How to Be a Banker

Three Parts:Getting QualifiedFinding Your Banking CareerSucceeding in Your Career

Working in the banking field covers a broad spectrum of job duties. You might be a loan officer who holds the future of a young family or a struggling business in your hands. You might be the Chief Executive Officer who has to hold it all together and know the big picture plan for the entire company, but may have started out in the mail room. Some bankers stay in one specific area their entire career, while others choose to cover a wide variety of job titles throughout their time while at a particular institution. What's in store for you?

Part 1
Getting Qualified

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    Finish high school. Though you may be able to get started working at a bank without college experience, you definitely need to finish high school if you want to develop any sort of career. It's just good sense.
    • Pay attention in math class now and like it. If it bores you or if it's just something you slough through every afternoon, banking probably isn't up your alley.
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    Get your BA in finance, accounting, or other related field. To compete with the hundreds or thousands of others that you'll be up against over the course of your lifetime, you'll need a BA to even be looked at seriously. You did well in high school so you can get into a good university, right?
    • Start networking now. Take a variety of courses (with a relation to math and business, of course), get to know your professors, and get involved on campus. The more work you do now, the less work you'll have to do later.
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    Get good grades in college. This could've been a bullet point underneath the previous step, but it deserves being said in bold (and twice at that): get good grades in college. Sure, Cs get degrees, but they don't get into good grad schools and they sure as hell don't breed a good work ethic or good study habits.
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    Get a part-time gig at a bank. You've gotta pay off that tuition somehow, so get started working at a bank! Even 10 hours a week being a teller is your foot in the door. The smaller banks in your area are great places to get started. You may even find a mentor and meet a bunch of people who can help you get going.
    • This is, obviously, apart from managing your own finances. If you want to get into investment banking or broking, it'll be of benefit to you to start managing your own stock portfolio. If you can't handle your own money, you probably shouldn't be handling anyone else's!
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    Read up. This is a field where you can (and should) learn a ton from the pros. Since you're still not probably super sure which direction you want to go, reading books on the different aspects of banking can get your mind's feet wet.
    • Sometimes referred to as "the best book about mergers and acquisitions,"[1], take a gander at "Barbarians at the Gate." As far as sales and trading go, look at "Liar's Poker." If it doesn't sound like fun, you're doing it wrong.
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    Get an internship. So if your dream is to manage your town's credit union, you probably don't need an internship (read: you definitely don't need an internship). But if you ever see yourself flying to Tokyo to meet with a client and schmoozing and boozing them in the bars of 5-star hotels (that your bank is paying for), get an internship.
    • If you're looking into investments, mergers and acquisitions, public finance, leveraged finance, blah blah blah, you'll need an internship. It's only if you're planning on going the personal banker route and staying relatively small that an internship may be unnecessary stress on your pocketbook.

Part 2
Finding Your Banking Career

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    Decide what type of job matches your current skill set and education. Certain jobs are more entry level in the banking field than others. Most teller positions only require a high school education and on the job training. But pretty much every other will be looking for a BA or an MBA. Which is what you had in mind?
    • Entry-level, no-degree-required positions are generally part-time positions and have a high turn-over because employees often are college students who return to school or employees who move up to higher paid positions.
    • Positions such as financial managers, which can include the bank’s controller, credit manager, branch managers, treasurer or finance officer, risk and insurance manager, cash manager, and manager of international banking require a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, or a related field.
    • Positions that require additional training include investment banking sales agents. Many agents obtain their Master’s degrees in Business Administration (MBA), but it is the company’s specialized business model that is imperative to learn for an employee.
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    Go the personal banker route. This is the guy (or gal!) at your bank that can offer you expert financial advice and that you actually know by name. S/He is great at building relationships with clients and is very service-oriented. Does this sound like your idea of "banker?"
    • From a personal banker, you can then be promoted to services manager, store manager, business specialist, or become a licensed personal banker.[2] The web that bankers weave is clearly quite intricate!
    • To be a personal banker (at everywhere from your local credit union to a behemoth like Wells Fargo), you'll need your BA.
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    Or go the investment banker route. This one is the one that's a bit more complicated and will eventually lead to you needing your MBA. There's a thousand possibilities for you out there if you start on this career -- meaning loads of people jump ship early on to a different banking related area. But if you see yourself scoring massive Gs and shaking hands for a living, an investment banker is your ticket to ride.
    • You'll start out as an analyst, move your way up to associate, then VP, then Managing Director, then a department/division head, executive something or other, and then, finally, CEO. At the beginning, you'll be swimming in your workload and not making a lot of money, but at the end you'll be swimming in your money and not doing a lot of work.
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    Pick an employer that fits you. Regardless of which route you plan on going, do your research when it comes to looking for employment. This will be where you get your training and will thus shape you for the rest of your life. Do you want a small bank where you get lots of attention? Or do you want to be working with hundreds of people with the potential to rise above them all?
    • If size and location (and pay) are already sorted, be sure to think about their training program. Some banks will hand you over to the dogs more quickly than others. So before you sign that contract, make sure you know what's expected of you in the first few months.
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    Start at the bottom of the ladder. Kinda how life works, really, but it's especially true in the banking world. At the beginning of your career, you'll be pushing paper. You'll be running meaningless errands, fixing your boss' typos, and slouching over piles of papers for hours. But it gets better!
    • If investment banking is your bag, you'll probably get hired on as an analyst for a very specific 2-year stint. You can imagine that after these two years, loads of people take the resume builder and get out of the banking world.
    • Beyond the analyst position is the financial assistant position. Once you get here, you're considered a "lifer." You'll still be working 100-hour work weeks (did we not mention that yet? Yeah....), but at least you'll be able to boss your analysts around.
      • Starting off as an analyst isn't going to be pretty. You'll spending the greater part of your waking life (and you won't get much sleep) doing math, fixing Excel spreadsheets, and being treated like you're not worth much. Just so you know. But, again, it gets better. Way better.
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    Get licensed, if necessary. There are two exams that an agent may have to be aware of: The General Securities Registered Representative Examination, otherwise known as the Series 7 Exam, and the Uniform Securities Agents State Law Examination (Series 63 or 66). The Series 7 is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and is a required exam to be a broker or investment advisor. Only some states require the 63/66.
    • This is only for a specific branch of banking -- namely investing. If you won't be doing any of that, you may not need to worry about taking these exams. By the time the need to take an exam (be it these two or not), you won't need this wikiHow article to outline the process for you.
    • You can get a license as a personal banker. Your bank will help facilitate this for you once you have enough experience under your belt.

Part 3
Succeeding in Your Career

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    Work your butt off. We've done more than allude to how crappy life is going to be for the first couple of years, mainly if you're planning on running with the big guys at banks like Chase, Goldman Sachs, or Wells Fargo (just to name a few). You're going to be surviving on black coffee and cheeseburgers with onions and, when all you want to do is sleep, you'll need to ask for more work. Sounds good, right?
    • For a while, you won't have much of a social life (unless, of course, you're constantly on uppers to avoid needing sleep, but that's a terrible idea). If that's not a sacrifice you're willing to make (which is why loads of people get out early on), you may need to consider a different career -- or at least banking on a much, much smaller level.
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    Get your MBA. Loads of people take that two-year stint as an analyst and then go to work on their MBA. They come back and they've got all their bases covered. Some do get their MBA straightaway -- and then they get jobs as assistants, ordering around the analysts who actually have a better idea of how things should be done, so it can be a little jarring. If you see an MBA in your future, get it sooner rather than later, but don't feel the need to get it right outta the gate.
    • If you don't know whether or not an MBA is for you, sleep on it. It's a lot of money and time spent and if you don't need it, there's little point in worrying about it. Plenty of people don't have them and do more than just fine.
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    Be quantitative. This really goes without saying -- if you don't have a head for math and the finance world, this is going to be one hell of an uphill battle. Not only should you be good at it, but you should take pride in it and enjoy it, too. For the long run! 5 years into it, those numbers still have to be interesting. Only a quantitative mind could manage that!
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    Be unflappable. You're gonna come across a lot of situations that would stress the average Joe out. You cannot be that average Joe. Your response to a stressful situation should be more along the lines of, "The client wants 24/7 access this week and a brand spanking new presentation? Okay, no problem. I've got a gift card to Starbucks. Work has a shower. I got this."
    • You'll also be in situations that are stressful due to your coworkers. At the beginning, there may be some pretty fierce competition. You gotta believe in yourself and think of it all as hazing, not personal attacks. There's only so much money going around, so some people can get quite nippy.
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    Nail down that handshake. Once you've put in your time falling asleep at the keyboard and making presentations that your boss gets credit for, you'll eventually get to the point where you're paid to fly to Chicago and shake some old guy's hand. When it comes to that, make sure you've worked on your charming smile, your punctuality, your taste for whiskey, and your firm-yet-warm grip.
    • It's all schmoozing and boozing at the end. All that work you did early on will finally pay off. People will come to you -- there's no need to come to them. This will take years, sure, maybe even more than a decade, but it can come with the right amount of persistence (and, well, economic upturns).
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    Rock the golden handcuffs. That's sort of pessimistic, sure, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's untrue. When you're making that massive six figure salary, you may be able to back out early and spend the rest of your life doing something a little less stressful. Or you may get addicted to that paycheck and see out the rest of your years working to get it. You'll be handcuffed to your job, but at least those handcuffs are shiny.


  • Find out what seminars and training are available to you at no cost or minimal cost to give you additional training in your banking area. These might be offered in-house at your institution, or they might be training seminars that require travel. By increasing your knowledge and continuing your education, you broaden your area of expertise and make your chances for future advancement better.
  • Set a standard of professionalism. If you want to be a banker, become a model employee by being punctual, dressing in a business-like manner, speaking professionally, and refraining from cursing or using slang language.
  • Research the nuances of your particular job description. Guidelines have been set in place for the banking industry for a reason. They are there to protect the institution to help them follow state and national regulatory guidelines. So it is imperative that you take every precaution to understand and follow the rules and instructions laid out before you.

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