A regular reader of this blog recently asked me to write about a ‘good day’ in Investment Banking. Many of the stories you will see on forums or comments you will hear from bankers are about the truly terrible days. I confess that I fell into this trap myself…the bad days really stick in your mind. However this does not mean that you will not have good experiences in Investment Banking.
Although the question asked of me was “what does a good day look like in Investment Banking?” I decided to change the focus of the post a little bit. Many of the great things about banking (excluding those things like you already know like how well bankers get paid and how much you learn) don’t come in one day. The pain of bad days was often very concentrated however the good experiences were spread out over time.
What were the highlights of my Investment Banking Career?
Honestly everyone has different highlights and experiences in Investment Banking. Mine will not be the same as the next banker which made this post difficult however I am going to give you an idea of the great things that almost all bankers will experience so here goes…
1. Getting my first Investment Banking deal done
I started in Investment Banking in the very depths of the GFC so getting deals done was not an every day occurrence. This doesn’t mean I didn’t work on deals – I was working on deals a lot…however they never seemed to complete. In fact at that time you were much more likely to work on an equity raising which completed…but that’s not really what I wanted to be doing.
Completing my first M&A deal was exhilarating, exciting and a relief. It felt great to have worked on a deal from pitch to closing dinner. There is so much you learn from being involved in every single step of a deal.
2. Talking to clients
Every bank is different but generally speaking it takes them a really long time to trust their junior staff with significant client interaction (other than ‘here are the documents’ type conversations). When you have been working with a single client for an extended period of time however you end up interacting with them more and more.
When you realise that a client (especially the CEO or other top officers at the company) actually know who you are and specifically ask for your opinion on something (no matter how small)…well that’s a pretty good feeling.
3. Controlling my first presentation
When you start out in banking you are a processing machine. You have no real autonomy and your main job is to collate and create data and fill out slides and occasionally models. There is a point where this starts to change and it is normally when you get closer to an associate level.
The senior bankers start to call you into meetings (often without the associates actually there) and tell you what they want from a pitch or presentation (at a very high level) and then leave you alone to figure it out. At this point you often have someone junior under you so you can delegate the mundane stuff which frees you up to actually use your brain and think about what you need to be presenting.
4. Getting my first bonus
Let’s be honest…one of the best things about banking is the amount of cash that hits your bank account…and my first full year bonus was the largest amount of money that I had ever hit my bank account. Tax is a pain in the backside…but it was still more money than I had ever seen and I managed to party very hard with it on bonus night!
There are plenty of other career highlights, positives and benefits I could talk about. Above are just a few of the times I really loved what I was doing…but being good for your career is not the only good thing about being an Investment Banker.
There are significant social benefits when you work in Investment Banking
When you normally think of the social impacts of working in Investment Banking the conversation normally turns negative…you can no longer see your family and friends and your love life…well pfftt. However there are social benefits to working in banking that are rarely talked about. You spend so much time with your colleagues that they become very close friends in an incredibly short period of time. These are friends that you keep long after both of you have actually left the industry.
When I think about the ‘fun times’ I had in any job…my mind automatically turns to my days in Investment Banking. Investment Banking offices are rarely politically correct or appropriate (no matter how hard HR tries to change this). The senior bankers know that junior bankers are just blowing off steam and let a lot slide…even if they are things that would probably not fly in other industries. Most offices have constant banter in the offices which increases significantly in the evenings when only the young mid-20s bankers are left working.
There is also a great deal of support and camaraderie between junior bankers. Whether it is having someone listen to you rant and rave about an MD who is screwing you again or support when you are going through a messy break up and you just don’t have time to talk to your ‘real’ friends…there is a real and tangible support network that exists in Investment Banking offices.
Many bankers (including myself) don’t really appreciate the social benefits of being in Investment Banking until we leave the industry. If you wonder why Investment Bankers spend so much time trying to work out whether you fit with the culture…this is why.
Investment Banking can be a rewarding career…so don’t only focus on the negatives
Thinking about the negatives before you jump into Investment Banking is definitely something you should do. Make sure you are doing Investment Banking for the right reasons. One of the things I’m trying to do with this blog is to make sure that university and college students think about these factors and not only how they are going to be the biggest, baddest baller banker.
However at the same time don’t let the negatives scare you away. There are great things about working in Investment Banking. If I had the chance to re-write my career I would do it all over again.