Sanu Miah Head & Shoulder Shot

Sanu Miah, founder, CheekyLittleCareers

CheekyLittleCareers’ founder and City banker Sanu Miah explains what counts as front office jobs in investment banking and what a typical day looks like in the coalface.

Front office, middle office and back office. Anyone who is interested in a graduate job in banking (or junior City lawyers who are considering a secondment to a bank) may have come across some of these terms. But what do they all mean? In my last blog on this often confusing subject I demystified some of the main roles that exist within these three different parts of a bank.

In this blog I’ll be focusing in on the front office. Without going into too much detail, I’ll try to unravel some of the jargon with the aim of giving you a beginner’s understanding by the time you finish reading this bitesize post.

So here goes

Front office essentially means client facing. You’re the first point of contact for clients, both individuals and corporates, offering them financial products that they can purchase. Alternatively, you may help clients to trade in such products. In most banks, including investment banking, this means you’re responsible for generating revenue and bringing home the bacon.

Front office jobs in investment banking are typically broken down in to two main categories (1) advisory and (2) capital raising.

  1. Investment Banking – these roles will focus on advising a bank’s clients across a range of activities including mergers and acquisitions (M&A), corporate finance and initial public offerings (IPOs).
  2. Capital Markets & Underwriting – these roles will focus on sales, trading, structuring, and issuing securities.

What can you expect as a newbie in the front office?

Typically, you’ll start as an analyst or associate, supporting either a vice president (VP) or director who works under a senior banker (managing director), covering a portfolio of clients usually aligned to a specific sector such as Technology, Media & Telecoms (TMT), Financial Sponsors or Natural Resources to name but a few.

What will your average day look like?

This really depends on which one of the above two categories your role sits within. In an advisory role your days will be spent working with your VP or director pitching your bank’s services to existing and prospective clients under the guidance of the senior banker.

Contrast the above with a trading or sales role such as FX (Foreign Exchange) when your days are likely to be more hectic because you’ll be participating in a “live” market. Aside from this, you’ll also be putting together pitch books for your clients, detailing your next ‘big idea’.

Other Front office jobs

As well as the above, other front office jobs that prevail inside large banks include, cash / product management sales, trade finance and wealth management.

Is it for you?

The front office of an investment bank is generally thought of as a high-pressure environment with long hours (12-hours can be the norm for some). What’s more, not only will you have to deal with some of the world’s largest companies, high-net individuals, and sovereign’s (Governmental organisations), in some instances you’ll also be expected to meet extremely tight timelines and hit challenging revenue targets.

In conclusion

I’ve tried to keep things as simple as possible. If this is your career of choice, I’d strongly recommend dedicating sufficient time to research the various front office roles that may be of interest to you. Whilst they may be high-pressured at times, it’s worthwhile pointing out that such roles can also be a lot of fun too. No two days are ever the same and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet all sorts of interesting and diverse individuals from all walks of like along the way. Your hard work won’t go unrewarded either. Graduates in investment banking earn some of the highest salaries, with some employers offering graduates starting salaries of £40,000 with the potential to reach six-figures in five to six years.

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