“To succeed you need to be a smart worker, not just a hard worker” – Interview with Ankur Bansal – Vice-President, BlackSoil

Kala Krishnan recently spoke to Ankur Bansal about investment banking and financial advisory,  skills needed to succeed in this industry and the future of boutique financial advisory firms in India such as his own firm. Read below :

1) What makes Investment Banking a glamorous career choice – the money or the work that is done?

It would undoubtedly be both. On the work front Investment banking exposes you to varied transactions like restructuring, strategy oriented transactions and also provides you with opportunities to meet high profile individuals like CEOs, CFOs etc. At the same time there is immense work pressure and work life balance is not very good. But this is compensated monetarily and by the relatively luxurious lifestyle it allows you to lead.

2) What are the skills necessary to succeed as an investment banker?

Academics is highly important and to go a long way confidence, overall persona, strong people and networking skills, capability to meet deadlines, innovation and out of the box thinking are a necessity. One also needs to be fully abreast of the markets with good marketing and number crunching skills. Finally to succeed you need to be a smart worker not just a hard worker.

3) Can you explain the difference between buy side and sell side under investment banking?

The approach for buy side and sell side is exactly opposite. On the buy side you represent your client who is the buyer to another party who is the seller. You look into various aspects like objectives of the client, value for money, due diligence, ways to reduce the valuation and make the deal interesting and more valuable for your client. On the sell side you represent your client to many potential buyers. You look into areas like trying to position your client better compared to his peers, market him well with potential investors/buyers and attain a higher valuation for him.

4) You have been part of a large set up like Citi, JP Morgan and now you yourself run a relatively smaller boutique, what are the pros and cons of working in such different set ups?

In case of a large setup your role is well defined and work is confined within a particular sector. You do not get exposure to work outside what you are hired for. Also there is no contribution to strategies and decision making early in your carrier. On the other hand in a smaller set up you have a lot of opportunities to work in different areas, manage and execute transactions by yourself and also take important top level decisions.

5) Lots of investment banking firms have come up in India in midst of the economic turmoil and on the other hand large banks are cutting down their positions, How do you see the firms making their mark?

India is a strong mid market place. There are a large number of companies in every sector. Hence for investment banking firms the strategy to focus on the right sector and the right clients is paramount and once you do that you can create a high volume of transactions for your firm. There are tremendous growth opportunities for smaller investment banking firms as large firms have a very high fee threshold, complex structures and also capital market deals such as IPOs, QIBs etc have not been executed in the current market scenario. Boutique firms are comparatively flexible on deal size and fees and hence can enjoy the opportunity to capture a larger market. But goes without saying, competition has only become more cut throat.

(11th December 2013- Want to be a part of BlackSoil Advisory- Apply Here)


6) How much does undergraduate education and extracurricular activities help in investment banking as a career?

Undergraduate education provides the basic platform for the students to grow while extracurricular activities help in overall personality development, cultivating team work skills and more importantly provide real life experiences at an early stage. This helps to differentiate yourself in a crowd.

7) How must a fresh finance professional, having selected investment banking as a career project himself to be able to land a good entry-level job?

Being strong in academics for a fresh finance professional is a must, which means have a good understanding of financial statements, law, structuring, valuation methodologies coupled with awareness with regards to markets and about the development in various sectors in the global and domestic economy. All this, the candidate must be able to substantiate with examples. To sum he should be able to show passion for the job.


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(11th December 2013- Open Position in BlackSoil Advisory- Apply Here)


About Ankur

Prior to co-founding BlackSoil, Ankur has over 5 years extensive work experience in investment banking and has worked across several large foreign investment banks in the country like JP Morgan, Citi and JM Morgan Stanley. He has in-depth knowledge of Indian capital markets and been part of deal teams for various large corporates across industries. Has managed and executed more than 30 marquee Indian capital market transactions aggregating to almost US$ 15Bn through products like IPOs, DRs, QIPs, Blocks, Domestic Convertible, Rights, Buyback and Pre-IPO placements.

He is a Chartered Accountant and a CFA charterholder . He completed his Bachelors of Commerce degree from the prestigious Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai.


You may also be interested in : Interview with Aditi Tara – Investment Banker

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I am currently pursuing engineering . Lets assume I get admission in IIM A or C next year . So as a fresher with no Finance background to get Job in an Investment bank what extra things would be necessary . Like should i write CFA , FRM exams and clear them before M.B.A second year or something else is required ??


Hi Ankur! I'm currently in SYJC in NM College (a fellow alum, hidey-ho!)
How much if at all does the name "NM" matter on a CV? At the time of being a fresh grad, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't once someone is at a career stage such as for example, 5 years into the working world. But does it before and how much?

I will be grateful for an answer