Ask the Expert: Switch to I-Banking Not Easy

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A. It's true that you will tap well-honed skills while covering companies at an investment bank, yet you're right to anticipate a challenging transition-in more ways than one.

Notably, investment banking is an exceedingly relationship-oriented business, where the onus is on you to cultivate these ties with potential clients. Most likely this marks a sea change from your current buyside job, where the companies you cover dedicate themselves to courting your favor. Even if this switch is acceptable to you, realize that senior people can be a bit, ahem, proprietary about their relationships. 'You'll need to be careful positioning yourself to get permission to cover clients that will give you the platform to show your skill set to the fullest,' cautions executive coach Maggie Craddock.

Even after you successfully negotiate that particular minefield, proving yourself can be even more challenging. 'In asset management, you're always able to prove your worth based on your recommendations and actual performance in the market,' notes Craddock. 'In investment banking, the workout time in terms of profitability is a little bit longer.' Your compensation can also be wildly discretionary and, deal credit aside, dependent on a host of internal political factors.

Also, while asset management may have a reputation as a sleepier milieu than investment banking, you may yearn for market-driven hours as a banker, where you can count on frequent all-nighters and weekends under the fluorescent sun.

On the positive side, an investment banking career can be extremely lucrative and potentially very exciting. But banks can be a bit myopic about who they hire.

'It is hard to make that transfer from buyside to sellside despite the obvious transferal of skill sets,' says executive recruiter Patricia Wieser of Russell Reynolds. 'The investment bankers tend to hire people from business school and put them through a set program with set times of promotion. However, on the analyst research side, there is a bit more movement between sellside and buyside, and the best way to do that is to network within your sector on the sellside.'

Start talking with your contacts in or connected to the investment banking arena. Be prepared to show how your asset management experience can be an asset on the investment banking side too. 'But be practical,' warns outplacement counselor Rod Williams of Lee Hecht Harrison. 'Even though the skills are in large part transferable, this isn't necessarily a straight line move and will probably involve starting at a lower level so that you can learn the business from the ground up.'

If you're still set on making this transition after reading this, congratulations. You've shown the will to persevere against the odds, and that will serve you well no matter which path you follow.

Next week's question:

Four months ago, I received a call from another firm offering me a position with 30% more comp and more responsibility. I met with them once, and it seemed to go well , but I didn't hear anything for three weeks, at which point they said they want to meet with five more people. My main contact keeps assuring me it's part of the process and they want me, but it seems to be going very slowly. What's happening here? Also, the longer this drags on, the more concerned I am that word will get back to my current group. Should I be worried?

What would you advise? Send your answer to ASK THE EXPERT.

Look out for the Experts' answer to this dilemma and readers' comments on Ask the Expert next week. If you would like to submit a question to our panel of experts, expertadmin@efinancialcareers.com .

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