If you’re an Investment Banking analyst of if you’re thinking of becoming one then this post is for you. I’m going to teach you how to work effectively with your associate (even when you may want to tear their heads off!)
The people you work most closely with during your analyst years are the associates. You may think that you are in the trenches with the other analysts but think about whom you are in the trenches with on a deal or on a pitch. It is far more likely to be an associate and your working relationship with them will really determine your quality of life in banking.
Why do you need to have an effective working relationship with your associate?
You need to have an effective working relationship with your associate because of the Investment Banking Hierarchy. It’s as simple as that.
You are the bottom rung on the ladder and the associate is one rung above you. What that means is that they directly determine how good (or bad) your life is going to be. You may hate your associate. You may think that they are incompetent, lazy and that they create unnecessary work for you while arrowing off and leaving you to work all night. It may all be true but they can do this because they are in the rung above you in the hierarchy so there isn’t a lot you can do about it.
What does this mean? Basically it means you need to find a way to work effectively with all of the associates you work with (even the incompetent ones).
What does an effective working relationship look like?
Let’s be straight up about one thing now. There is never ever going to be a 50/50 workload shared between the analyst an associate on a piece of work for two reasons:
- Associates are on a lot more deals than you are and so are naturally spread thinner
- They have been doing this longer and have probably earned the right to go home a little earlier (would you want to be doing analyst hours when you were 5 years into the job?)
So what does an effective working relationship look like? To me it looks something like this:
- There is a fair sharing of work which ensures that no one party is doing all the work
- The associate does not create excessive work for you and you get work to them promptly
- You have input in what the associate gives you…but ultimately you do what they tell you to do
Let’s look at these in a bit more detail…
There is a fair sharing of work which ensures no one party is doing all the work
Although I said above that you should never expect the workload to be 50/50 you shouldn’t be doing 100% of the work either. Generally the associate should leave you with the model and the financials and they should get on to creating things like the strategy slides, recutting old slides and putting together the shell of the presentation ready for your financial analysis.
Don’t forget that they have one additional piece of work that you don’t – they have to check and vet your work (even if it is perfect…and it still takes time)
Obviously the split of tasks will depend on the project you are on and what it requires and at some points in the process you are likely to be far more busy than the associate and at others you will be working on something completely different and the associate will be working on this project.
A good way of ensuring that there is a fair split of work is for one of you to send an email at the very start of a deal or pitch just confirming the work items that each of you has. It ensures that both parties can see whether the work allocation is fair.
The associate does not create excessive work for you…
Sometimes you will do a task that you know is useless. You know that it’s never going to get into the book and it will take you a couple of hours just to research the data for that task. This is when analysts tend to hate their associates.
An effective working relationship is one where the associate does not create excessive or useless work for you. When associates do create these sort of tasks for you it’s easy to get angry and plot ways to have them fired…but before you do so just remember that it could be for a few reasons
- They may in fact be inexperienced in the sector or deal you are working on. It’s your job to explain to them why you think the task isn’t necessary or will get cut. Using actual examples of previous similar pieces of work being cut may work in your favour and save you a few hours
- They may know it’s useless and have been told to include it. Often the analyst is not actually at the meeting where a senior banker (a Director or Managing Director) is saying what they want in a piece of work. Sometimes they know it’s useless but get told to do it…and so the ball falls to you. Once again the hierarchy is at work.
…and you need to ensure that you get your work done promptly
You have high expectations of your associate…and that’s good…but you should also hold yourself to the same standard. I know you’re busy on 5 different pitches and 2 deals but the associate on pitch number 4 that doesn’t get to check your work until 2am because that’s when you “get to it” is going to be rightfully pissed at you…and that’s not helpful for your effective working relationship.
Get your work done promptly for them. Eat dinner at your desk if you need to, stop the face time and skip the gym session so that they can get an early night and they’ll appreciate it and is probably more likely to listen to you the next time you want to have input into your workload.
Ultimately you need to do what your associate tells you to do
What you want is input into what you are given but ultimately you need to do what your associate tells you to do. That’s the way the hierarchy works. You can make your case but if you’re told to do it and you don’t then it’s going to be you that’s hung out to dry.
The hierarchy sucks right? Well not entirely. If something goes wrong (and it inevitably does) its never going to be your ass on the line. It’s always the associates fault. If the analysis was wrong the associate should have picked it up and if the book you put together is sub-par it is their bonus that is getting affected.
So how do you create an effective working relationship with your associate?
In the end it all comes down to communication.
You need to be able to communicate effectively to your associate what you’re happy about and what you’re not. When you’re likely to get them tasks and when you are running behind. When you have been slammed on other tasks and theirs do not take priority at this moment.
It helps if you realise that they are in the trenches with you. It helps if you build a friendship with your associate because it means that they look out for you and you can have hard conversations with them if you need to.
How to have a hard conversation with your associate
Look sometimes you just need to pull your associate into a room and tell them that their work ethic sucks and that it is making your life miserable.
Sometimes it just happens. Sometimes your associate is slammed on a million different things or has stuff going on in their life which means that they totally forget about you and then you get screwed.
So how do you do this?
Well firstly don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t bitch to the other analysts or associates or go to HR. Do the following steps. I had to do this twice in my time in Investment Banking and both times the outcomes were really good:
- Call them into a meeting room – this conversation shouldn’t happen in public
- Let them know that you are over-worked and would appreciate sharing some of the work
- Outline what else you have on other than the deal
- Talk about the hours you’ve worked and how you’re finding it difficult to cope
- ASK whether you can re-allocate some of the work
Honestly you can’t pull this too often and you can be unreasonable about it. If your associate is working until 11 and you’re there until 12.30 every night…well that’s not a reason to complain…that’s just the way Investment Banking works but if it is extreme (and if you work as an analyst you’ll get a feeling for what that means) then you need to say it.
Associates are human too. They don’t want to be screwing you. If you have a conversation the way I described above they will often step up and help you out. One of my associates did all my work on a deal for a week because I needed to be with family. That’s what an effective relationship with your associate gets you.
An effective and friendly working relationship with your associate can make all the difference to your time in Investment Banking. Nurturing this relationship is essential to your well being so don’t skip this step!