What is it like working in a bank?

Sep 23, 2020 Cayman Islands

What kind of job do you do? I get this question a lot especially from friends who are not working in the same industry. Because I tell them that I work in a bank, they would automatically assume that I work in a retail bank where the usual personal savings account and debit / credit card services are offered. Like most people, they would ask, "I've never heard of that bank before. How come I don't see any customers going in and out for deposits, and how come there are no tellers?" 


A retail bank is only one of the many types of financial institutions in the world. There are investment banks, private banks, central bank, development banks, credit union, insurance and pre-need companies, brokerage firms, etc. Today I will share my experience in investment banking and private banking with you, and hopefully this will shed light on some of their differences.





What is Investment Banking?

Unlike your usual retail bank, an investment bank mainly helps companies access capital markets to raise funds. They act as an intermediary between corporations and financial markets. The main clientele per se are entities. They don't do individual deposits or loans. My past job was closely linked in securities trading. My day revolves around reconciliation of any event that will cause a price change in publicly traded stocks (in short, corporate actions). Our team works on dividends, mergers and acquisitions, rights issues, spin offs, etc. If you want to know more about my job in corporate actions, I'll make a separate entry next week.


In terms of the structure, an investment bank typically is divided into three functions namely:


  • Front office / sales trading and research. They buy and sell (trade) products on behalf of the client. It could be commodities, securities, derivatives, and many more.

  • Middle office / financial control (corporate treasury), and risk management. They ensure that the bank doesn’t engage in certain activities that could be detrimental to the overall health as a firm.

  • Back office / operations and technology. They provide overall support to the front office so they could make money efficiently.


Can you now distinguish the difference between a retail bank and an investment bank? What about the other types of banks? I can only speak from experience, so I will now share with you how they both differ from a private bank (my current job).

On my first day it felt like working in the front office because my co-workers have direct contact with clients. I thought it's the same as working in an investment bank, but it is actually very different.



What is Private Banking?

Private banking offers specialized financial services to high-net-worth individuals. This might be similar to retail banking in a way that our clients are individual persons, but differs in a way that your regular neighbor can't just walk in and open an account. The clientele has to have high levels of income and sizeable assets. The services offered are mainly wealth management (clients get to decide how to tailor their portfolio according to their specific wants and needs), tax services, insurance, trust and estate planning, and retirement planning. So now I don't really work with traders anymore, but I work closely with client relationship officers (CRO) who are each assigned exclusively to a customer. I work in treasury so I handle fiduciary deposits, and provide operational support to the CROs as much as I can.


And that's it for me now. I hope I shed some light on what it is like working in those "atypical so-called banks who don't have ATMs and tellers in the concierge." If you have questions feel free to drop a comment below.


Have a good week ahead you guys!


Photo is from unsplash.


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 Food for Thought is a blog series where we discover and gain deeper understanding on a certain topic. Everyone is welcome to join the discussion and express their own thoughts.

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