It takes more than a simple grasp of numbers to have a successful career in investment banking; becoming an investment banking associate is a long path that begins with personality, continues with education, and culminates in a perfect marriage of people skills and an ability to make good investment choices. A career as an investment banking associate is one that is here to stay, as businesses will always need funding and investment banking is one of the primary vehicles through which this can occur.
An investment banking associate, in summary, is the person at a financial institution who helps businesses manage their funding needs. When a business is in need of funding for any number of goals, including an expansion, a start-up, an initial public offering (IPO), a merger, an acquisition, or a new product, it will often turn to an investment banking establishment to apply for those funds. A business may contact several investment banking firms to gather proposals for how best to fund the new endeavor. As an investment banking associate, you will likely be the first point of contact at your financial institution, and it will be your job to make a proposal, called a "pitch", to the company's management to try to win their business. From that point forward, you will cultivate the relationship and work with your investment banking team to orchestrate the types of financial decisions that will fund the company's venture.
An investment banking associate will need to be thoroughly trained in and comfortable with the spectrum of financial instruments available to orchestrate complex funding needs for businesses. This typically entails, at minimum, a Master's degree in business or that level of education. The best degree plan usually contains a heavy concentration in finance or statistics. Beyond this, if you can gain preparatory experience in the investment banking field by landing yourself a job or internship as an investment banking analyst, this will give you an extra leg up on the competition when it comes time to compete for those coveted investment banking associate job positions.
Beyond your sound financial and investment skills, the world of investment banking is still about relationships and people. You will be successful if you are an outgoing, people-oriented person who enjoys variety, long and intensely focused work hours, continual learning, and high-pressure situations. You will need to show great initiative in attracting and retaining clients, making good investment decisions, and a willingness to relocate if that is what is needed to advance your career. As you evaluate your career and life preferences, your skill set, and your aptitudes, it will become much easier to determine if a career as an investment banking analyst is the right choice for you.