Face time exists in Investment Banking. Every single investment bank will tell you that they are different and that as soon as their analysts finish their work they are encouraged to leave but this is simply not true. So if face time exists and you are forced to work longer than you need to how do you deal with it? How do you try and ensure that you don’t burn out because of it?
Face Time is working late so that you are ‘seen to be working hard’
Face time is often misunderstood. People assume that face time is when you stick around at the end of the night, even when you have nothing to do so that you look better because you are working harder.
The actual way face time manifests itself is quite different but just as bad (and often even worse). Face time often looks like this
- Taking a 45 minute dinner at 6pm and then a 1 hour gym break at 8 pm even though you know you have 3 – 4 hours of work left on your plate
- Having multiple ‘coffee catch ups’ with your friends that work at your firm or at different firms around you which stretches out your day that little bit more
- Watching YouTube clips or playing football or basketball in the office in the evening, even when you only have one or two hours of work left
If investment bankers work such long hours…why would they waste their time doing this? Why would they waste a couple of hours during the day when they could use that time to get out at 9pm instead of 11pm?
Face time exists because the nature of banking dictates that the person who has the most capacity gets the next piece of work
There is almost always more work to be done at an investment bank. Even if there are no deals on the table, if directors sense spare capacity in the office they will dream up another pitch they can give to another client. Because the number of potential pitches is infinite the work load is technically infinite.
In this world of potentially infinite work staffers hand out work or assign capacity based on those who appear to have it. In this context face time makes absolute sense because
- Would you rather take one early night (i.e. leave at 7 or 8pm) and then get jammed on ‘real’ work for the rest of the week (post-midnight finishes); or
- Would you rather slow your work rate down, do things that are more fun anyway and get out at a ‘reasonable’ hour (i.e. somewhere between 9 and midnight)
I am not blaming junior bankers for engaging in face time at all. It is the system which is the problem.
Engaging in face time, however rational, still creates problems for junior bankers
There are several problems associated with face time however the biggest ones involve the burn out that comes from working late nights for extended periods of time
- If you stretch out nights where you should be finishing early, you are less able to deal with genuine fire drills where you have to be there and get something out
- Work that you thought would only take you 2 hours may take you 5…your planned 11pm finish then becomes a 2 am finish…which is certainly not as palatable
Working for longer than you should, especially in an industry like banking where the hours are long enough, is a recipe for disaster. You burn yourself out and become unhappy when in reality you should not be working that hard.
There are strategies to work within the system…and avoid much of the face time
If we accept that you cannot leave before 9pm every day or you are going to get staffed to the hilt, here are some ways you can ‘finesse’ your face time strategy.
Don’t stretch out your day
Actually get your work done early and then do all that personal stuff later in the day. The potential for unpleasant surprises and the unforeseen 2am finish is much reduced.
Engage in ‘good’ face time behaviour
This may sound a bit strange…what is ‘good’ face time? Simply do things which are good for you. Exercise and catch up with people outside of work – i.e. those who you are missing catching up with because of your job (and then come back to work)
Avoid pure time wasting behaviour
This is essentially avoiding the bad face time. Stop reading those joke emails, stop watching YouTube and stop going out and eating junk with the other investment banking analysts. None of these improves your life outside of banking…it is just more of the same
The strategies above are really for the super junior analysts (first and start of second year). As you start to build a bit of credibility within the organisation then you can start to wind back the face time effectively
Work from home
More applicable for associates than analysts but almost all banks offer some form of remote work environment. You’ll be able to leave work at a reasonable time (i.e. 8ish) and then log in. If you’ve already completed your work just save a few emails. Don’t screw your analysts who are still at the office though…it’s the quickest way to get them to hate you
Start sneaking out
Most analysts shoot themselves in the foot while leaving the office. They say goodbye to everyone so people know who has capacity. Simply find a way of sneaking out and don’t tell anyone you’re going.
As long as the banker the next rung up on a deal doesn’t do face time…give them your work later in the day
A lot of analysts will do face time, work late and then email the senior banker so it looks like they’ve worked late. As long as you don’t have a banker who will stay back and check the work the best strategy is to give them a presentation in a physical form as they are actually leaving. Chances are they will take it home and check it and you’ve just freed up your night…instead of getting mark ups or other changes for the evening.
Face time sucks. We all know it and there is no single silver bullet for avoiding it. Work into some of the strategies above and try and avoid the burn out that comes from constant nights of working late.
Do you have any strategies to avoid face time? Have you been told your bank doesn’t have face time? Share your experiences with the rest of us!
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