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 did you know banking wasn't for you?

Asked by June44 over 3 years ago

Three distinct moments come to mind:

1) Day 1, Minute 1. As first-year analysts, we began with a one-month orientation in a midtown Manhattan hotel. I arrived on the first day a few minutes before start-time, taking the long escalator ride down to the banquet room. Once downstairs, I cracked the huge door open, only to see an ocean of khaki, blue shirts, and severely parted hair. It was business-casual's ninth circle of hell, and to make matters worse, the small-talk consisted exclusively of year-end bonus predictions. Orientation hadn't even begun yet. These were clearly not my people.

2) About 4-5 months into the job, I was pulling an all-nighter. At 5am, I found myself sitting in my chair, looking upward as two greasy-haired senior associates stood over me, fighting with one another over who was going to "get me" from 5-8am. Naive as it sounds, it was in that moment that I realized I was a resource, not a person. Between my delirium and the sheer absurdity of the situation, all I could do was laugh. The associates didn't share in the humor.

3) I usually roll my eyes when anyone talks about 9/11 as if it were their own personal, private experience, but indulge me for a moment. I was living 15 blocks north of the Twin Towers when 9/11 occurred. I watched from my doorstep as the buildings fell. And like everyone in Manhattan and the world over, I was stunned and confused and altogether mindfucked. When the carnage ended, a zombified me trudged back up to my apartment and sat silently on my couch trying to process what had just happened. Then my landline rang. It was one of my senior associates, insisting I get to the office. For the first time in my tenure, I said no. I told him I would not be coming in because holy-fucking-fuck three thousand people just died less than a mile away in the worst terrorist massacre in history. His response: "Yes, but you can still work." It was at that point that I realized life is too short, every day is a goddamn gift, and I couldn't give my life to an industry that was so aggressively indifferent toward people's well-being.

How much money do investment bankers make in a year?

Asked by GsR33 over 3 years ago

Nowadays, a first-year analyst (age 22, right out of college) will make $70-75K in base salary, with bonuses up to $55K. Ratchet that up ~20% for a second-year analyst. Associates can pull in anywhere from $200-375K, depending on performance and seniority. VP’s/Directors/Managing Directors … those salaries can soar into the stratosphere ($500K-$10M). Obviously there are outliers that can fall well above or below these ranges, but they’re decent rules of thumb.

I've heard some pretty crazy stories about bankers and traders partying. What's the craziest banker party you've ever seen?

Asked by slim bones over 3 years ago

The craziest things typically involved excessive shows of money, ill-advised sexual encounters, high-end drugs, or some combination thereof. For example …

– I once saw a junior banker lose a game of credit card roulette and get stuck with a $3,400 restaurant bill. The steak was good, but for that kind of money he should've been receiving oral under the table.

– At least once a week, co-workers would be discovered mid-coitus in offices, on-site showers, and even janitorial closets. It became so common that after a certain point, it hardly raised an eyebrow. I suppose that when you're in your early 20's and stuck in an office 24/7, you’ve gotta improvise.

– Cocaine was typically the drug of choice and made its way not only into banker nightlife, but also into the offices as well. While the use of cocaine may not seem SO crazy in itself, keep in mind that the vast majority of these young bankers came from straight-laced backgrounds and top schools, and it’s a pretty abrupt change to go from white-hat keggers to white-shoe coke binges in a matter of months.

But if I had to choose one specific crazy story to rule them all, it had to be the time when an extremely high-ranking department head – conservative as they come – threw a high-end S&M party, for no other apparent reason than “he could.” Somehow a handful of pictures emerged afterwards, showing quite a few high-ranking bankers dressed like The Gimp and in all kinds of compromising positions. I didn’t attend so I can’t say just how far things went that night, but it was pretty funny to see them all back in civilian clothing discussing leveraged buy-outs on Monday morning.

My banker friends never shut up about working insane hours. How rough is the workweek really?

Asked by RRR111 over 3 years ago

There’s a wide variance, but for a junior level banker (analysts & associates), 60-80 hour weeks are typical. During slow periods, that can dip as low as 40, and then in the heat of a live deal, it can reach up to 100. Senior bankers (VP’s and above) typically have more manageable schedules, though in the thick of a major transaction, all bets are off, regardless of rank.

What do investment bankers DO all day?

Asked by nosey012 over 3 years ago

Move piles of money around, collect fees, and high-five other rich white guys. I hope you're not waiting for a j/k.

At the junior level, the days are composed of quantitative and administrative grunt-work. Lots of Excel, Powerpoint, and document processing. Bankers are staffed on transactions, and there are financial analyses, pitch materials, research, and other documentation required. The junior banker is responsible for all of the aforementioned and more. There’s also an inordinate amount of time spent dealing with the bank’s print-shop and document processing departments, which are 24/7 services that help bring fancy meeting materials to life. Working with them can be mind-numbingly frustrating because you’re literally sitting around for hours waiting for materials to be printed and collated, and once they’re finished, you must manually page through each copy to make sure everything was done correctly. Mistakes are frequent, and a single upside-down page or typo can send a managing director into hysterics. So you have no choice but to wait it out, go through each page (often 20+ pitchbooks ranging from 20-50 pages each), and then negotiate with the print-shop employees to fix any mistakes immediately. And that last part – it’s usually taking place between 2-4am with some understandably ornery people who get shit on all day by bankers half their age.

As bankers rise through the ranks, though, they become less responsible for the above and more involved in sourcing new business and negotiating deals.

All in all, the actual work isn’t rocket science. There’s just lots of it, and virtually no tolerance for errors. As one former banking colleague once said to me, “We’re not getting paid to be brilliant. We’re getting paid to be available 24/7 and have great attention to detail.”

Are all bankers just a bunch of greedy scumbags?

Asked by Shogun-1 over 3 years ago

The quick answer is no. But the stereotype exists for a reason, and there are certainly many who fit the bill. Let's tease apart "greedy" and "scumbag."

Are investment bankers greedy? It's never a good idea to generalize, but I think it's a safe bet that most people's decision to go into investment banking is financially motivated. Why else would someone subject themselves to such enslavement and pressure? Sure, some people are passionate about financial markets and business dealings, but there are other lower-paying, less intense jobs that would satiate those interests. In investment banking, the understanding is that if you make it your career, you give up most of your 20's and 30's in exchange for a sure-fire path to wealth, without risking any of your own money. There aren't many other jobs that offer that. And while that may sound like a greedy prospect to some, it may not to others. I worked with several non-flashy, family-oriented bankers who sought wealth primarily for the benefit of their loved ones. But just as often, there were sociopathic maniacs who simply wanted more, and more, and more.

Are investment bankers scumbags? Assuming you mean people who will lie/cheat/steal to screw others over for their own benefit – sure, they exist, as they do in any industry. But investment banking scumbags are a bit more subtle. For example, they'll insist that a client pursue a high-fee transaction that won't actually be beneficial, and they'll create seemingly irrefutable analysis to support it. Many maximize their personal gain by exploiting every possible tax loophole, bending the rules as far as possible without actually breaking them. And many simply see co-workers and subordinates as pawns in the game, working them around the clock simply because they can. Yeah, there are scumbags.

When all is said and done, consider who gravitates toward these jobs: Type-A, highly educated, highly ambitious, risk-averse people who are generally indifferent regarding what value, if any, they bring to the economy. This makes it a lecherous business by nature, and on average, attracts those types of people. That said, since the economic crash of 2008, investment banking has lost some its luster due to its ailing reputation, especially among young people. If you're interested in learning more about that, check out Kevin Roose's book, "Young Money", which chronicles the journeys of eight young, ambivalent bankers who began their jobs shortly after the crash. http://www.kevinroose.com/youngmoney/

 

How is a 100-hour week even possible? I call bullshit.

Asked by sensitivewut over 3 years ago

When a deal goes live and there are millions (even billions) at stake, it requires the attention of a small army of bankers and lawyers to close the transaction. I worked on one particular ten-figure transaction where there were at least 30 people involved who barely left the office in the two months before it closed. One guy got divorced a month after the deal was completed.

But I’ll say this … there’s a lot of inflation in the weekly hours claims of many bankers. For reasons I never quite understood, early 20-something bankers tend to see “hours worked” as some sort of status symbol. Listen to a casual conversation among young bankers and they’ll one-up each other ad nauseum about who’s taken the worst beating in any given week. While there are no doubt some very, very bad weeks, these numbers tend to get very exaggerated. For example, the banker who typically clocks 60 hrs/wk but then has one awful 100-hr week … that “100” becomes his number in future conversations. And one thing that’s rarely talked about is that for every banker who’s getting crushed, quite a few others are quietly coasting by with little or no work on their plates. The former is very vocal about how much they’re working. The latter keeps their mouths shut. And oftentimes, those less-busy bankers put in extra face-time to create the illusion that they’re hard at work, with hopes of not getting staffed on additional projects. (The classic move was to leave one's desk lamp on, place a jacket over the back of the desk chair, disable the computer's screensaver, and leave a complex looking spreadsheet on the screen, all to give the illusion of "still at work.") Sad but true, and this creates some grossly unfair imbalances.