What makes an Investment Banker good – Deepak Srinath

‘Jack of all, master of none’, I’ve heard that cliché used to describe investment bankers often enough. My reply to those who give me the Jack of all jibe is that we are actually fantastic actors. Everyday we play hustler, charmer, bully, hero, villain, peacemaker, instigator- a range that any Bollywood or Hollywood actor seldom portrays in an entire career.

Jokes apart, Investment Banking is indeed a potion with lots of ingredients, some well known and some secret, which go into making that brew called a star investment banker. At Viedea, we have our heroes in the investment banking community and have been lucky enough to interact and learn from many of them. While there is a high degree of individual personality traits that make them the successful, we’ve had insights into fundamental traits that are essential for any good investment banker. So here goes (in no particular order of importance):

1. Be like a sponge: Sector knowledge is important and most i-bankers have core sectors in which we have fairly deep knowledge. However, the world is evolving rapidly and sooner rather than later ‘sector expertise’ will become obsolete. I-bankers have to rapidly learn about emerging trends and businesses and develop a high level of general awareness and curiosity about our world. The best i-bankers I know are all voracious readers and absorb newspapers, blogs and all forms of information like the proverbial sponge.

2. People skills: This business is all about people skills. The relationships you build with you clients, partners, coworkers, etc, are really the only assets that an i-banker has. If you don’t have a “turn on the charm” button, you have no business being an i-banker. The most hard core, aggressive i-bankers can transform themselves into charmers at will. Of course, it helps if the charm and empathy is real and not put on.

3. Great Execution OR Great Sales & Marketing skills: I believe that most i-bankers fit into one of two slots – ones that have better execution skills and ones that have better sales and marketing skills. Of course, no investment banker can entirely fit into one slot and must do both. However, it is essential that one is clear about what his or her strength is and builds their forte accordingly.

4. Patience and Tenacity: Deals take forever to close. Deals that appear to be done and dusted fall off for the strangest reasons. Unless one has extreme patience and extreme tenacity, it is prudent to take up an alternative profession.

5. Hygiene factors: Financial modeling, valuation, deal structures, legal and regulatory frameworks- I call this the core skill of i-banking. This is the only skill that can be learnt or acquired. Some of it can be taught and some of it comes with experience. Many an Associate in an i-banking firm possesses this skill in ample measure but is unable to make the cut to a client handling role because they do not posses that other traits listed above.

I would also encourage all current and aspiring i-bankers to view this short video by David de Rothschild on what makes a good i-banker (http://www.rothschild.com/Careers/?id=media/video3).

He rates ability to listen, good judgment and focusing on your strength rather than trying to everything as key to being a successful investment banker. And no, neither David nor I have “GREED”, a la Gordon Gecko in our list of must have skills for investment banking.


About Deepak
Venture Capital and M&A advisor, Entrepreneur, Startup enthusiast..

One Response to What makes an Investment Banker good – Deepak Srinath

  1. Ravi says:

    Great post! Can we add (com)passion to the list? obviously one needs to be passionate about deal making, and bear the ups and downs that is typical of this profession. Compassion is something I have seen in my mentor, a very successful banker who displays this trait towards all constituencies – team members, clients, and counter-parts.

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