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What it’s like to work in sales at an investment bank

If you’re thinking of going into a graduate job in a sales position at an investment bank when you graduate college, we advise you to familiarize yourself with the very detailed account of the life of an investment banking saleswoman published in the UK's Guardian today.

Here are the salient points:

1. You will have to get up incredibly early every day

“My alarm would go at 5:15 a.m.,” says the saleswoman. “During my commute, I would read the Financial Times and Bloomberg news on my phone, and be in the office by 7 a.m.”

2. You’ll have to digest a lot of information, fast

When she arrived in the office, there would be: a meeting on the news of the past hours, a handover of what had been happening in Asia and the research people would talk about their work.

“At the meeting, I’ll be making a list of things I want to do that day,” says the saleswoman. “I would know my clients’ portfolio. Suppose one product they bought from us has done very well. I might call them up and ask if they want to sell and lock-in the profit.”

You’ll have to continue digesting information throughout the day, and then call clients to talk them through it.

3. You’ll be on the phone all the time

“During the day, I’d be on the phone, 10 hours straight. And when I wouldn’t be on the phone, I’d be thinking of what to say on the next call.”

4. You will mediate between traders and clients

“As a salesperson, you sit between the traders and the clients,” she says. “My clients are fund managers – people who invest money on behalf of pension funds, hedge funds, insurers, etc. The client calls because he wants to buy or sell a particular financial product – a bond, an option. So I go to the appropriate trader who’ll give me a ‘quote,’ saying the price for A is six. I go back to the client who will go: ‘Six? Oh no, that’s way too much (if he’s buying) or way too low (if he’s selling). Come on, do something better.’ So I go back and forth between them. People think the world of finance is about competition and sure there is that. But most of all, it’s about cooperation.”

5. You will need tact and mediation

“As a salesperson, you have to keep everybody happy – client and trader. Traders are very busy people. You don’t want to take their time with something that doesn’t bring them business,” she says.

Similarly: “Clients don’t want to hear ‘no.’ So an ability to explain things is very important for salespeople. And tact. ‘I tried really hard to get what you asked but it didn’t work for this and that reason.’”

6. You will work stupidly long hours

"You lose touch. I worked long hours, at least 14 hours a day including the commute, and all day I would be surrounded by people who made the same career choice. You start thinking in bonus terms, lose perspective.”

7. Sales is not about long-term project work

“Working in financial markets is very different from mergers and acquisitions and other forms of financial deal-making. We don’t do projects. Every day you start from scratch, essentially, when the markets open, and it’s over when they close. Every day is different, but in another way every day is the same.”

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • DM
    23 March 2012

    What bucket shop did this woman work at that they didn't have sales traders?

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