Senior corporate financiers who've been around the block a few times can get a little misty eyed when talking about the business in Europe in the early 90s. Less competition, opportunities everywhere you looked and client relationships built on trust and quality of advice rather the commoditised, product pushing environment of today.
Since then, an explosion of new product offerings, greater business volumes and globalisation has meant that corporate finance expertise has become far more specialised. It has also created difficulties for bankers in managing their careers.
Banking is a cyclical business, yet bankers are challenged to produce stable and consistent revenue. But how do you continue to demonstrate your value when your market falls away and the inevitable management spotlight falls upon you? Witness the experience of so many in leveraged finance or structured credit recently.
From a headhunter's perspective, a banker needs to display at least one of two things to present long term value: an active clientbase, or a breadth of product expertise that maintains his or her value irrespective of the cycle.
Thus, to remain in demand, bankers need to have a broad offering at a high level, which can be challenging when specialisation is all the rage. Coverage officers should be able to talk strategically about Credit and Cash Management not just M&A and Capital Markets. Bankers should be wary of the risks of overexposure to one product or having limited coverage responsibilities.
It helps to work for a big brand name. However, a high quality, smaller but more flexible work environment that gives greater client exposure and a broader experience can increase your value to future employers more than the brand of your last employer. Position yourself to do repeat work with major clients and look to stable platforms, not just the best offer. Short term riches may be alluring, but the long term game is still the best career move..