Breaking into the M&A division of an investment bank is tough. Hundreds of well-educated, well-qualified and hard-working students apply. So, what is it that investment banks are looking for?
Linos Lekkas, Citi's head of corporate and investment banking for the Central Eastern Europe Middle East & Africa (CEEMEA) region came up with a pretty good summary of what it takes to get ahead in M&A when we spoke to him a few years ago. Early in your career you'll need to be hardworking and reliable, said Lekkas. You'll need excellent attention to detail: pitch books and financial models must be completely free of mistakes. As you progress up the ranks and spend more time in front of clients, people skills and personality become more important. "You can be very talented and very mathematical, but the combination of effort and personality is what will truly make you stand out," Lekkas told us.
"You need to be very detail-oriented – a lot of what we do relies upon the details of both process and analysis. In a lot of jobs it doesn’t matter if the details aren’t perfect, but here if the details aren’t right it can jeopardise an entire deal," says an MD at Deutsche Bank.
Anthony Zammit, a vice president in Morgan Stanley's investment banking division says M&A bankers need an analytical mind, motivation and interpersonal skills. "Being able to analyse and interpret information quickly is critical as we often work to tight deadlines," says Zammit. "Motivation is important as investment banking is challenging and sometimes the hours can be demanding, so it's vital to be able to see the bigger picture and recognise the skillset you are developing. Lastly, as this is a client facing role it is important that you are able to build relationships easily."
Neil Thwaites, managing director of industrials, infrastructure and business services at Rothschild says M&A bankers have to be, "personable, enthusiastic and persistent. You need persistence as a junior when you’re working on presentations and analysis. And you need persistence as a senior when you’re out there trying to win business.”
Charles-Everard de T’Serclaes, a J.P. Morgan managing director specialising in deals involving financial institutions and governments in the Asia Pacific region says M&A bankers must, "strive to excel every day, have an acute attention to detail and be able to work under pressure. Technical skills in and understanding of financial modelling, research and industry/product are also equally important."
He adds, "A career in investment banking will undoubtedly challenge and excite you."