Stuff Investment Bankers Like, Round 2: Email Forwards That Destroy Careers, Blue Shirts, Headphones, The Track, Markup, The West Wing, and Closing Dinners

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Ok, let’s get started with round 2. See round 1 (cocaine, Buenos Aires, and more fun) right here if you missed it before.

8. Email Forwards That Destroy Careers

career_destructionYou’ve already seen this story, so I won’t bother repeating the details here. But while everyone else focused on the foolishness of one intern trying to lie his way into an offer, they missed something else:

You have to be very careful what you write in emails once you start working in finance.

Say something stupid, and it will get forwarded around to tens of thousands of people within 3 hours.

Sure, none of the people involved in forwarding this particular email got in trouble since it was just about a potential hire – but you better think twice about emailing your “friend” to trash-talk your MD.

Bankers love the “Reply All” and “Forward” buttons.

9. Blue Shirts

blue_shirtsHow many suits do you need for your internship? What’s the proper attire once you start working full-time? How do you pick your ties?

The answer to all of the above: “It doesn’t matter – just make sure you have at least a 2-3 week supply of blue shirts.”

You might be tempted to make a “fashion statement” by wearing a yellow or green shirt. And pink is great for “Casual Friday,” right?

No, no, and no. Everyone else will just laugh at you and wonder why you’ve deviated from the standard banker protocol of wearing a slightly different shade of blue every day.

And don’t even think about wearing white: it’s too plain.

Ladies: I am clueless, but please consult Fashion Financier’s article on the subject here.

10. Headphones

HeadphonesAlong with Alt + Tab, sending time-delayed emails at 4 AM, and saying you don’t have any bandwidth, headphones are the next best trick you can use to avoid dealing with senior bankers.

See that annoying MD coming over to ask for your help with yet another fire drill?

Just put on your headphones, pretend to be listening, and start rapidly scribbling down notes while appearing stressed out.

When the senior banker stops by, silently motion that you’re on the phone and stare intently at your screen to show that you’re listening to something important…

…which is usually just Pandora, but for all he knows it’s a conference call with the CEO of the company you’re pitching the next day.

11. The Track

So, why don’t more people start companies?

With the recession, banks failing, and pay unlikely to ever return to 2006-2007 levels, you’d think that fewer people would take the Ivy League –> Banking –> PE/HF –> Greatness route, right?


You’re forgetting about The Track (image courtesy of LSO).


The Track is what separates financiers from “normal people.”

It’s what separates those with the 9 AM to 5 PM mentality from those with the 9 AM to 5 AM mentality.

You can try to resist the pull of the Track, but you’ll probably fail: 40% of bankers go into PE, 40% join a hedge fund, 19% stay in banking and only 1% do something original.

Rather than fighting it, just accept your fate.

12. Markup

markupHow much modeling do you do? How many deals do you work on as a summer intern? How much sourcing do summer interns do?

No, no, and no. All summer interns “source” is bagels and coffee, and sometimes dry cleaning if you’re lucky.

And what you really do as a banker has nothing to do with models, bottles, or even forwarding emails that destroy careers.

You look at markup and make the appropriate changes.

Yes, that’s right: senior bankers print out everything you do, mark it up with red pen, and then leave a stack of changes on your desk.

If you think this sounds tedious or annoying, just think about the fun that ensues when you get 5 markups from different bankers, all with conflicting changes.

If you’re wondering why they would choose to re-write entire paragraphs on paper rather than just typing it on the computer in 1/10 the time, well, welcome to banking.

13. The West Wing


Much as I hate to admit it, the quintessential banker show is not 24, but rather The West Wing.

Yes, I know it’s over now, but any self-respecting banker has the complete DVD set. And should he happen to get home early, it’s the first thing he watches (but only up to Season 4 – let’s face it, it sucked after Sorkin left).

Most financiers know they are actually destroying the world and doing evil by working in finance – but they secretly don’t care.

But watching The West Wing allows them to pretend that they could actually do good for the world – serve their country, solve economic and social malaise, and even stop terrorists and prevent assassination attempts.

But… oh wait a second, even the President only makes $400K a year?


I’ll leave that one to you, Martin Sheen.

14. Closing Dinners

closing_dinnerIf the deal you’re working on is a marathon, the Closing Dinner is what lies just beyond the finish line.

It’s the ice cream sundae with oreos and sugar on top.

The Closing Dinner is the only “fun” part of any deal process, so you better make sure you’re present for any that you get invited to.

Sometimes you’ll go to Vegas (fun, but not “exotic”), and sometimes you might be taken to more interesting locations – Paris, Rome, or the Isle of Lesbos.

And there’s always some sort of drama, especially if your superiors bring along their “assistants” or your entire team secretly hates the client.

Just make sure you observe rather than participate – unless you’re on your way out anyway and you wouldn’t mind some quick, high-risk fun.

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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50 Comments to “Stuff Investment Bankers Like, Round 2: Email Forwards That Destroy Careers, Blue Shirts, Headphones, The Track, Markup, The West Wing, and Closing Dinners”


  1. John Gill says

    God, the West Wing thing hit WAY too close to him. I actually thought about applying to Woodrow Wilson or Kennedy for the longest time.

  2. blueillustrator says

    Hey Brian,

    What would you say is the best preparation for entrepreneurship for someone who’s in college right now?

    • says

      Start a company. Classes = useless, working for a company = useless. Get out there and make something people want and then sell it to them. Street smarts is 100000000000000000000x more important than school if you want to do something unconventional.

    • Seth says

      In my opinion, double major. Usually entrepreneurship classes will help you prepare things like your business plan. It will also allow you to network with your professors who should have an entrepreneurial background and other students as well. Your other major should be something useful. It really depends on what kind of business you want to start though. I see a lot of people do accounting with their entr degree. Double majoring with anything, marketing, finiance, etc., will always be valuable knowledge to have when you go to launch your business. That way you have room to change your mind if you decide owning your own business isn’t for you. And hey, if it does work out for you, you have a great network list and a broader knowledge base than before. While I do agree with Brian on the subject, this is what I’ve seen work for a lot of students at my school and is an alternative to just starting the business outright.

  3. Summer Analyst says

    I am guilty of all of those points…

    I also secretly became a fan of marking everything in red pen when doing non-banking work with non-bankers.

  4. Jet says

    I’ve been considering just staying in banking from Analyst to MD if I can. How exactly does this process work? How are people chosen for promotion from rank to rank? How do the hours, the work, and the pay change as you move upward? I think this could be a interesting article for the 19% of us who want to remain in banking :)

    • says

      You need to be very, very good and need to be an expert at corporate politics. You work less and get paid more as you move up, but never drops below 60 hours per week + travel is more frequent when you move up. I am honestly not an expert on this and I’d struggle to write the article as I couldn’t imagine staying in banking for 10-15 years…

      • Jet says

        Thanks for the quick response! I’m just wondering then, what did you go into banking for? As a stepping stone into PE or a hedge fund? I’m sure you probably shared your story already somewhere on this site, but I’m still making my way through all of your articles.

        • says

          I was interested in VC at the time. Actually turned out to be a waste as VC is what you want to do at the end of your career, not the beginning.

        • YH says

          Do you know what the chances of getting into a VC are right out of undergrad given that I have some decent connections?

          Also, why is VC something you should do at the end of your career, not the beginning?


        • says

          It’s still really hard, and I would strongly recommend against it right after undergrad.

          To do well investing in companies, you need a lot of connections and years of experience… you have neither of those at a young age. Going to VC first also gives you relatively few options afterward i.e. very difficult to go back into PE/banking/consulting.

          It sounds cool to say you’re in the industry, but the reality is you don’t do much of anything as a junior person – basically just administrative stuff while the Partners make all the decisions.

  5. kILnag says

    What do you think about asset management at a firm like BlackRock? I know the pay is not as good as banking but how does the pay compare at the more senior roles in this field to banking?

    • says

      It’s still much less than banking. Asset management is ok, it really depends what you want to do in the future and what kind of work/life balance you want

  6. Jake says

    If you don’t get any FT IBD analyst offers by November, and you are still determined to go into banking, what do you do now?

    • says

      Aggressive networking. Start cold-calling local firms and keep at it, following up every few days, until you hear back. See the case study below under Networking of the reader who cold-called his way into an internship and FT offer.

  7. rb says

    Speaking of tv shows… Would my resume be laughed at and be forwarded if i include HBO’s Entourage under Interests section on otherwise perfectly normal resume? Just wondering.

  8. Matt says

    Almost 2 weeks ago I was told be a boutique I interviewed with that they weren’t going to have 2nd rounds until they see how many interns sign their offers. At what point should I follow up about that. I assume an intern wouldn’t sign their offer if they receive a BB offer which are going out around this time. Also, they are going to realize that I haven’t received any offers yet and may think less of me. What do I say about this and does this hurt my chance?

    • says

      You should have followed up already, but I would just do so now. Say that you need to make decisions on what you’re going to do and need to know your status.

        • says

          I’m not sure I understand your question. You have two choices: either follow-up now, or don’t follow-up. If you try to follow-up a month from now it’s going to look really silly, so I would either do it ASAP or not at all.

  9. TheMB says

    Blue shirts? Does this also apply for interviews? I was talking to a friend working in Prive Equity (albeit a very small SME-focused company) and he advised me to always wear a white shirt in my interviews.

    Thanks for the answer. And by the way thank you for the Sign Up Bonus for the Ninja Networking Toolkit, the book is very apreciated.

    • says

      This was more of a joke about how bankers always wear blue shirts. White shirts are fine in interviews, it really doesn’t matter.

  10. banker88 says

    Seriously no white shirts? I thought you’re supposed to mostly wear white shirts.

    Btw, what’s this “bonus book” for signing up for the Networking Ninja Toolkit? I signed up early and didn’t receive anything. Thanks.

    • says

      See above – it doesn’t matter much, but most bankers wear blue all the time.

      The bonus was randomly given out to a few new people who signed up when it was first released. Since you had already signed up for the modeling course, you received a higher discount on the program instead.

  11. Student says

    “Going to VC first also gives you relatively few options afterward i.e. very difficult to go back into PE/banking/consulting.”

    Would you say the same thing about PE as well?
    Or would it entirely depend on your specific role and experience i.e. a modeling/valuation role vs. more of a sales/sourcing/relationship role?
    (The former I would think would allow for better exit opps, no?)

    Would you recommend going straight into PE if given the opportunity, or stick with the traditional path, banking first, for the training and skill set?

    • says

      PE is better in that you actually do real work, but you’re generally right on the sourcing vs. valuation point.

      I would still recommend against PE right after school because PE Analysts are often worse off than banking analysts and have more limited mobility.

  12. Matt says

    My gpa is low but I’ve been getting a lot of 1st round interviews. I always thought that once you get an interview it’s about you and not your gpa. But when I call the interviewers to get feedback they always tell me things they knew beforehand, like my gpa. Why do they even bother interviewing me if they’re just going to tell me this was a problem?

    • says

      Sometimes they just use it as an excuse if something else was the issue; other times they liked you and other people equally, but you just had a lower GPA so they decide based on that.

  13. lz says

    I just had my first interview, and I’m fretting a bit. I was asked two quantitative questions, of which I got two correct, and was forced to accept help for the third. Is this bad news for me?

  14. Sofi says

    Given the recent bruhaha over Jeffrey Chiang, would it be safe to say that whoever leaked that email violated some kind of privacy code? I mean, there’s usually one of those disclaimers about how those emails are only for those intended and blah blah blah…

    what he did was stupid and just downright wrong, but whoever leaked it may have done something illegal.

    Or is that not too much of a big deal?

    • says

      Yeah, that was my point. I don’t know offhand if they “got in trouble” for this, but since it leaked to so many thousands of other people/companies, something definitely could have happened.

      I don’t know that it was “illegal” but it’s definitely something that could affect bonuses / possibly get them in trouble with MDs and higher-ups.

  15. Joe says

    That red pen business is so true.

    Everything I’ve written up has been marked up in red to be fixed, and the quality decreases!

  16. tamako says

    how can i be more detail oriented. i want to double-triple check my work but most of the time my boss didn’t give me enough time to check, turn out mistakes. what to do?!

    • Soon-to-be Monkey says

      Keep a list of all your screw-ups as you make them… and before you turn in your next assignment, speed through all the items on your ‘screw-up list’ and make sure you’re not making the same ones. Not a silver bullet, but it accomplishes more in the limited time you’re given than trying to go over the entire assignment. (btw I believe I stole this tip from some comment on M&I)

  17. JW says

    Dear M&I

    I have a IBD internship with Morgan Stanley HK soon and I was wondering if there is anything culturally specific to HK bankers that I should know about. Are they more into mah jong as opposed to poker? thrash talk less as they are asians? Less into booze? More politics than in the west?


    • says

      I don’t think so – you get tons of international people there so it’s not much different from NYC/London. One difference is that there are also quite a few bankers from mainland China, so they will probably congregate together more often than not.

  18. Dre60 says

    What are some news i.e. stocks or new M&A deals that are going on or recenlty closed in the market that would be good to bring up in an ER interview?

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