Careers

6 Attributes Nearly Every Banker Needs to Succeed

Do you have what it takes to succeed in the competitive world of banking and finance?

The good news for aspiring bankers: the finance profession is far more inclusive today than at any time in its history, though more work of course needs to be done to recruit a generation of bankers that accurately reflect their customers.

On the other hand, plenty of barriers to entry remain — not least, around the skills and personality traits that are all but required for success in this business. Let’s take a closer look at six attributes that nearly every banker needs to succeed.

1. Solid Quantitative Reasoning Skills

No, you don’t have to be a mathematics savant to excel in the finance world. But you do have to be comfortable with numbers — or be willing to lean on those who are. At a minimum, you’ll need to understand how basic finance concepts like compound interest and annual percentage rates (APRs) work, and how to calculate them. Don’t count on others to have your back.

2. A Willingness to Take on New Roles, Possibly in New Places

If you’re committed to reaching a position of senior leadership at a respected bank or financial institution during the second half of your career, you need to be willing to take on new roles — possibly in new places — from the get-go. Seasoned bank executives’ resumes very often precede them, and may make the difference at hiring time. While it’s important to maintain an adequate work-life balance, it’s equally important to ensure that your family is on board with your long-term professional plan.

3. Unshakable Personal Integrity

Personal integrity is a crucial attribute in most professions, and finance is no different. It’s incumbent upon you to demonstrate to your superiors and clients that you’ll always do the right thing, even when the temptation to do otherwise is strong. That’s a core element of trust. Unfortunately, some key measures of personal integrity aren’t easily taught.

4. A Demonstrated Ability to Work Well With Others

How well do you play with others? In the finance world, cooperation is key, especially when you’re collaborating with others on large corporate accounts or shepherding complex transactions to completion. Mavericks don’t always thrive in this environment.

5. A Competitive Streak That Doesn’t Interfere With Team Play

While team play is essential, so is self-advocacy. The most successful finance professionals tend to be those who find a happy medium between collaboration and competition — those driven to be the best among peers, but not so driven that they lose sight of the bigger picture.

6. Strong Written and Verbal Communication Skills

Lastly, all aspiring finance professionals need strong communication skills, not just client-facing associates. This is an essential aspect of internal and external collaboration, and very often separates bankers whose rise tops out in middle management from those who make it all the way to the C-suite. 

What’s Your Secret Sauce?

These six attributes are all but essential for aspiring finance professionals. You can surely think of a few others that didn’t make the list — plus a couple that comprise your personal “secret sauce,” those key differentiators that set you apart from the pack. You’ll need them all as your career advances.

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