Q&A: Greta Kessel, Managing Director, JPMorgan Chase

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"Most important is the willingness to work hard. Investment banking can be rewarding but you work a lot of hours. You have to give 100 percent, all of the time."

How did you become a managing director?

I've been in investment banking at JP Morgan for 10 years now. I started out in the New York office as a summer associate, and now I'm a managing director in our Los Angeles office. I'm responsible for the consumer and retail sectors. We work with smaller consumer companies, which could include raising start-up capital. And we assist Fortune 100 companies in areas such as debt and equity financing and M&A. Before working in corporate finance I spent five years in general consulting after I graduated from college.

Could you describe a typical day?

There is no such thing as a typical day. It's never the same. That being said, I usually work on several live transactions with clients, whether it be working on M&A transactions, financing or client marketing activities, such as pitches. I spend the bulk of my time with clients, meeting with senior officials - CEOs, CFOs, as well as deal teams - those people who are involved in a corporate transaction within the company. In terms of my work load, I spend a lot of time in pitches with a client or preparing for meetings. In most transactions, my analysis consists of taking details from a model and figuring out a solution. It might be to identify strategic alternatives for a client, or figure out ways to increase shareholder value.

What skills are critical in investment banking?

Most important is the willingness to work hard. Investment banking can be rewarding but you work a lot of hours. You have to give 100 percent, all of the time. In addition, you need to have a strong analytical background. This is important in being able to think through various alternatives for clients. Of course, a strong foundation in finance and accounting is critical. You can pick that up in school, specifically in courses in mergers and acquisitions, accounting and capital markets. You can also develop it through on-the-job training. I relied heavily on JPMorgan's training program, which included formal and informal training on the job.

How can aspiring investment bankers get a leg up?

First, you should be reading the major financial and business publications. Develop an understanding of market trends - those issues and prevailing themes in the markets. Also stay abreast of current deals in the market. For someone in school, you can join clubs that cater toward finance and investments. They're good at helping you prepare for interviews, sample case studies, and meeting professionals in investment banking. You also can develop an understanding of the cultures and different banks. It's quite important that you do your due diligence on the types of cultures present at different firms. You want to be aware of those differences and be a part of a firm that you fit in.

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