Career choice: consulting versus investment banking

IF YOU”RE in your final or penultimate year of your degree, and you’re interested in pursuing a career in the commercial field, you will probably have started thinking about which career path you want to take. Consulting is an attractive career prospect, but you may also be considering investment banking.

There are many similarities between the two careers. Both career paths will give you an attractive salary, require long hours of work, and involve doing work that is client focused.

There are also some significant differences between consulting and investment banking. This table highlights some of the most obvious differences. If you can think of any differences that I have overlooked, I’d be interested to hear from you.

Management consulting

Investment banking

Short
description

Consulting firms assist companies and governments by providing expert advice and by facilitating the examination of particular problems.

For more information, read the article: What is management consulting?

Investment banks help companies raise money so that these companies can use that money to grow their businesses.

Investment banks sell securities (stocks or bonds) to public investors in order to generate these funds.

Investment banks might also help a company to merge its assets with that of another company, manage and invest the money of wealthy individuals or institutions, or buy and sell securities to make money for itself.

Advantages

High pay: Consultants can make over US$60,000 in their first year (The Vault Guide to Consulting).

More reasonable hours: The hours in investment banking (especially at the junior levels) can be very long. 100 hours per week is a realistic possibility. This equates to working between 15 and 18 hours a day, with frequent all-nighters.

More predictable hours: Investment banking is deal driven. Deals can close or change at the last minute, making it hard to predict workload.

Numbers focussed: Consulting requires a lot of quantitative analysis.

More travel: If you enjoy travel and being put up in expensive hotels, this is an upside.

Very high pay: Investment banking pays graduates more than consulting firms do. Bankers can make over US$150,000 plus bonuses in their first year (The Vault Guide to Consulting).

High profile work: When the deal goes public, the work that your team has done will be reported on in The Wall Street Journal or The Australian Financial Review. This can be very exciting.

Deal driven: Investment banking is deal-driven. This makes it a perfect line of work if you do well working off adrenalin and think you will get a thrill out of chasing and closing a deal.

Very numbers focussed: Banking typically requires more quantitative analysis (that is, looking at the numbers).

Less travel: If you don’t like constant travelling and living out of hotel rooms, this is an upside.

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One Reply to “Career choice: consulting versus investment banking”

  1. Good comparison Tom.

    The only qualifier I’d put around the “numbers focused” comparison is that Investment Banking requires a deeper understanding of Finance (financial engineering, instruments, rigorous company valuation) whereas a Management Consultant is expected to be more of a generalist – in the first few years and certainly at the interview stage of the process. Just the nature of these beasts.

    I’d be curious which one is expected to be the sharper dresser though, something I focus on at my blog – I may just have to give this one to the Bankers… ;)

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