In the high-stakes world of banking, America’s ultra-wealthy clients are the prize catch. Even familiar banking brands are vying for the talent that can efficiently service these affluent customers, typically boasting assets upwards of $10 million.
Getting your foot in the door is merely the beginning of the journey. Top-tier Wall Street banks put their analysts through rigorous training before they are allowed to interact with these high-value clients. The training process can span hundreds of hours, involving lessons, case studies, and tests that might extend over years or be fast-tracked into a few weeks.
Here’s a look at the training regimens of top U.S. banks for those who aspire to become private bankers.
Two years back, JPMorgan announced plans to hire about 1,500 new private bank advisors, effectively doubling its existing pool. Around half of these advisors will be JPMorgan analysts—generally recent college grads. These rookies must undergo 250 hours of training over three years, combining live lessons and self-study on topics ranging from alternative investments to lending.
While there are no formal written exams, analysts’ comprehension is evaluated through role-play sessions with imaginary clients, akin to language labs. As the bank sees it, many of these topics are like learning a foreign language; fluency is key.
Every advisor within the wealth management division at Morgan Stanley must pass an exam featuring a live case study to work with high-net-worth families. The success rate on the first attempt is only about 60%, with around 75% passing after multiple tries.
During the case study, seasoned Morgan Stanley personnel play the roles of a high-net-worth client and their accountant or attorney. Advisors have an hour to converse with the faux client and another three hours to formulate detailed recommendations.
After three years at Goldman Sachs, a select group of 25 to 40 analysts from the private wealth division are chosen for an advisory program. The two-year course focuses on honing the trainees’ communication skills with clients, straying away from traditional “business-school speak.” The course wraps up with three case studies involving portfolio strategy and estate planning, along with a written and oral exam.
Bank of America
Bank of America’s analysts experiences four department rotations within the private bank, gaining insights from senior bankers, trust officers, and portfolio managers. This “apprenticeship model” allows fresh graduates to discover their area of expertise before progressing to the associate level.
By the end of the two-year program, analysts select one of the bank’s 25 specialty groups, which include wealth planning, custom lending, structured credit, philanthropy, and the chief investment office. Case studies, including a comprehensive capstone case study with 15 potential outcomes, form a crucial part of the training, with analysts getting the chance to interact with clients even while they’re trainees.