It is time to shatter the misconception that investment banking is a man’s world. Kyle Baker, a managing director at Guggenheim Partners, shares her thoughts on the rewards of a career in investment banking; the importance of mentors; and common traits of professionals who succeed in her industry.
Describe your current role and responsibilities as a Managing Director in Investment Banking. What is your favorite part of your job?
I sit in Guggenheim Securities, the investment banking and capital markets division of Guggenheim Partners. At a high level, I work with companies – primarily in the power, energy and renewables sectors – to help them evaluate and execute their business plans through strategic and financing solutions. For example, a company could be evaluating how to finance their growth, or could be considering acquiring or divesting businesses. I work with companies to determine the best way to accomplish their goals in these areas.
My favorite part of the job is that I am constantly learning, and it is a very people- and solutions-oriented business. It is also very rewarding to help clients achieve their objectives.
Describe Guggenheim Partners – what it does, how many people, and locations?
Guggenheim Partners is a global investment and advisory firm with more than $260 billion in assets under management. There are three primary businesses: investment banking, investment management; and insurance services. We have approximately 2,300 employees in 25 offices across six countries.
Was there any part of your education that attracted you to business, and financial services specifically?
My undergraduate degree was in Biology/Environmental Economics. I have always been analytical and a problem-solver, and I also like working with people. My first job after college was at an environmental consulting firm, which was intellectually interesting but not solutions-oriented. It wasn’t a good fit.
I went to graduate school at Yale to pursue an MBA. At the start of my graduate studies, I knew very little about financial services because it was not a career I had ever considered. One of my economics professors thought I would be good at investment banking and signed me up for several interviews with investment banking firms that were coming to campus. I interviewed with a large investment bank, and it was a fantastic fit.
A lesson I learned from this was: professors, mentors and other people who know you well can be great resources when trying to decide what career paths are a good “fit” for you.
This professor was paying attention and said to me, “I’ve been doing this a long time and you need to check out investment banking.” Get to know people you respect and connect with – pick their brains about what they do. Internships and info sessions are also helpful to learn about different industries.
Guggenheim is very focused on educating both undergraduate and graduate students about different paths within financial services as well as the breadth of opportunities within Guggenheim. We have a formal internship program for undergrads that can provide experience early on as well as an internship program for grad students. While some students do come to Guggenheim with business degrees, we hire students with a broad range of backgrounds.
What would you say are the benefits of working in investment banking? What qualities and skills are necessary to be successful?
I think banking is a very dynamic, fun and rewarding career. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, and I learn something new every day. I don’t think there are many jobs like that. It is also very rewarding to help businesses solve problems and build long-term relationships with clients over time.
To succeed in investment banking, it is important to be analytical, good at multi-tasking, have a problem-solving orientation, be passionate and a good listener.
We help companies with some of the biggest opportunities and challenges they will ever encounter, which is incredibly satisfying.
Are there one or two lessons you have learned in business that you always keep top-of-mind and would want our readers to know?
There are solutions to every problem, and there is always a path forward. It may not be the way you originally thought so it is important to be tenacious.
Surround yourself with the smartest people you can. I like working at Guggenheim because of its collaborative culture and very talented people. The people here are the best in their fields, and many of the projects we work on are complex and require input from various teams within Guggenheim. No one can be an expert in everything so it’s important to have people around you who are the best at what they do.
How has your MBA benefited your career?
An MBA is a very flexible degree – you learn core business skills that can be applied to almost any company and any career. You learn how to think about problems and how to synthesize information in a way that is understandable for a wide audience. You build relationships and a network of colleagues, professors and company contacts that you will leverage throughout your career.
An MBA was critical to steer my career in a way that was a better fit long-term.
It is a wonderful degree for people who want to pivot their careers or develop the core skills to advance in their current career.
At Guggenheim, are you involved in any diversity and inclusion work?
It’s true that there are more men than women in financial services. Not as many women apply for positions, but the perception that women cannot succeed is a total misconception. The number 1 challenge is how to get women interested in financial services early on and educate them about the benefits of a financial services career. Many of our clients are women, and we need a diverse pool of professionals to maximize our organization’s effectiveness.
In general, Guggenheim is very focused on talent development and human capital – this is true for women, but also true for all of our professionals at all stages of their careers. We help steer people into roles where they will be the most successful and also the most impactful within the organization. It’s a win-win approach: it maximizes the potential of the individuals, but also of the organization.
Guggenheim has a very strong women’s innovation and inclusion network – it is a firm-wide initiative to ensure women are supported in their careers and reach their maximum potential. We also recently launched a mentoring program for younger professionals where they are paired with a senior professional within Guggenheim who will support them in career navigation, talent development and also networking within the organization. This program is unique because it is a 1:1 program focused on coaching and professional support.
What have you learned about juggling the demands of work and personal life over the years?
I have always been athletic, and I love running and hiking. I am married with a two-year-old daughter, and work-life balance requires setting parameters that work for you and your family. Every family and situation is different, and you have to be proactive and thoughtful about what will work for you. It’s also critical to maintain interests outside of work!
Your clients have personal interests, too, and your hobbies and passions are great ways to build relationships with people.
Also, don’t be shy about asking for help – both at home and at work. The trick to fitting everything in is to figure out what you can outsource!