A graduate career at a boutique bank

For a driven and ambitious student, boutique banks are a great but often overlooked alternative to bigger and better-known financial institutions. 

Boutiques are banks which specialise in in select aspects of investment banking. They normally focus on corporate finance such as Mergers and Acquisitions or IPO and will have a much smaller headcount – think a specialised elite team rather than strength in numbers. Because of this, they offer an amazing package to graduates.

But they’re not just looking for A*s and an Economics degree. In order to join their elite team, you’ll need to prove the following skills:

 It’s a huge bonus of boutiques that you’ll be client facing so quickly

Client ready

Boutiques very much need their graduates to hit the ground running. They want you out of a classroom and working on projects as quickly as possible. You’ll have enough on your plate remembering complex financials so the bank doesn’t want to spend precious time training you in client soft skills. It’s a huge bonus of boutiques that you’ll be client facing so quickly, but you need to prove you can represent the bank well and exude maturity, calm and capability from day one.

Commitment

The larger banks can afford to hire a pack of graduates with the knowledge that one or two will eventually discover banking isn’t for them and leave. By contrast, a boutique may only be hiring a couple of grads and they need to be 100% sure they won’t lose a new hire. It is for this reason boutiques will be looking for signs of genuine passion and complete commitment in the bank and bank’s specialisms – which you should show in your work experiences, knowledge and interviews.

Adaptability 

One of the bonuses of working in a boutique is the breadth of projects and roles you’ll be working on. However, not every aspiring banker likes variation and unpredictability, so you’ll need to prove you can change direction quickly, and cope with unexpected problems and challenges. Try to demonstrate to your interviewers that you have the resilience and adaptability necessary.

Personality 

Boutiques work in small, tight-knit teams and everyone knows everyone else. This has the huge advantage that everyone from C suite down will recognise your achievements, but it also means that everyone has to be pulling in the same direction. On a 100 hour work week and with the days counting down to a multi-million IPO, conflicting personalities just aren’t an option. Therefore, it’s important you’re open about your character, what motivates you and how you approach problems. At the end of the day, it’s not whether they think you’re a nice person, it’s whether they can see you as part of the team.

Boutique opportunities can be harder to find, but they still have dedicated internships. Bright Network works closely with Gleacher Shacklock and their internship is an opportunity to work on real projects, network with senior bankers and possibly secure a graduate role. You can read more about them here.