by Brian DeChesare Comments (600)

Holla Back, Office: 7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Work In The Back Office

holla_back_office_7_reasons

“Andy used to want to be in the heat of things, sealing deals and wooing clients, but now he’s destined to be support staff.

Holla back, office?”

BigLaw, BigSchmaw, The Leveraged Sellout

Ah, the back office. Should you go there? Is it worthwhile? Are there any exit opportunities?

I try to give detailed tips on everything from private equity interviews to investment banking resumes, but my advice on this one is simple:

No.

Front Office vs. Back Office

There seems to be some confusion over what constitutes “Front Office” vs. “Back Office” (and then there’s that netherworld of “Middle Office” in between the two), so let’s be clear on terminology.

“Front Office” refers to any group that generates revenue for the firm – investment banking, wealth management, private equity, and sales & trading are all examples.

One exception: equity research is still “front office” even though it doesn’t directly bring in revenue.

“Back Office” is anything that does not generate revenue – IT, accounting, HR, risk management and compliance are examples.

You might consider some of these “back office” roles – such as risk management and compliance – to be “middle office.” But let’s make things simple and just go with “back office” for now.

As you might surmise, groups that don’t bring in revenue are not viewed favorably in a culture where greed is good.

But why specifically should you not work in the back office?

1) The Front Office Doesn’t Care

This might be the biggest misconception that prospective financiers have: that it’s “easy” to transition from back office to front office.

In practice, it’s very difficult and I’ve rarely, if ever, seen it done. In cases where it does happen, usually it’s moving from “middle office” areas such as risk management rather than jumping from IT to M&A.

Often, engineers who want to move into finance are “sold the dream” on joining IT at a large bank, thinking that they’ll be able to break in at some point in the future.

But you know what? Out of every single engineer friend who graduated with me several years ago and went to work in IT at a bank, not a single one has successfully transitioned over – even though they all want to.

2) Top Business Schools Don’t Care

Business schools classify candidates into 3 categories – the “prestigious job” (finance / consulting) crowd, the “average job” (IT consulting / accounting / product management) crowd and the “did something completely different” (became a monk in Tibet / started a company / became a wandering bard) crowd.

Or as Alex Chu over at MBA Apply so eloquently puts it, the “Blue Chips,” “Average Joes” and “Vagabonds.”

Banks and other financial services firms recruit primarily at the top 10 business schools; these schools have very few students who took the “average job” path, and by doing back office work, you put yourself in this category and therefore reduce your chances of getting into one of these top schools.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at what Alex has to say on the topic:

“The difference with HBS, Stanford and Wharton is that you’ll see far more Blue Chips and Vagabonds (and by extension, less Average Joes) than you’ll see at other schools, and particularly at HBS and Stanford.”

Needless to say, HBS, Stanford and Wharton are some of the top business schools for finance recruiting.

3) The Buy-Side Doesn’t Care Either

This one mostly applies to hedge funds, but doing back office work at a large bank is not a good way to break into the buy-side.

Some people get the idea that working in trade execution support might be a good way to network with hedge funds and eventually break in.

While this logic almost makes sense on paper, in practice it’s much better to get actual experience doing trading or investing if you want to work at a hedge fund – even a small “prop shop” or smaller hedge fund would be a much better strategy for getting into SAC or Citadel one day.

And Steve Schwarzman really doesn’t care that you did IT work at a bank – so don’t expect a great reception in private equity, either.

4) Goodbye, Models And Bottles, We Hardly Knew Ye

Don’t expect too much pay in back office jobs, let alone the models and bottles you lust after (if you’re female just think of male models here).

You’ll likely be earning slightly less than what investment banking analysts make as base salary ($60K), so probably $40-50K in your first year with a very small bonus (5-15% of base salary).

It’s hard enough living in New York or London on this kind of base salary, but to barely get a bonus either… that’s like pouring salt in the wound.

5) Respect, I Never Get Any Respect Around Here

There are myths about how bankers don’t respect lawyers when working on deals, but in my experience this is rarely true; no matter what you say behind their backs, no one directly insults or disrespects lawyers.

But back office folks are directly insulted. I’ve seen MDs yell at risk management and compliance staff because of draconian restrictions, and I’ve seen even lowly Analysts get into arguments with IT staff who are told “FIX IT NOW!!!” repeatedly.

Once again, those who don’t generate money in a culture of money are not very well off.

6) It’s A 9 To 5 Job

Yes, this is a bad thing. The problem with standard (or almost standard) hours is that learning and advancement opportunities are also very limited. If you value peace of mind and a stress-free environment more than the potential to advance, then back office work might be for you.

But I’m guessing most of you don’t fall into that category.

This type of work is more appropriate if you want to have a secure, stable job with little in the way of either downside or upside.

7) The Work Itself

Finally, the work you do in the back office is almost uniformly boring and even more repetitive than spreading comps, creating pitch books and pulling all-nighters to fix broken printers.

While you could argue that investment bankers are overpaid paper pushers as well, they actually bring in revenue via deals. And at the senior levels they focus on relationship-building, which is far more interesting than monitoring employee trades.

Ok, But Is It Really That Bad?

There are a few exceptions. As mentioned above, if you are simply seeking a low-stress environment while still being able to claim that you “work in finance,” then the back office might be for you.

Another exception: internships. It’s not necessarily the end of the world if you end up in a back or middle-office role in a summer internship, but you should try to transition out as soon as possible – it’s much easier to move over as an intern than as a full-timer.

The Solution

“Ok,” you might say, “But if I can only get back or middle office roles at bulge bracket banks what should I do?”

Simple: Go smaller. It’s far superior to do banking or trading at a boutique than to do back office work at a large company.

Sure, you might not have the same exit opportunities as your friends at Morgan Stanley IBD, but you’ll still be much better off than your friends at Morgan Stanley IT.

Boutiques are still hiring, even in this market, and are often the best strategy for those who are transitioning into finance from other careers.

Holla Back…

…if you can find me a single example of someone who successfully moved from back office to front office.

In the meantime, focus on doing client-facing work anywhere you can – that’s always better than being the IT guy (or girl).

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Im interested in your view regarding back office positions as a student.

    Some small investment banks and trading firms are recruiting students for part-time back office roles at my university. The work seems to be generally dull and basic, however you will be getting some exposure to the industry which I suspect is great as a student. These roles are considered one step below the part-time analyst roles some boutiques offer to more experienced students.

    As of now, I personally have the opportunity to take on senior roles within sales (B2B) at some local tech-startups. Due to my previous experience in sales. I am convinced that the work will be challenging, fun and hold a higher status than working back office. However, I am worried about the lack of exposure to the financial industry when applying for summer internships (London) next year.

    Whats your view on this. Can part-time back office positions in finance improve your chances to land an internship? Or is it just as good to have worked in sales in an unrelated industry during your studies?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Well, what do you want to do in the long term? If you want to work in finance, yes, even a back-office internship would help a bit since it proves you can work in the industry. But if you want to stay in sales or work outside finance, keep doing what you’re doing.

  2. Invest in Goodwill

    Hey Brian,

    I’m an Accounting and Business Management grad from the top school in my country. I’m close to accepting an offer from a Fortune 500 company and it’s a front office role too. The thing is, it’s not related to banking or finance. I’ll be doing biz dev which deals with product management, pricing, volume and sealing contracts. The deals they make range up to millions of euros, and I find it would do a great deal for my networking and business skills in general.

    I was just wondering if this career path could still leave the IB door open for me someday, or even other finance-related fields. Conversely, I could also get into a Big 4 Firm or join small boutique IB firms as an analyst.

    It would be great if I could get some input from you guys. Thanks!

    1. It depends on how much time you have left, but if you want to do IB, the Big 4 firm or a boutique IB internship would be better than the role you described.

  3. Hey Brian,

    I’m a sophomore at a top 5 school trying to decide on internships for this coming summer. Would doing an internship in the legal department of a top IB be a worthwhile experience to set me up for a competitive junior year recruiting season or am I better off trying to do front office work at some small firm that would actually hire a sophomore? Thanks!

    1. Front-office work at a smaller firm is better

  4. Great article Indeed.
    I felt the similar thing while interning in a BO this summer too. So, I was cautious while applying for full-time position.
    I have been offered a position in the HSBC Securities Services Global Graduate Program.
    It has 4 job rotations with the functions of Sales, Product Strategy, Risk Management and Operations and sub-teams of custody services, investment operations, fund administration, corporate trust and loan agency services.

    As I am an Engineering student, I feel this is my best shot in an I-bank at this stage. I wish to go for an MBA after a few years of work. Any insights on this situation.

    1. If you really want to do finance, sure, that’s fine. But it will be easier to get into S&T from such a role. An MBA might help, but you usually need a front-office pre-MBA internship to make it useful.

  5. Hi Brian,
    I have been working on a BB BO for about 6 months now and have got an offer for MSc Quant Finance for next year. Would it look bad to my prospective employers if I resign now or should I stick it out in operations for a whole year?

    1. It’s probably better to stick around for an entire year, but if the MSc requires you to start now, you could leave anyway if you’re sure you never want to go back to your current firm.

  6. Hi Brian,

    I recently received an offer to be a technology analyst intern in NY from a major bank (JP, GS, MS) as well as an offer for S&T intern for a “lower tier” bank (WF, Scotia, etc.). Which one do you think I should go with? Im double majoring in Computer Science and Finance and if I don’t have a tech internship it will be impossible to break into FB, Google, etc. but on the other hand a back-office role might not be too good if I want to become a trader or quant in the future. Just wondering if you had any advice.

    1. I don’t think it will be impossible to get into Facebook, Google, etc. if you don’t have a previous tech internship. Demand for good engineers far exceeds supply. You’re better off taking the front-office S&T option if you’re unsure, just to keep your options open.

  7. success_breakthrough

    I successfully made the transition between back office work to front office work, albeit my experience was a little bit different than most. During my junior and senior years at university I worked as an IB summer intern at a BB, to gather experience and knowledge, and was really interested in the public finance muni aspect of banking (I know most people do not choose to go this route). Upon graduation I took a job at a BB doing back office trade management and client finance work. When I originally took the offer I was unsure of the specifics of what I would be doing, but I needed a job immediately. After six months of doing this I realized the route I was on was completely different from where I wanted to be, so I sent out resumes looking for a Public Finance IB Analyst spot. It took a little while to get calls/interviews, but in May earlier this year I finally got a new job at a mid sized firm working in municipal finance. I will say that it would most likely be incredibly harder to make the transition if I would have waited another year or couple of years, and I transitioned into the public finance rather than a traditional M&A role but I absolutely love the work I do now. Working only six months in the back office role was incredibly boring and repetitive. I do not know how people could work years in it, unless you want the 9-5 and secure job as you mentioned above.

    1. Congrats. Let us know if you’re interested in sharing your full story (anonymously) sometime on the site.

      1. Success_breakthrough

        Yeah no problem at all. You should have my email from this current comment.

  8. Hi Brian-
    I’m graduating with an undergrad degree in IT and have received offers to two Dow 30 companies of which I have prior internship experience. I recently received an offer to a top global hedge fund to work in their IT support group, but I’m unsure of the opportunity for growth. I have a passion for financial services, but not necessarily to be on the execution side. The other companies are offering more of a leadership development track within IT in the tech space, while the HF touts its prestige.
    For someone that is unsure about their niche, would it be a mistake to take a back-office role due to the excitement of the firm, as opposed to a development role with an established company?

    1. It’s hard to say because it depends on what you want for your career: Do you want to stay in IT or move to something else? If you want to stay in IT, it’s better to take a leadership role within IT in the tech space. But if you want to possibly transition to another role and out of IT, the hedge fund might be better… I say “might” because it’s still quite difficult to make that move.

  9. I worked in PWM Ops as a summer intern last year. Received an offer to come back however everything is that article rang so in my 10 week exp. The work is “easy” and monotonous once the systems are learned (3-5 weeks for me). The work makes it impossible to quantify success and separate oneself from other coworkers. Can only do so many accounts in a day.

    I put my heart and effort into consulting and I recently just was offered a full-time consulting job at Strategy&. Goldman, along with my GPA, definitely helped open the door; the rest was up to me. So excited to be counted within the “prestigious” jobs.

    1. Congrats! Yes, some back and middle-office roles are quite repetitive.

  10. Don’t know how accurate this article is, but I guess it depends on perception and preference. I’m a CPA and did the regular 3 year stint at a Big 4 and I’m now an accountant for a middle market PE Fund. My base + bonus is at 6 figures and i’m only 26. I’ve been here a year working 9-6, not too much stress and it’s almost certain that if I stick around I’ll be promoted to Manager. I get to drive a european car, travel, have a nice 2B apartment and eat and drink quite often. Don’t know if I would trade that for IB. Finally, i’m almost 100% sure that my boss is at the $500k level, CFO as well. And they’re 36 and 38 year olds. Ill stick to that, no problem.

    1. Back/middle office roles in PE are somewhat different. Yes, there’s potential for higher pay, but I think $500K is an exaggeration, at least a mid-sized fund.

  11. Hello Brian,

    I graduated in Economics from an average university from London, England having obtained a 2:1 equivalent to a 3.5 GPA. I have previous experience as an intern at JP Morgan in their PMO office in the back office working as a controls analyst. I am seeking to move into a similar role but applying for these roles in the back office and middle office is becoming harder as time goes on.

    I am deciding whether to apply and study for a masters in banking/finance at a top UK university. or to just keep applying to any investment bank hoping for a breakthrough. Any suggestions?

    1. At this stage, it’s better to go for a Master’s degree if you’re really set on moving into a front-office role.

  12. Hi,
    I’ve been shortlisted for an internship in equities at one of the big investment banks, but I’m not sure what exactly the job involves?

    1. ??? Can you contact them and ask for a job description? It’s hard to say if you only have the department name and nothing else.

      1. They told me it was “equities business” and that it was a front office role but thats about it

        1. Ok. Not sure I can say anything else without more information then.

  13. This is hilarious and pretty much sums up everything that I have been feeling — plus the facts to back it up! I work in RM and haven’t seen any of my peers move from BO to FO. I work in model validation (back of the back office, anyone?) and want to bang my head against my desk. I sometimes feel like some of my coworkers are robots disguised as humans.

    1. Yup… it is a bit easier to move into the front office on the sales & trading side (do a search on this site for some stories), but it’s still not easy and is definitely an uphill battle.

  14. Good afternoon,

    What are the prospects of a Credit Analyst, which is a “middle office” or “support team” role, looking to break into IB?

    Depending on the firm and or who you talk to, Debt Solutions/Lev Fin, M&A, Infrastructure could be a good fit.

    I have also heard (in many quarters) that Credit Analysts tend to excel in client facing roles (although this might depend more on the individual). There also seems to be a large amount of modeling, analysis and presentation work involved which could help futher an individual’s case.

    Any thoughts?

    Thank you.

  15. Your article is spot on! I’ve been in the back office for 9 years now and moved between many different operations and risk roles. I’ve only seen two exceptional people EVER make the transition and they were incredibly talented (CFA completed) and wasted doing the long hours of routine. Now I am finally interviewing for a sales and trading role which would be amazing but I Am planning on starting a family soon and having a baby, I may now have to stay in the back office for better flexibility and less stress while pregnant at work. Such a shame cos I would take the role in a heartbeat had it been a few years earlier . Any thoughts about me making the move now?! Could it be better for starting a family?!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      No I don’t think so, and it can be challenging to transition into a new role when you’re starting a family. I’d see how the interview with S&T goes first. And if it is a role with good prospects (i.e. strong team), I may actually make the move if this is what you really want to be doing.

  16. Hi! I have and example of someone who moved from Back-office to front-office. His name is André Esteves, BTG Pactual’s former CEO. Entered as IT intern, got out as CEO and billionaire. Cheers!

  17. What about a business management / development role whereby you directly launch new products and markets for the trading desk (i.e. new revenue)? Currently working as part of the DD1 BM role doing exactly that, have 2 predecessors that have gone into trading roles before me, but not sure if just luck or you actually gain relevant skills for the move?

  18. Wondering

    Is it more advisable to start off at a front office DCM role? Or Corporate treasury – Cash and forex management?

    I’ve potentially got two offers, one with a tier 3 regional bank in Asia doing DCM and the other for Daimler’s CAReer program in their corporate treasury unit.

    The salary is quite low for the regional bank ( 3k+ ) while Daimler’s offer will be 4.5k – 5k.

    Was wondering which is a wiser career path to take.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It depends on where you see yourself going in the future, and if you like the team members there or not. I’d say go for the DCM role if you’re interested in IB/capital markets down the line. However, if you prefer a bit more security and the higher salary, I’d go with the cash and forex role.

      1. Wondering

        Thank you!

  19. Matthew

    Hi,

    Thank you for the article. I would like to know are MBB research related jobs (e.g. Mckinsey Research Analyst, BCG Knowledge Analyst) considered back office roles in finance?

    These roles get you to specialize in a certain industry (e.g. Telecom, financial institutions, TMT) and assist consultants in their specialized industry sector. Furthermore, the daily work includes modeling as well, as they do lots of market analysis and industry bench marking.

    Within consulting it is considered as BO, however to me it does not seem like it is the risk and operations type of BO roles within banks, perhaps more like equity research in sell side?

    What do you think about someone with this role wanting to switch to a finance research related job such as Equity Research, Credit Rating? Will it be a wiser choice to use the MBB brand name for applying to BSchool or MFin programs to break into finance?

    It would be great if someone can share their thoughts, thanks!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      These are consulting roles so I wouldn’t consider them as back office roles in finance. But if I were to choose, since they are quite industry specific, they maybe relevant to industry-specific research/IB roles. Yes going back to bschool can help you retool yourself, though people do refer to work experience so if you can gain experience in finance related to the industry you’re covering this will help.

  20. Hi,

    I have an opportunity to do Treasury (cash management etc) in a BB (UK) or Product Control in another BB (UK). Which role would you say has the better future opportunities? I don’t necessary aspire to be in front office. But going by this article, which role could yield better respect, earning potential and possibility of FO action?
    (PS my background is in Accounting and Finance and I enjoy exposure to financial markets)

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Both are good roles. I am not 100% sure, and I’d go with a team you get along with most.

  21. Hi,
    5 months ago I started working in a fixed income trade support position at a top Canadian bank after finishing my MBA at a non-target school. I have an engineering background and am currently studying to take the CFA level 1 in June. I’ve been networking like crazy trying to make any connections that could help me out in the future. If I work my way up internally or move to a higher trade support role at another bank, I would at least be on the trading floor interacting face to face with S&T. I’ve also considered applying for institutional sales assistant roles. Is there anything else that you can think of that I could do to make myself more attractive as a candidate for a front office S&T role?
    Thanks

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Having some sort of trading/finance experience would help. If you have your own trading portfolio, you can list that experience/talk about that. Having a stock pitch would also be useful: http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/hedge-fund-case-studies-part-2-research-structure-stock-pitch/

  22. Dear Brian and Nicole,

    Thanks for the interesting post. I also have a similar problem.
    My Background: Mechanical Engineer from Top Grad school in India, started my career working in a techno-functional role for Regulatory Financial Reports at Oracle Financial Services for 2 years. Now for the last 1 year I have been working as a Business Analyst at Goldman Sachs in Regulatory Analytics domain, which is again a back office job.
    Problem: I have been looking for a job change from last 1 month but have been getting short listed almost always for BA roles in back office of other banks or other sectors. But I want to move to either Equity research or other front end jobs(PE is out of the equation I guess). Some people suggested me that you should try moving internally to front office roles within GS, wanted to know how difficult would that be, or any particular approach that I should follow?

    And any pointers on how to switch to front end roles even at small boutique firms, because all these jobs require some work-ex to get in?

    Thank you !

    1. It is pretty tough to move from the back office to front office at a large firm like GS, especially if you don’t interact with the front office too much. At this point it’s probably easier to target smaller firms and say that you liked the work environment at a bank, but want a more client-facing role, and you’ve taken the initiative to learn finance/modeling on your own and then be able to prove that in interviews. Another option is to focus more on S&T roles at the bank since it can be easier to move from BO/MO roles into S&T since there’s more overlap and interaction. This story might help:

      http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/middle-office-to-sales-trading/

  23. Hello,

    I’m looking to do a placement year starting this year and can possibly get into back office at some trading firms. However, my aim is to get into front office after i graduate. Is that an acceptable internship or should i be looking for other internships? I have a corporate finance interview lined up as well but chances for that is less likely than the operations placement.

    1. You could do that, but I’m not sure if it’s the best way to get a front-office trading role. If that’s the most relevant role for which you have a good shot, sure, go ahead, but otherwise it’s better to go for almost any other front-office role.

  24. Dear Brian and Nicole,

    I’m currently looking for advice on career path. I graduated from a decent UK university (top10) with an MSc degree in January. My undergraduate degree did not go to plan(still 3.0 gpa, but not a top school) and I’ve been struggling with getting anything from my applications. Previously I’ve interned in a FO role with StanChartered so it’s not like I’m lacking any experience at all.

    Recently I’ve received an offer for a trainee scheme in what I think is a MO/BO role(performance analyst) at a decent company (LGIM). Should I accept this offer and aim to transfer to FO? Or keep applying to every single asset manager/IB/fund out there and hope for the best?

    Thanks

    1. I would probably take that role and then aim to transfer to a front-office position at LGIM over time.

      You could also just cold email and cold call smaller banks or PE firms and attempt to win an off-cycle internship like that, but I think it would be tough with a lower GPA from a non-top school.

      1. Hi Brian,

        Thanks for the reply.

        I’ve been cold calling quite a few firms currently – probably 3/4 a day. I only recently saw your guide to effectively doing it so maybe I’ll keep trying this while working at LGIM too. Assuming the role is 9-6 I’ll have plenty of time to call/email people.

        My only concern with LGIM is that I still have applications at firms I’m waiting to hear back from. Should I email these firms telling them I need to make a decision quickly, or will that cause them to just reject me?

        1. You could contact the other firms, but they may or may not respond more quickly. It’s worth a shot if you have someone’s direct contact information at each firm. If you haven’t had a lot of success with other firms yet, I still think LGIM is the best option for now (and then continue networking once you’re there).

          1. Thanks again Brian!

            I’m accepting the offer, with the plan to continue networking once there. Hopefully in a few years I’ll have an interesting story for you to discuss with you and your readers. Thanks for all your help and guidance, via case studies, templates, and your insightful comments!

          2. M&I - Nicole

            You’re welcome.

  25. Hi,

    I will be doing a summer internship in compliance this summer for one of the largest BBs. After the internship I will attend a top-tier target university for an MSc in Management.

    I am interested in transitioning into a front-office role, particularly IBD within a BB or a boutique. Do you consider this likely to do? The climate of transitioning from MO roles to FO has become more common these days. I am afraid networking will be the only leverage I will have over a more Finance/Mathematics oriented graduate.

    What do you think?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes, your MSc can potentially help you retool yourself, so I think it is likely to transition from MO to FO.

  26. Hi! Im a master student from a european semi target univ. im looking for my first finance experience, got two options (summer internship):
    1 global transaction banking/trade finance BB
    2 unknown m&a boutique
    Both regional office
    My goal is to end up working in capital markets (ecm dcm) in a top tier ibank. What do you suggest? Consider that im gonna do another summer int next year. Thank you very much
    Keep it up!

    1. I would probably go for #2 if you have another summer and another internship, as you can leverage the experience to move to a bigger bank next year once you already have the one M&A internship.

  27. Thank you for great article.
    I am currently a level 2 candidate of the cfa program. I am currently working for middle office at a small asset management company (AUM 1 million usd) and would like to get into front office some day (As a trader, equity research role).

    I have been given an offer for a knowledge research analyst role at one of the big 3 (MBB) consulting firms’s financial institutions team. I do understand such a role will allow me to learn more about research of a specific market (FI industry in my case). The tasks involve market trend forecasting, bottom-up analysis, and specific company analysis. I’ll also get to work on cases with consultants.

    1) I would like to ask will such an experience give me the skill set for a front office job in the future? (Equity Research, Investment Banking)

    2) Would it be better to stay in my current buy side middle office role and try for an internal transfer into front office? Or go for this consulting research role for the MBB brand name and larger project exposure?

    I hope someone will be willing to help me out, thanks!

    1. I think you’d have a better chance moving into more of a front-office role at your current firm and then applying to ER roles from there. But if that’s not an option or you’ve already tried many times, then this new role might be better.

  28. Christopher

    Hi, thanks for a great post. If you don’t mind, I’d only appreciate you making a quick judgement on this:

    I’ve studied law and I’m currently working as an Analyst in the Legal department of top 3 bank, where I’m doing the negotiations for derivatives agreements. Considering that this is a fairly difficult area of finance, do you consider this back office?

    I ask, because I usually have to work with our credit department a lot, whilst trying to communicate the firm’s position to clients directly, sometimes with a sales person involved. So even though it doesn’t necessarily bring in revenue, what I do or say in those negotiations could make the firm better or worse off, but for some reason, I still think it’s considered back office.

    If you think this is a useful skill to have, eg negotiating derivatives agreements (ISDA Master Agreements) in particular, is it worth trying to move to the business side, structuring financial products for example?

    Would appreciate your thoughts here, thank you.

    1. It’s not exactly back office, maybe more like middle office. It is a useful skill to have, and you would have a decent shot at moving over to front-office roles more on the sales & trading side of the firm (as it tends to be easier to move over to those areas anyway).

  29. Hi Nicole,

    I just graduated and will start doing operation(might be trade support) in March. I want to transfer to other groups. Do you think I have a chance to get an offer from other firms in about a month? I also know there is a liquidity risk management job within the firm I am going. Do you think I should try to transfer to that group?

    If I end up doing the full time job in operation, what is your suggestion for me in the future? I really appreciate it.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It’s hard to comment on your chances and risks, but in general moving within a month is probably not the easiest move. I’d suggest that you network as soon as you get to that role, and perhaps try to go back to a top business school to rebrand yourself

  30. Hi I need advice,

    I got an offer from MS in London to join their business strategies department as an intern. My end goal is enter in FO and I think the internship is quite good because it will allow to be in contact with all the departments that the team support. I ve never work in a banking before and I think its a great way to kickstar my career cause it will give me the brand name in the cv and I can interact and see how other departments works, besides the fact I am a not native english speaker from a public university ranked 368 worldwide… so I can not complain
    Anyway, after reading this article and some negative comments I think that it might not be the best idea. Do you recommend accepting the internship or keep trying to look for other opportunities in FO in others banks/boutiques?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes at this stage I may just accept the internship first, and keep looking for other opportunities in the meantime.

  31. Hi All,

    Looking for a little advice.

    Background: I have 1 years experience in a Trade support role (MO) from a top tier US IB. I choose to leave and obtain a MSc Fin Math from a fairly good Uni (top 15 UK) that I completed about 3 months ago. I am now looking for FO positions in S&T, I seem to be getting interviews with positive feedback but always a “someone had more experience” etc.

    I can afford to be out of work for a few more months (financially) but wanted advice on whether I should hold out for an FO entry level position (not many about) or go back into MO/BO role (a lot more around) and try to work my way through? The worry being, I may get stuck in BO for too long?

    All advice appreciated!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      If you can find a FO role in the next few months I’d go for that. But I wouldn’t wait too long because it can be hard to explain the job gap. The longer you are out of the market the harder it maybe for you to find a job so I’d suggest that you go back to a MO/BO role for a while and perhaps go back to a target school or try to transfer internally

  32. Hi,

    I’ve been made an offer by Goldman Sachs in compliance. I have JD from a top-tier Australian university. Could you please advise if I should accept this role and try to get into DCM or IB? I’m interested in the front-office however I don’t have any opportunities at this time.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      In this case, yes I may accept the opportunity given GS’ brand name and try to transition internally down the line

  33. Serious Quesiton: Was this article written when the perception of IT was geeky kids that just fix broken keyboards? I just finished an internship at a prestigious BB as a software Developer and worked on some really cool applications. They offered me a return offer that is actually very competitve, but I’m nervous to take it because of articles like this….My goal is to work for three years and then get an MBA at a top 15 school. (Im a senior)

    Thanks for your feedback.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Not necessarily. IT is very important these days and if you think that this role is something you want in the next few years, yes if I were you, I’d take it. You may also want to explore tech companies too because your skills may also be valued there and pay is also competitive.

      1. True about other tech companies. I’ll probably stick to the bank because the pay is more than gracious for my current skill level. I’d be hard pressed to find higher pay at a tech company for my entry level skills (tech is something I started recently in college). Also their training is super good. Essentially my plan is to learn on their dime, probably go to another pure tech company after a couple of years (3) and stay there for a year to 2 years and then apply for an mba. Looking for top 10 programs. With a solid GMAT, does this sound like a feasible plan?

  34. What is Data resource group in IB, is it back or mid-office? I have heard people transition into front end after a few years, does that seem like a viable option?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say it is back office because you maybe pulling up data for the IB team. Yes it can be viable but I am not sure how likely the transition can be.

      1. Do you think doing courses like WallStreet Prep, CFA level 1, series 79/63 would be helpful to advance a career from back-end to front-end within a year? I would have loved to pursue an MBA, but I doubt I can afford it at this point!!

        1. M&I - Nicole

          I think they can potentially be helpful but work experience and networking matter most!

          1. Ahaan!! Thank you so much for your guidance and prompt replys.

  35. Hi,

    I am currently in a trade support ops role at a off site location for a well known bank. I really want to get out of ops and change my location. Right now, I have two options: 1) move to another ops role on the buyside with better compensation and possibly more exposures to the PM/trader or 2) another internal middle office role that might lead to different opportunities in the bank after a year or two. I am afraid that if I move into my second ops role, I will be stuck with ops. Which one do you think will help me more in the long run more?

    Thanks,
    Sue

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d probably go with 1 to broaden your network and increase your chances.

  36. William

    Hello,

    I am looking to get into IB. I currently work as senior consultant for a well-known public sector consulting firm and I am starting an MSF program in the fall.

    I have had an offer come up to be an analyst at a commercial bank in balance sheet management. I am trying to see if the client facing work at my current firm performing financial analysis for public sector clients would more relevant than this back office work (but happens to be closer to banking in nature) at a commercial bank for getting into IB when I finish school. Trying to determine in the short term what is the most leverageable experience.

    Any advice?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes your client facing work is probably more important and I’d focus on elaborating on that.

  37. Hi Brian,

    I’ve been trying to break into finance for years. I’m 3 years out of business school and nearly 38 years old. I did an internship in Investment Banking in 2011, but no full time conversion.

    Now I have several opportunities, though they aren’t Front Office. I have a few days to decide.

    Full time offer with M&T in Buffalo, in credit.
    Or
    9 week internship in Treasury Services with JP Morgan, NYC. TS is client facing, not the corporate treasury role.

    The internship is supposed to get me in the door, so a full time position at TS is unlikely. The idea is that I do well in TS, then my manager endorses me for another position at JPM at the end of the 9 weeks.

    I’m not sure which to choose. By the way, I don’t care about age and I’m willing to do whatever.

    Do you have any recommendations? Thanks in advance.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It depends on how risk averse you are. If you are ok with the possibility of not getting a return offer, I’d go with JPM given its brand name and it’s also in NYC, giving you plenty of opportunities to network. If you really want job security then perhaps the M&T offer maybe a better bet.

  38. I need advice, I’m not sure if I’m in back office or what and made a bad choice. Last summer I interned as s&t at a japenese bank in Nyc (smaller than Nomura in U.S.) left there to go intern in the analytics group at largest asset manager in ny…the analytics group though got merged with another group that’s more back office ish..I mean they interact with clients daily but more in a support function, we go to client sites and help with implementation etc but my job as a full time analyst is basically helping the client with anything as it relates to finance and our software…feels semi ITish…I’ve seen other interns swing consulting from this full time (we are advising kind of but not really) did I make a bad move by interning here/ accepting full time? I know s&t is better but it was a crappy company/ bad culture…help!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d try to move to another company in a more “front office capacity” if you can. I don’t think you made a bad move, but if you want to do more front office work you may want to consider transitioning.

  39. Marty Mcfly

    I’ve been in the back office at two of the best tier one firms and going into my 9th year I’ve become quite depressed at the failure of my career. This article is spot on except you work more likely 12-14 hours and have to take shit from arrogant guys younger than you making 3 to 4 times more and higher title faster. Post Lehman world I would NOT recommend this career to anyone, especially operations who get the least respect, longest hours, and least pay of them all. I want to get out of finance but feeling s bit hopeless at 31. Nine years at the top shops on the street and really have nothing to show for it, maybe only a year’s worth of base (still under 6 figures) in savings. What can I do with my career at this point? Am I too old for an MBA and switching to business development for a Fortune 500?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I may actually go back to a top tier business school to rebrand yourself. You maybe a bit older in the MBA program, but this is doable.

  40. Here is my example Brian

    I did it, for one of the top 5 banks in Canada. I started in a settlements role and worked very closely with my traders. I shadowed them and used all the systems. We worked very closely for years and I even gave suggestions. Traders can’t function without backoffice so they wont disrespect you. Usually they give sh*t to the back office managers to rush deals.

    I had a strong academic background in finance and now I work there. Don’t lose hope. Anything is possible and always make a good first impression. It took me 4 years but I did it.

    Good luck to you all

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your input!

  41. Adam Holden

    Hi,

    After 7-8 painful months of job searching I now have two offers to choose between.

    1) Internship within top 15 Banks in Business Data (Mid Office) – 12 month fixed contract. I know a number of interns who have gone permanent, I would either do that or use the money to take a finance masters in London.

    2) Grad role within Accounts/Expenses Payable (Back Office) the top 5 Hedge funds in Europe. Opportunity for ACCA, CIMA, CFA support. Its smaller so would offer more exposure to senior employees & broader responsibilities.

    Like most others i am interested in moving into the front office after a professional qualification. Having researched and interviewed for many entry positions in trading, equity research, IB & portfolio management found all interesting with no clear preference.

    Any advice?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Congratulations! I’d say 1 – at this point, pick a role that offers you higher pay and a role that you enjoy most so you can save up, perform very well at work (for grad school applications), and go to a target school.

  42. I have read a few comments now and are getting more and more depressed. Have been working in risk management 4y now and have tried to move so many times. Have a master in finance from a good university. Now it feels like I have waster my career and I don’t know what to do. really sad

    1. I wouldn’t get depressed. This article is probably overly negative. You can definitely transition out to other groups, but IB is harder than other options such as those that are more S&T-related (if you’re currently in risk management). Transitions are actually more common now than when this article was written years ago.

  43. In essence the back office people get very little to no respect at all. Now I understand why nurses are so many times disrespected, that’s because they do not directly generate funds for the hospitals, nursing homes,etc

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