There are approximately 3,000 companies in the U.S. investment banking industry. Major banks include Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch, Lazard, and Jefferies. Opportunities are available throughout the United States. Outside the investment banking industry, traders work for hedge funds, brokerage firms, commercial banks, insurance companies, asset management firms, and mutual fund companies.
Networking is key to breaking into this career. Participating in a two-year analyst training program or a short internship will help you to get your foot in the door at a bank, learn valuable skills, and expand your professional network. You should also create an account on LinkedIn, and attend career fairs sponsored by investment banks. Your university’s career services office might be able to provide a list of recent graduates who work in investment banking who would be willing to discuss their careers and the best strategies for breaking into the field. Other job-search strategies include using the services of a recruiter and contacting firms directly about available opportunities.
Some people enter the field as trading clerks. People in this job balance the books, tracking a desk or a particular trader’s buy and sell transactions throughout the day. A starting point for an undergrad aiming to move up to an assistant trader role, clerks gain exposure to the trading environment, the traders themselves, and the markets. Clerks also take messages, make copies, get coffee, and perform other go-fer chores. At the bigger firms, this position can be a dead-end job; clerks may remain in these roles indefinitely, while new MBAs move into full-time trading positions or graduates of top colleges move into analyst jobs.
Trading assistant positions are typically filled by recent graduates of four-year colleges. The trading assistant is more involved in trades than the clerk. Trading assistants move beyond staring at the computer and balancing the books to become more involved with the actual traders. Depending on the firm, some undergrads immediately move into trading assistant positions with the hope of moving into a full-time trading job.
Some traders enter this career after first working in risk management or in other middle and back office areas.
With experience and a strong ability to generate trading activity, traders can advance to the position of head or senior trader in a trading group. Some move into other positions in financial services such as financial planner or research analyst. Others launch their own investment funds or transition to work at hedge funds, mutual fund companies, and other employers.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Earning a degree in financial engineering/financial mathematics and learning how to write trading algorithms will greatly increase your chances of landing a job.
Be willing to relocate. It may open more job opportunities.