by Brian DeChesare Comments (33)

Stuff Investment Bankers Like, Round 3

It’s been awhile, so let’s jump right back into it.

Parts 1 and 2 are here – essential reading if you ever plan to go to Buenos Aires or hit “Reply All” in your email client.

15) Unsolicited Advice

Stuff Investment Bankers Like, Round 3Working in investment banking, you will age more rapidly than the average person.

That’s just what happens when you go to Starbucks 10 times a day, eat junk food all the time, and then work 100 hours a week to boot.

So many bankers start to feel that their true age is higher than the number of years they’ve been on the planet – which is what inspires them to give unsolicited advice.

It happens when senior bankers “advise” the juniors and when junior bankers tell interns exactly what they should be doing at all times:

“You know, you should strive for a long and celebrated career in investment banking. All hedge funds collapse anyway, so don’t even think about going jumping ship and going to one.”

Thanks, but did I ask you or even mention my future plans?

“Check your work very carefully before showing it to anyone.”

Thanks – I was planning to add in a lot of errors just to make it more interesting.

16) Stacks of Unread Newspapers

Stuff Investment Bankers Like, Round 3Almost as much of a badge of honor as how many holidays you’ve worked (see below) is the number of unread newspapers on your desk.

Not realizing that they can check the news by looking online for 2 seconds, any senior banker worth his salt instead gets a daily subscription to the WSJ.

And then they let newspapers pile up on their desks while they’re off traveling 24/7.

When they come back to the office, of course, they immediately ask their assistant to “clean up” or “get rid of all this garbage.”

And you wonder why the rain forest is disappearing…

17) Assistants

Stuff Investment Bankers Like, Round 3While I’ve not been kind to the back office and support teams in the past, I can’t lie: a good assistant will save you time and time again.

A lot of incoming bankers and interns get this one wrong and treat assistants like crap, never acknowledging them or taking 5 minutes to have a friendly chat.

These newbies are surprised later when they suddenly don’t know their VP’s cell # or they can’t figure out what their MD’s schedule is next week when they’re up at 2 AM sending out an email to set up meeting times with a client.

Treat your assistant – or any support person – right, or you’ll suffer the consequences later.

And no, no matter how much you like your assistant you still can’t hook up with her (or him) – only MDs get to do that.

18) Working on Christmas

Stuff Investment Bankers Like, Round 3Aside from how many consecutive all-nighters you’ve pulled, there’s no greater badge of honor among bankers than how many holidays you’ve had ruined by work.

No one considers occasions like Halloween or Valentine’s Day to be real “holidays,” so forget about those – the 2 untouchable ones are Thanksgiving and Christmas (at least in the US – elsewhere it varies by country).

Being a masochistic bunch, at some level bankers enjoy this kind of abuse.

There’s no higher glory than looking at your Blackberry constantly and responding to emails while everyone else at the table is staring at you in disbelief.

And then you get to complain to all your friends about how you had to pull an all-nighter on Christmas Eve – all the while secretly enjoying that you can now complain about it.

19) Models and Models

Stuff Investment Bankers Like, Round 3Everyone gets into finance for different reasons, but there are just 2 core motivators: 1) Money and 2) Prestige.

No one could be interested in talking about bonds or interest rates or EBITDA just for fun, right?

You’d think that, but as soon as you start working you realize that a lot of the job involves administrative work, picking up dry cleaning, and fixing printers.

By comparison, financial modeling seems like the most intellectually engaging activity ever, even though it’s really not rocket science.

So as a banker, you relish opportunities to crunch numbers and do more than just collect data and send emails.

And if you’re looking for other types of models, head to Buenos Aires.

20) Lucites

Stuff Investment Bankers Like, Round 3Whenever you close a deal, along with the Closing Dinner you get to design a “lucite” – a trophy of sorts to commemorate all the man-hours spent on that IPO or that acquisition and all your blood, sweat, and tears.

If you worked on a casino acquisition, your lucite might be in the shape of a roulette wheel or poker table; for a pharmaceutical deal maybe you’ll get to design something in the shape of a vial or pill bottle.

Much like how you’ve lined your walls with all those meaningless awards from high school and college, bankers line their shelves with these lucites to impress visitors.

For the analyst who has gone Patrick Bateman, lucites have another use as well: weapons.

So make sure you design something sharp – you’ll never know when you might need it one night after you’ve pulled one too many all-nighters and they discover the bodies in your apartment.

21) Forecasting the Apocalypse

Stuff Investment Bankers Like, Round 3“Wall Street is over! New regulations will doom the industry! Pay will never recover, time to find a new profession!”

Question: Are those quotes from 1893, 1929, 1987, 1997, or 2007-2010?

The correct answer is “all of the above” because bankers have been forecasting apocalypse as long as the industry itself has been around.

Back in September 2008 everyone really thought it was all over – but it looks like we survived that one as well.

As long as capital markets exist and companies need to raise money, they’ll need bankers.

Just make sure you keep telling everyone the end is nigh, though – you don’t want to seem overconfident.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.
by Brian DeChesare Comments (161)

Positioning Yourself for Business School, Part 1: The Financier

Positioning Yourself for Business School, Part 1: The FinancierIt’s a question on everyone’s minds these days:

“How can I get into the Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton MBA programs?”

“If I don’t get into finance or consulting right now, should I go back to business school instead?”

“How can I stand out from everyone else who’s applying?”

With the markets still in turmoil, more and more people are thinking of heading to business school. Even those who actually have jobs are thinking of going back to school to insulate themselves from layoffs and get a 2-year vacation while they’re at it.

Regardless of your background, though, you’ll face a unique challenge getting into business school and then using it to get into finance:

The criteria to get into business school is different than the criteria to get into finance coming from business school, and the two often contradict each other.

So here’s how you solve that problem…

The False Promise of Re-Branding?

Here’s the paradox that crops up when you apply to business school and then try to leverage it to get into finance:

  1. Top schools like a diverse student body – they don’t want everyone to have done two years of banking followed by two years of private equity. Especially in recent years, these schools have become biased against students with pure finance backgrounds.
  2. Banks and financial firms, on the other hand, don’t care nearly as much about diversity and would love to recruit only students with previous finance experience. Someone with previous experience represents reduced risk, and is more likely to stick around past their first all-nighter creating a pitch book.

In late 2007, recruiters were still trying to convince me that two years of banking followed by two years of private equity was a “guaranteed” ticket into top MBA programs. It’s funny how quickly things can change.

One of the key selling points of MBA programs is a chance to “re-brand” yourself. And when banks desperately need people (see: 2004-2006), they’ll open up to your story of personal transformation from traveling bard to the next Gordon Gekko.

But when they’re not so desperate (now), they start to consider only those who have done finance before.

So this selling point is highly dependent on market conditions and often turns into disappointment for MBA-level applicants without some type of finance experience.

Curious Conclusion

This past recruiting season, I spoke with many talented business school students who had started companies, nonprofits, and had all sorts of other impressive accomplishments. But even with those credentials, each one faced an uphill battle getting interviews and job offers if he or she had not done finance previously.

This brings us to a curious conclusion when looking at both of these points together:

If you’re already in finance, you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd and tell an interesting story if you want to get into business school. And if you’re from a different background, you still need to worry about that – but more importantly, you need to find a way to show banks that you can do the work.

In this article, we’ll address anyone in the first category: anyone from a finance background thinking of business school.

Standing Out From a Finance Background: Got Prestige?

I received an email from a reader the other day asking, “I thought it was basically the prestige of your firm that set you apart in MBA admissions?”

My response: While brand-name recognition matters, admissions committees don’t view you dramatically differently based on where you worked within a specific industry. They’re not going to look at someone and say, “Aha! He worked at Morgan Stanley so he should definitely get in, but that guy only worked at Houlihan Lokey so he is obviously unqualified to join us!”

You do gain an advantage by working somewhere well-known, but keep in mind that people from all sorts of different backgrounds apply to business school – so the “prestige” arguments people often get in on message boards become even more pointless in this context.

After reading thousands of applications, anyone in admissions starts to view most banker types as… pretty much the same.

So basing your entire application on the “prestige” of wherever you worked is a losing proposition, especially these days when tons of laid-off financiers are applying to business school.

The Real Way to Stand Out

Alex from MBA Apply hits the nail on the head with the real way to stand out in admissions:

“Build a life, not a resume.”

This is not a new concept for anyone who’s been reading this site over the past year. Regardless of whether you’re applying for business school, university, or even going through investment banking interviews, your chances of success depend largely on your “story.”

One small problem: if you work full-time in finance, it may be almost impossible to find the time to do anything outside work.

How to Develop an Interesting Story Even If You Have No Time

You don’t need to spend 20-40 hours per week on something to make yourself stand out.

But if you’re in banking or at a large PE firm, you probably don’t even have five hours per week to spend on other activities.

If you’re still thinking about business school and have absolutely no time for outside interests currently (Wait, how are you reading this article then? Hmm…), here’s what I’d recommend:

  1. First, decide if you’re actually interested for the right reasons. If you’re planning to stay in finance for the long-term and you’re already in it, an MBA usually doesn’t make a big difference (exceptions apply). Being “interesting” therefore matters far less.
  2. If you are interest is sincere, reduce your work commitment by moving into a different firm, group, or industry. A word of caution: in most cases the only move that “guarantees” a better schedule is leaving finance and moving into “industry” in a business development or corporate finance role.
  3. Once you have the time, develop some of those forgotten interests and hobbies… or find new ones. Even something that only takes up a few hours per week can be spun into a good story on your applications.

Before exiting or entering different industries, you really need to weigh why you want to go to business school in the first place. My own personal view is that the “2-year vacation” plan is a bit silly given the expense, opportunity cost, and the fact that you’ll actually be quite busy (programs have become more rigorous).

That’s especially true these days, when everyone has the exact same plan and admissions are more competitive than ever before – you need better motivation than just wanting to take a break.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.
by Brian DeChesare Comments (14)

A Day in the Life of a Former Investment Banker

Former Investment BankerSo, what do you do when you quit the world of investment banking?

I’m not talking about getting fired – I’m talking about when you voluntarily quit to do something else, ideally without a “Plan B” in place.

Is life less stressful? More fun? How can you entertain yourself all day?

And most importantly, what about the models and bottles?

To answer these questions and more, here’s an account of one day in my life shortly after I left investment banking, when I was “on vacation” for the first time in a long time.

Make sure you contrast this with a week in the life of an investment banking analyst after you’re done.

6:30 AM – Wake up. Look next to me and confusion sets in when I see no Flashing Red Light: yes, my Blackberry is gone. For a moment I pause in panicked confusion.

Some habits die hard, and despite being “on vacation,” I can’t bring myself to wake up late. Being in a different time zone doesn’t help either.

8:30 AM – Sleep in for awhile longer. None of my other friends is awake yet. Back to sleep… for even longer.

11 AM – 11 sounds like a good time to wake up – everyone else is also conscious by now. It’s 2 PM or so back in the office, which means my friends there are probably being told that whatever model they’re working on currently is “needed ASAP” and watching VPs punch through car door windows.

12 PM – Head to lunch. Life near the beach is slow. We spend around 2 hours eating and reminiscing over the good old days. The whole time I keep looking down at my hands, only to see no Blackberry… still. My friends are wondering why the nervous twitch persists.

2 PM – Finally we finish up and leave. Can’t do anything too strenuous, though, so we head to the beach and sit in the sun for awhile. The water’s much more colorful than my Excel spreadsheets, even the ones with excessive color-coding.

4 PM – Time passes quickly when you’re in the sun all day. We go and play frisbee on the beach while some other friends head off to go kayaking.

5 PM – On our way back from the beach, I get a text message from a friend at work wondering about some model I worked on a long time ago.

While I’m under no obligation to answer questions anymore, without my bonus in my bank account yet I’m not about to take any chances.

Analyst bonuses are paid out in mid to late July or sometimes even later, so I have to be cautious (for associates and senior bankers it’s January/February).

And even without a Blackberry, I am still reachable 24/7 thanks to cell phones – so disappearing completely is not an option.

6 PM – Head over to the spa for a massage. Turn my cell phone off. There’s no way anyone’s interrupting this one, not even for the most urgent Excel question ever.

7 PM – Go back to our hotel and I do some more planning for my upcoming investment banking training program (what would later become Breaking Into Wall Street).

Today I’m outlining the material that would later be released as The Investment Banking Networking Toolkit.

I want to cover this because it’s a topic that goes untouched in most other training programs, and because there are hundreds, if not thousands, questions related to networking on message boards and in my email inbox.

See, even when I’m on vacation I manage to do some work – old habits…

8 PM – Go to a local restaurant for a late dinner. The food is almost as good as all the places back home, but there’s no $30 expensing of dinner each night so we’re a bit more conservative with spending.

Everyone loves expensing dinners at first, but eventually you realize eating out too much just results in even more of a gut than you’d normally get from staring at a computer all day.

As I wrote back in how to stay fit as a banker, I strongly recommend using your daily dinner expense at the grocery store instead of eating out all the time.

10 PM – Get back and get ready to go out. It’s a Monday night so there probably won’t be much in the way of models and bottles, but one can always hope.

11:30 PM – Luckily there are always people on vacation here so the club isn’t totally empty, but it’s not exactly happening either. In short: plenty of bottles but not enough models.

But hey, it’s a Monday night and this sure beats sitting in a cubicle until midnight.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.