Vacation Time in the World of Finance

27 Comments | Investment Banking - Lingo, Culture & Staying Alive

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Investment Banking Vacation“Vacation time? People come and work at this firm for one reason: to become filthy rich. That’s it. We’re not here to make friends. We’re not savin’ the bleepin’ manatees here, guys. You want vacation time? Go teach third grade, public school.”

-Jim Young, Boiler Room

Vacations? Yes.

They exist, even for bankers – what else are you gonna spend all your cash money on?

Beyond the usual “Are the hours really that bad?!!!” questions (yes, they are), this is another one I get all the time.

Can you actually take a vacation as an analyst? Do you ever get any time off?

Can you go home for the holidays?

Will you spend Christmas in front of your tree, or in front of Excel?

The Shocking Truth

All analysts get some amount of time off, even if it’s limited to a week after bonuses are awarded and your second year begins.

Some banks actually encourage you to take time off between your first year and second year, although not everyone can take vacations at the same time.

Another popular time to take a vacation is August, because the finance industry itself takes a vacation then and lots of senior executives and Partners are gone (the same applies abroad in places like Dubai as well).

Whether or not you’ll get to go home for the holidays is a more complicated question, and there’s no “right” answer because it depends on your bank, your group, and how busy you are.

Paying Your Dues?

For your first 6 months it’s hard to take any time off because you need to “prove yourself” first – sort of like rushing a fraternity, only you’re now at an investment bank, which is marginally different from a frat house.

You can take scattered days and weekends off here and there for weddings or major family events, but it’s unusual to get an entire week off in your first few months.

Into your second year, it gets more acceptable to take vacations and once you have interns and first years working under you and a private equity job lined up, you stop caring about pleasing the higher-ups.

As an intern, don’t even think about it: ask for a vacation in an investment banking summer internship and you’ll be given a permanent vacation.

If you’re an associate or higher-up, you have more flexibility with vacations – but remember that 1st year associates are treated the same as 1st year analysts.

Duration

Usually you get a week off, and sometimes slightly more if you phrase it the right way (hint: “10 days” sounds much shorter than “2 weeks”).

The only reason to avoid a vacation is if you don’t have solid deal experience and would compromise that by taking time off – otherwise, no one “gives you points” for killing yourself.

They care about whether or not work gets done, not how many hours you’re putting in to get it done.

If you can pull it off, I recommend vacations that last longer than a week because bankers will forget that you work there – “temporary transfers” to other analysts will become permanent, and even after you get back it will take them awhile to remember you.

I pulled off a 2 week vacation as several of my deals were closing, and after I got back everyone forgot that I was working there for the next 4 months (that’s how I had time to start this site).

How to Get Permission

It comes down to:

  1. Timing – Are you busy with live deals? Have your deals recently closed? Can someone else take over your work?
  2. Likability – Do the senior bankers know, like, and trust you? Do they think you’ve been toiling away without a break all year?

As you work on deals, you’ll see that work comes in waves: make your vacation coincide with the trough of the wave rather than the crest.

When you ask for the vacation, come in with specific dates and phrase it correctly by saying, “I was planning to use my vacation days on [Start Date] to [End Date] and wanted to make sure we have proper coverage while I’m gone.” If you say, “Um, can I take a vacation?” you make yourself look weak and uncertain and reduce the chances of getting one.

Normally it’s better to go through senior bankers, but for something like vacations you could ask HR or your staffer: an MD might not even want to think about such issues.

Holidays

In the US, it is assumed that you will not show up on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day unless you have a huge deal going on and you absolutely need to be there.

Internationally that varies depending on the most important holidays in your country – you should ask the 2nd year analysts or associates above you to see what the policy is and which holidays are true holidays vs. which ones people still show up for.

The week from Christmas through New Year’s is also considered a vacation of sorts, but you need to get permission to be absent and make sure enough analysts/associates are in the office in case anything comes up.

If you’re on a deal that must close by year end, you could get pulled into the office anyway – but that is not terribly common.

Vacation in Other Fields of Finance

Private equity is similar to banking: you can take time off when possible, but very little qualifies as a true “holiday” where you’re not expected to show up at all. The key difference in PE is that you have a lot more control over your schedule, so unless you’re closing a big deal you’ll almost certainly be gone on major holidays.

For hedge funds, sales & trading, and other markets-based groups you will never go into work when the markets are closed – so weekends and any market holidays are free (that doesn’t always apply, primarily at large hedge funds that work a ridiculous amount all the time).

Corporate finance/development and anything else at large companies will have a more laid-back attitude about vacations than anything above – so getting more than 2 weeks per year off along with weekends that are always free is quite common.

Happy Holidays?

Sure… as long as you’re staring at the tree in your living room with your family, and not Excel.

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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27 Comments to “Vacation Time in the World of Finance”

Comments

  1. John says

    I have an SA offer for next summer and was wondering if it is OK to take a day or two off?

    I have to attend a wedding in the UK but I don’t want to take time off and jeopardize a FT offer.

  2. John says

    What about religious holidays? I would think there are a lot of Jews in NYC offices, so for Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur?

    • says

      Depends on the bank a bit… no one cares that much about any holidays no matter what religion you are. So you might get them off, but if something comes up you have to go in.

  3. AB says

    I’m at a top 10 business school right now and my chances seem good to land a summer associate spot at a good bank.

    I’m supposed to be the best man at a friend’s wedding in June on the west coast, which would mean Friday through Sunday out of the office.

    Am I already faced with a choice between banking and friends? Is there any way to make it work?

  4. Jefferson says

    Dear M&I and what about sic vacatations? I’m usually ill twice a year, should I even think about M&A and IB? Probably not in BB?

      • Jefferson says

        It’s usually 1-2 weeks once-twice a year.
        Another question is like do you have to have a really great edurance to work in IB? Because when I sleep 4-5 hours I’m totally unconcenrated and can’t think clear for the whole day. And I know a lot of such people. What do you think IB isn’t for such sort of people?

        Like I thought smart guys aren’t ussually very tough and edurable. But seems they are.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Yes you do need to perform well even if you only had 4-5 hours of sleep. Analysts in IB work from 80-100 hours/week. Sometimes you might not get any sleep at all, and be expected to work on pitches, models and presentations the next day.

          • Sleep says

            Don’t worry too much about this!

            Many people have this problem, and it’s by no means a healthy lifestyle. However, when you actually start working you will get used to very little sleep. Even if you have to pull all nighters, they usually allow a quick nap and most firms have shower facilities (a quick shower works wonders). Trust me, your body will adjust quickly. Most people get ill once or twice a year. If they realise that you are really that ill that you can’t do any work at all or risk infecting others, they may send you home to recover (you should still do your best to make it to the office though). And there’s always the chance that you work with a team where hours aren’t that bad anyway.

            So if finance is what you really want to do, all that shouldn’t be a reason to decide against such a job.

            If you’ve worked in finance for some time and you realise that you absolutely can’t do it, you can always find a job somewhere with less crazy hours.

  5. Susie says

    If bankers tend to take vacations in August, would it be a bad idea to complete a summer internship (at a boutique) from July to September, since there would be fewer deals going on?

    Also, does Labor Day count as a holiday?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I wouldn’t say its a bad idea but yes chances are you might be exposed to less deals given the summer holidays but you never know

      Yes

  6. Omar says

    How do people manage to go off on job interviews then? Especially if its in a different state and might need 1-2 Days off? What if you get several job interviews on different days? Or are recruiters in Hedgefunds and PE sympathetic to IB analysts work schedule and try to accommodate?

    Thanks!

  7. sam says

    i am currently in the Graduate training program of a BB in London.
    I start in september on the desk.

    My sister is getting married mid october in Indonesia, so I will have to take 5 days off.( And the weekends)
    Is this reasonable or will I get fired by doing that??

    How should I ask for permission, to who and when ?
    ( i will know my team in about 2 weeks time)

    Thanks

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No its reasonable – just ask your staffer/HR and ask them as soon as possible! Otherwise, ask your team in 2 weeks

  8. bob says

    hi, I know this is unrelated but,
    if I am already an I banker at a BB like goldman, do I need an MBA to move up to associate? Some people say you do and some people say otherwise. if I perform well and there are open spots am I probably going to get the spot or is a guy from business school gonna get it? Also, what about associate to VP and so on? if your already an associate I doubt you will have to go get an MBA just to get promoted, right?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No you don’t, if people like you, you add value, and are in the right place/right time, especially if they’ve worked with you before and you’ve built a track record.

      I think if you want to go to MD level + an MBA maybe useful though not necessary. Being able to source deals, generate revenue and play GS’ politics are probably more significant than a MBA degree, even if it is from HBS.

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