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First year Banking insights gave investment banking career advice to first-year female students from a range of degree backgrounds

Diversity in investment banking careers and what it means for you

We attended the TARGETjobs event First year Banking insights to find out why banks are actively seeking a diverse graduate intake and what you should know before starting your investment banking career.

'Nurture the things you’re interested in and passionate about, and you’ll be more successful in business.'

'Be yourself' may sound like a cliché, but expressing your individuality really can help you be successful in banking. TARGETjobs' inaugural First year Banking insights event, held in April 2018, helped to inform, inspire and reassure the attendees (first-year female students, none of whom were studying an economics or finance degree) about how to get into investment banking. It included a mixture of networking opportunities, skills sessions with recruiters and panel Q&As with senior bankers and recent graduates.

Hosted by Credit Suisse, the day featured representatives from Goldman Sachs, Rothschild & Co, J.P. Morgan and the Bank of England. It began with a talk by guest speaker Marisa Drew, chief executive officer of Credit Suisse’s impact advisory and finance department, about the challenges she has overcome during her banking career. Here are some of our favourite pieces of the advice she gave to the attendees.

'Some of the most valued skills are marketing and sales skills.'

Investment banking career tip one: embrace your differences

The banking professionals at the event emphasised that banks actively encourage diversity, with each individual’s unique experiences bringing something positive to their role. Marisa firmly believes that ‘a diverse workforce is a smarter workforce’ as a combination of different backgrounds and experiences helps to create solutions to problems. Similarly, she thinks that the biggest misconception about banking is what you need to get into the industry. ‘We really are looking for people from a variety of backgrounds,’ she said.

Although mainly referring to the range of degree subjects accepted for banking roles, Marisa also talked about the importance of diversity in terms of your hobbies and interests outside the office. ‘Nurture the things you’re interested in and passionate about, and you’ll be more successful in business,’ she told the attendees.

Investment banking career tip two: there’s more to finance than number-crunching

Students shouldn’t be put off banking careers if they haven’t studied a mathematical degree. ‘You have to have a base level of numeracy because finance is about numbers,’ said Marisa, ‘but some of the most valued skills are marketing and sales skills. I could have the coolest or smartest product, but if I don’t know how to connect with the client, there’s no relationship.’ To demonstrate these skills, Marisa suggested that you ‘think of examples when you’ve had to convince someone to get things done’.

'The biggest barrier for me was in my own head.'

Investment banking career tip three: believe in your potential

Even the most senior bankers have doubted themselves at some point in their careers. Marisa confessed: ‘The biggest barrier for me was in my own head.’ This was especially true when starting her career in a world where investment banking was much more male-dominated than it is today. ‘I think women are uniquely hard on themselves. We tend to undersell ourselves and we think we can’t do it and men can.’ She stressed the importance of being yourself and not needing to act masculine to fit in.

What students think of First year Banking insights

Over three quarters (78%) of the attendees surveyed said their perceptions about working in the banking sector had changed for the better as a result of attending the 2018 event. Common themes included:

  • realising that all degree subjects are welcome
  • feeling less intimidated by the application processes
  • thinking banking seemed like a more interesting career
  • becoming aware of the wide range of roles available.

Find out more about First year Banking insights and pre-register for the next event.