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?


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 (121)

How Summer Interns Get Full-Time Offers

How Summer Interns Get Full-Time Offers
“Summer means various things to various people, but one thing it means for most people in finance and all of New York is: interns. I’m told there is a similar wave of little political interns towards D.C. this time of year, but frankly, I’m not even certain they get paid.”

Sheer Suckers, The Leveraged Sellout

As we approach the end of the summer and move into the fall recruiting season, all the summer banking interns out there have to think about their next moves.

The first step in that process: figuring out whether you’re getting a full-time offer, or whether you’ll have to search for “strategic employment alternatives.”

While there’s never a 100% accurate way to tell if you’re getting an offer or not, you can improve your chances considerably if you know how banks make decisions.

Who Decides Your Fate: Key Decision Makers

Back when I wrote about the investment banking interview selection process, I indicated that Managing Directors ultimately decide who gets full-time offers and who does not. Everyone else plays a role in the process, but they have the final say.

The summer selection process is similar but differs in a few key respects:

  • Analysts (and Associates) who have worked most closely with the summer interns have significant clout and suggest to the senior bankers what to do
  • You’re judged almost entirely on the quality of your work – not responses to interview questions, your wardrobe or anything extraneous
  • Sometimes it’s easier to get a full-time position following an internship (this doesn’t mean it’s easy – just easier)

During a summer internship you’ll mostly be interacting with Analysts and Associates – so they’ll have a large say in who gets offers and who does not.

If you do, in fact, work directly with more senior bankers (VPs and up) then they will weigh in as well.

But the process differs substantially from full-time interviews because you generally won’t say much to the MDs during your internship.

Behind Closed Doors: The Decision-Making Process

The decision-making process for summer interns works differently from bank to bank, but typically there is a “round-table” near the end of the summer where everyone discusses the interns’ performance and who should receive offers.

Back in my previous article on how to do well in your summer internship, I advised you to work with as many people as possible and take on as much responsibility as you can handle.

Now you see why: if you work with more bankers, more people will “go to bat” for you during this round-table discussion.

The fastest way to not receive an offer?  Have no one vouch for you during this discussion.

The Competition: Just How Tough Is It To Get An Offer?

Competition to receive full-time offers after a summer internship is less intense than what you’d expect. It’s significantly easier to get a full-time offer this way vs. going into full-time recruiting with no previous internship.

Many summer interns are just testing the waters or are not sure they want to do banking, so they “drop out” in the middle and stop trying as hard once they realize it’s no longer for them.

And some interns are simply so bad that no one even considers giving them offers.

At some banks, competition tends to be tougher – Goldman, for example, is notorious for giving out summer offers at lower rates than other banks.

The other consideration: when the economy is poor, banks will also hire fewer summer interns.

Analysts vs. Associates

I’ve received some questions on Analyst vs. Associate summer internships, but have not addressed this topic until now because they’re almost the same.

In general, expectations for Associates will be set higher and they’ll be given a bit less busy work and more “real” work, but any summer intern at a bank is treated similarly – they assist full-time Analysts and Associates with getting work done.

The offer process is also similar for Summer Associates – they receive a “yes” or “no” based on the input of everyone they’ve worked closely with.

Analysts might have less say in the process, but it’s nearly identical otherwise.

How To Improve Your Offer Chances

So how do you improve your chances of getting a full-time offer? I’ve already covered this one in my previous collection of summer internship advice articles, but the one point I’ll re-emphasize here is that you want to please those you work most closely with – the junior bankers.

Some summer interns try to bypass them completely and go directly to VPs and up with their work. This is a mistake – you’ll annoy the Analyst you’re working with and possibly look foolish in front of someone much higher up on the ladder (see: Investment Banking Summer Internship Don’ts on The All-Nighter).

Aside from that, there’s no magic – above all, don’t screw up and don’t get into embarrassing drunken situations with your MD and you’ll be golden.

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 (164)

10 Investment Banking Internship “Don’t”‘s: How Not To Screw Up

10 Investment Banking Internship

I’ve given some internship tips in the form of a summer intern success guide and an avid reader gave some tips from his firsthand experience, but it’s often easier to give advice on what not to do (as with fashion).

Without further ado, here are the top 10 summer intern gaffs I’ve observed, both at my office and from friends’ stories.

This list applies to both Summer Analysts and Summer Associates – your role is the same, except Associates will get a bit more responsibility.

1. Argue with me over something financial/modeling-related

I see this more with Summer Associates than with Summer Analysts. Look, I understand you learned a lot about finance and accounting in business school and know all sorts of concepts that I don’t.

I also understand that you have several years (or more) of work experience and know a thing or two about how to perform well in a corporate environment.

But if you haven’t done investment banking before, you don’t know how we do things and you probably don’t realize the difference between what you learned in school and how financial work is done in the real world (corners are often cut).

Last year a Summer Associate spent 30 minutes arguing with me over how to calculate foregone interest on cash in a merger model and I said, “Yes, your way is correct but it makes a difference of less than 0.01 and would take time to change, which is why we don’t do it.”

So don’t even think of starting a debate.

2. Call me late on a Friday or Saturday night with non-urgent questions

Not that I’m bitter or anything, but this one always happens to me, and usually interns are at fault. If I’m out on a Friday night, I don’t want to be bothered with questions on Excel shortcuts or anything else that can wait until the next day (or next week).

Sure, ask questions when I’m around, but don’t go out of your way to contact me at odd hours unless it’s truly urgent.

This also brings up another point: within the Analysts at a bank, you generally want to ask questions of 1st Years first before going to 2nd/3rd Years.

Especially if the 2nd/3rd Year in question is leaving shortly.

3. Dress better than me, especially on your first day

I’m not going to lie; I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to clothing, especially compared to some other bankers out there.

Although it’s actually pretty easy to dress better than me, you still don’t want to come in wearing a $5,000 suit and gold watch on your first day.

Every office has a different culture, but most places will think this is really odd… it’s much better to wear standard business casual attire that doesn’t raise eyebrows.

Save your good clothes for when you start full-time or get a promotion.

4. Be overly enthusiastic – it’s just creepy

Look, attitude is very important as a Summer Intern… you want to be eager to learn and help Analysts save time on projects.

But there’s such a thing as being too enthusiastic as well. It would be pretty weird if I gave you an assignment that required you to pull an all-nighter and you were happy about it.

Even if you are somehow happy to pull an all-nighter, it comes across as fake and people will assume you’re lying.

5. Fail to invite me out drinking or to social events

The best part of having summer interns is that some are actually cool to hang out with. My life as an Analyst is usually pretty mundane: Excel, PowerPoint, research, rinse, wash and repeat. Having summer interns provides a great break and a chance to get to know new people.

Usually firms spend a lot of money on summer recruiting events and such, so if there’s an event/party/outing and you don’t let me know about it, I’m going to be annoyed.

Forget about just saving me time, enhance my lifestyle and you’re golden.

6. Say you’re too busy to get coffee

Similar to #5 above but from the opposite side. As Analysts, Starbucks is our lifeblood. So when we go out for coffee for 5-10 minutes and invite you to come along and you say you’re too busy, a couple things come to mind:

1) I know you’re probably lying because I give you work and determine how busy you are.

2) I think you don’t want to hang out with us and are not going to fit into our group.

Unless you have a true fire drill and really need to send something important out (unlikely as an intern), you have time to grab coffee.

7. Pretend that your internship is longer than 8-10 weeks

Personally, I am extremely nice to summer interns and rarely give them annoying work unless I’m so busy that I can’t finish everything myself.

Some Analysts have a different philosophy and as soon as they get summer interns, they turn into “Managing Analysts” and start giving all their underlings the dumbest work imaginable.

It’s unfortunate if you end up in this situation, but also keep in mind that your internship only lasts a matter of weeks – a lot less than 2-3 years. So no matter how bad you have it, it’s not worth complaining about because it’s over and done with quickly.

8. Hook up with other interns/analysts/secretaries

This one may cause some controversy, but I think it’s a really bad idea to get involved romantically with anyone else at your office, especially as an intern.

Friends have done this before but typically it’s at the end of the internship; otherwise there’s just too much risk of bad things happening and offers getting revoked.

Don’t think you can keep anything like this a “secret” – there are no secrets in an investment banking office.

One time when I was interviewing for buyside jobs, somehow not only my entire office but also multiple other offices found out and asked me how it went afterward.

If something as small as that becomes the talk of the Analyst class, you can guess how quickly news of a rendezvous with your MD’s secretary will spread.

9. Show up to work with a hangover

Control yourself when drinking and going out with other interns/Analysts. If you do anything really stupid (e.g. getting violent with an MD while drunk), your chances of getting an offer are pretty much 0.

Similarly if you show up to work with a hangover (or are still drunk), people will notice.

If you ever have to think about whether or not to do something, you shouldn’t do it.

10. Badmouth the firm/office to anyone else

This one actually came up this past year. One of our top summer analysts did very well and got an offer, but decided banking was not for him and went into another field.

That’s perfectly fine and I respected his decision. But then I find out he was going around to others interviewing at my office and telling them not to work there and such just because he personally didn’t like it.

The world of finance is very small and if someone knows something, chances are everyone else knows it too.

Openly badmouthing a firm or office to others is just unprofessional and pretty much ensures you’ll have no chance of working there in the future (I know, I know, you don’t want to, but still…).

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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