Maria Watts’ Insights on Success in Investment Banking

May 31, 2024

In The Investment Banking Leaders Podcast

The Investment Banking Leaders Podcast
Episode 11 - Maria Watts, MD & Co-Head of Global Consumer IB at Baird


Maria Watts, Managing Director at Baird, shares her journey in investment banking on the Investment Banking Leaders Podcast. Her story emphasizes curiosity, resilience, and seizing opportunities for career growth. She highlights the importance of understanding the ‘why’ behind your work and celebrating achievements. Maria’s leadership philosophy focuses on intentionality, empathy, and fostering inclusivity, particularly for female representation. She discusses the impact of AI on investment banking with cautious optimism and addresses market challenges with resilience and strategic vision. Her insights serve as guidance for aspiring bankers, emphasizing curiosity, embracing challenges, nurturing relationships, and finding joy in the journey. 

Maria Watts on Navigating Success in Investment Banking

In the competitive realm of investment banking, finding a path to success requires a blend of ambition, skill, and the right guidance. Maria Watts, Managing Director, and Co-Head of Global Consumer IB at Baird in Chicago, recently shared her journey and insights on the Investment Banking Leaders Podcast, hosted by Pete Nieberg, Global Head at Altrum. Her story not only illuminates the path she took to reach her current position but also serves as a beacon for aspiring bankers on how to cultivate a successful and fulfilling career in this high-stakes industry! 

Early Career and the Importance of Curiosity 

Entry into Investment Banking 

Maria’s entry into investment banking was not a straightforward path, a common narrative for many successful individuals in this sector. Despite not having a lifelong plan solidified from childhood, her story is a testament to the importance of:  

  • Curiosity: Being intellectually curious helps in adapting and thriving. 
  • Resilience: Overcoming challenges is key to progress in this competitive field. 
  • Opportunism: Seizing opportunities, even when the path is not clear, is crucial. 

Key Takeaways

Her candid recount of the initial steps into the banking world— leveraging a college connection, showing enthusiasm despite the learning curve, and demonstrating dedication to learning on the job— highlights a crucial message for newcomers: being intellectually curious and passionately engaged are foundational to growth and success in investment banking. 

Strategies for Sustaining Career Growth

Understanding the “Why”

Throughout the episode, Maria emphasizes the value of understanding the ‘why’ behind your work and the significance of taking a moment to celebrate each achievement, no matter how small it may seem at the time.

These strategies help you in:  

  • Maintaining focus on long-term goals. 
  • Finding fulfillment in the career journey. 

 Maria’s perspective on building a successful career extends beyond hard work and talent; it encompasses an appreciation for the process and the outcomes alike.  

Continuous Improvement

She advocates for a proactive approach to personal and professional development, which is essential for: 

  • Skill enhancement: Actively seeking opportunities to fill skill gaps. 
  • Career advancement: Ensuring continuous growth in one’s career trajectory. 

Leadership, Female Representation, and the Power of Culture

Leadership Philosophy 

As a recognized leader who is deeply passionate about nurturing talent and fostering an inclusive work environment, Maria sheds light on the pivotal role of leadership in:  

  • Shaping culture: Influencing the organizational culture positively. 
  • Driving success: Encouraging a supportive and collaborative environment. 

 Her leadership philosophy, characterized by intentionality, empathy, and the drive to elevate others serves as a guiding principle for aspiring leaders regardless of their industry.  

Promoting Female Leadership 

Her reflections on female leadership and the efforts to increase the representation of women in investment banking offer valuable insights into the ongoing endeavors towards diversity and inclusion. The initiative to introduce a sophomore female-focused internship program at Baird is a commendable step towards addressing the gender gap at the entry levels, which, as Maria rightly points out, is crucial for cultivating a pipeline of female leaders in the industry! 

The Road Ahead: AI, Market Challenges, and the Future 

Technological Advancements 

The discussion also ventures into the realm of technological advancements, particularly AI, and its anticipated impact on investment banking. Maria shares her cautious yet optimistic view on the role of AI in investment banking, stressing the importance of:  

  • Data accuracy: Ensuring that AI-driven insights are based on comprehensive and accurate data for AI-driven insights to be meaningful— reflects a balanced approach to innovation.   

Addressing Market Challenges 

In confronting current market challenges, Maria’s narrative is one of resilience and strategic growth, highlighting Baird’s long-term vision and commitment to cultivating a supportive and collaborative culture. This approach not only addresses the immediate pressures but positions the organization for sustainable success. 

Concluding Thoughts 

Maria Watts’ journey and insights offered during the Investment Banking Leaders Podcast are a rich source of inspiration and guidance for individuals navigating the complexities of a career in investment banking. Her story is a reminder that success in this field is not just about financial transactions but about the relationships built, the challenges overcome, and the growth achieved along the way.   

For those aspiring to make their mark in investment banking, Maria’s advice resonates deeply: be curious, embrace challenges, invest in relationships, and most importantly, find joy in the journey. 

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The Investment Banking Leaders Podcast 

Hosted by Peter Nieberg 

Produced by Peter Nieberg and Brett Dayman 

Edited by Natalia Revere