Choosing a Finance Career: Investment Banker vs. Financial Analyst
August 12, 2016
Choosing a career path may be stressful, but fret not. Whether you’re still in college or just starting your first job, you have your entire professional life ahead of you. Congratulations! The possibilities are endless. However, the first few years of your career will likely dictate your career path, income potential, as well as your personal life. A little frightening, but I don’t mean to scare you! I’m only trying to tell you the truth.
While it’s always possible to change your career path, it becomes increasingly harder as time goes by. For example, switching careers becomes incredibly difficult after you’ve already built up skills, abilities, knowledge, and competences within your initial path, trust me. Based on my experiences, I’d like to share some thoughts and examples that can help you successfully choose a career path the first time around.
Choosing Your Path
Through my work I’ve been lucky enough to meet and interview people early in their career who desire to develop, transition, or explore the multitude of options that lay before them. One of the most recent additions to our team here at Trustpilot is a former investment banker who transitioned into a financial analyst role with our growing organization.
Investment bankers are known for having an analytical mindset, hard work, and ability to thrive in a fast-paced environment. Who wouldn’t want an employee with those attributes, especially at a startup? This, of course, gives bankers an edge over their peers when they face the tough decision of what to do with their careers after their Analyst tenure is over. You see, investment banks often contract analysts for two- to three-year time periods. After these periods conclude, an investment banking analyst is left with a decision: stay with the bank on their current career track, climb the ladder from an Associate up to Managing Director, leave for a private equity position, or transition out of investment finance and into managerial finance.
Luckily for us here at Trustpilot, Michael Tomae, our newest addition to the Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) team, decided to leave the investment banking world for the fun and excitement of a startup environment. Michael told us that “the option of working at a startup was particularly exciting. I wanted a career that was fulfilling, where I would feel that my contributions were having a tangible effect on a company’s success. I also value work-life balance,” he went on to say, citing diversity and entrepreneurship as additional reasons why he wanted to work at a startup in an FP&A role.
Differences Between Managerial Finance and Investment Banking
Looking into Michael’s decision to choose one career over the other is important. In effect, he decided to choose a job that spoke more to his lifestyle and career goals, which means we need to break down the difference between managerial finance and investment banking. The major difference is the amount of ownership a person has over the success and direction of a company. For example, with a company like Trustpilot, financial analysts often work directly with the executive management team or board of directors to develop strategies that increase the company’s long-term growth prospects.
Investment banking, on the other hand, usually does not provide this level of opportunity. An analyst is not taught how to scale and grow a company, design and implement processes, and nurture a business. Investment banking teaches you how to work hard, act professional, and communicate effectively with senior leaders. Additionally, investment bankers learn how to manage work streams, multitask, and execute on deliverables.
The Benefits of Investment Banking First
This means, of course, that while Michael is best suited for a financial role with a growing startup, his investment banking background contributed to his quick success at Trustpilot. Investment bankers learn a wealth of knowledge and experience on the job that is easily transferable to other roles. What’s more, the intense and competitive nature of the investment banking sector prepares people for life outside of the industry. For example, a career in the startup space, although fun, requires sacrifices. Startup companies tend to pay less and don’t pay out year-end bonuses. The resiliency gained through the time as an investment banker, however, gives people like Michael a growth mindset, understanding that working through lean times results in greater rewards.
When asked what he missed most about investment banking, Michael said, “The one thing I miss from working at an investment bank is the incredible infrastructure and the access to resources. There are times I wish I still had access to the research staff or the unlimited ability to ask designers for help on creating beautiful presentations. At Trustpilot, these resources are scarce and that causes projects to take longer to complete.” However, in true investment-banker-turned-startup-employee style, Michael remains resolute. “I’ve learned to accept this as a ‘no project is too small’ mentality, because ultimately, each action at Trustpilot is a necessary step in ensuring the viability of a growth-stage company.”
Starting a career in investment banking clearly provides a great foundation on which other financial career paths can be built. It gives you a great set of skills and can prepare you for whatever direction you choose. My advice to you: decide your career path in the first few years of your professional life. Gaining skills through investment banking is great, but if it isn’t your desired career, it’s better to get out earlier rather than later.
Make sure you think long-term. Imagine what you want your life and career to look like in 5-10 years. Hold that vision tightly in your mind and then go all in, chasing your dream! Plan your career and your life so that at the end of your journey, you’ve ended up exactly where you wanted to go. I wish you luck, I’m confident you can do it!
About the Author
Jonatan Borges is responsible for Financial Planning & Analysis at Trustpilot, a global multi-language review community that builds trust and transparency between consumers and businesses. He holds a master’s degree in Finance and Accounting and a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Administration from Copenhagen Business School (Denmark). He has extensive knowledge within finance and accounting and has significant experience in startups, consulting, online, shipping and IT-solutions.