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Q&A: A senior Credit Suisse banker explains why she thinks attitude is more important than expertise when she's hiring

Marisa Drew is a managing director in the investment banking division of Credit Suisse, based in London. She is also co-head of the global markets solutions group and co-head of leveraged finance origination and restructuring and a member of the investment banking management committee.

This is Marisa:


How long have you been working in financial services?

25 years-hard to believe!.

Has your career path been conventional or capricious?

I'd use the word 'circuitous.' I started out as an analyst in investment banking in 1986 and did the two year analyst programme, which was quite structured in those days.

The expectation was that you would stay in investment banking for two years and then leave to do an MBA. However, after two years I ended up going into private equity instead of business school and from private equity I became an entrepreneur and ran a business for a couple of years. After that, I finally went to Wharton and did an MBA. And from Wharton, I came back into investment banking.

What matters most: talent or hard work?

In this business, you need an innate facility with numbers and some sales skills. But in my honest opinion, nothing trumps hard work, passion and commitment. The people who are successful are usually those who are really dedicated and who have that passion.

What would you always advise people to do before they step into an interview with you?

They should look for ways in which their prior experience is applicable to the role they're applying for. Those links may not be immediately obvious. For example, I was at a woman's recruiting event recently and a woman I was talking to said she had no relevant skills. However, when I asked what she'd done in her previous jobs it transpired that she'd worked in a well known bridal store. Superficially, working in a bridal store may not seem comparable to investment banking - but there are definite similarities. Brides preparing for their wedding day can be stressed and demanding - as can the executives at companies preparing for a sale. It's all about trying to frame your experiences in a way that they become relevant to the job you're applying for.

You'll also need to think of ways in which you can use your past experience to demonstrate leadership and passion. I'd always take a chance on someone with a non-traditional background who can demonstrate those characteristics. You can teach people about the business, but you can't make someone into the kind of person who's determined to be successful and to make things happen.

What do you know now about working in banking that you wish you'd known 15 years ago?

15 years ago, I always assumed everyone knew much more than me - even my peers. If I'd appreciated at that early stage that we were all at the same place on the knowledge curve, I would have had more confidence in myself.

I also wish that I'd appreciated that sometimes you can be on the wrong side of a decision which is political or structural in nature, which you have no power to control and which has no reflection on your skills or capabilities. For example, if you are passed over for promotion it can knock your confidence and lead you to question your skill set. I would spend a whole lot less time worrying about those sorts of things. Often they're just a question of circumstances and in six months' time there will be another opportunity.

You are only allowed to hire one person over the next six months. Can you describe their ideal profile?

It would be similar to the person I've described above: someone who's a self starter, determined, motivated and who can demonstrate a track record of success and a history of making a difference with gravitas and enthusiasm. This business moves so fast, that I would hire someone with potential and determination, who has the versatility to adapt as the market changes.

In no more than three sentences, can say what your business area will look like in 2015?

It's very challenging to predict given the regulatory and broader changes that are happening. Things are taking place now that we could never have envisaged three or four years ago: for instance, it is not inconceivable that several countries in Europe will either technically default or need to restructure their debts. Five years ago, no one was even predicting a financial crisis let alone something as dramatic as a Western European sovereign default.

It's therefore difficult to predict the future with any credibility, but I'd expect there to be fewer players in the investment banking industry. Marginal banks will not survive. Fortunately, at Credit Suisse we have the capital base, brand equity, stamina and management team to ensure that we will be one of the winners, but that's about all I can say with confidence.

I want to work for you. What will persuade you to hire me?

At the risk of being repetitive, what will persuade me to hire you is the evidence that you have the determination to succeed, that you're passionate about the business, that you're type of person who is naturally curious, that you own what you do and that you view your work product as a reflection of who you are.

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