Choosing the right investment bank for you is a little like choosing a car - there are plenty of models on offer and some are faster than others.
So how should you determine whether to apply to a work at the banking equivalent of a Ferrari, or to go for a more trusty Saab? Here are a few things to take into consideration -
1) Culture -The culture of the bank is the glue that holds its employees together and determines the atmosphere at work. For example, Goldman Sachs has a reputation for having a highly demanding, high work ethic, highly collaborative culture (to the extent that its employees are sometimes accused of lacking individuality).
John Jessen, managing director of headhunter Smith & Jessen says some banks will work you harder than others: "The most demanding employers are the classical big US investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and JPMorgan," he says. "Deutsche Bank is probably closest in style to that American model, while other formidable institutions include UBS, Credit Suisse and Barclays Capital."
Culture is liable to vary across business areas, so the more you can find out about the culture of the particular area you want to work in the better. The best way of doing this is to get in contact with people already working there - try your school alumni association.
2) Breadth - If you're going into a bank as a graduate trainee, it's worth looking at whether the training programme will offer you exposure to a broad array of business areas, or focus in on one particular niche. Jeremy Canning, Singapore country head at recruitment firm Morgan McKinley, says breadth is best: "As a graduate, you want to gain as much experience and exposure to as many parts of the business as possible during your training programme."
3) Performance - Banks are typically listed companies and therefore make annual and quarterly results available on their websites. As a graduate trainee, it is best to be based at one of the leading banks in your field - or at one that is fast-up and coming. Annual and quarterly results will give you an idea of the extent to which a bank is reliant on each business area (eg. M&A or fixed income) and how well that business is performing. League tables, such as those provided by Thomson Financial, or offered in some of the eFinancialCareers sector profiles, will show you were each firm ranks compared to its competitors.
4) Prestige - In 2006, UBS ranked top of the Asia ex-Japan league tables for everything from M&A to ECM. By comparison, smaller firms such as ABN AMRO ranked low or not at all. Working for some banks, therefore, will be more prestigious than others.
Canning highlights advantages of both prestigious and less prestigious starting points: "Starting off in a well-known, established bank is an excellent way to build your credentials and gain exposure to a structured and well-defined environment. This looks great on a CV and can make you very marketable to future prospective employers.
"On the flip side, the entrepreneurial spirit is much rawer at boutique houses and they may offer more versatile roles and earlier exposure to things such as client interaction," he adds.