What's it like working at an investment bank?

Starting a career in investment banking as a graduate opens up many opportunities.
Investment banking

When you start on an investment bank graduate scheme, you'll start as an analyst, and typically remain as one for three years. Here we look at your options after the analyst programme, whether you choose to stay at an investment bank or move into another type of financial institution. But first, let's look at what being an analyst entails.

What is an analyst?

Analyst is the title given to the most junior team members at an investment bank, who are typically graduate recruits.

It's also an essential first step on the banking career ladder that all senior people at most financial institutions (not just investment banks) will have completed.

What kind of work will I do?

Like new joiners in most sectors, analysts are there to learn. Your work will therefore include a lot of tasks to get you into the thick of things and up to speed.

In corporate finance and advisory divisions, you might start by doing research or checking the details of a pitch book while on the trading side of things you might be recording transactions or helping to monitor markets. Some of your tasks might border on the administrative in your first few weeks, but this kind of work is often the best way to get an in-depth understanding of the mechanics of what your team works on. And investment banks are the kind of places that quickly reward people who show they're capable, efficient and hard-working with greater responsibility. Soon you'll be responsible for whole sections of a pitch book, or doing trades yourself.

Who decides what department I go into?

You (mostly). As you complete your initial weeks of training you'll be given a plethora of information about the different departments of the bank and the various opportunities - in London and sometimes beyond - for new recruits. You're likely to also have some insights from internships you've completed, networking, and other research you've done.

At the majority of banks, you'll then get the chance to express a preference for where you'd like to end up, which will be taken into account along with those of other graduate recruits and the preferences of the departments themselves. With luck, you'll be assigned to a team you want to join.

What training will I get?

Analysts at major investment banks typically receive several months of formal training when they first start their roles.

Once you're on the job, there will be more formal training sessions, plus plenty of informal coaching from your colleagues.

What kind of hours will I work?

Analysts, like most other employees at investment banks, tend to work long hours. These hours, however, vary significantly depending on what department you're in.

Broadly speaking, those working in connection with the trading floor will work market hours - early in the morning until an early evening close. Those on the investment banking or corporate finance side of the bank will find their daily hours much more variable, but averaging out over time to the same ten to 12 hour days worked by their trading floor colleagues.

Those in departments playing a supporting role to revenue-generating areas, such as operations or IT, may find themselves generally working a more conventional 9am to 6pm working day. But in banking, as in any other service industry, it's all hands on deck to get the job done at busy times or in emergencies.

How do I fit into the team?

As an analyst, you're the most junior member of a team that's likely to include other analysts and associates, those on the next rung up the career ladder. You'll also work closely with directors or vice-presidents (titles depend on which bank you're at) who are likely to have day-to-day overall responsibility for what you're working on. They'll report to executive directors or senior vice presidents and then, at the head of the team, you'll find a managing director, who's in charge of running the section of the bank's business in which you work.

How long will I be an analyst for?

The analyst programmes at most investment banks last for three years, after which you can expect to be promoted to associate, and receive another round of intensive training, more responsibilities - and a pay rise!

Career progression

Analyst (0 - 3 years at the bank)

Completes core tasks in relation to the business of the team.

Associate (3 - 6 years at the bank)

Closely supervises and assists analysts in completing core tasks. May get to attend some client meetings and pitches.

Director/vice-president (6 - 9 years at the bank)

Monitors the day-to-day work on transactions done by analysts and associates and is responsible for this work being completed. Is also involved in winning work from clients.

Executive director/senior vice-president (9 - 12 years at the bank)

Focuses on winning business from clients and is expected to generate a certain amount of revenue. Is accountable to managing director and senior management for work in relation to business won being completed. Has some budgetary responsibility.

Managing director (12 + years at the bank)

In charge of a section of the bank's business, which could be in relation to a particular product, a type of client, or a region. Has ultimate responsibility for building that business, making sure it prospers, and managing the team carrying out the work.

Senior management (15 + years at the bank)

Has control of a key segment of a bank's business, such as a geographical region or a product area, like equities or fixed income. May also manage a key part of the bank's operations, such as its financial position or risk exposure, or an initiative such as diversity.

Career options after working in an investment bank

Rather than staying in an investment bank, some people choose to move to use the skills and experience they have developed in another, related area of finance. We list the most common below.

Asset management

If you start your career at an investment bank there's scope to move to an asset management firm after a few years and progress there. 

A particularly common move is to move from an investment banking sales trading role, which involves advising asset management firms on which companies or other assets they should invest in, to a "buy-side" role at an asset management firm, helping to make these investment decisions.

Private equity

Moving to and progressing in the private equity industry – where firms specialise in purchasing companies, reshaping them and selling them on for a profit – is a popular move for those who start their careers in investment banking.

Moving to a private equity firm is particularly prevalent among those working in mergers and acquisitions roles at investment banks, as corporate takeovers are a key element of the business of a private equity firm.

Hedge funds

Some of those who start their careers in investment banking go on to join hedge funds, which use complex investment strategies involving a range of assets in the hope of high returns.


The finance and business knowledge and skills that graduates acquire in investment banking are a great basis for setting up and growing a new business.