by Brian DeChesare Comments (14)

How To Pick Your Team At An Investment Bank

Today: A Guest Post by Proud Ex-Analyst.

“The key elements to a successful sled team are a steady driver, and three strong runners to push the sled down the ice.”

-Sanka Coffie, Cool Runnings

The most common question people ask me is how to get a job in investment banking. It’s a fair question. You need to pay the bills, after all, and a prestigious and high-paying job will do more than pay the bills: it will be prestigious and high-paying. Investment banking salaries are legendary, even if they’re not great on a per-hour basis.

The next most common question I get is what group to join once you have a banking job. Prospective i-banking monkeys are focused on which group will give them the best exit opportunities so they can land that hedge fund job and make $1 billion in cash each year.

But you shouldn’t pick your banking team based solely on exit opportunities. It’s true that some groups (such as M&A, Financial Sponsors or UBS LA) place more analysts into private equity jobs, but if you’re smart and have performed well, you can find a good job afterwards regardless of your group.

What prospective i-bankers often overlook when deciding on a group is the value of your team. My mission on this site is to teach you how to get a job in finance and how to maintain your sanity once you get there. Today’s lesson will focus on the latter.

Good Team, Bad Team

Good senior teammates will reward good work. Do you remember Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture when he said that you help yourself become successful if you help those around you? (If you haven’t watched it yet, navigate away and don’t come back until you do.) Just because investment banking has the hype of being super cutthroat doesn’t change the universal truth: it’s easier to achieve your goals with a little help along on the way. You might not even mind pulling some all-nighters for these folks.

Bad senior teammates will use-you-and-forget-you (unless they need someone to yell at), disrespect your time, and generally care nothing about your professional development. Perhaps they’re unstable people, or they’re the type to be more personable to clients than to their own mothers. One that I worked with suffered daily PMS because she was thirty-something and single and insecure… actually, we all suffered for it. Another co-worker (a man) managed to be just as disagreeable despite not having PMS.

Team preferences can be complicated if all the “good” people in your office suck at making rain, or if they cover industries in which you have no interest, but you should strive to pick out the good apples in your early weeks on the job. Observe carefully and pay attention to what analysts around you and older people at the bank say about the senior bankers. Yes, rumors are often false, but at a bank every rumor has a kernel of truth in it.

Your ability to get the scoop early on will prevent much pain and suffering later.

Picking Your Team

This works differently at every office. Some places hand out team assignments immediately after training like heavenly mandates; others rotate you into different groups until a team wants you permanently assigned to them.

Things are more interesting when you actually get to pick your co-workers. You can influence who you work with by declaring your passionate interest in medical devices or your fierce admiration for the medical devices MD, if that’s what you’re interested in. On the other hand, if you feel yourself caught in the gravitational pull of a team you would hate working with, consider expressing your interest in that other group… and quick!

Once you are assigned to a team (unless it’s a 50-person “team”), your maneuvering room is much more limited. Your cards might be limited to the old “I have personal problems with so-and-so,” but the prudence of playing this card depends on your situation. Apparently everyone in my office complained to the staffer about Mr. PMS because I found myself working with him all the time.

You don’t want to be the analyst in your office who’s always stuck working with Mr. PMS because everyone else refuses to.

But I Spent 22 Years Of My Life Getting This Job And Now I Hate Myself

If you end up on a truly unbearable team, you have a few options. First and most obvious is to complain to even higher-level senior bankers about your situation and avoid being staffed on deals with the problematic team member(s).

Some young bankers assume this will never work and don’t even try it. This is a mistake (well, as long as you’re not an investment banking intern). As long as you’ve been working a few months and have proven yourself as capable and valuable to the firm, you will be taken seriously. I’ve seen Associates complain about Global Heads of divisions and not get staffed on projects with them and I’ve seen Analysts avoid VPs and Directors they just couldn’t work with. It helps if others have also complained about him/her.

The key is to frame your problem as a conflict that is affecting the firm and not just you personally; do not attack the offender but instead give specific examples of how his/her behavior prevented work from getting done and prevented revenue from coming in. Bankers hate not making money.

Aside from complaining internally, you could also try to switch groups entirely. This is more feasible after you finish a year working in your current group; some analysts also switch offices after a year. If your situation is only moderately bad and you’re interested in other opportunities, this approach makes sense.

Once you’ve exhausted the correction and switching groups/offices options, there’s always quitting. With today’s market environment, I would not recommend doing this because hiring has slowed as everyone waits to see the outcome of the credit crunch.

If you quit without a plan, it will also be difficult to find an equivalent position at a bank of the same reputation. There are thousands of boutique investment banks out there so you can probably find something, but keep this in mind as you make your decisions.

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. Hi,

    I am working at a bulge bracket in Chicago for junior summer but ultimately want to be back in NYC for full time. Should I wait until I receive a return offer and then request to transfer? Or should I express my interests beforehand? Would the latter option hurt my chances of getting a return offer with the current office? Thanks!

    1. I would focus on the return offer first and then think about requesting a transfer… doing so beforehand will hurt your chances.

  2. I’m 6 months in now and I literally hate my team. I don’t have the privilege of avoiding certain people to work with since my team is really small, and sometimes I really wish I can pull the plug even before year end. Transferring offices would also be difficult since even if I manage to do it, I would still have to see my current team if they make visits and that would be really awkward.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I am sorry to hear. Perhaps you can try to move teams? I wouldn’t worry about the awkwardness – the team will get over it and you’ll be happier :)

  3. I have a full time offer (following internship) in the Chicago office of a bank based in NY. I want to stay at the bank but switch to NY office for full time, is this possible?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes, ask for a transfer. Whether you succeed in this endeavor or not depends on hiring needs etc

      1. Nicole – If I made this request to HR, would that hurt my credibility with the group in Chicago? Assuming the request is denied, I don’t want bad blood when I start full time.

        Thanks for the quick reply.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Instead of going through HR first, why don’t you sniff info from your group and see if there are openings in NY and if there are people who have done the same thing you want to do?

  4. so brian, how would one go about switching groups within a bank without pissing off your own group. is it better to let the group you want to be in know your interest 6-months into the job (now) or wait until the full year end?

    1. Better to wait until the end of the year. Build up support beforehand in the other group by speaking to people there so they can push for your transfer.

  5. I guess this comment is a few years after this article has been posted… but I was just wondering, to whom should we be directing our hints about which teams we want? Do we relate these to the staffer? Or just anybody in the office?

    1. It really varies by bank / group, but usually the staffer is the best person to go to.

  6. Thanks for the link to Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. I watched the whole thing.

    1. Thanks Brian, glad you enjoyed it.

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