The best corporate bankers are able to convey complex financial information in a way that’s easy for clients to understand and apply to their businesses.
“Strong communication skills” and the ability to “articulate clearly to clients” are therefore essential to success in this relationship-driven sector, says Callum Nash, managing director, head of consumer, services, TMT sectors and specialist businesses at the Royal Bank of Scotland. You must also be quick on your feet and “think strategically” when dealing with clients, he adds. “The ever-changing business environment and priorities require agility and strong problem-solving skills.”
Corporate banking demands a blend of technical financial acumen and entrepreneurial spirit – you need to be a “business-minded” banker, says Goh from DBS. “Have an eye for detail so you can be fast on the uptake when meeting customers, and be able to deliver timely and effective solutions to them. Learning how to present information in a cogent way and how to spot key growth opportunities is also a mark of a good banker,” says Goh Soon Hong, managing director, institutional banking group, at DBS in Singapore.
You also have to be a ruthless number cruncher, skilled at assessing risk yourself rather than completely reliant on your bank’s team of credit analysts
You also have to be a ruthless number cruncher, skilled at assessing risk yourself rather than completely reliant on your bank’s team of credit analysts. After all, there’s no point lending money to a client if they’re likely to fail to pay it back. This requires “sound judgement” and the ability to “listen to different points of view but then have the courage to take decisions”, says Nash.
“One of the key challenges I have faced is how to turn down a customer’s request while maintaining the relationship,” adds Goh. “It comes down to mutual trust and respect, as well as open and transparent communication – if the customer respects our judgement and is aware that we respect his as well, the process of reaching a solution when there are impasses is made much easier.”
Meanwhile, as a sector specialist you are required to keep up with developments in your industry and the implications of these for your clients’ risk appetite. And you’ll also need to be aware of the regulatory hurdles and the cultural sensitivities of doing business in several countries, as many roles cover a number of geographical locations.
“To make it as a relationship manager in corporate banking, you need deep financial knowledge, a keen understanding of the market, an ability to assess risk, and interpersonal skills to build relationships and network with clients. You also need to synthesise large amounts of information and come up with solutions to help your customers,” says Goh.