing about it.’’

Eigh­teen months ago An­drea added to her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties when she ac­cepted the role of head of ac­count man­age­ment. It was a step into the strate­gic side of the busi­ness, look­ing at longer-term trends and struc­tural changes in the mar­kets. It means cre­at­ing busi­ness plans and ad­vis­ing on al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources to max­imise our re­turns from the busi­ness. It has also been an op­por­tu­nity to step into man­age­ment and to man­age a team.’’

Michelle Jablko of UBS switched ca­reers from com­mer­cial law to join an in­vest­ment bank, and con­sid­ers it the best de­ci­sion I have ever made’’. Now ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of in­vest­ment bank­ing, Michelle spe­cialises in merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions, ad­vis­ing com­pa­nies about merg­ing with other busi­nesses or grow­ing their busi­ness through buy­ing other com­pa­nies.

It’s an ex­cit­ing busi­ness. I get a buzz from the large trans­ac­tions, and the fact that we get to see the trans­ac­tions right through. We think up ideas, take them to the client, and then work with them to re­alise them. It is strate­gic and tac­ti­cal.

We work with high qual­ity clients and the top ech­e­lon of in­ter­na­tional and Aus­tralian busi­ness. Ev­ery­day has an in­ter­na­tional per­spec­tive, whether it is Aus­tralian com­pa­nies look­ing to in­vest in­ter­na­tion­ally or in­ter­na­tional busi­nesses look­ing at Aus­tralia. Ev­ery­day there are new men­tal chal­lenges. I love what I do.’’

It is this pas­sion for her job that Michelle con­sid­ers to be a key to her suc­cess. It’s not a job that you can be half-hearted about. It’s peo­ple who love what they do that go the ex­tra mile, and that makes them suc­cess­ful.’’ Michelle also em­pha­sises the im­por­tance of re­la­tion­ship skills.

In­vest­ment bank­ing is about hav­ing trusted re­la­tion­ships with clients. Tech­ni­cal skills are im­por­tant — but the bank has ex­perts in the var­i­ous dis­ci­plines that you can call on. Ac­count­ing and fi­nan­cial skills are cer­tainly help­ful, but 95 per cent of what I do, I learned on the job. In the end the job is about cre­at­ing and main­tain­ing trusted re­la­tion­ships. We work with our clients over a long pe­riod in the hope that when they need to do busi­ness, they will read­ily look to us as part­ners they can trust.’’

Nei­ther Michelle nor An­drea are ready to move on from their cur­rent roles in the short term, but see their ex­pe­ri­ence and the busi­ness net­works they are de­vel­op­ing as great door open­ers when they are ready for new chal­lenges.

Peo­ple go into a variety of ven­tures — nonex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor­ships, or they might start their own busi­nesses. There is no short­age of op­tions, the chal­lenge will be find­ing some­thing that is as stim­u­lat­ing and as chal­leng­ing as the work I do now,’’ says Michelle.

What do you do if you would like to get into in­vest­ment bank­ing?

Tomkins, re­spon­si­ble for grad­u­ate re­cruit­ment at Mer­rill Lynch In­vest­ment Bank, says that en­try into the in­dus­try is com­pet­i­tive, and that lead­ing in­vest­ment banks at­tract some of the high­estlevel aca­demic achiev­ers. But she stresses it is not ex­clu­sively about achiev­ing per­fect scores. We look for mo­ti­vated all-rounders who are able to ar­tic­u­late why they want to go into in­vest­ment bank­ing. It is an ex­tremely re­ward­ing ca­reer, but it re­quires a lot of hard work. From their first year, our re­cruits are de­liv­er­ing our global plat­form to our clients.’’

An­drea Fletcher agrees that it is not sim­ply a ques­tion of high marks. It is a given that we want bright peo­ple, but when I look at CVs I want to see peo­ple who can demon­strate they are self­s­tarters. Whether they are pulling pints or sell­ing ham­burg­ers, if they are get­ting out and tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity and show­ing ini­tia­tive then that is a def­i­nite tick. Peo­ple who are in­volved in teams — rugby, net­ball or de­bat­ing com­mit­tees — come across well. Fi­nally, it is im­por­tant to re­ally un­der­stands what we do. Peo­ple who think eq­uity trad­ing is all about Michael Douglas in Wall Street, don’t im­press.’’

The lead­ing in­vest­ment banks re­cruit on cam­pus ev­ery year. There is also a range of sum­mer in­tern­ships that univer­sity stu­dents can ap­ply for. Mer­rill Lynch awards an an­nual schol­ar­ship giv­ing po­ten­tial re­cruits the op­por­tu­nity to work at the bank for around three months.

The re­cruit­ment process is rig­or­ous and de­mand­ing al­though we try and make it straight­for­ward,’’ Tomkins em­pha­sises. We re­alise stu­dents are busy with pa­pers, ex­ams and so on. We make sure that all ap­pli­cants have the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with lots of dif­fer­ent peo­ple through­out the bank. They get to know the busi­ness — and ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion is an op­por­tu­nity for us to as­sess them. We aim to sort through and find the in­tel­lec­tual rigour we need, and the pas­sion that makes in­vest­ment bankers suc­cess­ful. It is a high en­ergy de­mand­ing in­dus­try. We want to get it right.’’

Once re­cruited, in­vest­ment banks (de­spite, or per­haps be­cause of some high-profile cases) are now among those or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing the hard­est to re­tain their tal­ent with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on as­sist­ing women to stay on in the work­force.

Pic­ture: Gra­ham Crouch

Com­pet­i­tive: Cathy Tomkins, of Mer­rill Lynch, says in­vest­ment banks are dif­fi­cult to get into

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