by Nicole Lee Comments (278)

Private Banking: Make Bank without Selling Your Soul or Imprisoning Yourself in a Cubicle 80 Hours per Week?

Private Banking: Make Bank without Selling Your Soul or Imprisoning Yourself in a Cubicle 80 Hours per Week?
Man putting a coin into a pink piggy bank concept for savings and finance

“I’ll miss you a lot, but it’s a good call to move to private banking – that’s the best way to meet rich guys.”

I was about to leave the institutional sales department at my old bank, and my supervisor was giving me the proper send-off.

Girls in finance might have the gold-digger reputation, but I didn’t get into private banking because I wanted to meet rich guys – I got in because I was in the right place at the right time.

Little did I know what I had gotten myself into…

Private Banking: What You Do

I had received a 3-month notice at my old bank when I refused to transfer to a division that the department head wanted me to transfer to – so I had to find something else quickly or leave.

I interviewed across all departments and even different banks, and landed an offer as a relationship manager at a private bank.

I ended up not staying too long, but learned enough to tell you all about private banking – from what you do to the different roles to how to break in to how much you get paid.

What is Private Banking (PB)?

The private banking division at an investment bank manages assets for high net worth (HNW) individuals. You can read that as, “You’re rich but have no time to invest your money – let us make investment decisions for you, and we’ll collect a fee for those services.”

Usually these HNW individuals are worth over $5 million USD at the bulge bracket banks, but sometimes lower net worth individuals can also sign up depending on the group.

Teams are usually split into those that manage regular HNW clients and ones that manage ultra HNW clients – no, the “ultra” ones don’t have superpowers, but they do have financial assets of more than $30 million USD.

As you might imagine, the ultra HNW clients tend to be more demanding and banks devote more resources to wining, dining, and advising them. The minimum account size for PB clients is around $2 million USD, while the minimum account size for ultra HNW clients might be around $10 million USD.

Private Banking / Private Wealth Management vs. Asset Management

In PB / PWM, the money comes from wealthy individuals, while in asset management (AM) it comes from institutions – the likes of Fidelity, pension funds, insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds, and so on.

Roles in Private Banking

The two main roles are investment professionals and relationship managers (RM) – investment professionals manage clients’ money and recommend products, while RMs manage the relationships, respond to clients’ requests, and also sell products to clients.

It’s similar to the split between execution and relationship management in investment banking, or the industry vs. product group distinction.

RMs and investment professionals usually attend client meetings together and support one another when answering clients’ questions.

How Do Private Banks Make Money?

As you might expect, private bankers make money from fees charged to clients – but there’s more to it than that.

First off, they sell managed accounts (also known as controlled or discretionary accounts), which are professionally managed and can be personalized to cater to clients’ needs – banks charge a fee for this depending on the size of the account and get recurring revenue since the fees are collected each month or each quarter.

Private banking clients also have brokerage accounts, which allow the bank to earn money by selling products such as IPOs and secondary offerings – so if a PB client wanted to buy shares of LinkedIn’s IPO, private bankers would coordinate with the equity capital markets team to ensure that the client received a fair allocation.

Then there are other services like estate planning, income tax planning, and philanthropic planning – so the fee parade never halts.

Private Banking vs. Investment Banking

One common, yet incorrect line of thought is that private banking and investment banking are completely separate – nothing could be further from the truth.

There’s a ton of overlap because many HNW clients want direct access to the investment bank’s products – IPOs, secondary offerings, bond issuances, and even access to the most exclusive hedge funds and private equity funds. So private bankers must work with investment bankers to ensure that their clients can invest in all of those.

And PB clients – many of whom are business owners – might also want advice on restructuring or selling their businesses and may contact investment bankers to get their advice.

There’s even more overlap in Asia because family businesses dominate the IPO market – so private bankers work closely with investment bankers to make sure that their banks win new IPO mandates.

Breaking Into Private Banking

So now you know something about what you do in private banking, how you make money, and the difference between private banking, investment banking, and asset management.

Now, how do you break in?

My Own Story

I broke into private banking by building contacts throughout the investment bank – I only had 3 months, so I focused on places with specific positions available.

I was lucky because private banks were expanding when I started looking for positions, and because many private bankers were impressed by people with investment banking backgrounds and top schools on their resumes.

You don’t see degrees from places like Harvard as much outside the US, and those types of schools are especially well-regarded in Asia.

Plus, my boss was looking for someone smart, efficient, good-looking, and charming, and I fit the bill perfectly. :)

I’ve found that it’s easier to get into private banking than investment banking – the prestige and pay are both lower, so there’s less competition and you don’t see as many of the OCD/overachiever types spending months preparing for interviews.

If you want to work in private banking in Asia, you should know a local language such as Mandarin or Cantonese so you can talk to clients – you also need to understand the local culture, speak fluent English, and come from a well-known university. PBs like MBAs, but you don’t need the degree to break in.

Private Banking Interviews

Most of the interview questions were variations on “Why do you want to do private banking?”

I had worked with clients in equity sales before this, so I could sell my experience working with institutional clients and use that to convince them that I could also work with HNW clients.

That strategy doesn’t always work because it depends on the institutional clients and HNW clients in your region – in some places they can be very different in terms of personality and culture.

I didn’t go all-out with interview prep, but one friend of mine did his homework to break in: he studied for and passed the CFA to prove his literacy in finance and read all sorts of annual reports and filings to learn about the bank’s culture. The interviewers asked him very few finance questions and focused on his personality instead.

The top questions my friend and I both received in PB interviews:

  1. Why do you want to do private banking? / Why do you want to work for us?
  2. How can your previous experience add value to PB?
  3. Tell me more about your interpersonal relationship and analytical skills.
  4. What do you think about the markets?

Most of these are self-explanatory if you read the interview guides on this site; for the first question, you want to point out how you enjoy working with people and investing in the markets and that you see private banking as a perfect blend between the client-centric nature of IB and the public markets investing you would do in trading.

For #2, focus on previous experiences where you worked with clients – especially demanding or difficult ones – and show how you resolved problems and accomplished your mission anyway.

The Private Banking Culture and What You Do Day-to-Day

The pace is slower than IB and the culture tends to be more political / bureaucratic because everything is relationship-driven and merit doesn’t always count for much.

Since there are more girls in PB than in IB, people can be catty at times (and yes, I’m female so I’m allowed to say this).

As the relationship manager, I attended a lot of client meetings and took notes on what the client liked doing for fun, what his/her kids did, where their kids planned to go for college, and so on – all that is fine if you like getting to know people, but overall my learning curve in institutional sales was much steeper than it was in private banking.

My average day usually began with the morning meeting where bankers discussed what was happening in the markets, and I would help my boss prepare investment analysis and anything else she had to present. I worked closely with the investment professionals to talk about specific clients and figure out what products might be good for everyone.

The RM role is much fuzzier than the investment professional role – that’s more for the quantitative and analytical type. If you do that, you’ll act more like a trader’s assistant by preparing account statements and sales pitches for personal investments – you don’t get to see clients, but you do work closely with the RMs.

Hours are roughly 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM – with 2-hour lunch breaks, so life is not exactly difficult. That might not be enough to become Don Draper, but you could probably still squeeze in at least one affair at lunch each day.

Show Me the Money!

As you might expect, pay is significantly lower since the lifestyle is so good and since the work itself is lower-stakes and not as stressful.

The analyst base salary is around $80K, with bonuses anywhere from 25% to 50% of the base salary depending on the economy.

Those are good numbers for your first job out of school, but compensation will always be less than what you’d earn in investment banking since the fees are lower and overhead is higher.

Got Exit Opps?

The most common exit is to go to another private bank, or another PB division at a large bank.

Some people do get into private equity firms and hedge funds, but they’re mostly in roles such as investor relations or fundraising – without transaction experience, your chances of getting to work on actual investments aren’t great.

Some investment professionals also move into research or help funds analyze investment products and market trends.

Overall, your exit opportunities are definitely more limited than in investment banking since you don’t get deal experience and since the accounting and finance involved are much simpler.

Why I Left Private Banking

So, back to my story in the beginning: why did I decide to leave early on after I got into PB?

The short answer: another bank gave me an offer in their ECM department, and I was more interested in capital markets than private banking. I felt that it would be easier to go back into private banking whenever I wanted, but that IB would be much tougher to get into.

If you can deal with bureaucracy and you want stability, a balanced life, and decent pay, private banking could be a good option for you – I preferred the work environment of IB, so it wasn’t a good fit for me.

The Guy Made a Million Dollars!

Don’t hold your breath if you want to make millions in private banking – it’s much harder than it sounds to bring in ultra HNW clients and to win their trust.

If you already have loads of rich contacts, you might catch a lucky break and rise to the top quickly. Otherwise, you’re better off working for a relationship manager who can share his/her accounts with you.

If you’re smooth and good with office politics, private banking might be great for you – but if not, you’d make money faster in hedge funds, private equity, and investment banking since bonuses in all of those are much higher.

If you can bring in a lot of new assets as a relationship manager you can earn good money, but a rolodex of clients takes a long time to build – and building trust takes even longer than that.

As a senior RM you might have a good life wining and dining HNW clients and hanging out in high-end golf clubs and restaurants – but then you also have the stress of hitting “targets” (assets under management) set by banks.

If you decide to leave private banking, you could leverage your contacts and help them manage their businesses in exchange for equity, or even start your own firm to help them manage and invest their money.

The Best Way to Meet Rich Guys?

I never met the quality rich guys that my supervisor in institutional sales promised – but then I didn’t stick around long enough to go after all the fish in the sea.

But if you don’t mind playing the office politics game, you’re OK with lower pay in exchange for a more stable and balanced life, and you don’t like super-technical work, private banking might be right for you.

And hopefully you’ll meet more rich guys than I ever did.


About the Author

Nicole Lee has been serving as an Executive Career & Networking Coach for senior professionals in investment banking, asset management, private equity, and global Fortune 500 companies since 2012.

She has helped 500+ candidates land finance roles at firms such as Morgan Stanley, Macquarie Capital, and UBS.

You can connect with her here.

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  1. Thanks for the great article! Wondering what are the key differences between investment professionals at private banking vs those at asset management/mutual funds, in terms of entry barrier (interview process)/day-to-day/exit opportunity? Or are these roles relatively similar and an investment professional can move from PB to AM quite easily and vice versa?

    1. Private banking deals with *individuals* i.e. wealthy people who have earned their money through a business, high-paying jobs, sometimes inheritance, etc., while asset management and mutual funds deal with institutions such as pension funds, endowments, etc. who want to invest in the public markets on behalf of *their* clients.

      There are some similarities, but the roles are quite different because PB is more sales/relationship-oriented, with market knowledge required depending on the role, while AM and mutual funds are much more investing and market-focused and tend to lead to better opportunities outside the field.

      1. For investment professionals focusing on equities for example, how are they different in PB vs AM? Do those in PB not make buy/sell recommendations? Just trying to understand why investment professionals in PB are disadvantaged in terms of exits compared to AM.

        1. Private bankers make investment recommendations that are more related to portfolio allocations and macro-level fund deployment, while asset managers tend to do a wider variety of analysis… some focus on the micro (individual stocks, bonds, etc.), while others operate at more of a macro level. AM analysis also tends to be more involved and is growing more quant-oriented.

  2. What are the exit opportunities for a private banker? I’ve heard of the occasional person moving into investment banking, however I understand this is a rarity.

    1. Moving into IB from PB is quite difficult and rare. As this article stated, outside of moving to another bank, the most common exit opportunities are investor relations or fundraising (at all types of firms) or sometimes research (equity, but also potentially credit and others). The problem is that PB is mostly sales with fairly simple accounting/finance and no transaction work, so it doesn’t give you that many options.

  3. Hey there! I’ve been reading you / using this page since 6 years coming into the Finance world lol and you are still my go-to. Really appreciate and love your stuff! I’ve gone from securities industry to management consulting, and now have my first interview at Chase Private Client. I want to ask if this is their actual wealth management group? What do you think of the group? And if in your opinion this is a smart move as a mid-level employee now?

    1. Sorry, don’t know enough to comment about it. I’ll see if we can run an article on that topic in the future.

  4. Some of my buddies who started in Private Banking, confirmed with me that the base is 80K + 10K sign on, but not sure of bonus range.

    1. Yes, that’s probably more accurate. These salary figures need to be updated.

  5. Hey I am planning to apply to B-school this year. I am working in Goldman Sachs currently and have completed my CFA level 1 this year. After MBA I want to get into PB as a RM. I wanted to understand what skills specifically MBA help me gain through my experiences there. Will MBA help me connect to HNW clients? What else MBA help me in building my skills?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think its your relationship management skills, network, and credibility from your MBA assuming you are going to a top school. An MBA can also hone your analytical skills and this can be useful in analysing stocks.

  6. Great article and very informative!

    I have a different experience level and path towards private banking than what your intended readership probably is. As my name implies, I’m coming from the retail side of things. I am my branch’s licensed banker selling life insurance and fixed annuities (really the latter more than the former), but ultimately I am a retail banker working in a regulate branch, opening up student checking accounts and ordering checks for little old ladies. The work can actually get pretty intense.

    My question is: How is the workload and stress level of private banking compared to retail banking? What are the customers like in terms of dealing with them, how demanding they are, etc? How is it in terms of making sales and meeting goals?

    I know that the investment bankers on here are all probably snickering to themselves right now, but retail banking is difficult and stressful enough and I want to make sure that, if I go from retail to private, that I’m not jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

    Despite listing pay as a con, that $70k/year would definitely be a huge jump in salary for me, so it’s definitely worth investigating.

    I can see that PB is much easier than IB, but how does it compare to RB?

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say it really depends on the team and the bank. If you’re talking about GS PB etc the quota can be quite high and RMs will have to meet such quota. I think the stress level maybe similar though different – in PWM you’re dealing with HNW or UHNW clients who maybe more sophisticated and perhaps demanding. But given the numbers involved, you maybe making more with the same level of stress. I wouldn’t say PB is much easier than IB – ultimately you still have to source deals.

  7. Hi!
    I enjoyed reading this article . The queries you addressed therein are genuine real time queries which people have , as opposed to some abstract and typical questions.
    I am an MBA candidate and wanted to enter private management for the some of the reasons you mentioned above: work life balance ( i don’t mind the lower pay) less stressful job etc. However, I wanted to ask you , if a person has near zero contacts with HNW individuals on date, what are his chances of entering a private bank? Is bringing in clients a necessary aspect of private banking?
    After reading your article I felt more comfortable about investment manager roles .
    How does one become an investment manager ? Is that role similar to that of a relationship manager in term of bringing in clients? Looking forwards to hearing from you ! Thanks !!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes as you progress in the ladder the more clients you can bring in the more money you make. As a junior, you don’t really need any contacts with HNW individuals, unless you’re aiming for RM roles. Yes IM roles are probably better for you. IM roles are more focused on investments and less focused on building relationships.

  8. So how would a high net worth client decide if they’d rather go with a private banker within an bulge bracket investment bank or hire a private wealth management firm that specializes in higher net worth clients?

    so from what I gathered you’re better off to hire a RIA (non-broker) wealth management firm vs. than an adviser from the wealth management department at a big bank like Goldman Sachs?

    so if the above question is true: how do you know if you should hire a private banker or a RIA (non-broker) wealth management firm? (again, assuming you’re a high net worth client.)

    Thanks for the insight!!!!

  9. Hi Nicole,

    I have a JPM superday for wealth management coming up soon. The role is in HK. I was wondering what could potentially come up in the interview. Will my language skills be tested? I study university in the UK currently.

    Thanks! :)

    1. Yes, language skills could potentially come up because in HK you will work with many Chinese clients. Other questions are likely to be fit/market-based (e.g., pitch us a stock, tell us about recent market events, etc.).

  10. can i become a private banker without a degree…

    1. That can be challenging…

  11. I know that PB compensation is less than IB, with recent increases in base salaries in IB will PB also raise base salaries.

    1. Most likely, yes, but I don’t think we’ve seen confirmation of those changes yet.

  12. Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for sharing! It is a great article.

    I have been in the wealth management industry for about 4 years in sales-oriented role. Mainly serving mass to mass affluent customers. I am looking at
    joining as RM in any PB based in Singapore. Is that a hindrance if I am not a Singaporean nor PR?

    Long term wise, I am thinking to move into research oriented position particularly in equity analysis role. However, I find out that most of the job posting requires candidates to have 2-3 years of relevant research experience. In order to break into the industry, I have completed CFA level 2 and looking at completing it next year. Any other ways that I can do to land myself a job in that position?

    Thanks for your time in advance Nicole.



    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      50/50 depending on clients you cover. Yes a CFA helps. Otherwise, I think its about your investment experience – ability to analyse stocks and demonstrate your critical thinking skills. If you can demonstrate the above and build your network on the buyside this can help. You may also want to attend buyside conferences to meet people.

  13. Thank you for this very informative article Nicole!

    I have some questions regarding the article and my future prospective in the banking industry. I am currently studying in LSE (first year) and initially I was interested in investment banking (and working in the S&T division), but this article gave me an insight into private banking.
    From your article I have learned that private bankers get to “live a life” compared to investment bankers with their busy schedules working up to 100 hours, but instead private bankers get paid less. I was curious as to how much is “working less”(in terms of first year analysts)?

    I am very interested in meeting new people and building strong positive relationships (which I tend to be good at), but I believe even in Sales&Trading division of investment banking I get to meet a lot of the clients and not work as much as other front office workers in e.g. M&A division? I wonder if this is correct, and whether or not the amount of time spent with clients or working is comparable with being a private banker.

    Also, I want to apply for a spring internship for the bulge bracket firms, and most of them seem to have a private banking sector within the firm. Would you say it is easier for me to catch an opportunity as a intern in private banking compared to investment banking? Or do you recommend doing an internship in investment banking first then moving to private banking once graduated (or after some experience). If you have any advice to give me feel free to do so!

    Lastly, I came across the “private wealth management” division in investment banks, and is this basically the same as private banking?

    Thank you!

    Best wishes,

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes you can meet a lot of people in S&T. Yes, PB can sometimes be easier to break in vs. IB, though yes I’d suggest that you do IB first before moving into PB if possible. Yes private wealth management (PWM) is usually the same as private banking. However, some firms may have different tiers (i.e. ultra high net worth, high net worth, etc).

      1. Thank you for answering Nicole!
        I also have one more question to ask,,
        Do you think it is necessary to have certificates in investment banking (if I could) or are internship experiences more important?
        I was thinking, since next summer I don’t think I’ll be doing any internships (because I’m still in first year), so maybe getting CPA or FRM? Would they help or should I just look for an opportunity to do something fun instead

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Internships are more important. I’d do something fun, unless you want to pursue accounting.

  14. Hi there,

    Many thanks for this highly informative article. I was wondering if you could describe or point me in the right direction for even more detail on the pay structure. For instance, my understanding is that the bonus is basically based on the revenue one generates for the firm. But is it weighed more towards bringing in AUM, which presumably bring in more recurring revenue?

    And in terms of firms “fighting” over experienced relationship managers – would the singing bonus, etc be based on how much AUM they actually bring over to the new firm?

    And finally, in your opinion, is it generally the best career move to stick with a large firm (Merrill, UBS, Credit Suisse, etc.) or a smaller boutique? I ask because I keep hearing about smaller firms going out of business due to higher regulatory costs.

    Thank you,

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, bonus does depend on how much money you bring in, especially if you are a RM. Yes, I’d stick with a large firm initially, build your clientele, and move to a smaller boutique once you’re confident that you can generate revenue on your own with your existing client base

  15. Hello Nicole, thanks for your insights. Quick question: how does the compensation package and bonus look like for an investment professional at an associate level look like within PB? Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’m not 100% sure, but I’d say base maybe similar/slightly lower than IB. I’m not 100% sure regarding bonus because it depends on your performance and the bank.

  16. I’m currently studying for CFA Level 1 (June – if I fail, December) and also recently finished my Masters but in a non-finance/economics/business field (software). I am also currently working for a firm targeting private banks and wealth managers (their subscription/client reach is 85% of the top 100 private banks) after spending 4-5 years in non-finance roles/industries. I think PB/WM could be good, but I also want to combine IT/software with my CFA (crossed fingers). What types of roles do you envision that would incorporate both IT and PB/WM as well as CFA? My thoughts would be along the lines of robo, creating/implementing automated investment platforms etc. My undergrad is in media/communications, I know the value of networking and being able to hustle for what you want in life!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Perhaps a more analytical role in PB/WM say a role that focuses on selecting investments for clients. In terms of a role that requires creating investment platforms for clients I don’t know of a role off the top of my head but you can (1) create this role for yourself as you progress in your career (2) work for a smaller/more entrepreneurial firm that allows you to do so (3) start your own firm. I may be wrong here; readers may have better suggestions.

  17. Thank you for the great article!
    I have a BS degree in accounting and finance with MS in accounting. I’m currently working at a Big 4 accounting firm in its financial services tax department in NY. I understand that having that perception of “accountant” is a strong disadvantage when going into banking but do I have a chance of going into PB as a investment professional? I have a CPA and I’m planning to get CFA soon. Any other suggestions?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, I’d probably start at smaller retail banks, build up your client base, and then move to PWM – I’ve seen this happen, but you’ll have to have a good client base.

  18. Hello M&I!

    I love your stuff! I have a BB WM interview coming up soon and I’m not quite sure what questions to prepare myself for. The role is quantitative and is based in the Gulf Region. Any thoughts on the most important/likely questions that I could be asked?

    Thanks a tonne!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Karim, I’d say understanding valuation methods is useful. For wealth management areas such portfolio theory maybe useful in interviews I’m not 100% sure about questions specific to the Gulf region but I presume the above are useful to know.

  19. Love this article! Thank you for all the helpful info.
    I am now facing a really difficult situation that I hope to have your insights and advice. I have got an FT BB PB offer (signed already as it came early on). However, I now got 2 other offers: one for global market sales in a big international bank (not BB); the other for IB in a smaller bank. As a fresh grad, I haven’t had any past experience in the 3 areas above (i did an internship in trading support), but I feel like the latter 2 offers are much more exciting than PB. I know that my interest lies in the capital market, but definitely notice that IB offers more exit opportunities. In the long term, I would love to be in a role dealing with technical analysis and managing investments (still not very specific yet as I had very limited working experience). So my question will be, if I stick to the current offer, is it very difficult to break into the role that I want? If yes, would the other 2 offers be better and is it worth it to make the decision to switch?

    1. That is a tough call. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s a great idea to switch to the other offers if you don’t have a strong feeling about what you want to do in the future… if PB really isn’t for you, you can always move out of it and do something else or go back to one of the other firms (or similar firms) once you have more experience.

      You don’t really manage investments in IB since it’s not a markets-based role, and you do even less of that in sales. So I would probably stick with your current offer until you have a more specific idea in mind.

  20. What should one do to prepare for a technical interview in private banking?

    Studying accounting, DCF, and valuation seems pretty standard for all finance interviews….anything else?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, I’d do that, and have a stock pitch in mind. Understand the stock market really well; technical questions on stock market, and even some on portfolio management (i.e. alpha, sharpe ratio etc) may come up.

  21. Hi Nichole,

    I have a final round of interview lined up with CFO and other leadership team of a tech firm next week. The position is supposed to Head M&A along with investor relations. Can you advise me how should I approach the interview? also on what sort of questions to expect? as in the initial rounds of interview I was not only grilled about the entire M&A process including DCF, IRR, 3 model statements, LOI, corporate law and enterprise valuations but was also asked how will I help the firm get investment from private equity funds and other UHNWI’s to invest in the firm (equities, LBO’s, debts etc..)

    I have a M&A and investor relations background. I did handle HNWI’s, funds and PE’s in earlier part of my career however in the past five years I’m heading the investment banking team concentrating on TMT in my current firm.

    I’m probably out of the line here with my questions about IB I suppose, but would appreciate your thoughts on this.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say really understand what the tech firm does, how you can add value once they hire you, why you want to work in tech in the long term, and how you’d be dealing with investors (perhaps from your previous experience). may also be useful.

  22. Love these articles, I just have a question – I am quite inexperienced in banking and don’t have a high end qualification. I do however have a lot of good finance experience with a lot of responsibility at a young age and I’m good at networking, which is why I can get considered for jobs outside my remit.

    I recently had an interview with a top private bank for a Private Banking Executive role (not a banker role I know but, from what the bankers have told me, one that can develop into one if you’re good at the role) I don’t think I did well enough in the interview, infact I think I fluffed it, but I have another interview coming up as a Private Equity Account Executive for a Big 4 Firm. If I take this role and excel in it, become an Account Manager / Director, will that give me good exit opportunities to go into a relationship management role at a private equity firm ?

    1. To clarify, “private equity” is very different from “private banking.” Private equity firms don’t really have relationship manager roles, though the larger ones may have investor relations-type roles. So it may potentially be helpful for moving into PE directly, but only for very specific roles and mostly at the larger firms.

  23. 1: Is there a difference between Private Wealth Management and Private Banking?

    2: I have been told by multiple sources, all anecdotal (family friends), that Private Wealth Management is a joke at Morgan Stanley and UBS. Is this true?

    I’ve been given an Investment Banking offer at a no-name boutique, and offers in Private Wealth Management at both Morgan Stanley and UBS……I’m deciding which of the 3 to take.

    My ultimate goal is to do Investment Banking at a bulge bracket.

    Nicole, thank you as always.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      1. Technically no
      2. I don’t know. It depends on what they mean by “a joke.” I think MS and UBS have reputable PWM divisions. If you want to do IB stick to the boutique. If you want PB, I’d go with MS or UBS. Perhaps UBS since Swiss banks are probably better with PWM but I maybe wrong. If you compare PB work to IB work, then yes PB work and hours maybe “a joke” to some, but it depends on what your objectives are.

  24. Hi Nicole,

    I am from Australia and would like to get into financial planning/wealth management/private banking (same thing I assume). In Australia we have approved financial planning bachelor degrees which would enable me to then go for my CFP certification – an internationally recognized title. Would this be the best option? Or would a finance degree be better suited? There is an option where I can do a double major in both finance and financial planning. However if I did a straight finance degree i could also minor in financial services, and ‘superannuation and wealth management’. So which would be the best pathway?

    Also as a CFP would it be possible to go into private banking since it is sort of basically financial planning for rich people?

    Would CFP or CFA be more suitable?

    I like working with people and helping them achieve financial success or increase their wealth. So i like talking to people but I also am interested in working with the stock market/investing – so using both my social skills and my brain to work.

    The pay, as long as it is above average and decent Im fine with as I would probably die working 16 hour days.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say a finance degree is better. I’m not sure about a CFP but a CFA would probably be preferable. Yes you would likely be working 12-hour days.

      1. Is weaith management the same as financial planning? So you look after all aspects of the clients financial lives. Or is wealth management more about making the client more money.

        I heard that private banking was like financial planning where most of it is talking to the clients and your not doing that much investing?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes, in a way. You do talk to clients quite a bit if you’re a relationship manager so most of your time is spent on socialising. However, you’ll still need to know about investing. PB also have roles (say investment professional) that are mainly focused on analysing the markets + investing so these people work closely with the RMs to advise their clients.

  25. Hi Nicole,

    Great article. I have 4 years of experience working in a private bank in India as relationship manager managed mid business clients. Right now I am pursuing my MBA In US. I got an offer to attend final interview for private banking summer associate role in CS. I am still thinking this is the role I would be fit in? I want to know any tips to attend the final interview as well.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes this may fit you – hard to say since I have not worked with you before. In terms of tips, make sure you understand what’s going on in the markets, and why you want to work in PB in the States ( I presume this is where you’re interviewing) vs. India – different clientele, culture, etc

  26. Avatar
    Julien Aponte

    Good morning Nicole,
    I have a difficult decision to make within the next year and was hoping you could offer your intellectual insight. I currently work at a wealth management firm (have been working there since I was 18 now 21) and summer is looming around the corner. I have struggled with deciding whether independent wealth management or investment banking is the path to forgo. My work-life balance is great right now but I will admit that sometimes work gets very stale and the office environment is not always exciting. Wealth management would require me to attain clients and at a young age it would be extremely difficult. In addition, most of my pay would be based on commision, so paychecks would be quite inconsistent in the first 5 years. With investment banking I feel the environment would be more exhilarating and fun and challenging, although work-life balance would severely lack. Pay would also be much better at investment banking up front and be more secure than wealth management. However, my boss is the sole owner of his company and looking for someone to succeed his business in the next 15 years when he retires. So my question to you would be how do I possibly decide between the two? And which one do you prefer?

    Brief Credentials
    University of South Florida Alumni
    Degree in Finance
    3 years Financial experience and Sales experience
    GPA 3.9

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think you need to make any decisions here, unless you have an offer at an IB. What I’d do is continue working at your current firm and network with bankers at IB. If an interesting opportunity comes up in IB, you can take it. 15 years is a long time; I wouldn’t count on your boss retiring and taking over his company, unless you really love what he does and your current firm. Even then, I think its good to gain some IB experience if you have a chance.

  27. Avatar
    Harry Huang

    Hi Nicole, thanks for this great article, it is really helpful! I just got an interview with JP Morgan’s PB for solutionist position. I wonder if you have any advice about interviews for this particular position or any PB interviews in general? Thank you!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think you need to know the markets, basic modeling skills, why PB, and demonstrate that you have the presentation and communication skills to perhaps interact with HNW clients down the line. You may not necessarily be meeting them when you first start, but they may groom you to do so down the line so you want to look presentable. I’m not sure re. JPM’s PB solutionist position so perhaps readers may have better suggestions

      1. Avatar
        Harry Huang

        Thank you very much Nicole! I will find out more about the solutionist position but what you mentioned is already very helpful! I really appreciate it.

      2. Hi, my son who has an engineering degree recently went for an assessment and interview for commercial banking graduate scheme with a large UK bank. Afterwards they contacted him and said they thought he would be better suited to private banking and I am wondering why. Please could you advise if commercial banking has better career and salary prospects that private banking can offer. Any thoughts on why they would think this? Many thanks.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I wouldn’t say so. I think both have good prospects, and given increasing wealth globally, there’s an increasing demand for private bankers. Perhaps your son demonstrated solid client management skills as well as knowledge for the markets, which is why they suggested him to be join private banking instead.

  28. is it possible to switch from engineering to private banking?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes that is possible, and having an MBA from a top tier school may help you transition to PB

  29. Why does private banking require mba? Sigh

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Top tier PB firms prefer top tier MBA students because many of their clients view top tier MBAs highly and the degree just demonstrates “credibility” to people.

  30. I am in a bit of the same position as Jessica above. I have an intern offer from the Private Bank at JPM which I look at as more of a long term thing and an offer from a rapidly growing investment bank (Stifel). I originally saw myself as only doing a stint in IBD but the training, big-name, etc. of JPM is a big pull. Both are in NYC and I would have the opportunity to network at both firms. The value for working in an Investment Bank would be leveraging the opportunity to go into Private Equity (Lower middle market or middle market PE) either directly (after 2-4 years) or after going back to get an MBA. A successful career in Private Banking, using the BB name on your resume to go into IBD at a smaller bank, or eventually leveraging the opportunity to go into Asset Management is not a bad position to be in either. Alumni at both firms have reached out to me and the culture at both seem to be very positive which makes the decision harder on my part. Any thoughts on my dilemma would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It really depends – if you want to do IBD, I’d go with the smaller firm, though JPM gives you credibility and may open you more doors. However, transferring from PB to IBD from JPM maybe challenging, which is why I suggest going with the smaller firm.

  31. Glassdoor has a banker associate at JPM making $150k all in. Does this sound correct? What does it take to be an associate?

      1. The banker associate description says that he works for the Private Banker. It differentiates from Investment Banking Associate. I was asking about an the position who helps the private banker.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          That would be a RM (relationship manager) associate.

  32. Hi Nicole.

    I know you mentioned that it’s easier to move from IBD to PWM than the other way around. I’m a little torn because I’m considering accepting a summer internship at PWM in a BB or IBD in a mid-market bank. Long term, I believe my skill set and strengths suit PWM a lot better than IBD and I like the BB I received an offer at, however, I am curious about IBD and I like that it gives me more exit opps if I want to move into PWM or consulting or corporate strategy in the future. Do you think IBD at a smaller bank (BMO Capital Markets) can be leveraged easier when switching jobs or even industries or the brand name of a BB, in the PWM division is more valuable? And, should I value the idea of learning a lot and being able to leverage it for exit opps (IBD) more or value the opportunity to try something I might want as a career but with less exit opps if I find I don’t want to do it long term (PWM)?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Congratulations – great spot to be in!

      Yes IBD can potentially offer you better exit opportunities. If you’re pretty sure you want to do IBD I’d go with BMO. One thing I’d do is to research on the growth of BMO – is the company growing fast? How is their deal pipeline? Do you fit into the culture? If the company is growing fast, has a good deal pipeline and niche position and great culture, yes I’d try it.

      Otherwise, JPM may offer you a better brand name and you can leverage that in interviews, or try to transfer internally.

      Be prepared that you may have to go through fall recruiting again though, since you may not necessarily like BMO as a firm or JPM’s PB division or itself as a firm. So I’d network a lot and continue to hone your pitch and valuation skills during the summer.

      1. Thank you! I am definitely very happy with my choices :)

        BMO is actually growing really quickly in the US recently and I love the people I have talked to but I don’t think I will stay in IBD long term because of the lifestyle…I’m just curious about IBD and interested in learning more and I think the summer would be a great way to determine my level of interest/fit/gain more transferable skills.

        PWM at JPM is more of a long term career move that I could see myself staying in for a while…it just doesn’t have as many exit opps as IBD if I change my mind. And another area I am interested in long term is consulting, which I think will be harder to transfer into from PWM. (Although some people say the brand name of JPM is enough to trump IBD at a lesser known firm…do you know any truth in this?)

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes brand name of JPM can help you transition to IBD at smaller firms. If you feel that PB is more suitable for your lifestyle, I’d probably go with that. With the above being said, if you really want to give IB a try and like the people at BMO, this maybe a better option for you.

          Consulting – this is a different area, I would focus on the first two first. I think it’d be difficult to move from either to consulting, unless you go back and get an MBA though I may be wrong.

          If you’re looking at gaining skills, getting exposure to IB and joining a fast-growing firm which can potentially offer you more responsibilities and perhaps compensation down the line, try BMO.

          If you’re looking for solid reputation and PB work, choose JPM.

          Consulting – However, if you’re looking to start your own business, consulting maybe a good starting point

  33. hi Nicole
    I started my banking career as RM wealth management for 5 years then I switched into PB but I am not satisfied with my career kindly suggest me what to do for elevation in my career. either through any degree or switching to other industry.kindly help me to choose better

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes an MBA at a target school can retool you and increase your exit opps

  34. Hi Nicole,

    First of all, kudos for this article. It garnered my unequivocal attention. I for one believe that bureaucracy and PB go hand in hand, ironic I suppose.
    I have a question for you. What happens when one don’t meet his or her targets? or for example if one is a experienced hire and if he or she will not able to bring her previous clients (AUM) into the new boutique or bank as promised in the interview (not all clients will be interested in moving their assets to a new firm)

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thank you for your compliment. I think three scenarios can happen (1) You don’t get a raise (2) You get “demoted” (3) You get let go …

  35. Hi Nicole, thank you for the insightful article. I am interested in pursuing a PB career in Asia, with HK at the top of the list. Just wondering though, how important are language skills in HK PB? I would consider myself comfortable with speaking mandarin, but I am not totally confident of being able to discuss a product with clients, for example. Is there a great deal of emphasis placed on analysts being 100% fluent?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes there is though there maybe groups/roles that don’t require fluent Mandarin – it depends on the role and group

  36. If you go from IB to PB, would it be possible to change back to IB?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes though interviewers may wonder why you’d want to do so, unless you work for a small PE fund that isn’t doing too well

  37. Avatar
    Barton Yip

    Hey Nicole – honest question: did you get your original job straight out of college (the institutional sales one) through connections?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Nope, I applied online.

  38. Great comments about politics and bureaucracy at pbs, Nicole! I hear thing about the industry especially when turnover rates are rather high.

    Couple of sites out there are fairly good for general private banking news but has some good analysis on the regional business.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your insights!

  39. Avatar

    Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for the post. Right now I’m a junior college and I’m still thinking between IB and PB/PWM. They’re just two options I’m highly considering. In terms of my summer after junior year, assuming I’m still uncertain should I shoot for an IB or PB internship? Down along the road is it hard to move from IB as an analyst/associate to PB/PWM? I’m just thinking in the long run. Thanks.


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say choose IB first. It’s probably easier to move to PB from IB than vice versa. I don’t think its hard to move from IB to PB/PWM down the line (in my personal experience).

  40. Hey,

    I’m from HK as well. Would it be easy to break into private banking with a degree from UCLA?


    1. Not “easy” but do-able, yes, depending on work experience and so on

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      UCLA is a good school. I think you’ll need to have the right network to break in. Knowing Mandarin is also pretty crucial. Apply and see how it goes!

  41. hi nicole, thanks so much for the article! i’ll be starting as a PB first year analyst (RM track) in a couple of months, and was wondering how being in PB will affect one’s chances of gaining admission to a good MBA program, especially since the business schools receive so many “finance” applications from the more competitive IB/PE side. while you were in PB, did you know of colleagues who applied and got into top US business schools?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Congrats! I don’t recall of any colleagues who applied and got into top business schools, though I’m sure quite a few from PB did end up going back to b-school. I think it really depends on your reference letters (be nice to your boss), your responsibilities and your essay. I think you can differentiate yourself by making an impact at work such as ..being the top rated RM in PB. Having extracurricular activities (if you have the time) would also help. For instance, if you could start getting involved in organizations like the Ocean Conservancy and doing solid work for them you may also increase your chances.

  42. Avatar

    Hey Nicole,

    great article !could you tell me a bit about the different asset and structured liability products available to HNWs in PB ?
    How does it vary from place and institution ?
    Thanks !

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for reading! You can invest in alternative investments like hedge funds, IPOs, FX linked structured deposits etc. It depends on the bank, and unfortunately I don’t have all the information! I will keep you posted though!

  43. Hi Nicole, very insightful thoughts. While I understand there are many relationship hires in PWM/PB for summer internship, is this also the case with full-time hires? I know in fulltime many hires in IBD have strong backgrounds especially in Asia. But what about in PWM/PB? would there also be many relationship/strong background hires at full-time level? And how would the quality of these relationship hires in PWM/PB compared to those in IBD/GCM?


    1. I think they do still happen with full-time hires – it is less competitive to get into PB so you don’t necessarily need to have as much of a pedigree background to get in. I’m not sure what you mean about the “quality” of those hires, but as I mentioned, generally it’s less competitive so you won’t see as many people with perfect grades from top schools there.

  44. Hi Nicole , great article.
    Quick question, I have little numbers experience and am not so confident with the quantitative side of banks (I study history&politics at university). I also don’t know much about banks and banking culture in general. However I just got a PB internship this summer at a global firm (Family connection) and I’m wondering if a being a RM is better for someone who is better with words like meand not so good with numbers like me? Or are there other roles that may suit me? Sorry for the wordiness, trying to find my footing in this industry

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Ronnie, thanks for visiting our site! Yes if you’re good at managing and establishing relationships with clients, being a RM is probably better than being an IM. Otherwise, you can look at AM sales

  45. Great article, thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your support! If you like the article, please share it on facebook!

  46. Hi Nicole

    Great article ! I’m a financial planner with an insurance company for the last 9 years and at age 32, am thinking of switching over to wealth management . I’m also keen in the area of assets management , hedge funds , private equity and PB . My intention is to do a CFA level 1 end of this year and a Masters degree in wealth management next year, which area do you suggest to go into given my age at early to mid 30s by the time I finish my studies . For PB , do I need a book to go into at entry level ? I do not have a Rolodex of hnw but certainly some contacts which may qualify as hnw given my sales experience . Please advise . Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your comment. You don’t need a rolodex of clients to break in at the entry level. Your CFA is a smart move. I think you may be able to break in at the associate level. You may still have to generate commissions as you progress so you’ll have to develop your contacts fast and it may be challenging at first.

      1. thanks for reply Nicole . Just to check how does one break into Pte banking at entry level ? Most jobs adverts on efinancialcareers always want expericed bankers with min book $50m Aum in first year .so how can one apply at entry level without any experience ? Also any idea what’s the base(usd) and bonus like at associate level ? Thanks

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          To break into PB at entry level, I’d suggest you to apply online (they have job postings online) or through your own contacts. efinancialcareers isn’t the best place to go to if you want to look for a good role in IB/PB (other firms) in my experience! Base is similar to IB. Bonus may be less, though I don’t have the numbers on had so I can’t comment!

  47. Hi Nicole,

    I am in a similar situation to you. I just got an offer from a BB private bank as investment professional in Hong Kong. Given the current markets I am of course glad that I even have an offer.

    But my concerns are because PB deals with personal finance and not corporate finance, would it be difficult to move into PE, IBD, GCM, or a company’s corporate finance department? I have a junior internship experience at another BB’s DCM in Hong Kong but didn’t receive the return offer. But do you think it would be possible to transfer to corporate finance/investment management/research in the future? Do people with PB background rise into executive positions within the bank or to other companies?

    Also could you tell me in more detail how you made the transfer to ECM? How many years were you into PB that time, and how did you make the connection with the other bank?

    It would be great if you can provide me your contact email to discuss things further.

    1. I think you can transition, especially if you have the DCM internship. It will probably be easier to move into capital markets from PB vs. some of the other groups. I will let Nicole respond to the rest.

      1. Hi Brian, thanks for the comment. By saying it is easier to move into capital markets from PB than some other groups do you mean PB can more easily move to capital markets than IBD, S&T? and could you please elaborate on why it is easy to transit from PB to capital markets?

        Many Thanks!

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes, it may be harder to move into corporate finance going forward because most banks prefer analysts with some sort of deal/transaction experience, unless you have connections with HNW clients and can bring in IB deals. If you work on the Investments team in PB, it may be easier for you to transition into research/investment management as long as you can demonstrate your technical skills and knowledge of the market. Taking the CFA/having taken the CFA will help if you want to progress in PB/move to research/IM too.

          Yes some in PB take executive positions within the bank. I made the transfer to ECM because I was given an offer there when I was in PB. I have already been speaking with the other bank many months prior to my role in PB.

          Adding to Brian’s point, it may be easier to move into Capital Markets from PB vs other groups because PB is still considered front office (assuming you’re working for a RM or an IM) and your sales/interpersonal/pitching skills are transferable to Capital Markets. It would be best if you could build relationships with HNW clients – that will be useful for IB/Capital Market roles going forward.

  48. Avatar
    johnny bananas

    The salary numbers definitely seem skewed. I cannot see an PWM analyst base salary being $70k + 18-35k bonus. From my experience and what I have read, PWM starting salary is $50-60 TOPS if part of a development program, or much less if it is sales focused given commission.

    It also may be at the office team/manager’s discretion – say you get hired as an analyst for a team in a random city (lets say with UBS PWM): the manager or director there could probably pay the analyst an hourly rate of his choice, to come out of his office’s cost budget.

    1. Could be. These are regional numbers from Asia so that may be it. I don’t really think $70K vs. $50-60K is off by a huge amount though.

  49. Great article.

    I am a junior and will be doing a Global Wealth Management internship with Merrill Lynch this summer. How helpful is this internship in getting a FT offer after graduation? Thank you for your insight.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Having ML on your resume and this internship experience help.

  50. Thank you Nicole.
    the ability to sell and develop relationships is the only skill i can see which comes from PB. But is it something like a core skill at IB? Perhaps, not as they are more focussed on deals, financial modelling, etc etc.
    I have never comes across someone who has moved from PB to IB like in M&A, PE, VC which are more lucrative careers instead of PB.
    If anyone on the forum has made a change and it turned out more productive then please share your thoughts and experiences. As i’m in a dilemma at the moment and on the cross road where its really confusing to decide what to do next after spending 9 years in PB.
    Appreciate your help and thoughts.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, it is not common for people to switch from PB to IB, though this does not mean it isn’t do-able.

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