Starting out in investment banking operations means getting to grips with some complex and fundamental principles of the financial sector that will serve you well during the course of your career.
“New staff will learn how transactions are booked and managed from ‘cradle to grave’ and view transactions at every stage in between. This ‘total immersion’ approach is an extremely powerful learning tool and can equip individuals to make sound decisions when considering either a generalist or specialist career path within banking or, indeed, financing in general,” says Barry Simmons, managing director, head of global financing operations, London, Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking.
New staff will learn how transactions are booked and managed from ‘cradle to grave
The key skills to succeeding in investment banking operations are communication – you’re dealing with a lot of people internally and occasionally have interaction with clients, so this is imperative – organisation and an ability to deal with change.
Investment banking generally has undergone some radical structuring changes since the global financial crisis hit in 2008, but the operations departments in particular – dependent as they are by ever-more efficient technology – are in a near-constant state of evolution. You have to be able to adapt.
“It’s a little clichéd but the banking world is evolving at a rapid pace, driven by commercial and regulatory pressures and our bank, and consequently our staff, need to be able to adapt with these changes in order to remain competitive," says Simmons.
More practically, operations professionals suggest there’s one key skill that anyone in the back office needs – attention to detail.
“I feel I have good attention to detail which is key in my regulatory focused role and I am able to relay detailed regulations in summarised formats to stakeholders,” says Sheetal Mandla, a vice president in operations at Morgan Stanley.
“Ultimately, I look for successful candidates to have high attention to detail,” adds Paul Lacey, director, operations at Wells Fargo Securities. “When you are managing a client’s need, it is important that we are always focused on getting it right the first time. The candidate also needs to be adaptable and be in a position to apply this to a variety of business scenarios. Our industry and client needs are growing to a point where we need to be agile in order to effectively respond.”
We need to be agile in order to effectively respond
Operations roles are relatively process-driven, so you might not have thought that communication skills are overly central. However, you’re often having to relay complex messages to a variety of different groups, says Lacey.
“In today’s world, there is so much information for internal stakeholders and clients to consume. In that environment, we need to be more prepared to distill complex message clearly and concisely,” he says.
"A key skill is being able to communicate effectively, getting clear and concise messages to a varied audience," adds Mandla.
Finally, with so many moving parts within the role, operations professionals need to be able to juggle their daily tasks: “Discipline is also something I would highlight, in the sense that our staff need to be able to prioritise and complete tasks often in the context of conflicting deadlines and changing priorities,” says Simmons.