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

When do investment bankers retire?

Asked by Xanax FTW over 5 years ago

This varies widely. But on average, the oldest full-time execs I saw were in their early to mid-50s.

A banker's retirement age (much like that of any profession) really depends on what his motivations are. Some get into the field thinking they'll work their tails off for 20-25 years, accumulate a ton of money, and retire relatively young. But the problem is, many of those same people continually upgrade their lifestyles, and those lifestyles require that they keep working.

In other cases, some simply get addicted to the money and stay on as long as the banks will have them. Once you reach the most senior ranks, the day-to-day "work" is pretty low-impact. Most senior bankers are really more figureheads than anything else -- they attend some meetings, and occasionally they'll be brought in as a respected voice in deal conversation. But they can generally come and go as they please, remaining well-tanned and well-rested throughout the year. Some also become consultant/advisory types who make millions to come in and opine a few times a month on new deal opportunities. Nice work if you can get it.

What do you mean when you say that you disliked your job so much that you "lived in fear day-to-day"?

Asked by bobby1980 over 5 years ago

Every time my desk phone rang, my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. Any one of those calls could mean I would be chained to my desk all night. New projects frequently surfaced late in the day. If your phone rang at 6pm, it was often a staffer calling about an "emergency" project that needed to get done that night, come hell or high water. And you had zero say in the matter. So, at the risk of beating a dead horse, the real "fear" all goes back to the unpredictability of schedule. Don't get me wrong, everyone in every job at every company has bad days at work, but typically they can at least gauge when their day is likely to end. But imagine having NO idea when your day would actually end, with the very real possibility that it wouldn't. Terrifying to say the least.

I'm a finance major with a 3.9 GPA and really want to get into I-banking. The problem is that I'm coming from a so-so state school. Can I get an investment banking job without an Ivy League degree?

Asked by Andrew over 5 years ago

While I'd love to say, "Absolutely!", the truth is, it's tough. Not impossible, but tough.

Investment banks look for the smartest and most hardworking candidates, and, rightly or wrongly, education pedigree is a big part of that screening. The majority of analysts come from top-tier private schools, as well as a handful from top-tier public institutions with good finance programs such as UVA, Michigan, and UNC. Assuming that your school doesn't fall into the categories above, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting in the door.

The first step is obvious: identify the banks you're interested in and apply as anyone else would. Contact (and be especially nice to) their HR/Recruiting departments, and submit your resume for consideration. This is just a baseline measure to get yourself on file, but you may also gain an ally or two in HR along the way. Keep in mind that while the halls of investment banks are wallpapered with Ivy League diplomas, the HR/Recruiting departments are typically more down-to-earth in that regard. And besides, everyone loves an underdog :)

Second, another obvious point: use the HELL out of your alumni network. I don't care if you go to Southeast Podunk State U., SOMEONE from your school has taken the path you're interested in. Identify these people through your alumni directory or career services office and don't be afraid to ask for help. Chances are they were in a similar predicament as you not too long ago, and while they may not ALL come to your aid, the odds are that at least one will offer a hand in getting your resume in the right pile.

Lastly - and this one's a biggie - don't limit yourself to just the big-name banks. It's easy to get sucked into chasing the Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanleys, and J.P. Morgans of the world, but there are quite a few smaller, boutique banks where you'll get every bit as good (and possibly better) of an experience. The big banks have so many employees that it's easy to become a very small cog in a big machine. Where at a smaller bank, you're less likely to be pigeonholed, more likely to get exposure to company leaders, and far more likely to take on greater responsibility. And once you've learned the ropes, after 2-3 years you'll have hurdled the school biases and become just as qualified as anyone to work at any bank, big or small.

When all is said and done, the hardest part is getting into the industry. But once you can show – even at a smaller bank – that you're every bit as capable as the next guy, you're on (or damn close to) equal footing going forward. Fwiw, during my time in banking, an employee's effectiveness and school reputation were highly UNcorrelated. I met plenty of morons from Harvard and rock stars from Penn State.

I don't care how brilliant someone is – his work quality must go to hell after 20 hours straight. Are investment banks doing anything to combat the sweat-shop mentality?

Asked by BHarkins about 5 years ago

I’ve been out of the game for awhile, but to the best of my knowledge, there haven’t been any real movements toward taming the schedules of junior bankers. I always thought one seemingly obvious solution (or partial solution) would be to allow junior bankers to arrive at the office later than the typical 9am start-time. Perhaps 12 noon. The reason being – the majority of meetings among senior bankers (where most of the work originates) happen over the course of the day. So it’s typical that new marching orders aren’t handed down to the junior bankers until mid- to late-afternoon, and often that work can take until the wee hours to complete. If you’re in the office until 3am, and need to be back by an arbitrary 9am “just because,” that’s a colossal waste of sleep and/or personal time. I cannot even begin to explain how much of the morning/early afternoon office time is spent twiddling thumbs.

EDIT: I recently read that in the wake of several banker deaths/suicides, certain banks are attempting to curb the hours of junior bankers. This includes mandatory Saturdays off and logging/monitoring hours to alert senior bankers which employees are in the "red zone." That said, my understanding from further reading (and friends still in the industry) is that while these policies sound great on paper, they're difficult to enforce. If the work needs to get done, it needs to get done, and early 20-somethings don't have enough leverage to point to the fine print.

More on recent investment banker suicides and deaths: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-24/banker-suicides-leave-industry-concerned-as-coroners-investigate.html

 

How do investment bankers dress?

Asked by curioso... over 5 years ago

They start by putting on their underwear, then pants, followed by socks...

I kid I kid. Assuming you're asking how they bankers dress for work, the quick answer is the higher end of "business casual." Slacks, button-down shirts, nice shoes. An important client meeting might require a suit and/or tie.

That said, up until about 2000-2001, ALL bankers had to wear suits and ties every day. But that requirement was loosened during the dot-com boom. When the boom hit, investment banks were looking for ways to attract and retain top talent, many of whom were defecting to the shorts-and-sandals world of Silicon Valley. That need to compete, coupled with the increasingly vocalized absurdity of wearing a suit for a 12-20 hour workday, finally gave way to more comfortable everyday attire.

(That said, not a week went by when we wouldn't overhear some silver-haired old-school banker grumbling about how they needed to, "Get ties back on those damn kids.")

What kind of exit opportunities are there for junior bankers who don't love their jobs? Let's say I became a banker but with no intention to do it long term...what kind of opportunities will I have after 3 years at a bulge bracket bank?

Asked by Exit Sign about 5 years ago

After 2-3 years as a junior banker, you've got the skill set to get into innumerable lines of business outside of banking. The following are the most common "exit paths" I've seen over the years:

– Move to the operating side. For example, if you were in the Technology arm of your investment bank, you could easily transition into Corporate Development, M&A, Finance, or Strategy at a tech company. The same goes for any other area of focus (e.g. Media, Manufacturing, Financial Institutions).

– Other areas of finance. If you still like finance but don't like banking, you could transition to a hedge fund, asset management, and the like.

– Consulting. Bankers and business consultants are cut from similar cloth, so many bankers who enjoy analyzing businesses but crave a more manageable lifestyle switch to consulting.

– Business school. One of the most common exits is to get an MBA. This gives the ex-banker a two-year stint to sharpen his or her skills and test the waters of other possible career paths.

– Get out of finance/business entirely. I've seen this one more than one might think. Sometimes a couple of years in banking fresh out of college is exactly what an early 20-something needs to figure out what he *doesn't* want to do. In that case, he can either start from the bottom rung of a completely unrelated industry, or find a non-finance focused job where his skill set is still of value.

Keep in mind, most people faced with this decision are still very young – 24 or 25. So even if they want to make a move to a completely different industry or function, the fact that they've done their banking tour-of-duty sends the following signals to a would-be employer:

– This kid is probably very smart.

– This kid will work his ass off.

– Even if he doesn't have direct experience for the job in question, he's probably capable of figuring it out.

Point being, if you've got a track record of being smart and diligent by age 25, you're a viable candidate almost anywhere else.

How do investment bankers stay awake?

Asked by brikhaus about 5 years ago

First, the obvious: coffee, soda, and energy drinks. It's safe to say that we were all heavily caffeinated from 9pm onward.

That said, caffeine alone can't always get you through multiple all-nighters; having company helps. There are usually at least a handful of other analysts burning the midnight oil simultaneously, so there were always people with whom you could take breaks and blow off steam. Recharging through commiseration, I suppose.

Lastly, fear is a hell of a motivator. If you know that your ass is on the line for a 9:00am deliverable, the sheer terror will keep you from dozing off. And if you absolutely had to steal a nap, doing so under a desk was quite common. A balled up shirt makes for a surprisingly decent pillow.