“I just purchased my third pair of Ferragamo loafers, and I think my wardrobe is nearly complete! Looking into my closet makes me harder than I get when I smell the deep, earthy ink aroma of a fresh WSJ.”
I get a lot of questions on good reasons to say you want to be an investment banker. The good news for everyone out there is that the list of reasons to do investment banking is fairly standardized. There’s not a whole lot you can say that I haven’t already heard before, and to be honest, standard answers like “I want to learn a lot” are still good ones.
The same goes for interviewing and especially superday interviews. It’s easier to give a bad answer than to surprise someone with a brilliant answer, because there are no brilliant answers: just good answers, mediocre answers and terrible answers. Today I’m going to focus on the downside: mediocre and terrible answers. Reasons NOT to do investment banking.
Models And Bottles
This is one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen on “banking lifestyle” (ok, I guess there haven’t been all that many videos on this topic), but it doesn’t mean you should say “models and bottles” when asked why you want to do banking. I don’t think anyone’s actually foolish enough to answer with this exactly, but any variant of making money/living the high life/getting beautiful women is a bad answer.
A lot of (most?) bankers are actually in the job for this very reason, but it’s not acceptable to admit it or suggest that’s why you’re interested in the field. Yes, investment banking salaries are legendary, but it’s taboo to discuss that.
Sometimes they try to put you on the spot in stress test superday interviews and get you to admit this under duress. In one interview they asked me, “Are you motivated by money?”
How do you answer such a question without admitting that you are motivated by money but also letting them you know you are in fact motivated by money?
“I’m not motivated if you just hand me a pile of money. I am motivated to work hard and earn money through my efforts.”
Plus, if you actually admit to doing it for the models and bottles, you’ll probably be fired (like A.J. here in the video once HR found out).
You Want An Entrepreneurial Work Environment
This one is a bit more controversial. I’ve heard interviewees say their long-term goals are to start their own companies or do something independent, and they’re just using banking as a stepping stone. Even if this is your actual goal, I would strongly recommend against saying so in an interview.
Working at a bank, especially as an investment banking analyst, and doing something entrepreneurial are completely different. As Samuel L. Jackson might say, “ain’t the same ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same sport.” At the very top levels of banking, what the Managing Directors do is somewhat entrepreneurial because they have to build the business and bring in new clients. It’s not the same as building a business from nothing, but it’s closer than an Analyst will ever be.
The other issue here is that investment banks want to see that you are committed to the job for at least 2-3 years. Even if you don’t want to stay in banking, they would be much more comfortable knowing you want to go to private equity or join a hedge fund, because at least those are still in the realm of finance.
To Say You Could Hack It
This one, again, falls under the realm of something you wouldn’t say, but might have in the back of your mind if you want to do something completely different eventually, such as public service.
Although you can learn a lot in 2 years of banking, it is not worth the pain and suffering you go through if you just want to show people “you could hack it.” If you really do want to do it and then go off and do something unrelated, it would be most rational to be an Analyst for 1 year and then leave for other pursuits. I know of several people who have done something similar. While it’s still painful, 1 year is better than 2 (as long as you’re not at UBS LA). And you still get to take advantage of those investment banking bonuses.
Most of your learning occurs in the first 6 months – 1 year period, so you won’t be missing out on much if you leave after that; the main drawback will be fewer closed deals to discuss.