Career paths in equity capital markets

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If you start out in equity capital markets (ECM), the chances are that you will be rotated around the various different functions within the division throughout your training before settling down into a specialism.

You you do settle, career progression in equity capital markets is relatively straightforward, linear and hierarchical. New recruits start out as analysts, a role they spend three years in before being promoted to associate. The standard rank after this is vice president (VP), although some banks – such as HSBC and UBS – call them associate directors. Similarly, director is the next step up, although a lot of US investment banks use the term executive director (ED). If you’re one of the few who makes it, the next step is managing director.

However, there’s a reason that banks place an emphasis on teamwork during the recruitment process – all the different ranks perform an important function for a common goal.

An analyst is a doer or processor of information and/or materials.  An associate is a thinker of materials, projects, and deals

“An analyst is a doer or processor of information and/or materials.  An associate is a thinker of materials, projects, and deals,” says Steven Halperin, co-head of EMEA equity capital markets at Barclays. “A VP is a manager of the process and the people. A director is an originator and their primary role is to originate transactions and interact with clients.  A managing director is a leader as they lead clients, transactions, and people.”

If you’re looking for a career outside of ECM altogether, there are some options available. A common switch is to move between the capital markets teams – from debt capital markets to ECM, or vice versa – but it’s a somewhat different skill-set. Debt markets are higher volume, which means the job is more about marketing and distributing products, and can be more complex and therefore more technical than ECM.

It’s less common for investment bankers in ECM to move across to roles in private equity than it is in M&A. In M&A, the switch across to private equity – often called the buy-side migration – typically occurs at associate level, but private equity employers are very selective and tend to favour those with M&A backgrounds.

A more common move is to switch into a hedge fund, which have close links to banks’ ECM teams anyway and often want to bring in an internal ECM competency.

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