Voices of Experience

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Senior professionals from around the world offer advice to students on investment banking careers.

Peter Marber, global head of GEM fixed income and currencies, HSBC Halbis Partners

  • Try to find firms that commit to people versus a specific skill set. That way, if the firm's goals change, your colleagues will help you evolve professionally.
  • Stay flexible. The world is moving at a dizzying speed, and you may have to make decisions quickly to stay ahead.
  • Remember: Your first job as an MBA probably won't be your last. Don't obsess too much on getting the "perfect job."

Kelly Gately, CFA, vice president in private wealth management, Mellon Financial Corporation

  • Find a manager to help your career development and a mentor to help plot your path.
  • It is important to network and to be a team player.
  • Volunteer for special projects that help differentiate you and help you gain entry to the next level.

Richard Deutsch, head of European credit research, BNP Paribas

  • Move around in product areas a little. This enables you to discover what you really want to do. Learning different products provides the practical benefit that you will not be too exposed if one boss leaves or your current product area becomes less profitable.
  • When you begin your career, focus on opportunities and learning prospects, not the money. If you choose correctly, the money will come.

Cindy Ferrara, head of equity derivatives hedge fund sales, Citigroup

  • Be persistent and get your foot in the door; people can't hear why you're so great if they haven't met you.
  • Always ask for what you want, but don't confuse being assertive with being aggressive (people like assertive, aggressive seems to scare!).
  • Work closely with your peers in a genuinely team-spirited way. People always remember those who are helpful and make everyone look good, not just themselves.

Mark Warham, head of U.K. mergers and acquisitions, Morgan Stanley

  • It is not enough to decide simply, "I want to work in financial services." You need to dig deeper to understand the differing aspects of the various roles, and which one suits you best.
  • When starting out, give weight to how wide the institution's training program is and the breadth of experience it can offer.
  • Above all, talk to as many people as possible before making your applications and decisions. Family, friends, relations, college alumni... all can offer you views and perspectives to

    help inform your judgment.

Michelle Smith, senior vice president, Wachovia Securities

  • Be honest with yourself about what you are good at.
  • Ask for feedback from people you respect to identify your weaknesses.
  • Partner with a more senior person to study and learn the person's practice.

Simon Widig, partner, Close Brothers Private Equity

  • Get broad experience before you specialize; the large integrated houses can offer different disciplines, geographies and languages, so they make a good training ground.
  • Remember that business is about relationships; you must be personable to get along, yet strong enough to make tough decisions where necessary. It's useful to gain knowledge of human behavior, body language and negotiating skills as early as you can.

Karen Olney, director and European equity strategist, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein

  • The financial markets are often fast-paced and abrupt, but don't take any early criticism too personally thereby wasting a great opportunity.
  • Aim to be very good at what you do, but never be afraid to admit when you don't know something - once the trust is gone it's very hard to regain it.
  • Find quiet time (or a hideout) to ready up on related current affairs or research. It gives you a fresh and well thought-out perspective on things.

Jon Moulton, managing director and founding partner, Alchemy, a U.K. private equity firm

  • Essential to a long career: Have high standards of integrity towards others and yourself.
  • Stay up with the technicalities - or else someone else will.
  • Dead boring but a huge advantage: Be good at mental arithmetic. No one else is!

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