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

505 Comments | Investment Banking - The Back Office

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“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).

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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505 Comments to “Holla Back, Office: 7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Work In The Back Office”

Comments

  1. Vince says

    This summer I held a back-office position as an Auditing Intern (rising junior) for a Fortune 200 company. For next summer and beyond I am looking to transition into Finance and more specifically banking. Can this internship be leveraged well for a finance position next summer? Or will employers look at it as more of a detriment. Will it also help being that it was only my sophomore summer?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Your internship can demonstrate your basic knowledge of accounting and no it won’t be perceived as a “detriment”. Yes it will help you though not exactly relevant to IB roles

  2. GNOC says

    Hi, I am currently performing an internship in the back-office of a major pension funds administrator (one of the world’s 10 biggest ones). The role is centered in one team but also allows for rotation around different ones to better understand how they are all connected.

    I was looking into moving to strategic consulting, how could I leverage such experience to enter that industry?

    Thank you in advance.

  3. K says

    You are absolutely right! BO is not worth it on many levels. My 5 year experience is testiment to that. Having said that I would like to clarify a few points:

    1. I know of a handfull of ppl who transitioned into FO. Mostly trading. Examples: research, trading assistants, risk nd price testing. BUT a number of these ppl failed and were forced to resign. Why? I suspect lack of training you get as an FO grad.

    2. Your base and bonuses do not get much better after first year. Base grows at snail pase of 5-10pc a year. Most frequently closer to 5pc than 10! Bonuses remain at 10-15pc of your base for a loooong time .. Director level time in fact. Best way to get a raise is to change jobs. Hence the bank hopping common for BO/MO. Promotions give you a silly money raise.

    3. Stress levels and working hours. Ha! You’d think you have it easy there!! Fact is, you work 12-14 hour days, weekends are common in top banks and on top of that there is a substantial stress level. My FO significant other has considerably less “politics” stress than I and in fact shorter hours. Believe me a lot will be expected of you for the money.

    4. FO are not particularely abusive or harsh … I’ve worked for 2 top banks (so far) and was very lucky with my FO guys.

    5. Monotony? Well .. Its quite dull. Repetetive. Not too exciting at all.

    All in I’d say I’m not at all impressed.

    TRY your butt off to get into FO!! Is my advice

    K.

  4. Conan says

    A colleague of mine recently moved from the database development team to portfolio strategy. He’s young and I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t be able to continue that push. I think many back office staff stay there because that’s what they’re suited to and where they belong. If you are driven to move to the front office, that might mean that you are naturally more inclined and suited to that kind of work, making it much more likely for you to end up there.

  5. SAMUEL MUSA says

    i am so passionate about working in a back office position considering I am not really the customer inclined type but with all that has been said, i am really discouraged about the whole thing. are the front office roles that difficult? or is the middle office any better?

  6. Jeff says

    Hello there,
    I’m working as a research sales assistant at a growing firm but not in their nYC office. Instead I’m in a new outside new York office and not getting a ton of exposure.
    Should I go MO at a BB or stay here? Maybe get to their main office after I graduate?

  7. Jeff S says

    Hello there,
    I’m working as a research sales assistant at a growing firm but not in their nYC office. Instead I’m in a new outside new York office and not getting a ton of exposure.
    Should I go MO at a BB or stay here?

  8. Slomo says

    Working compliance at a BB with the goal of hopping over to SEC down the road. May even come back to BB farther down said road, but FO. Doable? Feasible?

  9. Geoff says

    Kweku Adoboli started in Back Office I believe… and successfully transferred to Front Office. The subsequent success I suppose is up to some debate.

    • Roberto says

      so did Jerome Kerviel! He was in trade settlements before moving onto the trading desk.

      I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment here. I struggled to find a FO internship but stuck with it and ended up at SG (on the London branch of the desk Jerome traded for in Paris). It’s a distinctly middle tier bank but a much better choice than the MO offers I had at the time (08/09) from the likes of JPM, MS etc…

      Now I trade a macro book in a hedge fund. I doubt i’d be here if i’d been doing credit risk for the first few years.

  10. Adam says

    Hey Brian,

    So this past summer I completed a B.O internship “Cash Management” at a top medium investment bank in the city.
    However, I am in the process of trying to land a middle office job out of college. What positions are pretty good for exit opportunities? I don’t know which positions are M.O. Is being a financial analyst a M.O position? I don’t think I am ready for a front office job but maybe if I change my mind after the 2 yrs of being an analyst (if i get hired) then I would def be ready to commit to it.
    I don’t want to be stuck in B.O because I’ve read on the site that exit opportunities are very limited. Maybe it isn’t the end of the world if I start as an analyst but that’s taking a risk to get stuck there.

    Please advise & thank you!

  11. Backhand says

    Hi Brian,
    I’m a masters student in Investment Management at a B-school that’s at the top of the food chain in Latin America.
    How helpful do you think this will be in me landing a front office role in the US? What are my best chances?
    I did work in back office right out of college (energy trading) for 2 years and left to get my masters.
    Any thoughts?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If you have US residency/green card and can legally work in US with a sponsorship your chances are a lot higher. Your chances are somewhat decent, though you’ll be competing with local US students/professionals who have already had front office internships/experience in IB. Your best chances maybe to look for roles within Latam in a global bank and transfer.

  12. Matt says

    Hi there. Junior accounting major from non-target, high GPA, previous internship at major asset management firm here.

    Was gunning for BB IB SA position until recently. Met some M&A attorneys while meeting with some firms in NYC, and interest in corporate law was sparked. As I am not sure 100% what I want to pursue right now, what are your thoughts about trying to intern in compliance/risk management? Also, what about an internship at a top Corporate law firm? I.E. coming from a non-target, would a name like Wachtell Lipton/Skadden/Latham Watkins/Kirkland Ellis, etc be impressive in FT recruiting for IB at BB or would I be better off pursuing something else.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I am not 100% sure, and I don’t think compliance is directly related to corporate law, though I may be wrong. You may have more opportunities to deal with lawyers at your IB role. Yes, I think an internship at the law firm would be more relevant, though I think firms may be more interested in pre-law candidates/candidates in law school. Yes I know a contact from Skadden who moved to IB then PE so yes such names can be impressive.

  13. Kcy says

    My friend moved from being in a back-office doing settlements directly to a front-office as a funds manager (well, for the first 2 years, he was ‘just’ an assistant funds manager) :-)

  14. Megan says

    The analyst I worked with last summer at a BB in strategy ops/back office started out at an elite boutique in investment banking and within a year was able to jump over to morgan stanley in a very prestigious group…then she messed up. she got sick of the job after a year and moved to back office at a different bank, thinking it would make things “easier”…needless to say, she ended up having to shell out 200K to go to b-school in order to get back on track. back office is definitely the worse thing you can do if you have any sort of talent.
    You guys are right about a back office internship not being the end of the world, though. The bank I was with got slammed by the feds so they cut down on the new analyst class I ended up having to apply for other jobs. I lucked out and ended up as a front office analyst at a hedge fund…but I’ll never make the mistake again.
    Thanks for this great post!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Thanks a lot for your insights and for sharing. I’m sure readers appreciate your input.

  15. umang says

    Yes BO is not really enticing. However, is it ok to start off a career after graduation as an Operations analyst and keep networking to eventually make a move to the FO? Add to this an MBA or CFA qualification.
    Great articles guys. Keep it up!

  16. umang says

    Yes BO is not really enticing. However, is it ok to start off a career after graduation as an Operations analyst and keep networking to eventually make a move to the FO? Add to this an MBA or CFA qualification.
    Great articles guys. Keep it up!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes, you can do so, though there will be challenges because you’ll be competing against people who have had FO experience so you’ll have to distinguish yourself and background!

  17. Vijo says

    I’ve got offered an internship with Credit risk at a BB and I’m just curious of what some of the exit opps could be for working within credit risk? I’ve also heard that credit risk is basically starting to count as FO at some IB’s like JP, do you agree?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Perhaps risk management and maybe trading roles (this is stretching it a bit). I’m not quite sure if it is regarded as FO to be honest, but many would view it as MO type of role. I wouldn’t worry too much about it though – enjoy your offer, and congratulations!

  18. Brandon says

    Hi M&I and Brian, I am an attorney (not corporate or finance related) but have an opportunity to work for a major bank in Credit Risk Management (I have some finance/econ training), which is BO/MO. I don’t have any dreams of being an IBanker, quite frankly, my ideal job would be working as an attorney at the federal reserve or CFTC or in-house within a bank. I also actually like credit risk management as a topic (though have never worked in it — I know school and job are totally different beasts).

    Do you think switching careers to finance in a CRM function is a good idea? To me, it poses greater risks but also perhaps greater rewards. Then again, to throw away a legal career (which, unlike many other attorneys, I do not hate) and the stability of government employment, gives me great pause.

    From your post you would seem to discourage BO work, but I don’t care about FO, so would this not apply to me? Do you think I have a good chance switching to a regulatory agency or even getting transferred to the legal department of the bank after working a few years in CRM?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes I think this experience coupled with your legal experience will increase your chances of switching into a regulatory agency/legal department of a bank. Since you have an offer already, and aren’t looking for IB roles, I don’t think this article applies to your case. I’d suggest you to ask a lot of questions re your role at the bank before you take the offer so you have a better understanding of what you’re getting yourself into.

  19. Gregory says

    Lol…how can I get into the back office? I don’t want a lot of money, I just want stability and the prestige of a big company. What kind of degree/school name am I looking at?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d still aim for semi targets (like UVA) and perhaps a degree in business/engineering/technology. Getting into back office roles can be challenging too, even though it may seem easier than front office roles.

  20. stacy says

    what if you entered in a big bank’s tech analyst program and worked there for 3 years….and was recently promoted from analyst to avp..can you do internal transfer to front office gig even willing to take a pay cut? this is assuming if the candidate demonstrates quick ability to learn and has passed cfa level 1

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think it is doable, though you’ll need to have the right network and can demonstrate your understanding of valuation and nature of the work. It also depends on hiring needs too.

  21. Nick says

    I am currently doing a internship for one of the big 4 in audit (london). I wanted to ask should I try to apply for a graduate position in Ib, Wealth management, asset management or should I try to get an internship instead?
    PS: I am in my last year at uni and I have also done an internship in a retail bank during last summer( in eastern europe so I guess it does not count as much).

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If you’re in your last year of univ, I think you will be applying for graduate roles. You may not be eligible to be an intern at BBs (summer interns reserved for 3rd years) though you can always check with boutiques. Your retail bank experience can help; WM/AM maybe an easier transition and you’ll have to demonstrate your passion for and knowledge of the markets

  22. Johnny says

    Hi,
    I am currently a sophomore in college and I’m passionate about trading. However, I could not find any internship that offers some market experience for this Fall semester. Instead, I found an “excel job” at the wealth management section of the back office of a big bank. Given that I have no significant finance experience yet, do you think that this might help me eventually land a job in the field that really interests me or is it not worth the effort?

    Thank you in advance.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Having some experience is better than having no experience. This internship can be a stepping stone for you to land a front office role during your junior year. Not many sophomores get to intern so having some experience is useful. If you’re passionate about trading try your best to learn as much as you can re the markets and investments during your internship so you can talk about what you learned during your interviews

  23. backtofront says

    Hi There

    this is a cool website with tons of advice. i would like to just add my 2 cents worth here.

    in terms of people wanting to make the jump to the trading floor at a bank and currently in a back office position (lets put it, according to this website, everything non-revenue generating).

    i would say working in IT support with a focus on pricing is probably a better bet than being in a quant / model validation etc roles. reason being: its easy to outshine, in the former than in the latter, and to stand out from the crowd.

    if you are in support, expectations are low, FO normally think u r stupid (it is true, i ‘ve had colleagues from uni, with remarkably low IQ, who have just been there at the right place at the right moment to scoop FO positions) and its easy if for you to impress them, and help them when they are stuck.

    unlike, if in a quant team or a role very close to the traders, everyone in the teamis aspiring to become a trader and u fall in a long queue to get that one position that may come once in a blue moon. also, IT pays well (i mean systems and third party vendor softwares) and is a more scarce resource than a junior quant.

  24. Mid Office Conundrum says

    I have full time position at a bb in the middle office, pay/hours are good, been working there for little less than a year, straight out of college. I received an offer to work IB at a smaller bank specialized in emerging markets where there a bit more of a recognizable name. Problem is the position is not guaranteed after the year and I would be taking a pay cut. A lot of people are calling me crazy for even considering it, but I feel otherwise, I trust that even just getting paid in experience is worth the risk, this could be experience that I could later propel at another firm if worst comes to worst. Thoughts? I’m sure you’d agree, right?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Seems like you’ve already made a decision. I’d say yes the experience is worth it though you’ll be taking a risk that you may have to look for a job after one year. With the above being said you’ll get your foot in the door and learn about IB so I’d say go for it especially since it’s always easier to switch when you’re younger (harder as you progress in your career especially from middle to front office) and your earning potential maybe higher in the long-run.

  25. Maria says

    Hi,

    Legal is also considered to be back office? I’m currently an M&A lawyer (industry – not a law firm) and hope to get into a b-school next fall. I’m looking for a new job for this pre-MBA year. Can it potentially harm me (post-MBA) if I apply for (and get) a legal position at IB ?
    Any thoughts on this? Thanks.

  26. Nick says

    I don’t work in IB but in a large corp so this might not apply.

    Although 99% of what is said above is true, I will bring one point where it might not be.

    At the end of the day, you should do the work that you love, that you enjoy your hours doing. Period.

    So, if that means doing IT or marketing, so be it. You should never get into a job you hate no matter the money you receive from it.

    Point is, not everybody has the personality for front-end and will feel much happier in the back end.

    On the IT side for example, those guys might love computer problems and working as a team towards these problems. The IT floor in my firm is a big team with good social athmosphere and so on.

    So I just think that you should do whatever you like, not think of whats glamorous.

    It’s like in the stock market, risk aversion. Just do something with risk you can tolerate and be happy.

    Also I will add that some supporting functions like IT in my opinion are becoming more and more involved in front end as highly technical front end systems are becoming the norm in any industry, and the classic sales guy less so.

    Also, same with Risk. Risk is immensely important in our current financial world, the ability to evaluate risk on customers, portfolios, etc…Has becoming crucial for financial institutions, more so than the sales part, at least in my business.

    So all Im saying is…Front end and back end are not so defined…The question you have to ask yourself is how much value you bring to the firm, regardless of function.

  27. B. A. Lindsay says

    Nicole, I know you have experiance in the wealth mangagement field so I will as you. Is a regitered associate in the wealth management possition a front office job, because of client interaction and regularly creating spreadsheets and client reports? Also if you don’t currently have a series 7 and 63 (both required for the job) will they wait for you to get one, hire you while you atain one or just not considerate you? Will they teach and sponsor you to get a series 7 & 63? What do think pay and bonuses are like? I’m 29 coming from another industry (sales/hospitality) and wondering if this is a good transition into finance while I go to school as an undergrad.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No, I’d say its more of a back/middle office role. Yes if you’re junior its likely that they will wait and sponsor your series 7 and 63 exam but it depends on the firm. Pay and bonuses depend on the firm and you may want to check out http://hudson.com/knowledgecenter/salary-guides for details Sure. If you have the skills & passion to break in, it can potentially be a decent transition

  28. Gie says

    Hey, Im doing my M.Sc in International Banking and Finance in the U.K, not a Target School but very reputable. I have been having no luck getting interviews or even internships.

    The thing is that I have been networking with a Executive Director in J.P Morgan Treasury Services. If I get offered a position in Operations at J.P Morgan, will I be committing a career suicide by accepting?

    I dont want to be in operations but nothing else has been happening.

  29. GS says

    I am graduating in May 2014 and have recently accepted a job at GS Operations. I knew this was back office and have heard it is tough to transition into FO, which is my ultimate goal. I really didn’t have a good chance coming out of a non-target undergraduate school. Is there any advice on how to transition so I can begin my journey right away?

  30. VV says

    Hi, I am currently in the last semester of my M.Sc. in Finance in Germany, not a target school. I completed an IB internship at a small boutique and I am about to start an Equity Research internship at Allianz. My goal is to get into Equity Research (completed all CFA levels), but as not that many positions are available in Germany, I’ll probably have to go for IB first. I recently took a shot in the dark and got an offer for a Back Office internship at a big bank. Do you think it is worth taking the position (accounting) just for the sake of having a reputable name on my CV or should I just start looking for a job without this third internship ? Having trouble figuring out a story, your advice will be much appreciated. Thank you!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d probably look for another role without this third internship. Your ER internship should help you in other buy-side/research related roles.

  31. Mari says

    Hi. I’ve recently graduated and accepted a BO role in a big bank. I plan to work there for about 2 years. Is there away to possibly transfer to an FO job in the future?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes possibly, though it can be challenging because you’ll be competing against people who’ve had FO experience. I’ve seen that happen before, though its easier if you move from BO to MO, and have constant interaction with FO people. This will increase your chances.

  32. Andrew says

    Last summer (for my Junior year Internship) I was in a back-office role at one of the larger full-service investment banks. I am now currently a senior at a top 10 undergraduate business school with (regrettably) a mediocre GPA.

    What is the best way to make the transition into one of the front-office roles that I hope to obtain upon graduation?

    I have a strong network, global experience in studying abroad, and a well-developed resume. Any advice that you may have would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

  33. Mike says

    Great article. However I am curious about one thing. Most banks also have a Corporate Banking arm. The work involves mostly plain vanilla and working capital lending, credit analysis, cash flow stuff etc and is definitely a lot ‘chiller’ in terms of hours. And it is client facing too – so that makes it FO. Agreed it wont pay as much as IBD, but its still certainly better than IT and the rest of the BO you’ve mentioned here. Would you agree about Corporate Banking?

  34. James says

    The back office is still better than the unemployment office. And if you managed to get into BO at a BB, you can still say you worked at a BB. Besides the pay isn’t that bad either, my brother was hired on a contract as an IT consultant at RBC in Canada, and was taking in 200,000k a year. When he could not get the contract renewed, he left RBC and ended up working for quant hedge fund in NY as a computer programmer. The pay was even higher at the hedge fund. Not bad for a BO job. The working hours were shorter than a typical analyst job at an investment bank. I think people should be more open minded and less myopic on the idea of going from BB analyst to top PE leads to greatness. Take which ever job comes your way. There are many routes in life to success, be proactive and explore these different opportunities that come your way.

  35. George says

    Hi there!

    I am now a final year student in HK and I am struggling to choose between offers, Transaction Service in Big4 ac firm and Operations Analyst in Top BB.
    I know these two offers seems to be irrelevant but actually the job market is just not good enough for graduates to go into FS directly, so we’re just applying for any positions we can apply.
    The Ops analyst’ base salary is more than twice than I can get in TS in big4, and I’ll have to spend two years in Audit first before joining the TS team, any suggestions?
    Thanks a lot.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d go for TAS and try to move to IB from there. However, if you really want to work in an IB and like the brand name, you may opt for the latter option

  36. Andrew Le says

    Hello,
    I’m working as hedge fund administrator(back office) . Have anyone ever heard of CHP level 1 and CHP level 2 (certified hedge fund profession)? I took CHP level 1 last week. On this friday 24th, i will know if i pass or not. Would anyone know if this certificate will help me advance to work in the HF front office ? By the way, i’m researching online to see if i can get a list of Hedge fund locate in Boston,MA but it came up negative unless i pay for the site. Can someone let me know if you know any hedge fund operate in Boston,Ma and their office contact? Thanks very much.

  37. Pamela Daniel says

    I have worked in stock- operations in one of the biggest investment banks and I can for sure say that this article is a “whole load of crap”
    I have worked with traders and sales and the front office and it is more of “working together” than getting intimidated.

    Front office guys do care- because ops make it happen. We cannot sell a product if that cannot settle in the market now can we? Yes, and the first people they enquire about this is “back office”

    I currently now work in the front office and I know much more than my peers. I know how things work and what needs to be done to get the ship to sail. But it is quiet boring, less interaction and too uptight. We are revenue generators, no doubt but that makes us more ignorant than anything else.

  38. Amedeo says

    Does anybody know what are the working hours for a front office developer? Stress level and if working on week-ends is usual?

    Thanks

    • Niko says

      Hi, Brian! Could you please give me a piece of advice? I had one and a half year of experience as an intern with a Latin American BB at its AM branch (essentially pitching strategies and call presentations for the sales teams). Received an offer, but turned it down since it would consist in an administrative role and no high bonuses were expected. Graduated at an Ivy League school in Brazil 2 months later and tried to break into IB but had low GPA, knew nobody from the sell-side offices and did not get the stellar recommendation I had fought for (in my country, interns sometimes study Engineering full time and also work 30/40/50/60… hours per week).
      The only opportunity I was able to get straight out of college was a trainee program at a middle-market bank. The department I will join at the end of the job rotation is the retail credit risk management area, thus MO. How do you think I could move to FO at a more sophisticated industry (IB, PB, AM, Corporate Finance, Treasury)? I am networking my ass off and if I succeed, will be glad to give you an interview about it!

      • M&I - Nicole says

        I’d network a lot and perhaps rely on your alumni network since I believe there are plenty of alums from your school who work in the industry. Many maybe willing to help you, even if it is just for a brief chat.

  39. Billy says

    Hello everyone I have an internship as a investment banking operations intern. Will they actually sponsor me for my series 7? I really would like to get licensed?

  40. Simon says

    This post is ridiculous. I’m a trader for a large bank and I see many BO employees make the transition consistently. If you have the knowledge of markets, network and learn while in BO the transition is relatively easy. Much easier than gaining employment in FO straight from college. Also if you prefer stability you can work your way up the ranks in BO and earn £100,000+. So ignore this post.

  41. Quid Pro Quo says

    First off, thank you for all the helpful info on your site…incredibly useful stuff. Through a family connection, I just started as a middle manager doing derivatives pricing for a large investment management firms. My ultimate goal is to escape operations hell and make it into a more FO role, such as a PM or research job specializing in energy or real estate (or rather a place where one’s sole worth is not determined by how big one’s MS Excel d*** is).

    Judging from your site’s articles/comments, I have some significant obstacles to overcome: 1.) I’m a career-changer and pretty much geriatric (I’m in my mid 30s), 2.) have no formal finance/quant-related background/non-ivy education (went to law school, regrettably), and 3.) worked in the public sector for years (non-finance). However, on the pro side, I am passionate about specific market sectors, have a thick face, socially competent, a glutton for punishment (ie law school), and willing to relocate.

    My questions to Brian/Nicole/all of you: 1.) How feasible is my ultimate goal? 2.) Is getting a MBA a necessity (and, if so, what should I focus on, job-wise, in the meantime? 3.) Any specific advice on what MO jobs/roles to look for en route to my final destination? 4.) Given my background, is the CFA worth it? 5.) Should I focus on smaller/boutique/public organizations? 6.) Would an international region (such as SE Asia) be more hospitable to my plans?

    Thanks again for the help!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Getting an MBA is not necessary but a target MBA can certainly open you doors and help you transition out of what you’re doing. We are not experts on MO roles so I’d leave that to readers. A CFA can be worth it if you want to work on the buy-side. Yes smaller/boutique firms can be easier to break into. If you have experience at/or are actually from SE Asia/or have plans to move there and speak local language, then yes it maybe easier for you to work there.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No worries. Read on for the rest of the articles on how to move if you don’t like it. Otherwise, being in BO can be great if you like what you do there!

  42. TM says

    Hi Brian/Nicole,

    Thank you for all of your insight I have really learned a lot. I am in a much different situation of many of the people posting on your blog and could really use your advice. I understand that I am not in the best situation but I am willing to make the best I can out of it.

    I have been studying a non business/finance major up until my senior year and made my way into a Morgan Stanley facility assisting some investment bankers pitch an IPO but on the production side (literal production, making a video for the pitch) and finally realized that this industry was my calling. I quickly added a finance/investments major during my senior year and began my research on where I now stood in pursuing a career in this industry. I don’t go to a target school (I can transfer to a top 100 b-school if it would help). Completing this new finance major along with the previous would take me 6 years total to finish both (I am about to finish first degree plus an extra 2 years for the finance). I am in my early 20’s so I am “young” but still feel like I am old / in a really bad spot to be trying to do this, especially based on what I have been reading on here from much more experienced competition. I do have a family connection at ED level in a BB and a family friend who is the same. One in AM and the other in S/T. I don’t know if they will be any help down the line so I cannot count on that. I have also been reaching out to a few alumni to hear about the industry and something that I would want to pursue, and it is (Just talked to an analyst MO at a BB). Anyways, before I embark on this journey, if my position seems so out of line and not worth it to try it, please let me know. I would rather not spend my next 2 years in school to just get laughed at in the end or a job with not much growth (MO/BO?). My ultimate goal as many would be to work in FO. I know I can’t be too picky as I am a little behind most others. If this doesn’t seem like a realistic scenario to achieve at my current status let me know as well. Any advice on next steps that you think might lead to this would be greatly appreciated.

    (College Senior, adding Finance major, no experience yet, 2 more years of school, I do have a 3.8GPA!)

    Thank you in advance!!

  43. Jake says

    Hey Brian,

    I am a second year grad form a undergrad B-School that has been climbing the ranks. No where near the Ivy’s or baby Ivy’s but growing. Graduated with a 3.4 (somewhat mediocre). I started off in the back office of a large custodian/investment bank, hated it and just needed an out to something that requires somewhat of a mental capacity. I currently work in a “back-office/operations” role at a growing Private Equity fund-of-funds firm (5+ Billion under management) building financials, quarterly analysis, minor investment data mining/dumping. Basically investment support to the HBS/Wharton guys. I can’t stand accounting and need out. Since I graduated I wanted to move into FO as a analyst/research associate. Recently I have changed focus to a trading desk to get the excitement and pressure I have been looking for as well as the investment/cap market experience that the analyst roles require. What are my chances at getting onto a trading desk as a junior trader or trader at a large investment bank in Boston? And what other FO roles would suit my background?

  44. Joe says

    I made the switch from BO to FO about a year and a half after graduating.

    My school had one alumni that worked for a major bank, he was an MD in FICC technology. He got me a job in Mortgage Tech working closely with traders, running around, supporting spreadsheets. I knew my place, came in early, worked late. I worked with every group in mortgages and interviewed whenever there was an opening until one team took me in. I’ve been here for 6 months, will probably work another 6 months to a year and make another push into trading.

  45. Adriana says

    I am currently making switch from BO to FO and couldnt be happier. Key for this transition was networking, keeping up with the markets on a daily basis and never gave up! It is hard to do, but you can acheive anything you put your mind to.

  46. Alvin says

    Hi, I’ve just recently accepted a Derivative Settlements Internship at BAML. Will that be detrimental to my future career? I still have the chance to do another penultimate internship in 2015 and I’m wondering if it’s possible for me to break into the FO with my current standing.

    Your reply is much appreciated.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes you can still break into FO; I’d network a lot during your time at BAML and see if you can transfer to derivatives S&T

      • says

        Hi Nicole, thanks for your reply! I’ll certainly put in effort to break into trading next year.

        I’m wondering if it’s possible for me to make use of my knowledge gained as a derivative settlements intern to perform better during my interview for a trading position next year, or will it be of almost no advantage at all?

        Sorry if I’m taking up too much of your time, but I can’t seem to find any info on M&I regarding this… You can always show me some links if they exist. Thanks!

  47. Kris says

    Hi Nicole. Thanks for the article. I am a qualified chartered accountant working in the finance department of a large corporate. I’ve interviewed with a large global IB for a MO role. The company is keen to make me an offer as a Junior AVP – Product Control. I’m sure I have the personality to make it in FO but don’t have any experience working in any FO divisions. The corporate I’m currently working for is not offering great opportunities and the MO offer is looking attractive in light of the present situation. Is it worthwhile to get into a MO position and make my way into FO once I’m in or would you advise not getting in until an appropriate FO position becomes available? I’m also not the type of person who would enjoy pushing numbers around in a spreadsheet all day for an extended period of time… Your advice would be appreciated. Thanks

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Depends on how much you want to leave. I’m not sure how much product control can increase your FO chances, so I wouldn’t jump on it, unless you really need to leave now.

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