by Brian DeChesare Comments (49)

Why Do Investment Banking Associates and Analysts Secretly Want to Kill Each Other?

Why Do Investment Banking Associates and Analysts Secretly Want to Kill Each Other?

“Dude, this new ex-consultant Associate is such an idiot. Why do they even hire people like this?”

“At least yours didn’t make you spread the same comps ten times for no reason.”

“Why is that Analyst so annoying? Why does he think he knows more than us?”

It’s some of the most common chatter you’ll hear when walking through any bank: Analysts and Associates talking trash about each other, and occasionally plotting to kill each other.

And they’ve been at war for a very, very long time.

So how did it all start, and what can we do about it?

Definitions

First, let’s define “Analysts” and “Associates” more specifically.

There is a big difference between new 1st Year Analysts and ones who have been there for awhile, and there’s also a huge difference between Associates without banking experience coming straight from MBA programs vs. ones who have done banking before.

New Analysts and new Associates don’t “mingle” too much – higher-ups rarely place them on teams together for fear of the blind leading the blind.

And experienced Analysts and experienced Associates usually get along, because they both “get it” and understand how the game works.

But you run into trouble whenever an experienced Analyst gets assigned to work with a newly minted Associate with no finance experience – whether he’s there for the summer or he’s a full-time hire.

Analyst Expectations

When the average 1st Year Analyst starts, he/she doesn’t come in acting as if he/she knows everything about finance.

They’re in “sponge mode” and ready to absorb all they can.

Everyone is eager to please and willing to work long hours, all in the name of “learning.”

But by the end of most Analysts’ first years, this feeling starts to fade – if you’ve had decent deal exposure, you can learn 95% of investment banking in a few months.

So Analysts shift into a different mindset from their 2nd year onward: it’s less about “learning” and more about “Please just let me get out of here alive and reduce my hours by avoiding unnecessary work.”

…Where It Goes Wrong

But by the time the average Analyst has been working for a year, new Associates start working at the bank as well.

And for the ones who haven’t done banking before, they’re entering in “This is the best job ever! I’m going to impress everyone here and move up the ladder!” mode.

This is exactly the wrong mindset for the experienced Analysts, who want nothing more than to stop “impressing” and to start getting out of the office before 2 AM each night.

By the time new Associates start, the 1st Year Analysts have already been working 80-100 hours a week and know how banking works, what’s useful, and what’s a waste of time – while new Associates are still climbing up the learning curve.

So Analysts get pissed off easily at new Associates for making them do unnecessary work, and the Associates get confused and frustrated at the Analysts who push back at every request and argue with them all the time.

On top of all this, some Analysts also believe that post-MBA Associates “couldn’t make it” back in undergraduate, and are therefore less qualified.

But that’s not true in most cases: most Associates who are new to finance simply got interested at a much later stage.

Associate Expectations

Meanwhile, Associates are coming in with far more full-time and “life” experience than Analysts.

While they may not have done banking before, they are significantly better at networking and office politics, because they’ve been doing it for years.

And so they come in expecting that this experience will give them an advantage over the younglings.

They also expect to be “in the game” longer than the average Analyst, even if they ultimately want to move to the buy-side or get out of banking.

And that makes popularity with senior bankers even more important – which often prompts them into ordering unnecessary work done just to impress others.

They might reach the “Get me out of here” stage that most Analysts get to at the end of their first years – but it takes longer to get there.

…Where It Goes Wrong

  1. Analysts believe that Associates “fresh from business school” lack technical skills and that they waste time on unimportant tasks.
  2. Associates, meanwhile, believe that they understand the workplace, business, and how to get ahead better than Analysts and that they can pick up the finance and “process” of banking along the way.

Who’s right?

Both sides are “right” – but they’re right at different stages.

At first, understanding investment banking and how to create pitch books and build models matters more – no matter how great you are at schmoozing, you’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t know the basics.

So newly minted Associates have a lot to learn when they first start.

But in the long-term, the soft skills matter a lot more – despite the obsession with modeling and technical skills, investment banking involves elementary school-level math at best.

Moving to the top and becoming a rainmaker has nothing to do with how slick your Excel model is, and everything to do with how good a talker you are.

And so anyone with more real-world experience is more likely to move to the top than Analysts who are just out of university.

So, How Do We Get the Peace Treaty Signed?

If you’re an Analyst, how do you tolerate a new Associate and “train” him/her to be more effective?

And if you’re a new Associate, how do you work with experienced Analysts and not make them want to kill you?

It’s simple, but much like networking and reaching out to contacts at banks, most people never do it because it requires stepping outside your comfort zone.

Here’s what new Associates should do to get along with Analysts:

1. Drop the “In My Finance Class…” Attitude

One time a Summer Associate spent 30 minutes arguing with me over how to factor a deferred revenue write-down into a merger model, because he thought he could “do it more accurately” based on what he had learned in his MBA-level finance class.

This is exactly the wrong attitude to have when you start.

Everything in banking is last-minute, inaccurate, and is based 100% on what the MD wants to see – not on what you learned in your finance class.

No one has time to make things perfect – “good enough” is the name of the game.

2. Forget About Where You Got Your MBA From

There is no correlation between your school, grades, previous accomplishments and how good you’ll be as a banker.

Sometimes new acquaintances will say to me, “Wow, you went to an elite university, there must be so many smart people there!”

The truth is that most people at “elite universities” are incompetent and fail miserably in the real world – you spend a lot of time debating minutiae that has 0 practical value at these places.

No one cares that you went to Harvard or Wharton, because so did a lot of other people in finance – all they care about is how much money you can generate.

3. Take One for the Team

No, I’m not talking about your trip to the bar last weekend and how you had to hit on the ugly twin to help your friend out.

If an Analyst is overwhelmed or can’t finish everything, drop your “I have an MBA, therefore I will only do rocket science work and manage others” attitude and pitch in to help with grunt work and other basic tasks.

Yes, it may cause you to go home later – but you’ll then be able to ask that Analyst for favors whenever you want.

4. Know When to Back Off

Likewise, when you have a star Analyst who really knows what he’s doing and can run a deal by himself, know when to back off and observe rather than trying to interfere with every last detail.

People in finance spend 90% of their time in the office gossiping about others, so it’s not hard to figure out who’s good and who sucks: if you have an Analyst who not only knows his/her stuff but is also polished and can talk to people, back off and learn from him/her instead.

5. Fix Mistakes

In a lot of groups, most of your job as an Associate is to catch mistakes and fix them before clients see them.

So even if you have no clue what’s going on, pay attention to output from models and what’s being presented and look for and point out mistakes.

And if there’s something there that you didn’t catch, don’t blame the Analyst or tell the VP it’s not your fault – it’s your job to find mistakes and fix them.

6. Become Friends

You have to be careful because you don’t want to treat Analysts as your “pets” – you want to treat them as equals, even though you’re more senior.

But when you have the opportunity, take them out for drinks and get to know them.

If there’s a big age gap (20 years) – or you’re married and have 3 kids, while the Analyst is 22 and single – you can’t always relate 100%.

But you should still make the effort – otherwise you’ll both end up miserable.

7. Deliver Secret Messages

One advantage of being an Associate is that MDs and other senior bankers often make you privy to information that they don’t share with Analysts.

You can use this to your advantage by letting Analysts in on “secrets” and sharing points that they ordinarily wouldn’t know about, which makes them know, trust, and like you more.

You have to use discretion here and avoid sharing anything that’s too sensitive – so still apply some common sense.

For the Analysts

And here’s what Analysts should do to improve relations with new Associates:

1. Lower Your Standards

No, I’m still not talking about the bar last weekend when you had to take the ugly twin to help your friend out.

But realize that the new Associates simply won’t know as much as you do about Excel, finance, and pitch books – at least at first – and don’t expect them to just because they have more “education.”

Expect them to create useless work at first, and gently nudge them in the right direction when that happens.

2. Learn What You Can

Also realize that even if they don’t know as much as you do about finance, they know a lot more about how the world works and the big picture of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

So observe what they do, how they talk to people, and how they present themselves, and pick up what you can.

If they have an especially “interesting” life story, ask them about it and show interest in their background rather than just thinking, “Ok, I guess I have to tolerate him/her until one of us gets fired or leaves.”

3. Be a Teacher – Not a Preacher

When a new Associate doesn’t know how to do something or gets something wrong, don’t act like he/she is clueless and doesn’t deserve to be there.

“Hedge” anything you teach by prefacing it with, “I’m not sure, but I think…” or “Everyone does it differently, but in our group we usually do it this way…”

Even if he/she is completely wrong and makes a very basic mistake, you still want to do this – otherwise you’ll come across as a know-it-all and relations will get off to a bad start.

4. Confront Them If All Else Fails

If none of this works, and you’re constantly arguing or you’re in passive-aggressive mode no matter what you do, confront them.

Start by saying, “Look, I know Analysts and Associates aren’t always ‘friends,’ but we’ve been having some problems lately and I wanted to talk to you about this…”

Rather than immediately pushing back and arguing with every point they raise, accept and agree with their points initially, and then point out how your own view is different:

“I see what you’re saying there, and I agree that you could do it that way. I’m not an expert, but usually we do it this way…”

Even if you’re 100% certain that you’re right and they’re wrong, still hedge what you say and avoid preaching.

Why Does Any Of This Matter?

You might be wondering, “Ok, but why does any of this matter? After all, bankers leave all the time, new people are always moving in, and turnover is really high, so who cares if I don’t get along with one person?”

Imagine you’ve just been in a plane crash and you’re stuck on a deserted island.

You may not like some of the people, and you don’t expect to stay there very long… but while you’re there, you still need to survive.

And it’s the same with banking: you’re put in an extreme situation with a lot of stress and long hours, which means that even 1 week can seem like an eternity.

Even if that Analyst you can’t get along with leaves after 6 months, that 6 months is a very, very long time to be arguing all the time when you’re working 80 hours a week and dealing with him/her every day.

So stop trying to kill each other and reach a compromise instead.

Remember, only you can prevent further bloodshed.

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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by Brian DeChesare Comments (45)

How Investment Banking Analysts Get Ranked for Bonuses: Roll the Dice, Please

investment_banking_analyst_ranking

One question that comes up whenever banks announce bonuses is how you get ranked in the first place.

Sure, we all want to be “Top Tier,” but how do you actually get there?

There must be a complex “ranking” process at banks to ensure high standards for everyone…. right?

Nope. It’s actually more like spinning the roulette wheel – or rolling the dice.

Red or Black?

Ok, it’s less “random” than roulette – but there’s also less skill than poker.

And it’s far more random than how summer analysts get offers.

Freakonomics

At most banks, the “review” and “tier assignment” process goes something like this:

1. Several months before bonuses are awarded, people who have worked with you will “review” you – sometimes you see these reviews, and sometimes you don’t.

2. Then the MDs go off to New York (or London if you’re at Barclays…) and meet with other MDs to “fight” for how much of the bonus pool gets allocated to their groups.

This doesn’t affect Analysts too much – Analyst “tiers” are usually the same across different groups at a bank.

For anyone more senior, the amounts vary quite a bit depending on how many deals your group closed and how much you contributed personally.

3. Then, back at your own office the MDs discuss internally how they want to “rank” each Analyst, sometimes involving the VPs or whoever else worked closely with you.

Other than step #2, you might think this sounds similar to the summer intern offer process – but there’s one big difference:

Summer interns are awarded offers based on 2-3 months of performance, whereas full-time Analysts are split into bonus tiers based on 12 months of performance.

More often than not, this leads to strange and random things happening.

Turnover

The finance industry as a whole – and investment banking in particular – has an extremely high turnover rate. Friends have moved to 3 different firms within the span of 1 year (admittedly, this was when the market was better).

If you’re a summer intern and you get to know 1 VP or Associate really well, he’s unlikely to leave in the span of 8-10 weeks – but switching firms, getting laid off, or leaving the industry altogether in the course of a year are all  common.

Another friend spent 75% of his time working with 1 VP in his group, and then had the VP leave 2 months before bonuses were announced – you can bet that his bank account was not too happy.

Performance

Theoretically, Analysts are divided into tiers based on their “performance” – how well they did their work.

But it’s not quite that simple:

You don’t benefit much from being a “star,” but you can get screwed if you make the wrong mistakes in front of the wrong people, especially if it’s close to bonus season.

It’s impossible to do anything to “boost revenue,” but there are plenty of ways your mistakes could cost your bank money – so there is a strong bias against mistakes rather than going the extra mile.

And even though you’re being judged over the course of a year, most people forget what happens in the middle and only remember the beginning and the end – so it’s not the “weighted average” of your work.

So, What Can You Do?

If the ranking process is so random, what can you do to improve your chances of getting a decent bonus?

Beginning and End Bias & First Impressions

As mentioned above, the beginning and the end – roughly the first and last month – of your time as an Analyst are more important than anything else.

No matter what you do, you’re going to make mistakes when you first start – the key is to recover rapidly and show that you learned your lesson before you make another silly mistake.

And don’t be like one former colleague of mine who kept asking for “cross-border China deals” in his first week at work (unless you want bottom-tier bonus, like he got).

Be doubly cautious in the beginning and quadruple check anything before showing it to a senior banker – and get a 2nd year Analyst to look at it. No matter how much you think you know, every bank does things differently.

The same advice applies to your final months before bonus season: check everything more than you usually would, print it out, and make sure you don’t miss any meetings because you “overslept.”

Spreading Your Net

You need to get to know lots of different people as an insurance policy – just in case your staunchest advocate leaves or gets laid off midway through the year.

Summer interns are fine getting to know just their team and making a good impression on them, but you need to be more thorough if you’re a full-timer.

The easiest way to do this: get introductions from other full-time Analysts who know different people in your office, and take it from there.

Take a look at our articles on investment banking networking for more detailed advice.

Don’t bother getting to know people from different offices, unless you’re interested in moving elsewhere – they don’t weigh in on your bonus at all.

Stop Thinking About the Number

One final tip: stop thinking about your bonus number. Yes, if you do a better job than someone else you might get $5-$10K more, but that is not much over an entire year.

You should be more concerned with the quality of your recommendations, both for the buy-side and for business school – because those will actually make a big difference in the long-run.

Not all banks have a tradition of “recommending” Analysts to different funds, but most of the larger ones certainly do – they know that very few people stay beyond 2 years.

So you should spend most of your time thinking about that, and how to get the MDs with the most connections to “go to bat” for you and make the recommendation that gets you that interview at Blackstone.

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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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by Brian DeChesare Comments (66)

How to Win Friends and Influence People in Investment Banking by Slacking Off and Pretending to Work Hard

investment_banking_slackerAsk senior bankers what quality is most important in Analysts and Associates, and 99% of them will say “A good attitude.”

If you’re going to work 100 hours per week, you need to be positive about what you do every day… right?

Wrong.

All you have to do is give the appearance of a good attitude – and here’s how you do that:

Wait, Really?

You might be able to maintain a genuinely good attitude throughout your 2, 3, or however many years you’re in the industry.

But in many cases, you just can’t do that:

  1. You get stuck in a terrible group, or your group changes and your life goes down the drain.
  2. You find an exit opportunity and are planning to leave early, or you simply stop caring because you know something better is down the road.
  3. You get tired of what you do and the job becomes repetitive – but you need to stick around until you find what to do next.

#1 and #3 are the most common scenarios and the most desperate situations because you don’t have a backup plan – whereas with #2, at least you can move to another job if you get fired.

#3 is especially common between Year 1 and Year 2 if you’re an investment banking analyst – that’s when most people get tired of the routine and all deals start to look the same.

Appearances vs. Reality

Senior bankers say “a good attitude” is essential because they are interested in maximizing profit and minimizing annoyances and problems.

“A good attitude” just means “1) This guy/girl gets his/her stuff done without mistakes, which helps me make more money, and 2) he/she doesn’t bother me at all and is usually pretty sociable if I go over to the bullpen to talk to him/her.”

Oddly enough, young bankers have the most trouble with the second part of that statement – winning friends and influencing people.

Here’s how you can buck the trend and succeed where others fail:

First Impressions

The most important point with the game of office politics is your first impression.

If you pull this off correctly, you’ll only have to work hard for a month or so – enough to give everyone the impression that you’re a hard worker.

A poor first impression is almost impossible to overcome, but a good first impression is very difficult to screw up.

In your first few weeks (or first 1-2 months if you’re a full-timer), you want to volunteer as much as you can for projects, helping the older Analysts, and making other peoples’ lives easier.

Even if it causes some temporary pain, it will allow you to slack off later on – and on top of that, it also gives others at your bank the impression that you’re always busy.

Working Smart vs. Working Hard

This is one area where MBAs tend to be far savvier than undergraduates – and one area where I’ve seen many Analysts who didn’t know any better get abused.

You could make people think you work hard by actually working hard the entire time, pulling all-nighters each week, and trying to make your life as terrible as humanly possible.

Or you could just make people think you work that hard without actually doing so.

If you want to work smart rather than work hard, you need to use 3 main strategies: learn to act, under-promise and over-deliver, and let everyone know about it.

Acting 101

If you constantly look stressed out and tired, then other banker swill assume you’re always stressed out and tired.

If you’re like this naturally, you’ll have no difficulty here: just be yourself.

For everyone else, pay attention to the full-timers around you, determine who The Star and The Defeated One are in your office, and try to make your attitude a cross between the two of them: you want to look tense at all times, but you don’t want to be quite as depressing as The Defeated One.

But don’t become The Star – or your progression toward not trying hard would be halted.

Under-Promise and Over-Deliver

Once you have everyone thinking that you’re working 24/7, you need to take advantage of the fact that you’re not really that busy and under-promise and over-deliver.

The worst response to new work is, “I’ll get this to you right away!” and then to drop everything you’re doing to rush around and finish it – especially for anything that’s not urgent.

The better response is, “I have these 3-5 other projects due tomorrow and the day after – I’ll take care of this as soon as I can.”

After which, of course, you proceed to deliver the work tomorrow or the day after in a shorter timeframe than you originally promised.

Let Them Know About It

Once you’ve made sure that you always appear stressed out, but miraculously come through in record time with your work, you need to let the senior bankers know about it.

You can’t be too obvious – don’t go around saying, “Well, I just pulled 2 all-nighters this past week…”

The best way to do this is with late-night emails. If you’re about to email your team at 8 PM, save it until 3-4 AM instead so that they say, “Wow, he/she must have been at the office really late!”

If you get home “early” (9-10 PM), then log in remotely later on (caution: some banks don’t let you do this) and send out your emails right before you go to sleep.

Two points to be careful of here:

  1. You need to mix up your routine every so often – don’t always send out your “team update” email at 3:15 AM. Vary the email send times between “early” (9 – 11 PM range) and “late” (2 – 4 AM).
  2. This is more difficult to pull off at larger banks and offices, because some senior bankers actually stay quite late and can observe who’s there and who’s not. And sometimes if the staffer has no life, he/she will walk around at midnight to see who’s still there.

And that’s how you work smart so that you don’t have to work (as) hard.

Gravitating to the Right People

Once you’ve made everyone think you work hard all the time, you need to make sure you’re working with people who don’t take the job that seriously.

If you’re an Analyst, gravitate to the softest-spoken Associate(s), and if you’re an Associate, find the VP who’s most disillusioned and therefore cares the least about work.

This takes some trial and error, and that’s why you need to observe what’s going on around you and get to know full-timers who will give you the real story on who’s good and who should be avoided.

There’s no single rule for “the best people,” but here are a couple types you should definitely avoid:

  1. Former consultants. Since consultants don’t actually do anything useful, they spend all their time in investment banking solving problems that don’t exist and making you do unnecessary work.
  2. Summer Associates who have never worked in finance before. I’m sure all the Summer Associates reading this right now are wonderful, but most of the other ones I’ve seen tend to come in with a “I know everything because I paid $100,000+ for a prestigious MBA program” attitude.
  3. Anyone who’s 35+, doesn’t have a family, and has been in banking for life. These people are like miniature versions of Patrick Bateman, so avoid them unless you want to end up hacked to pieces in someone’s bathtub.

Winning Friends

Once you’ve given the impression that you work hard all the time and you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people, it’s time to make them like you even more.

The best way to do this is through small talk. When a senior banker gives you work, don’t just accept the assignment and scurry off to go do it – say “Ok, sounds good” and then take a few minutes to chat with him/her about a completely unrelated topic.

It doesn’t matter what it is – baseball, travel, the news, or the client’s clueless CFO are all fine.

The point is to bond with the senior banker in question by quickly chatting about a common interest, which accomplishes 2 objectives:

  1. He already thinks you’re busy all the time and will be amazed that you could take a few minutes out of your all-nighters just to speak with him – he must be your favorite!
  2. You reinforce how much you “like your work” because you’re saying, “You know, I’m really busy – but I enjoy doing this work so much that not only will I happily do it for you later on, I can even take a few minutes right now to chat because I’m going to like doing my work so much later tonight.”

Most people are 100% business-focused when speaking with senior bankers, but that’s exactly the wrong approach.

Why So Many Tricks?

You might be wondering, “Wait, why are you suggesting all this deception? Why do I need so many tricks? Isn’t honesty the best policy? What if I just work hard all the time?”

First off, being 100% honest is not the best policy – unless you want to be abused and work more than everyone else.

You could work hard all the time, but there are 3 good reasons to avoid this:

  1. As with anything else, the learning curve in investment banking flattens out after about 6 months and you don’t learn much past that point.
  2. If you’re constantly working at 100% capacity, you will never have time to find exit opportunities – or apply to business school, or do anything else outside work.
  3. The marginal improvement you’d get in your bonus and/or recommendations from working at 110% capacity rather than at 70-80% capacity is not worth it (Would you want to work an extra 20 hours per week for a bonus that’s $10,000 higher? That’s about $10 per hour…).

You don’t have to follow the steps I recommended above. If you want to be The Star and you truly love to stare at Excel and PowerPoint every day, then feel free to work at 110% capacity.

For the rest of us, though, winning friends and influencing people by slacking off and pretending to work hard is a better bet.

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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