Investment Banker

Investment Banker

Frank

Los Angeles, CA

Male, 35

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

As a liberal arts grad with mountains of debt and molehills of direction, I took an analyst job at a top NYC investment bank. Neck-deep in spreadsheets and working around the clock, I fought to keep my head above water in a sea of brilliant, khaki-clad sociopaths. While the money and education were great, I quickly learned how the finance world really works... and I wanted no part of it. After 9/11, I left for good.

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Last Answer on November 20, 2014

Best Rated

Why do investment bankers work so much? Why not just hire more people to divvy up the workload?

Asked by frillyblouse55 about 5 years ago

If only it were that simple. Believe me, I asked. But there are two primary reasons why banks don’t simply increase the workforce to combat the workload:

1) Having more bankers doesn’t necessarily mean less work per banker. For example: if I’m building a financial model that requires 10 hours of work, the presence of an additional banker does not mean that this task can be accomplished in five hours. Building a model is a solitary activity, because two people can't really work within the same spreadsheet simultaneously (and even if you technically could through Google Docs or something similar, the two would be crashing into each other so much that it would become counterproductive). Yes, there are certain activities (like reviewing pitchbooks) where an extra head could be helpful, but for the most part, the tasks are solo-oriented.

2) They don’t have to. Despite the well-known misery and poor health this job can create – not to mention all of the banking scandals recently brought to light – recent grads are still killing themselves to get a foot in the door. And if the banks can still attract top talent willing to work around-the-clock, they have little incentive to add more heads to the payroll.

What should I major in if I want to go into investment banking? Can someone without a Finance degree still hack it?

Asked by goinfor2 over 5 years ago

If you know early on that you want to go into investment banking (or any kind of corporate finance, for that matter), the best majors are Finance and/or Accounting. In my experience, the finance jocks (mainly from Wharton and Michigan) had a huge leg up and required far less hand-holding. The senior bankers loved these guys – understandably – because they were well up the learning curve from the get-go. Engineering, Applied Mathematics, and Computer Science majors also tend to do well as analysts, given their proficiency with numbers and Excel.

That said, liberal arts majors can do just fine in banking, it just takes them longer to get up the learning curve. It's all about having good mentors, maintaining the right attitude, asking the right questions, and really absorbing the answers. I had a liberal arts degree, which basically meant zilch in terms of vocational expertise. But I had solid quantitative skills, so I got by.

When all is said and done, your major won't make or break you in becoming a banker (or, frankly, any other profession). If you're 100% sure that corporate finance is what you want to do with the rest of your life, then a Finance or Accounting degree makes sense. But very few people have that kind of certainty while still in college, so my recommendation would be to major in whatever interests you most, independent of post-college vocation.

Bankers must have a ton of health problems, no?

Asked by Stellamykind about 5 years ago

Great question.

The most common health problems I observed were those born from the sedentary working life. Sitting at a desk for 14-18 hours daily will do that. Severe weight gain was common among new bankers, as were high cholesterol and blood pressure.

Ulcers were also very common, which wasn't surprising given the steady diet of coffee and aspirin needed to get through the typical work week.

Finally, given the sleep-deprivation, immune systems were practically nonexistent. No hiding from colds, flus, and so on. If one analyst came down with something, the dominoes would fall... but god help the analyst who attempts to use a sick day.

All in all, there wasn't a disproportionate amount of SERIOUS ailments (e.g. heart attacks, pneuomnia), but rather, a steady stream of low- to mid-risk ailments due primarily to the demanding work environment. Lots of potbellied, prematurely balding 20-somethings with year-round colds. Any time I'd get together with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, the first words out of his or her mouth were: "You look like shit."

Aside from money, what are the positives?

Asked by 5yards over 5 years ago

As harsh as I am on banking, I have to admit that it can provide a breadth of business knowledge and can be a stepping stone into almost anything in the business world. Many of my former colleagues have gone on to hedge funds, consumer goods/services companies, or started companies of their own. Banking teaches you how money and financial instruments really work and how deals actually get done. I had a number of opportunities to be a fly on the wall while gazillionaires negotiated massive mergers and buyouts, and it was fascinating (in good ways and bad).

Then there are the pragmatic reasons. It’s a lucrative position at a time when you’re (most likely) staring at a profane amount of college debt. It allows you to handle the costs of living in a major city. And it also provides you with a huge social circle instantaneously – most first-year analyst classes number in the hundreds, and you bond tremendously while in the trenches with one another.

Or in cases like mine, it’s a surefire means of figuring out what you DON’T want to do very early in your career :)

What kinds of people do investment bankers marry?

Asked by j_s_b over 5 years ago

I love this question. Indeed, who DO these douches choose as lifemates? And who chooses them??? I'll do my best to answer, with one disclaimer: I can only speak in regard to male bankers, because I didn't meet enough spouses of female bankers to observe any trends.

Male bankers who I worked with tended to have spouses who fell into one of two categories:

1) TROPHY WIVES. No surprises here. Many bankers, especially more senior guys (age 35+) were quick to trot out their blonde, statuesque wives to company parties, where the latter would smile brightly and say virtually nothing. Think Betty Draper. I wish I were exaggerating, given how cliched that sounds. I was naturally curious when observing this, and with a little digging and selective eavesdropping, learned that most of the trophies were housewives whose responsibilities included raising the children (with the help of an army of nannies), working out, and looking perfect in public. I got the impression (again, keeping my ears open during many backroom conversations) that these bankers simply wanted an "easy" spouse – someone who would take care of everything on the home-front and not give her husband too much grief during non-working hours. I guess for some men, the idea of a happy marriage is "I work 80+ hours a week and make us rich, so just shut up and look pretty." (The great irony, of course, is that these guys were some of the biggest adulterers imaginable. But I digress.)

2) HIGH ACHIEVERS. On the other hand, many bankers (usually the younger ones), went to a different extreme. Rather than looking for a Stepford wife, they married women who were also high achievers, e.g. doctors, lawyers, executives, or even other bankers. For these men, it was less about finding the perfect-looking wife, but rather, someone who was also highly ambitious, intellectually stimulating, and empathetic to the husband's crazy work schedule (because hers was crazy, too). The downside to these types of marriages, though, was that often these people would go days/weeks barely seeing one another.

Obviously there were exceptions, but those were the most prominent categories of banker spouses I observed. It was rare to meet a spouse who was just "regular." I never met a banker's spouse who went to Ohio State and was a schoolteacher in Westchester. They almost always fell into either the "beauty" or "ambition" extremes.

What kind of social life can bankers maintain keep with such crazy workweeks?

Asked by tracyM about 5 years ago

An unplannable, wildly inconsistent one. The difficulty in maintaining a social life while holding a banking job isn’t necessarily due to the sheer number of working hours, but rather, the unpredictability of schedule. For example, I may only work 60 hours per week on average, but I have almost no idea how those 60 hours will be distributed. This leads to quite a few cancelled dates and get-togethers, so you really have to make sure your friends and loved ones are fully aware of the nature of the job if you want them to tough it out with you.

Cliched as it sounds, bankers definitely subscribe to a “work hard, play hard” mentality. Even after a 16-hour day, if a 1-2 hour window presents itself, the bankers will forgo sleep for much-needed tequila shots. They’re pent up from the office lockdown and they’ve got money to blow.

Is there anything FUN about being a banker?

Asked by Paulene about 5 years ago

Fun? It's all in how you define it.

On a micro level, the luxuries and trappings of "being a banker" can make for fun situations, right out of the gate. Consider the life of a first-year analyst, fresh out of college. In a matter of months, he's gone from Natty Light to Dom Perignon, ramen to caviar, and bicycles to chauffeured town cars. I'm exaggerating (though not by much), but the point is that becoming endowed with such luxuries so abruptly and at such a young age, it's hard not become very intoxicated with all of it.

On a more macro level, some people really, really enjoy participating in large transactions. They may not enjoy the grunt-work and long hours, but they love the prestige and adrenaline that comes with high-profile deals. It makes them feel important, gives them fodder for cocktail party conversation, and can make for great learning experiences. And in some rare instances, the transaction could actually help (gasp!) the companies involved.