Investment Banking & Investment Management

Is the Investment Banking and Investment Management Sector for You?

If you’re looking to work in a high-pressure environment, this competitive industry might be the one for you.
The gradsingapore Team
The Gradsingapore Team
Is the Investment Banking and Investment Management Sector for You_

The investment banking and investment management industry is the purview of many high-performing, ambitious finance-related graduates, who specialise in making money work, and work hard. In a cycle that never stops, money is borrowed, loaned and invested 24 hours a day, internationally and across different time zones spanning various economies around the world.

A role in this sector is incredibly coveted among graduates, due to the allure of earning annual six-figure salaries almost fresh out of school, and the great amount of experience and exposure that can be gained in a relatively short time.

But on the flip side, when career coaches talk about this sector, they often mention the high pressure and lack of work-life balance prevalent there, which can be a dealbreaker.

Every industry has its pros and cons, and we’re here to break down the sector and show you if this field matches what you’re looking for!

Looking into investment banking and investment management

Briefly: Although investment banking and investment management are both essential in raising capital, and share similarities like high salaries, countless growth opportunities and the management of investor money, that’s where it ends. In fact, their job scopes and daily responsibilities are very different from each other.

Investment banking typically involves strategising the creation of capital needed for large companies, and usually involves selling securities. Investment bankers also tend to work as analysts and consultants.

On the other hand, investment management consists of asset allocation and investment decisions on a client’s – either an institution, corporate entity, or high-net-worth individual’s (HNWI) – behalf. They usually buy the securities investment bankers put up for client portfolios.

Investment banking: Companies, corporations, entities and even governments usually look at investment bankers as experts who deeply understand regulations and the present investing climate. Because of this, they turn to investment banks for bespoke advice on how they can best raise funds and develop.

As such, investment banking primarily looks at financial management and maximising creation of capital for clients. On behalf of clients, investment banks are contracted to deal with regulatory requirements, underwrite new equity securities and debt, sell securities, broker trades for both private investors and institutions and facilitate company reorganisation, as well as mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

The role of an investment banker: As an investment banker, you’ll be responsible for advising corporations, companies, entities and governments on their worth, and how they can best structure a deal, whether they’re looking to sell securities, offer initial public offerings (IPOs), merge with a competitor, or acquire one.

You’ll also be expected to identify risks that may cost clients their time and money, and manage them in a way your client finds satisfactory, so they can move forward with their plans.

Once your clients have chosen a suitable solution, you’ll then move on to the complicated transactions that precede the raising of client funds or capital. After that, you’ll need to create and underwrite the documents needed.

Degrees required: Although the work is specialised and most firms prefer financial-related degrees, they aren’t considered necessary in this area. Studying for them, however, will give you an edge over other candidates in this fiercely competitive field.

If your degree isn’t industry-related, take advantage of the many growth opportunities to build and hone your skills, such as through internships. The nature of the work also ensures that you’ll be able to form a very wide network to leverage on, so consider using that to land a role after graduation as well.

Take note: Although the industry doesn’t have rigid educational requirements, obtaining certifications may be necessary, depending on your job scope and responsibilities.

Investment management: Also known as asset management, the premise of investment management is to help clients – that range from institutions, entities, governments and private HNWI investors – oversee and manage their money to realise their investment goals. These can be through pension funds, retirement plans, mutual funds, or hedge funds, among others.

Investment managers therefore turn their knowledge and expertise to bonds, equities, real estate and commodities like precious metals and artwork, and work with them to maximise revenue for their clients. As a result, responsibilities include financial planning and advising, financial statement analysis, portfolio allocation, estate planning and asset planning and distribution.

The role of an investment manager: Because the core responsibilities of investment managers include ensuring that client portfolios perform up to its objectives, they have more responsibilities. They help clients manage risk and maximise profit by identifying and adding suitable assets to client portfolios, advise clients on when to buy or sell assets, vet new investment opportunities for clients, track portfolio performance and help develop and implement client long-term investment strategies.

Additionally, investment managers are also expected to enforce regulatory and legal compliance, analyse market trends and trading behaviour, as well as improve processes within their firm.

Most of the time, a team of financial analysts also work under an investment manager, and it’s one of their duties to oversee the team and ensure their work is aligned with client accounts.

Degrees required: Although a finance-related degree isn’t necessary, it’s strongly advised as a better understanding of investment practices is needed for investment management. If the role is more specialised, like investment evaluation and risk management, some employers may even look out for candidates who’ve completed postgraduate studies in the relevant areas.

Take note: Most commonly, investment managers need to sit for, and pass, Capital Markets and Financial Advisory Services (CFMAS) exams.


Investment banking: Household names include global giants like J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays and Goldman Sachs, which all provide a wide range of services. In addition, some corporate banks, such as Citibank and Deutsche Bank, also have investment banking arms.

Alternatively, there are smaller firms – boutique investment banks – you can consider, like Ivory Capital Asia, Northstar Group, Societe Generale Singapore and Houlihan Lokey. These employers are much smaller, and tend to specialise in one area. For example, Houlihan Lokey only deals with M&As, as well as issues related to it, like valuation and restructuring. On the other hand, Northstar Group focuses on equity management.

Investment management: Most new graduates tend to gun for bigger investment management firms like Lion Global Investors, Aberdeen Standard Life, Bordier and BlackRock, that manage both individual and institutional investors. Banks like Citibank, OCBC Bank and DBS Bank also offer investment management services on a consumer level.

Smaller investment management firms in Singapore include JCO Investments Management Singapore, SilverSea Asset Management and Robeco Singapore. Due to their smaller size, they also tend to specialise in one investor group, usually HNWIs.

Areas of work

Investment banking: As a new hire, your career will begin in entry-level roles, like analyst or associate. From there, with enough experience, you’ll move on to reach as high as managing director or even vice president!

There are also other roles that aren’t related to investment banking, too, including positions in operations and human resource management. As many investment banks are moving online, there’s also high demand for roles in finance IT and software development and testing.

Skills required: Investment banking requires a mix of soft skills and technical skills. As the industry is highly globalised, and many clients tend to form long-term relationships with their investment bankers, cultural awareness and sensitivity, as well as interpersonal and communications skills, are musts.

Moreover, because clients often need new and bespoke solutions that still follow rules and regulations, and are also in their interests, investment bankers need to be creative and be able to think out-of-the-box, as well as have problem-solving skills. As soon as a client chooses a solution, you’ll need to quickly and accurately prepare pitch presentations and transaction documents for them.

Last but not least, stress management is vital, as the investment banking sector is known for 80-hour weeks, tight deadlines and high targets. Long hours are considered a norm in this area, and many investment bankers have been known to neglect their physical and mental health, which can lead to burnout.

On the other hand, technical skills needed include financial modelling, as you’ll need to forecast returns for clients that help in their decision-making. Because you’ll also be expected to grow your client’s portfolio, a strong interest in financial markets and trends is necessary.

Investment management: You’ll get your start as a junior financial analyst and work closely with securities, stocks and bonds. From there, you’ll progress on to more senior analyst roles, where you’ll be expected to oversee the junior analysts. Later, with more experience and good performance, you can become a portfolio manager. At that point, you can either move into a leadership role in your current firm, or strike out on your own and set up your own small firm.

Like investment banking, there are other non-finance roles available to you. If you decide to go into hedge funds, there’s always high demand for legal expertise. There are also sales and business development positions, though you’ll need to be very familiar with the specific and strict marketing rules present in the sector.

As mentioned before, there are also openings in operations and human resource management. Many investment management firms are moving online and setting up online information portals for consumers to use, as well – like Lion Global Investor’s LGIDirect – so there’s a strong need for knowledge in software development and web development.

Skills required: Investment managers need a variety of hard and soft skills to succeed in the industry, beginning with strong computer skills and financial market interest. You’ll need to be able to effectively and efficiently use data processing software to create financial reports, track client portfolios and analyse market trends. After that, you’ll need to use this information to problem-solve and figure out the best investment strategies for your clients, all while taking factors like size of capital, investor preferences and market conditions into account.

You’ll also need solid communication skills to break down financial jargon and explain finance periodicals and securities reports in a manner that all clients can easily understand and use to make a decision.

Interpersonal skills will also come in handy when you start building relationships with clients. In this industry, clients usually stay with one investment manager for a long time, and as such, they need to be able to trust the advice you give them. Because you’ll be handling more than one portfolio, as well, time management and organisational skills are vital.

Although working hours are a little better at 50- to 60-hours per week, they’re still long. As a result, stress management may also be necessary.

Work in this sector tends to be demanding, dynamic, fast-paced and challenging. But if you have the skills, passion and ambition to go all out in your career, then this sector is for you!