In a demanding field it is essential to have a balanced outside life ARTISTS SUCH AS the Beatles, Abba and Pink Floyd sang about money - and they raked it in. Investment bankers may not exactly be singing about money, but their profession is usually at the top of the charts in terms of earnings potential. Most people can only dream of the salaries bankers earn. At the peak of their careers their bonuses alone can cover the cost of a luxury apartment, while leaving enough change for the latest Ferrari or Aston Martin. Tempted by the prospect of such high rewards, many graduates want to enter the world of banking. However, just as the youthful Beatles realised in 1964 that money could not buy love, a new voice is teaching students the same values today. According to Vincent Wu-wing, the president and chief executive of the Eagles Foundation, an organisation formed in 2002 to provide a support network for young professionals, monetary rewards alone are not enough to sustain a person in the banking jungle. The world of banking has a reputation for long hours, office politics and being suitable only for people without a conscience. To survive such a harsh environment, interest in the profession and a balanced life outside work are essential. Rebecca Mayer, a senior associate at Merrill Lynch (Asia Pacific), is a banking industry professional who advocates and lives by this advice. 'You have to be interested in your work. I could not work all the hours and travel the number of miles unless I enjoyed my work. But money and prestige are not enough,' she said. Allan Kwan Wai-cheong, assistant vice-president at ABN Amro, echoed this opinion. 'In banking you are always under high pressure. To survive you need to develop a balance between your outside life and work,' he said. Mr Kwan, Ms Mayer and other members of Eagles recently held a seminar for University of Hong Kong students to help them develop careers in banking. Panellists included recent recruits and senior members of the profession. The new staff described their experience after having been interviewed by as many as 12 people. Students learn that interviews consist of technical questions and personality-related queries. The former are intended to find out whether interviewees are interested in the financial markets and have the ability to answer questions logically. The latter try to determine whether the applicants will fit into a bank's culture. When assessing a candidate's personality in an interview, Ms Mayer applies the '3am dial-a-takeaway' test. 'Is this person a team player? Would I want to share a takeaway meal with them at 3am while working on a deal?' she asks herself. Interviewers also look for applicants who have an eye for detail, which is important because a single flaw can cost a bank a lot of money. They also look for organisational skills necessary for bankers to deal with sensitive information and switch between different tasks at a moment's notice. In an interview it is core personal skills rather than pure numerical ones that firms look for. Ms Mayer said the abilities that companies sought included flexibility, social skills and confidence, apart from a keen interest in the job and willingness to work hard. 'The firm will train you with all the technical and analytical skills you need, but you have to demonstrate that you possess the core attributes,' she said. Interviews are a two-way process to find out whether the firm likes you and also if you like the firm. 'You will feel during the interview process whether a company fits your personality,' Mr Kwan said. Flexibility is an important attribute for investment bankers as they have to juggle several tasks at once and communicate with different people across the world. Ms Mayer saw employees as having two distinct bosses - external clients and internal bosses, both of whom expected them to do an about-turn with little or no warning. Bankers have to be able to communicate freely and make small talk with diverse groups of people. Ms Mayer said nurturing social skills could be fun and recommended developing and perfecting them by joining as many social events and clubs as time allowed. 'I joined as many clubs and societies as I could and talked to as many people as possible. That way you learn to censor information that may offend people and could cost the bank an important deal,' Ms Mayer said. She strongly recommended becoming involved in debating and public speaking as a way to develop the self-confidence necessary for presentations. She said it was important to sell oneself to do well in investment banking. 'If I worked 24 hours and hid away in a corner no one would know who I was. You have to sell yourself but at the same time not be rude to anyone as word gets around,' she said.