Alumni discuss investment banking

At an alumni panel about careers in investment banking Wednesday afternoon, speakers stressed the idea that the industry is rewarding but toilsome, and urged students to weigh their career options carefully.

The panel, which was organized and moderated by investment banker Peter Young ’74, featured Kelly Cheng ’00 and Sharyar Aziz ’74, a vice president from Barclays Capital and a managing director at UBS, respectively. Speaking to a small audience of about 20 students through a video conference from the Yale Club of New York, the panelists sought to provide audience members with a realistic view of the investment banking career. They said the public has a general misconception that the future of investment banking is dark and unpromising.

“It is tragic to pursue a career based on false positives, but also to pursue a career based on false negatives,” said Young.

Aziz said the public’s pessimist outlook on investment banking is excessive. Although investment banking has changed tremendously over the last decade, which Aziz said has been particularly turbulent for the industry, he added that the job itself and its rewards have remained largely the same.

The speakers said repeatedly that the income an investment banker earns continues to be substantial. Still, Cheng said the first few years of investment banking for recent college graduates working as financial analysts are often rough.

“Nobody really loves being a financial analyst,” she said, “but if you work hard enough and you get to the point where you can see the forest and not just all of the trees, you will start to see a purpose.”

Aziz said many young investment bankers become burnt out and end up leaving the industry. But Young said most employees actually leave because they are let go in job cuts, adding that investment banks often hire too many employees at the same time and then have to eliminate very competent workers each year.

The panelists directly addressed common concerns of Yale students seeking careers as investment bankers, urging students to pursue their true interests and consider carefully whether they are ready to enter such a demanding and unpredictable profession.

“Don’t go into financial banking ‘just because,’” Young said. “It is just way too hard.”

Young said he supports liberal arts education, adding that students’ programs of study, whether they major in economics or art history, are unimportant to their career prospects as investment bankers. As long as students have strong analytical skills and work well in teams, they can succeed as bankers, Young said.

Audience members interviewed said they appreciated the panelists’ efforts to consider the future of Yale students.

“It’s nice that they address the liberal arts education directly,” David Crossen ’14 said. “Sometimes it seems like a handicap.”

Still, Haroula Gotsi ’14 said the panelists overemphasized the negative aspects of the profession, adding that she felt they focused more on discouraging people from banking rather than promoting the career path.

The panel was the fifth in a series of events designed to give Yale students and alumni a “candid view of each profession” that would debunk both positive and negative myths in circulation.

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