How to get into Investment Banking - advice and top tips

January 2023

Our career advisers receive questions from students about investment banking careers almost daily.  Although it is common knowledge that jobs in the financial sector are well paid, students want to find out exactly what investment banking is, the kinds of jobs they could do, and most importantly, how to get in.  This month, Nadim Choudhury, one of our career advisers and also Head of Employability at The London Institute of Banking and Finance, looks at the various functions in an investment bank, entry level roles, the importance of work experience and the skills needed to get ahead.

So, what exactly is Investment Banking?

Investment banking is vital to our economy and focuses on the creation of capital (money) for companies, governments and other entities.  Banking activities typically revolve around three main functions: Corporate Finance, Sales and Trading and Transaction Banking.

What are the benefits?

Despite the fact that a career in investment banking can be pressurised, there can be significant rewards. Salaries for graduates and apprentices are higher than in most other industries. Between £28,000 and £40,000 is the typical starting salary for graduate jobs in London. After 5-8 years, earnings could reach £65,000 to £100,000, with senior level positions commanding salaries of £110,000 and higher. What else? There are generous bonuses worth up to 200% of the annual salary in addition to health insurance, travel and retail discounts, gym memberships, pension plans, stock options, and other perks. For any would-be travellers, the industry also offers numerous opportunities to reside and work abroad.

What about the downsides?

Whether you apply as a graduate or school-leaver there will be fierce competition for available positions, so you will need to be well-prepared to get through some demanding application processes.  If you are successful at gaining a position, roles could be challenging and stressful and any new hires will need to be resilient to handle high expectations from clients, a heavy workload and tight deadlines.

If that doesn’t put you off, then read on about the main functions in the industry and entry level roles.

Corporate Finance

Corporate finance not only helps customers to grow their business by raising capital via capital markets (where buyers and sellers trade financial products like securities, bonds and stocks), but also provides advice and guidance on strategic moves such as Mergers and Acquisitions (where a company mergers with another company or acquires it), Asset Finance (providing loans) and Structured Finance (complex financial products that help clients meet their financing needs).

Sales and Trading

Sales and Trading teams contact investors to secure investment in a range of financial products that they are trying to sell. Traders then place investments for their clients or for the bank itself and  work in the following global markets:  The London Stock Exchange (LSE), The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and The Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE), Foreign Exchange markets, (FX) , Options Markets and Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) markets.

Transaction Banking

Transaction banking provides clients with a safe way to move money from one country to another as well as cash management services (liquidity services), advice is also given on associated risks and payment services.

Entry level role - Investment/Research Analysts

Investment Analysts research and build up expertise in a sector such as healthcare, manufacturing, airline industries etc and analyse trends and economic performance in the sector and the companies within it. They advise people who work in the sales and trading teams on the different investment options within these sectors. The role is highly pressurized and the advice that is given is often for internal purposes only.

The skills required include:

  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Strong command of written English
  • Ability to research, perform calculations, create visual graphs
  • Good understanding of business, economics, geopolitics and financial markets
  • Strong presentation skills, including PowerPoint
  • Ability to produce financial models such as a Discounted Cash Flow Statement
  • Analysis future performance of companies

Entry level role - Trader

Trading is a fast paced, pressurised & technical role requiring strong mathematical skills, logical thinking and risk-taking instincts. Many traders’ need to have detailed knowledge of the various and complex financial products available.  Increasingly they also need high performance programming skills plus the ability to understand code to work effectively within algorithmic trading environments.

The skills required include:

  • Strong mathematical ability, a background in science, engineering is helpful as well as solid understanding in finance
  • Superior research, analytical and decision-making skills, being able to monitor the financial markets on a daily basis
  • Logical and lateral thinking skills, the ability to understand and spot trends in visual graphs and different sets of data
  • Ability to have laser like focus and concentrate in high pressure and risky environments
  • Highest standards of ethics, transparency and accountability

Entry level role - Risk Analyst

Since the financial crash of 2008/2009, the role of risk and compliance departments in Investment Banks have become increasingly prominent. A role of in risk is diverse and usually exists to support the business to understand the risks associated with its business activities. Typically in an investment bank risk analysis can work in

  • Credit risk (involved in making sure that debt issued to organisation can be paid back)
  • Market risk (assessing the risk of investing in the capital markers)
  • Liquidity risk (risk of not making payment)
  • Legal risk
  • Operational risk (risks associated with human, systems, events, processes, policies)

The skills needed include:

  • Strong attention to details
  • Ability to communicate effectively,
  • Assertiveness
  • Analytical and logical thinking
  • Working at speed
  • Understanding complex information and relaying this back in simple language

Are there are any apprenticeships available?

Yes!  In fact, there are investment banking apprenticeships at most levels including:

  • Investment Operations Administrator (Level 2)
  • Investment Operations Technician (Level 3)
  • Investment Operations Specialist (Level 4)
  • Senior Investment and Commercial Banking Professional (Level 7)

If you are looking for a degree apprenticeship (Level 6), there are other financial services apprenticeships that could be worth some consideration too. For example, JP Morgan hire around 120 Financial Services apprentices every year, who work towards a BSc in Applied Science from Exeter University and other professional qualifications while working in the organisation. Salary starts at £20,000 per year.  For more information, head to: JP Morgan School Programmes and Apprenticeships.

Find out about more about other apprenticeships in the banking industry at

Not going to uni

Rate My Apprenticeship

UCAS: Banking apprenticeships

Getting work experience

We can’t state this enough - work experience is very important, especially if you are applying to graduate roles. Most students will need to undertake several internships within investment banking or related sectors.   Many of the investment banks offer spring internships for first undergraduate students, summer internships for second year students, and graduate programmes for recent graduates. For the top tier investment banks students will have completed some form of summer internship in banking or financial services and many would have also completed a spring internship.  Some organisations also offer work experience to Year 12 students.  Student Ladder provides some listings here Year 12 Work Experience: Banking.

What’s the best advice?

The best way to stand out from the crowd is to make sure that you understand application processes clearly, apply early, network with individuals in the sector, read up and become commercially aware in all things regarding investment banking. Make sure you read the FT, Economist and Bloomberg and Reuters news channels. You can search for internships and placements on websites such as , and

Other top tips

Start early, read and watch content on investment banking online

Consider apprenticeships as an alternative route in

Undertake a degree in a science, engineering, finance, banking, or maths to stand out from the crowd, but other subjects are also acceptable in many cases

Take part in online free webinar and virtual internships on Investment Banking  try Forage and Springpod

Develop strong skills in excel, financial modelling, project management, research, and PowerPoint.

Develop presentation and communication skills.

To find out more about careers in investment banking visit:

Nadim Choudhury

January 2023