Sidin Sunny Vadukut chats up with Shankar Kapoor, an investment banker in London, to find out what this i-bank hype is all about.
It’s the one of the great big MBA dreams. The stuff that make people slog at CAT and GMAT for years. The vocation that pretty much means wealth and comfort for the rest of your lives.
Or does it?
JAM recently spoke to Shankar Kapoor, an investment banker with one of the top investment banks in London, to share his life and experiences as a rather successful investment banker.
(As you may have noticed we have kept his name and the name of his employer under cover. This is because most investment banks are paranoid about PR. It is NOT unknown for bankers to be fired for a stray comment to a newspaper.)
JAM: So tell us a little bit about your route to this bank in London.
SK: After my engg. At IIT Kanpur I worked for a couple of years for a KPO in Gurgaon. This was good experience and I was exposed to a lot of analysis and industry information. Then I did my MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. Uske baad I joined this bank from campus.
JAM: So we have all heard about huge investment banking salaries and tremendous work loads. How much is fact? How much hype?
SK: Well some of it is true. But not all together. For instance most people make decent salaries. (We also live in expensive cities like London and New York.) But most people make their money in end of year bonuses. These can be absolutely huge, and can also be pathetically small. And the work really depends on which division of the bank you are working for.
,b>JAM: So there are various job profiles?
SK: Absolutely. There are the analysts who work seven days a week sometimes and upwards of 15 hours a day. There are traders like me who work five days a week from nine to nine but face tremendous pressures.
SK: I trade shares for the bank. One false move and I can lose millions of pounds. That means no bonus and possibly even losing my job. And the error could be a decimal place thing. Very strenuous. Also you make one mistake and your career could get screwed. You build a bad reputation on the street. Once you screw up everyone drops you like a hot potato.
JAM: So you must be really rich then SK?
SK: Well in Indian’s term yes. I have more money than my dad does after 30 years of working. (SK’s dad works for the government here.) In relative terms to people here in London I am doing ok. Remember that it’s a high risk game. If the markets go bad you lose everything. So rich today. Pauper tomorrow. And the really scary thing is that I can NEVER say with certainty what I will have in the bank next month!
JAM: What is your life outside work like?
SK: Pretty much like everybody else’s. I hang out with my friends here. Many of them who are not bankers. We watch movies, eat out. Things like that. We go clubbing once in a while. But it’s not the page 3 lifestyle at all. Pretty much like any half-decent MBA in Mumbai or Delhi. Maybe I have a little less guilt when I overspend!
JAM: What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought after you started working?
SK: A watch. I am not a big spender. I know people in India who buy a Tag Heuer without blinking twice. So not such a big deal. But I have friends who have walked out of their office, into an Audi showroom and then driven out with a car. To celebrate their bonuses. When things are going good here it can be absolutely crazy the way they burn up cash…
JAM: Why would people ever leave an Investment bank? It sounds like heaven…
SK: It causes a LOT of burnout. Most people can’t handle it after a few years. You see many kids quitting in their first couple of years. And then maybe a few years after marriage. It can be terrible if you are in a tough profile. Money can’t buy everything you know. And let’s not even get into people’s personal lives and health and things. I can tell you stories you CANNOT print in JAM.
JAM: What are your plans in life? Retire early?
SK: I wish. But I do want to move to India in a year or so. The scene there is great and there is a lot of money to be made. Also India is home. I want to grow up my kids there. (Laughs) I know it makes me sound like some money greedy monster. But personally the move from beautiful London to Mumbai needs to make sense right?
JAM: There is good money in India?
SK: Sure. Good people are making phirangi salaries in Mumbai. Imagine the savings. But the work load is equally bad too though. Most of the Indian banks are just gearing up and still don’t have the infrastructure we have here.
JAM: In the sense?
SK: IT and people resources. I have a secretary I share with a couple of other guys. She takes care of a LOT of my work like bills and tickets and travel and things. Also the commute to work isnt half as bad.
JAM: Any advice for potential investment bankers out there?
SK: Read up on i-banking. Talk to bankers. Don’t jump for it because it sounds cool. There are a lot of brilliant career options out there with their own positives and negatives. But if all you’re worried about is money then welcome! If banking isn’t the thing there is really no need to fret. You can always do consulting, marketing, general management and things like that. All a question of trade-offs.
JAM: So what’s the path to an investment banking career?
SK: In India it starts with an MBA from a good school. That’s the best and sometimes only way to make it to an international bank. Outside even good graduates join as analysts. Not so in India.
JAM: And for those who don’t get the IIM stamp?
SK: Harder but by no means impossible. You can work your way up a large bank through corporate banking and so on. There are ways and means. But you need to be focused and make career moves happen. Network a lot with bankers and people in the industry. Referrals lead to a lot of jobs.
JAM: Great talking to you SK. I suppose you need to run away now?
SK: Yup. Tell all JAMMERs I love them!