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You have nothing to lose but your silos

Ladder to freedom

Having a wider range of experiences benefits banks, clients and bankers themselves

Capital markets bankers tend to specialise in a particular product, sector or type of client from a very early stage in their careers and then stay in their lane for years. But it would be better for everyone if they challenged themselves to look outside their silos — and were encouraged to do so.

The typical career these days begins with a few internships which, it is to be hoped, give an intern a taste of a range of departments within banking, followed by a graduate scheme where, if apprentices are lucky, they may be able to rotate around a handful of desks.

But after they sign on permanently, junior bankers are usually assigned to a narrowly defined field of work — M&A in the transport sector, for instance, or SSA bonds — for the foreseeable future.

This state of affairs then persists, often up to the point where a financier attains managing director status. Then, perhaps, a banker's scope may widen. Responsibility for FIG bond syndicate is added to non-financial corporate bond syndicate, for instance. Perhaps the realm extends even to all of investment grade debt.

From there on up, if senior management is on the agenda, the responsibilities quickly diversify to encompass a large division offering a multitude of whizzy solutions, some of which the new head may hitherto not even have been aware of.

This ascent is only made more daunting by the laser focus, in the early years, on churning out similar deals over and over again.

In an attempt to switch things up a bit, Barclays has been talking about creating a "multi-product solutions mentality". While the terminology does not exactly roll off the tongue, the basic idea is a sound one.

"A lot of investment banks can be siloed and bankers can push their product, be that DCM or ECM or levfin," said the bank's recently promoted co-head of EMEA capital markets, Pete Mason, in August.

Instead of that, he wants capital markets bankers originators to be "out there talking to clients about solutions across the capital markets."

To get them into a position to be able to do so, Mason says that Barclays is trying to encourage junior bankers to rotate more around different desks to gain broader experience.

This is a good idea for many reasons. Not only does it make bankers more able to advise clients on the full range of products and services offered by their institution. It also helps to prepare them for promotion to a broader range of responsibilities and keeps their working life varied and interesting.

This is especially important at a time when senior bankers have been complaining about the dearth of junior talent, noting that staff up to vice-president level keep getting poached by clients or rivals or giving up banking altogether.

When they are looking at a decade or more of unrelenting leveraged buyouts, or whatever their allotted specialism may be, who can blame them?

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