Interview with Investment Banking Analyst (Barclays, Ex Goldman Sachs) - Harriet Kurzynski
Can you give me a background on yourself - how did you develop your interest in finance?
My interest in finance began when I was in sixth form; King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford. Whilst there, I attended a speaker’s event by Morgan Stanley (MS) where I was introduced to the student programmes and opportunities within banking. This acted as a catalyst that inspired me to apply for the ‘Step In, Step Up’ programme at MS and the ‘A Level Girls Inspire’ programme at Goldman Sachs (GS); I was fortunate enough to secure both opportunities. Early-insight experiences, such as these, are a fantastic chance to explore the finance industry and there is no expectation to have experience within investment banking when applying.
I went on to pursue a degree in Business & Management at Exeter, where I actively took part in finance- related opportunities, including ExCode (creating a prototype app with sponsorship from Bank of America Merrill Lynch; BAML), attending the JP Morgan Bournemouth office tour (Operations Department) and joining various societies on campus (The Exeter Women in Business Society, Business & Finance Society, Exeter Entrepreneurs). I also joined Bright Network and took the time to explore additional opportunities, such as attending an EY insight day, to confirm whether finance was the business area that I wanted to focus on as a career.
During my second year at University, I secured Banking and Markets Spring Weeks that I applied to, at BAML and Barclays. These experiences were like the insight days that I attended in sixth form, over a longer timeframe. They provide an in-depth overview of the departments in banking, which is beneficial in determining the division that interests you most. Spring Weeks allow you to network more extensively within firms and create bonds with other students that you meet, which is invaluable. You have the potential to convert the experience into a summer internship, subject to your performance, whether you enjoy the experience and are a good fit for the firm and industry. I accepted a return offer as a summer intern within Investment Banking at Barclays, which took place during the summer immediately after my placement year. I made strong friendships and have kept in touch with those I met during these experiences - many of whom work in finance now. From the summer internship, I gained a full-time offer to return as an Investment Banking Analyst, within Equity Capital Markets (ECM), after graduating.
In my third year of University, I carried out a placement year in Private Wealth Management (PWM), at GS. The experience was fantastic (and explained in more detail later). I worked across different teams, working with a myriad of clients, which was very rewarding. The exposure and responsibility that I gained through this experience strengthened my skill set - including my organisational ability, and I have been able to translate this into the work I carry out within Investment Banking. From my placement year, I was fortunate to gain an unconditional return offer as a Wealth Management Professional after graduating. Deciding whether to accept the position at Barclays versus Goldman Sachs was difficult; I had great experiences at both firms. The decision ultimately came down to accepting the role that had more market exposure, which is something I find particularly engaging about working in ECM.
Can you share with me a bit more about what you do on a day-to-day basis as an Investment Banking Analyst in the ECM division at Barclays?
It is difficult to talk about the specific things that we do due to client confidentiality. Ultimately, we work to list companies on the stock exchange and help generate liquidity for companies, which, in an example scenario, they may use to finance an acquisition. There are many cases you can read online that can help provide a broader understanding of this - such as the Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Dr. Martens, which was a successful listing that my team helped to facilitate at the beginning of this year.
Generally, responsibilities include keeping up with market trends and creating documents that are used in client meetings. For example, pitches with analysis and market data relevant to the project that we are working on. We will collate information alongside different teams, such as Research and Equity Syndicate, which allows us to develop an in-depth understanding of the work we are creating and build strong working relationships across the firm. Often there will be many projects happening simultaneously, which is challenging due to the hours involved, but it is a rewarding process to be a part of. You learn a lot from working with different clients and being able to attend the client meetings, which is fantastic exposure, as well as a great learning experience.
What do you wish you had known before taking on the role as an Investment Banker in the ECM department?
I wish I had known about Fitch learning during my final year of University. They are one of the providers of training materials for the FCA exams, which you are required to pass for a role in Investment Banking. At Barclays, we took the Financial Regulations, Securities, and Derivatives exams, however this differs across firms. For those that are from a non-finance background, the FCA exams can be challenging. You are provided with a few days of intense training before each exam; it is up to you to revise prior to this. I would strongly recommend learning most of the content before the training and using the sessions to refresh your memory.
I see that your course required you to dedicate a year to obtaining industrial experience. How was your experience and would you recommend it?
Yes, I would highly recommend it. I had an interview for PWM at GS, in the London office, and received my offer the following day; the process was very quick! The job involved a high level of responsibility, which allowed for personal and professional development. We were involved in meaningful tasks as soon as we hit the desk, which was a steep learning curve; it made the placement students feel like full-time employees, rather than interns. There were a few placement students within PWM, and we worked in different teams. It was great to join alongside each other, as it provided us with a strong support group; we are good friends to this day. The placement demonstrated the dynamic and fast-paced working environment within banking and increased my determination to work within finance as a career after University. Gaining the discipline of a working day, that exceeded 9-5, further developed my work ethic, which I applied to my final year; this helped me gain a First-Class Honours degree.
For those carrying out placements, it is important to note that your University may set assignments to complete in addition to your job. Exeter University set us two assignments that I completed during my days off because I wanted to focus attention on my role during the working week.
The placement year was also a great opportunity to understand my own personal financial management, in terms of living on a salary in London, as well as discovering which area of the city I wanted to live in after graduating.
What advice would you give to students aspiring to enter the industry?
Be confident in yourself and your capabilities. Investment Banking typically involves longer hours than other careers, so you need to be resilient and willing to dedicate a significant amount of time to your job. Availability on weekends is often required when working on live projects too. It is important to enjoy the work that you are doing, which is why it is beneficial to have a summer internship in the sector, as it allows you to gain a clear idea of what the role entails, although, this is not a necessity. It is a very competitive industry to get into, but a great place to begin your career.
*(Attention to detail is key - spot the hidden message above!).
*Please note, I am no longer an employee of Goldman Sachs and therefore am not speaking on behalf of the firm.
Feel free to connect with Harriet on LinkedIn