Preparing for a Move in Corporate Banking

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Successful corporate bankers - those who provide services to large companies and governments - are rarely active job seekers and almost never job hoppers. When a new opportunity does find them, they must consider how a move could affect their client base as well as themselves.

Whether you're moving to start a product line or earn more money, you'll want to make sure clients will come along to your new institution. Beyond obvious issues like product match, business culture can make or break the new deal.

"You have to understand their culture, and that won't happen in a phone screen by a recruiter or during dinner with the regional vice president," says Walter McFarland, vice president of strategic consulting, commercial banking at Wells Fargo Bank in St. Paul, Minn., of your potential new employer. "You have to understand how they're viewed in the marketplace."

If you don't fit into the culture of your new bank, or if the bank's viewpoint on, say, risk causes you to lose customers, a leap made for your own financial gain could backfire. If the new position doesn't work out, you'll be faced with the task of asking your customers to move their treasury management for a second time, along with all the other products you've sold them, McFarland observes.

If You're Going

If you're sure you and your customer base are a good fit with the new institution, preparation can help convince potential employers you're the right person for the job. "Research the company's competitors within the market so you can speak intelligently about the firm," recommends Carole Lustig, a partner with Strategic Recruiting, Inc., in New York. "Bring along a deal sheet outlining the deals you've done to give a scope of what you've accomplished in the past few years."

To keep your job hunt under the radar, bring a list of references that includes previous employers or previous deal participants, such as a lawyer or an accountant whom you trust not to tell anyone at your current bank what you're up to, she says.

After the interview, think carefully about what to say in your thank-you note. "Sometimes the thank you letter can kill the deal," warns Michelle Sotnikow executive director, accounting and finance at New York-based United Staffing Systems. Don't be afraid to ask your recruiter to review the letter before you send it. "I know what the client wants to hear and see," says Sotnikow. "I can get feedback from the department or the HR professional about how the candidate did, and help the candidate use the letter to highlight strengths and shore up weakness."

Listen to Your Gut

If, during the interview process, your instincts say you and your clients won't fit, move on, recommends Merlin House, a recruiter and associate partner for the Lucas Group's office in Dallas. Forget about the second-round interview.

"Don't waste time trying to fit into a situation that isn't going to work. You think that by using your positive attitude the company will change or you can change. That's not going to happen," he says. "Trust your gut. It's telling you the truth nine time out of ten."

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