What it’s like to work in corporate finance

21 Jun 2023, 15:41

Joshua Dadzie talks about his graduate job in corporate finance and why he joined Deutsche Bank.

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The closure of a major high street retailer sparked Joshua’s interest in economics and how the corporate world worked. He studied maths, economics and history A levels and graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in economics and history.

How would you describe your job?

The team that I am in, Acquisition Finance and Loan Origination, sits within Corporate Finance at Deutsche Bank. Corporate Finance involves advising corporate clients (often large) and helping them with their strategic and financial needs – strategic might mean mergers and acquisitions (M&A), which is one company buying another. Financing is a way to raise liquidity – raise money – for example through initial public offerings (IPOs) or bonds, or a company might come to an investment bank for a loan.

What did you know about corporate finance when you were in school?

I knew I wanted to go into an area of finance, but in school obviously I didn’t have a complete understanding of investment banking and corporate finance. My impression of investment banking was Wall Street and the trading floor, and a lot of shouting!

My knowledge grew with the extensive research I put into corporate finance, and while I was at university I did a Spring Week at Deutsche Bank, followed by an internship, which also broadened my understanding. Going to a Scottish university and doing a four-year course allowed me more time for that and securing the internship helped me focus on my degree, rather than having to make multiple job applications while I was studying.

Any tips for securing an internship and job offer?

To get into corporate finance you’ve got to be prepared to go the extra mile, improve your knowledge and put time into the application process. You need to research each organisation so you know your stuff for your cover letter and interview, otherwise it’s hard to break through against other candidates. In my first summer at university, I came across RARE recruitment. They help black students at university get into different careers, such as law, banking and consultancy.

How did your degree help you in corporate finance?

My degree was economics and modern history, and you might expect that economics would be the more applicable subject, but funnily, it’s the skills I learned studying history that have helped me most.

A history degree involves a lot of reading, writing essays and finding sources. You have to assess information and learn to be efficient – what is key, and what isn’t. I use that now in researching data, writing emails and in reading long emails and documents. The importance of attention to detail is the most useful aspect of my degree.

What skills help in the workplace?

Being able to work in a team in a collaborative environment is a good skill to acquire. In banking you’re working on a deal, not just in your own team, but with different teams within the bank, and sometimes with other banks. I played football, but any sport, or being in an orchestra or choir, anything that requires teamwork is good for corporate finance because working with different teams means a variety of characters and personalities. Picking up nuances and how best to respond to one person and then another is so important. Also, don’t be hard to work with! You want people to enjoy being with you because a team spends a lot of hours together over the course of a week and you don’t want to be a person no-one wants to be with!

Along with attention to detail and carrying out instructions to the letter, being a good communicator, verbally and in your emails, is key – that is even more important when working from home because you are not sitting next to your team. Little things make you stand out as a junior, such as going the extra mile and delivering more than is expected. For example, you might be asked to create a graph, and be able to point out you’ve discovered result x relates to y. You can develop your communication skills over time by listening to your seniors – I’m sure I have picked up my bosses’ verbal traits without realising!

Why Deutsche Bank?

I received three offers from different banks for Spring Week – a week-long insight into banking – but they all fell on the same week. The principal reason I chose to work at Deutsche Bank was because all three interviewers from there rang me afterwards, individually, to say congratulations on your offer, we hope you will join us and we look forward to seeing you on the internship. The other banks emailed their congratulations and offer, which was nice, but Deutsche Bank’s personal touch made me think that they cared about their hiring process and their juniors. I can say that what I saw during the application process is true of what I see now, working at the company.

How do you cope with working long hours?

You may work 12 hours – sometimes more – a day, though there is a range within this and it can be team dependent. You can read about that and think ‘oh it’s fine’ but it can be challenging over a period of time and some people do move on. You will need mental stamina – you can’t work at 100% capacity all the time – so taking a break, stepping away from the desk by going for a walk all help to clear your head. You can’t just stare at a screen the whole day – it’s not healthy and not productive either. I go to the gym, and at the weekend I still play football.

You’re in your third year at Deutsche Bank now; has anything made you think, ‘Wow! this really is the job for me!’

The Acquisition Finance and Loan Origination team recently helped provide a €6.5bn loan to support one of the largest ever European real estate residential transactions. It was a really big deal and we worked alongside a team from JP Morgan to get it across the line – which goes back to what I was saying about teamwork being important. It was stressful, with some ups and downs during the process, but once it was concluded it was a nice feeling – really cool.

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