Commercial banks focus on business needs. For example, you can help businesses accept credit cards and process other types of payments from customers. Companies also need guidance on managing their assets while limiting risk. You might even help organizations do business overseas or borrow money to expand operations.
To become a commercial banker, it’s essential to understand how businesses work. A business degree is helpful, and an MBA might be even better. You need the ability to evaluate a business’ finances and determine what products and services might be a good fit. You also need to understand the mechanics of loans and when it makes sense for a business to take on debt. Sales skills are increasingly important for business bankers. Banks and credit unions need revenue from active businesses, and it may be your job to grow and retain business clients.
Investment banks help businesses raise money in financial markets, and they may help coordinate mergers and acquisitions. Becoming an investment banker is a demanding (and sometimes competitive) endeavor that requires serious commitment. These banks typically hire high achievers who thrive in high-pressure environments.
Life of an Investment Banker
Investment banks are traditionally most common in major metropolitan areas (New York City, for example) where potential clients are nearby. To work for the largest investment banks, plan to devote much of your waking life to your career. You need to arrange financing deals and complicated transactions with sophisticated counterparts. And you may need to get everything done quickly.
You need to have strong spreadsheet and analytical skills, and to advance at most firms, you may need graduate degrees and designations. For example, a master’s degree in finance or a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is common with investment bankers.
The career of an investment banker is extremely demanding, but successful bankers have the potential to earn high salaries and bonuses.
Before you pursue a career as an investment banker, decide if you’re willing to put in extensive hours of analysis on high-pressure projects. Also, evaluate what’s most important to you in life—you may need to remind yourself of those goals during late-night work sessions.