Contrary to popular belief, investment bankers do not always have to come from finance backgrounds. Although finance degrees do provide transferable skills such as knowledge on economics, mathematics and businesses, investment banks are looking for a diverse group originating from various backgrounds.
Diversity is what allows new perspectives and ideas to the workforce. Therefore, it is encouraged especially in investment banking.
People with a variety of degrees such as History, Geography and even Chemistry have gone on to become talented investment bankers.
It may be difficult, however it is not impossible to bridge the gaps in knowledge through internship programmes, lectures and building an investment banking profile.
Investment banks today are looking for a wide variety of backgrounds to allow new perspectives to be brought in during mergers and acquisitions. Bankers from untraditional backgrounds have transferable skills that can be polished and utilised in the sector.
This article will highlight the steps it takes to become an established investment banker as well as include advice from current aspiring investment banker Aaron Lewis on taking the first steps in investment banking without a finance degree.
The key is developing your CV as an aspiring investment banker and beginning career development early on by using internships and spring weeks to your advantage.
Why becoming an investment banker without a financial degree is not impossible
Global investment banks such as JP Morgan and Macquarie invest in a variety and a wide range of commodities, ranging from batteries, to renewable energy and even orange juice. Due to this they require a diverse set of professionals with specialists in certain areas to oversee transactions; an example would be a Geography student analysing renewable energy.
Morgan Stanley is an American multinational investment banking company and part of their philosophy is that diversity makes them stronger. They aim to recruit candidates from multiple disciplines rather than only maths and finance.
Similarly, Macquarie and other multinational investment banking companies have been emphasising the importance of sustainable investing. Their Green Investment Banking initiatives have the possibility to include bankers from a wide range of disciplines. Geographers, Chemists, Ecologists, and others analysing topics such as investing into the hydrogen fuel economy or biofuels.
Investment banking is current, covering commodities that are prevalent in today’s society. Therefore banks are looking for people with a diverse but relevant experience and the willingness to learn more about finance.
CV building and experience
Although it is possible to secure a job in investment banking without a finance related degree, it does pose a challenge. Inexpert knowledge in finance requires you to compete harder to prove your worth during the recruitment process. You need to prove that you have a genuine interest in the field through previous work experience, courses and internships all to develop your CV.
It is best to begin with spring weeks in investment banking and watching guest lectures in similar fields and then move on to summer internships. Lectures allow you to bridge your gaps in knowledge covering processes and jargon whilst spring weeks allow you to develop more of an understanding and into the world of working with an investment bank.
Lectures can be provided by your university or your university’s investment banking society. Examples of spring weeks include Bright Network internship experience in investment banking, allowing you to delve into the world of investment banking, and provides mentoring, research and development opportunities.
You will need to build up a proficient knowledge in finance, whether that be through an online course or an elective at university, although you do not need to be an expert in the financial sector, the knowledge would be useful.
During your interviews you also need to demonstrate a genuine interest and show that you have thoroughly researched this sector and have the relevant experience to back this up.
An aspiring investment banker’s story
Aaron Lewis is a second-year Chemistry undergraduate at University College London and an aspiring investment banker, currently building an investment banking portfolio. Here are the steps he has taken to reach his current position as a startup investment banker.
Aaron has always had a passion for how things work and although that stemmed from Chemistry, it has branched out into the world of investment banking. He began by investing in stocks then attending talks and lectures given by companies / universities and had begun working on an investment portfolio.
He fell in love with the process of analysing things and thus put the skills he gained from his degree to use as an investment banker. Though he has a background in science and works as a journalist, he also has a position at a boutique investment bank as a member of the blockchain team.
He came across this position using his university’s career services thus emphasising that although his degree does not directly link to investment banking, anyone can still gravitate towards similar positions if their passions are well-positioned.
Regarding advice to aspiring investment bankers that are looking for a head start, Aaron’s first port of call is figuring out if you genuinely have a passion for the field. It is important to fall in love with what you are doing otherwise you will not give it your best efforts.
There is no need to worry, you will not be at a disadvantage without a finance degree. As long as you have the right skills you will be able to transfer them into the sector.
The sector does require numerically and technically savvy individuals so it would be best if you were to refine those skills through spring weeks and internship programmes. However, they also need people who can think outside the box, people who can write well or hold conversations; there are many skills that you can take into investment banking.
Additionally banks, especially large firms, hire those from a diverse range of backgrounds and positions are offered based on merit rather than the degree you hold. If you can express a genuine interest in the field as well as showcase that through previous work experience.
Finally, when walking into a bank without a degree in finance you are like a rough diamond, you have all the skills necessary for a job but just lack the polish. When working in an investment bank for the first few years, the opportunities provided can allow you to refine your skills and flourish in the industry.