You know all those horror stories you’ve heard about Investment Banking? Well they have a basis in truth. They are not the everyday of being an Investment Banking analyst however they happen often enough that it becomes the folklore of the industry.
If you work in Investment Banking I’m sure you’ve had a day just like the one I’m about to outline. If you are thinking of going into the industry you should know that these days exist. They exist and they are painful…but thankfully they are not the norm.
The worst days in Investment Banking are not necessarily the longest ones. They are the accumulation of days or weeks of little sleep which is then followed by a monster day of stress. That is when you get a day like the one below.
My worst day in Investment Banking
7.00 am: Wake up having gone to bed only 2.5 hours previously (yesterday was a big day). My body had this odd aching feeling and my eyes barely open but I knew I had to be in the office to print off documents for a 9 am meeting (i.e. I need to be in the office by 8.30 latest)
7.00 am – 8.00 am: Get ready for work. It really shouldn’t take this long but I really couldn’t seem to get going this morning. The flashing Blackberry light is a sign of the ominous day ahead but I and forget about it until I am travelling on the train in the way to work.
8.00 am: The train I am on is delayed. I am in between stops and there is no way of getting off the train to try and catch a taxi in. This is a real problem as I need to do the printing for the 9 am meeting! I suck it up and call my VP and let him know the problem. After he stops yelling I promise to sort out it and make sure he has what the senior bankers need. In a panic I call and email every friendly analyst I know and find one who is in the office early will do the printing for me.
9.15 am: I finally get into work and get told off again for not planning ahead. I don’t bother arguing as it is not worth it and as I am already late I skip my morning coffee (which I desperately need). Go through emails and prioritise what needs to be done – from the number of emails and work requests already received…it is going to be a painful day.
9.30 am – 11.00 am: Put through mark ups on a presentation that I gave to my director a week ago but which he decided not to look at until this morning. I am so tired that I make some silly errors…once again I’m getting gold off.
11.00 am – 12.00 pm: Conference call for a sell side deal I am working on. The clients are giving a big presentation to bidders tomorrow and this meeting is meant to be about finalising that presentation. The clients decide to change the focus of the presentation and send through lots more data that they want included. The work load just increased and the presentation is at 9.00am tomorrow.
12.00 pm – 12.30 pm: Have an internal conference call with senior bankers to decide what they want in the presentation (mentioned above) as well and what it should look like at a ‘high level’
12.30 pm – 1.30 pm: I skip lunch and ask someone to pick up a sandwich for me. The associate and I work through what needs to be done for the presentation. We work out what actually needs to be created with what data and map out all the pages. I make sure that I have everything very clear because this is not a day where I want to constantly be going back and forth refining the book.
1.30 pm – 1.45 pm: I have a conversation with other senior bankers waiting for me to do work. I explain to them the urgency of this presentation. As it is deal related and the presentation is actually tomorrow they reluctantly agree that I can do their work after the presentation (I think I breathed the biggest sigh of relief for buying that 24 hours!)
1.45 pm – 3.00 pm: Crank through the data and make sure everything lines up and is correct. I do not want to be re-doing the data later on. I’m frustrated and wondering why the client couldn’t have sent this data to me a week ago! Halfway through this process my computer system crashes! It is incredibly annoying but it only sets me back 15 minutes. I’m so used to the crappy IT systems by now that I save all the time and I don’t lose all that much.
3.00 pm – 5.00 pm: I work with the associate to create the first cut of the slides for the presentation (which includes all of the new data). Although I have been creating this presentation for weeks the new data has changed the requirements and slides quite a lot. There are about 20 slides to create and even though I split them half and half with the Associate, I still have to work at a furious pace to get them done.
5.00 pm – 6.00 pm: Talk through the slides with the senior bankers who then run through all the changes they want made. They also decide to add another 4 or 5 slides to the appendix.
6.00 pm – 7.00 pm: I create the new slides and alter the old ones to reflect what the senior banker wants. By now I am exhausted but there is no way I can complain (at least not until the senior bankers leave for the day!).
7.00 pm – 7.30 pm: Give the slides to the presentation people (the people who make sure everything looks slick and presentation worthy) so that it is in the client’s colour scheme and format. I take the opportunity to eat dinner at my desk. If I ate in the meeting room and someone wanted me during this period I’m sure there would have been hell to pay…and I’ve been yelled at enough times today.
7.30 pm – 9.00 pm: The senior bankers keep making changes to the slide pack until they have it exactly how they want it.
9.00 pm – 10.30 pm: We finally send the presentation through to the client and have a dry run through the presentation to make sure that everything works. Invariably there are kinks in the presentation – small things they want to add or inconsistencies which only really come out when you run through what will be said on the day. The clients outline everything they want changed and then (finally) declare themselves to be satisfied.
10.30 pm – 12.30 am: We’re working against the clock now. I put through all the client requested changes and make sure everything in the presentation is perfect. The presentation then gets sent up and down the chain 3 or 4 times to make sure that everyone is happy with it.
12.30 am – 1.30 am: I once again send the presentation to the presentation people who go over the formatting with a magnifying glass to make sure it is perfect. Then, along with the Associate and Vice President, I have a look at every single page to make sure there are no errors either in the data, content or (more importantly) in the formatting
1.30 am – 2.00 am: Put through some minor last minute changes. I am really in the hot seat at this point. The associate and VP are either calling out or standing at your desk instructing you what to change.
2.00 am – 4.30 am: We are finally ready to print…but then realise that the presentation people have gone home so it is going to be the associate, the Vice President and I who are going to have to print and bind the presentations yourself. We are not experienced at this and they have to be professional enough for the clients to show bidders.
We split up the tasks. It is my job to print the presentation. The Associate and Vice President will bind them (which is harder than it sounds…especially at 4 in the morning!). I thought I got the easy job…it turns out I was very much mistaken.
There were 60 pages in this presentation each one in full colour (i.e. with backgrounds) and we need 60 copies printed and bound. We actually needed more copies than this. We knew that we would put pages in the wrong order. We were simply too tired to be doing everything perfectly.
I don’t know if you have ever had to print full colour pages at the highest quality format…but it does not go quickly. I commandeered 3 printers for the job and had them printing 20 pages each so that I could get full packs to the associate and VP to maximise efficiencies. As I printed they bound – we worked in silence because we were that low on energy. The printers overheated and I burned my fingertips on the hot ink.
At 4.30 we were finally done and everything was bound and good to go. I thought I could finally go home…
4.30 am – 5.00 am: Alas I couldn’t go home. The Vice President told me that we now needed to check each pack. We each took 20 packs and had to flip the presentation page by page to make sure there were no dud packs. Thankfully only 2 out of the 60 were duds (either not bound properly or things in the wrong order).
I then go the news that I was responsible for making sure that the presentations were with the senior bankers first thing in the morning. They would be leaving the office at 8.30 in the morning and I needed to be there to make sure that the presentations were in their hand. I also got reminded that there would be hell to pay if I was late into work again (like I was this morning).
5.00 am – 5.30 am: I try and sleep in the taxi on the way home…unfortunately this will be a significant part of the sleep I get tonight. I set my alarm for 6.30 when I get home (yes…1 hour later…) – if I am late I will probably be fired. I have no time to de-stress and I still have all that work I managed to put off for 24 hours. I fall asleep wondering why I even bother…
Some final comments
If you work in banking you will have these days from time to time but I want to say up front that they are not the normal experience. You will not be having one of these days every week. Don’t get scared off by these days but know that they are part of the job. It is the reason you get paid so much.
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