by Brian DeChesare Comments (83)

Investment Banking Hours: Will “Protected Weekends” Save You, or Will You Still Toil Away for 80-100 Hours per Week?

Investment Banking Hours

Tell anyone outside the finance industry that you work in investment banking, and they’ll ask you the same few questions each time:

  • Why have you destroyed the economy multiple times?
  • Why are you stealing money from poor people?
  • Why are you not in jail?
  • Oh, and why do you work so much?`

For decades, investment banking and other finance jobs have had a reputation for brutal, 80-100-hour workweeks.

But then banks realized that this practice was killing peopleremember what happened to that intern in 2013?

As a result, the large banks began to implement “protected weekends” and mandatory time off for junior bankers.

So, should you still expect to work 80-100 hours per week?

Or will you get to have (a bit) more of a life?

The Short Answer

Initiatives like protected weekends have shifted the work around, but they haven’t changed the total amount of work that must be completed or your total time in the office.

You might not have to work on Saturday, but you may work all day on Sunday and even more on weekdays.

These policies haven’t changed banks’ business models, which is the reason for long hours in the first place.

But these policies also haven’t changed the fact that you won’t be doing “real work” for much of your in-office time.

What Do “Long Hours” Mean?

When people start bragging about their long hours, you should be skeptical.

It is not possible to do challenging, productive work that requires high levels of mental energy for 100 hours, 80 hours, or even 60 hours per week.

When bankers talk about “their hours,” they mean their time in the office regardless of whether or not they are doing real work.

For example, if a banker “goes to work” from 9 AM to 2 AM, that’s 17 hours in the office.

But was he/she working or doing productive work that entire time?

No, not by a long shot.

For example, many days go like this:

  • 9 AM to 12 PM: Read news and wait for the client to send financial information. The client is late.
  • 12 PM to 3 PM: Do some mindless work processing NDAs for another deal or updating company profiles or public comps.
  • 3 PM to 5 PM: Start working on a valuation for a pitch next week.
  • 5 PM to 7 PM: Client still hasn’t sent the information. Get food.
  • 7 PM to 2 AM: Client finally sends the financial information, but it’s horribly formatted. Your VP tells you to fix it and update the CIM and management presentation, which takes several hours.

In that 17-hour day, you did only ~12 hours of work, and only a few hours of work that required mental energy, but you still had to be in the office and “on call” the entire time.

So, if you “work” 80 hours per week, yes, you’re in the office from 9 AM to 1 AM on weekdays, or from 9 AM to 11 PM on weekdays with a 10-hour day on Sunday.

But you’re also spending a good chunk of that time waiting for information or assignments or doing tasks that don’t require much mental energy.

Why Are You in the Office So Much?

The in-office hours are insane for three main reasons that haven’t changed since the 1980s:

  1. Huge Clients Pay Your Bank Huge Fees: When a company is paying your bank $50 million, $10 million, or even $1 million to advise on a deal, you have to do whatever it wants at any time of the day.
  2. Unpredictable Work Demands: Unlike with engineering projects – or even audits at Big 4 firms – it’s almost impossible to use “project planning” for deals in investment banking because the process is random and unpredictable.
  3. Division of Labor Failures: And banks can’t hire more people to reduce the workload because one person has to “own” each aspect of a deal. Multiple people writing a CIM or building a model at the same time would be like writing a novel with multiple authors (i.e., a bad idea).

You could add a fourth reason to this list as well: The culture.

Working long hours to “pay your dues” is deeply embedded into the culture of financial services firms.

Even if banks’ business models were to change, long hours in the office might continue because… well, you have to work a lot. Just because.

Here’s a bit more detail on each factor above:

Huge Clients Pay Your Bank Huge Fees

If a single executive at a client company gets upset over something, he/she could immediately cancel the deal, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue for your bank.

Bankers sell their time and attention – not a tangible product – and they need to provide it, even if a client calls at 1 AM on Christmas with an urgent request.

If a bank did 1,000 deals per year and earned $50,000 per deal, service standards would decline.

But that business model would also be far less profitable; it’s why you earn much less in Big 4 advisory.

Unpredictable Work Demands

When you work on an M&A deal, much of the work happens in the beginning (creating marketing materials, presentations, and financial projections) and at the end (negotiating the definitive agreement, arranging financing, resolving last-minute disagreements, etc.).

But in the middle of the process, random events, requests, and problems always come up.

You might get an acquisition offer from a buyer who dropped out but then came back at the 11th hour.

Or maybe your client just missed its earnings, and you need to revamp your 10,000-row financial model.

Or maybe the CEO is having a bad day, and he wants to see unnecessary analysis, just for fun.

Other firms that deal with unpredictable work demands, such as web hosting companies and oilfield services companies, handle these issues by hiring teams to work in shifts.

One team works from 8 AM to 4 PM and fixes a website that just crashed; another team works from 4 PM to 12 AM and replaces a part of an oil pipeline.

But that approach doesn’t work as well in banking.

Division of Labor Failures

The problem is that each deal is different and requires client-specific knowledge.

You normally set up financial projections one way, but you had to modify rows 95-110 for one client because of an issue that came up in an email exchange with the CFO last year.

Or, there are 17 versions of the company’s internal projections, and you’re using each version in different slides of the management presentation – and only you know the logic behind the sequencing.

There’s no “instruction manual” because so much of the process is ad hoc.

You can come up with rough guidelines, but you can’t describe all the steps universally and comprehensively.

There might be thousands (or tens of thousands) of documents in a single deal, and it’s impossible to “learn” everything quickly.

That’s why the person responsible for the original analysis and marketing documents tends to keep working on the deal.

Senior bankers also want to ensure accountability by designating one “go-to person” for each part of a project.

If a VP wants to change a model, he/she does not want to ask 2-3 Analysts; he/she wants to ask the one person who’s in charge of it.

OK, But Really… 100 Hours per Week?

Nothing above means that bankers necessarily have to “work” (AKA “be in the office”) for 80-100 hours per week.

The fact is, plenty of all-nighters and long hours come from poor planning and poorly managed teams – and there are concrete ways to improve the process.

For example, bankers could avoid many all-nighters if they did a better job qualifying the work requirements.

Do you need a 100-page pitch book for an initial meeting?

Or would a 10-page summary work?

Do you need to scrub the numbers and adjust for non-recurring charges by 8 AM tomorrow?

Or will the client not even look at the appendix that explains your work?

Exceptions, Carve-Outs, and Special Cases

You do not always work 80-100 hours per week in investment banking.

Hours tend to be lighter in groups like Equity Capital Markets since deals and workflow are more predictable.

You won’t have much of a social life on weekdays, but you also won’t be staying at the office until 2 AM all the time.

More broadly, in-office hours are a bit more predictable in “public markets roles” (equity research, hedge funds, asset management) where you follow companies instead of advising on large transactions.

Also, even if you’re in a “deals role,” the hours are often lighter when the deals are less complex (e.g., early-stage funding deals in venture capital).

As you advance, your hours improve because the nature of the work changes.

A Managing Director or Partner won’t stay in the office until 4 AM editing font sizes in a presentation; he/she might still work 60 hours per week, but most of that time is spent in meetings, on calls, or traveling to meet clients.

Finally, some boutique banks offer significantly better hours.

This one is the exception rather than the rule, but there are some small banks where bankers work 40-50 hours per week and still close multiple deals per year.

They do that by using existing contacts and relationships, working on only inbound deals, and avoiding all pitches.

They still have to complete marketing documents for clients in sell-side M&A deals, but they avoid pointless administrative work.

The senior bankers at these firms don’t necessarily care about maximizing revenue; they aim to earn enough without killing themselves 24/7.

So, Will the Hours Ever Change?

To their credit, banks have acknowledged the ridiculous hours and attempted to improve working conditions for junior bankers.

But junior bankers have criticized these schemes for several reasons:

  • Some policies are a joke. You get “2 hours of personal time per week?” What are you supposed to do with that?
  • When a live deal heats up, these policies go out the window.
  • These policies have shifted more work to the Sunday-Thursday period.
  • Being free from Friday night to Sunday morning isn’t a real “weekend off.”

These criticisms are valid, but they also miss the point of these policies.

The point of a “protected weekend” isn’t to reduce the total hours you work, but to make your schedule more predictable.

To see the difference, take a look at some of my articles about investment banking from a long time ago: Stories of being pulled away from dinner on a Saturday night or being asked to stay late on a Friday night, for example.

These incidents are less likely as a result of these new policies.

And that does make a difference: Having an entire day to rest and recharge – even if it’s just once a month – helps a lot.

Even if you’re just responding to questions and emails, being “on call” 24/7 wears you down and leads to burnout.

So, even though banks haven’t reduced the total number of hours you work, they have still made positive changes.

You’re less likely to work consecutive 130-hour or 110-hour weeks now, and you’re less likely to die on the job.

With better management, banks might be able to reduce the average “in-office time” in the future.

But keep your expectations in check: It will never be a 40-50-hour-per-week job.

You couldn’t even call that “banking.”

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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  1. Hi Brian, I am a recent grad of a semi-target school. I have never had too strong willingness to do banking, AM, other than being influenced by people around me. I always perceive myself as being more entrepreneurial and saw lots of people who are not in finance made their fortune other ways. I had an internship at middle office at BB but didn’t join full time. I have started my own company for the past year, but it didn’t go as I expected even though we achieved some successes. I am considering to go back to finance now, but have no clue where/how can I start over again??

    1. It will be pretty tough, but it’s plausible if you’ve only run your own company for a year… see:

  2. Hi,

    I am going to be applying for a full time role for a VC division for one of my city’s larger employers after working in advisory for about 18 months. i interned at a PE firm for about 2 months in the summer in between my sophomore and junior year. the problem is that the internship was good, but i wasnt exposed to modeling or analysis during my time there because it was only 2 months. i mainly screened for industries and analyzed companies. how should i translate that onto my resume?


    1. Write about the bigger picture and how your work contributed to deals closing and don’t go into the specifics of what *you* did that much, instead focusing on the eventual results of your work. And then practice building models for the deals retroactively so you can speak to something in interviews.

  3. Stefan Huber

    Great article Brian!

    I’m a sophomore at a semi-target in NYC, currently doing PWM at a BB. I recently purchased your Networking Toolkit + Interview Guide in an effort to land an internship at a boutique IB for this summer. Do I still have a chance at landing interviews, and hopefully an offer, for this summer, or is April too late to do so? And if it’s not too late, around when do boutiques stop looking for interns?

    1. Thanks for signing up! It would be tough to win interviews/offers at this stage because most banks finished IB recruiting about 6 months ago. There are still some boutique firms that might be hiring, so it is worth reaching out to them to see. You might have better luck going for small private equity firms (see one of the case studies in the Networking Toolkit) because they’re often more open to hiring interns year-round and don’t follow as rigid a schedule.

  4. Jonathan Ekambi

    I am doing a Pre-Test on a questionnaire to capture data on: DETERMINANTS OF PERFORMANCE OF MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS IN THE FINANCIAL SECTOR IN KENYA. Can I post it to you to help or guide me to where I can get this help. I am really earger to bring something new in the industry in the area of mergers and acquisitions.

    1. We can’t help with homework assignments, but if you have a question relevant to the topic of the article, feel free to ask it.

  5. Hey Brian,

    As always, thank you for great articles. You mentioned how hard it is to divide labors, which makes sense. But, at the same time, I see so many big deals split across four or five big banks. Why do they do that? Are these “mega” deals truly that difficult for one or two banks to work on themselves? Or is it more politics (or trying to keep them competing for lower fees)?

    1. It’s probably a bit of both, plus the fact that on most of those deals, the banks do overlapping work. A company often hires multiple banks so the banks cross-check other banks’ work, and the company ensures that each adviser is doing the right things.

      So if 4-5 banks work on the same deal, they’ll do many of the same tasks, and it’s not as if each bank is assigned to a different aspect of the deal. That’s actually even more depressing when you think about how many people are replicating work…

  6. Daniel Brennan

    Yes I get all that but what are the tasks involved? I was an auditor for many years at KPMG and we worked long hours to meet a deadline – usually imposed by the SEC. But we were performing specific audit procedures to reach a goal-fair presentation of the financial position of the Company. My impression is that these people swarm over a company doing a lot of busy work – but isn’t there a goal somewhere. I just can’t believe that anybody has to work 100 hours a week for any reason, let alone just putting some financial data together for a presentation????

    1. The difference is that in an audit, the tasks are fairly routine and follow set procedures. In M&A deals, crazy things happen, buyers start making unreasonable demands, new companies enter the picture, etc., so the workload is much tougher to predict.

      No one actually does 100 hours of productive work each week, but people might be at the office that long waiting for assignments or waiting for clients to respond.

  7. Somesh Kumar

    Hey everybody..I am from India..penultimate year doing Engineering from one of the best college that you find in the country..I like finance and banking and since the intern hiring season is on for many banks I am applying for these…but the problem is that in India there arent much opportunities in these fields.. So I am filing internship applications outside India in Asia Pacific region like Hongkong and Singapore……Do I stand any chance of even getting called for an interview,( I dont have a work visa) or I am just wasting my time….

    1. M&I - Nicole

      If you don’t have work visa in HK and Singapore and don’t speak Mandarin, it can be more challenging. Below articles should be useful to you:

  8. Christopher T.

    “There are cases where multiples junior bankers will be assigned to large or otherwise important deals – but when that happens, they usually work on completely different aspects of the project and it’s so large/important that you can actually divide the work.”

    I believe you meant, “mulitple”. Just wanting to perfect these priceless articles. I’m learning so much and I’m so very grateful to have found this site!


  9. Hi M&I, i have been a big fan and regular reader of the site for about 3 years. Thanks for putting all of this together, really appreciate it.

    I have currently been working for about year in PWM. So i’m considered a relatively fresh graduate. I recently had the option to join a boutique Corp Fin team that focuses on the SME space in my country as an analyst. Think fund raising, M&A advisory etc

    I’ve wanted to do CF but never really had the chance to do so. However, I’ve been told from an ex-employee that its not a great place to be as mostly the work is paper-pushing and quite brainless stuff. He also said that I won’t be doing financial modelling there. I have an aim to try move into PE or some kind of in-house CF role within 3 years.

    What do you think I should do. I’ve trying for CF positions for about a year without much success.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d suggest you to speak to other people/ex-employees at the firm to “validate” if what you have been told is true. I presume there’s some level of truth based on what he/she said, though his/her experience will be different from yours.

      If other people give you similar comments, I’d speak to the team and ask them what their expectations of you are and what you’ll be doing for them. Make sure you communicate yourself clearly, and tell them you want to be doing financial modeling. Ask them if you’ll be doing that.

      If they say no, then I’d probably stick with PWM in the meantime and continue looking. The reason why I say that is because once you move once, its best if you stay at the new place for a year. The last thing you want to do is move, and then discover you don’t like the new role and have to look for new roles again. Your resume will look messy and you’ll have to work on explaining why you’re moving so often!

  10. Do you guys know which banks are famous for “facetime”?

    And what if let’s say an analyst has absolutely nothing to do but the MD/Director is still in the office at 9pm – what should the analyst do? Pretending to work?

  11. I’ve really enjoyed reading all the comments here. I’m not in IB, but there are other jobs with similar issues (I’m a college professor). Your discussion and tips are very helpful. I can see that probably in any competitive career that is based mainly on knowledge and expertise, the ones who put in the most hours get the most benefits (job security, salary, respect, etc.), up to a point. I think that point is where the person is so exhausted or unhealthy that mistakes start happening, or an illness puts the person out of work long enough for a replacement to be hired.

  12. “….investment banking can ruin your Saturday nights (and the rest of your life)….” LOVE IT.

  13. “it’s very difficult to keep everyone in the loop.” Can’t this be solved by just communicating to everyone in the group?

    What if that person leaves in the middle of the deal they’re working on? He/she leaves with all the knowledge. Then you have to re-train someone who’s not familiar with the deal.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes. It happens but it depends on how the information loop is structured in your team

  14. I want to be an investment banker. I’m really good at math and economics is another strong subject of mine. I don’t know if I’m cut out for 100 hours of work though, because I am kind of neurotic (overstress a lot) and am used to 9 hours of sleep even in college, versus other kids’ 4-7. However, I’d be willing to sacrifice it for a few years if I could make a lot of money. However, how much money does an investment banker actually make? I’m talking a competent investment banker at a big firm. The average salary for an analyst is listed around 100-120k but I know that a good analyst at a big firm would likely be higher.

    1. More info: Double majored in economics and math at Stanford. Graduated in 3 years magna cum laude. MBA from Harvard business school.

    2. M&I - Nicole

      It really depends on your group, how much business your group does (this is dependent on the economy), and how much your bosses like you.

      FYI –

  15. Spaniard86

    Hi Brian,

    Congrats on the site! It helped me a lot with recruiting and I finally got and offer from Morgan Stanley for and off-cycle internship within IBD in London. I just finished “Monkey Business”,and wanted to know if you think that being an analyt/junior associate is still as tough as they depict it in this book.
    Keep up te good work. Thanks!

    1. Sadly it hasn’t changed much from what’s in the book. Technology has advanced but people still have the same attitudes and you’ll still be doing tons of stupid stuff all the time.

  16. I’m comfortable with the idea of working long hours in investment banking. I’ve learned to accept it as a simple reality, but I have a unique question. I’m a big dog lover and with my current understanding of the time commitment of investment banking, it simply wouldn’t be realistic to own a dog. Is this correct or is it within reason to own a dog and still be an investment banker (analyst)?

    1. my apologies- you already answered this question. thanks

    2. Not realistic unless you have someone else to take care of it.

  17. In investment banking, is there ample time for a family or relationships?

    1. No. Read the rest of this site, especially the “On the Job” section.

  18. James Brown

    I got into an argument about this today, with someone who (it is now apparent) reads this website and frankly the arguments made here simply don’t convince me.

    You state that no other industries have as demanding clients, or as unpredictable workloads as Investment Banking, Rubbish! I’ve had the opportunity to work for both Investment Banks and Offshore oil service companies on summer and year placements respectively, and let me tell you having to redesign, source parts and manpower and oversee construction on an offshore platform gas pipeline to replace one that it is severed and set to explode at any moment is hell of alot more difficult than having to change a 22 page model. As are dealing with boat collisions, production stoppages and hundred of other events that can occur quite frequently but without warning ( and even when lives aren’t at stake, considering many platforms can earn up to £16 million a day in revenues delays can be no less expensive than a IB deal being called off).

    And do these oil companies workers have to work ridiculously long hours? Hell no they simply structure manpower better through using nightshifts to keep the company going at full capacity 24/7 or through being able to easily move emergency work to other offices in other timezones with less work (which they are able to do through extremely good documentation and knowledge controls which brings me onto my next point.)

    Division of labour? Impossible? Seriously? Come on this is just an excuse for poor management and processes again if engineering companies such as rolls royce say can assemble and design extremely complex pieces of equipment in short timeframes with 100s of workers all working simultaneously producing interconnected parts in offices spread across the globe, then I somewhat think (and know) that getting two analysts to work on a powerpoint at the same time ain’t rocket science. All you need is good documentation and change control and that frankly ain’t hard.

    These arguments to me frankly seem as poor excuses for deeper underlying problems and any industry that claims working such long hours is a positive (as some recruiters to my puzzlement sometimes do “you wont work or be pushed harder anywhere else”) is one that frankly strikes me as rather masochist.

    1. Hi – I don’t have the time or energy to debate these points in detail with you. I’m sure you work a lot in your industry. But go around and ask investment bankers and you will see that they pull crazy hours constantly as well.

      The issue of division of labor: read The Mythical Man-Month to understand this. What analysts do is more like software development at times: extremely complex Excel models. Adding more people won’t make it any easier, it just creates more communication channels and slows down the process. You can’t compare it to cars because there the design is well-known and you are just modifying/improving it but how everything fits together is much more straightforward than with software or complex models.

      Again, I appreciate the comment but just don’t have the time or energy to write pages in response. This site is a business and I spend most of my time serving customers and developing courses.

      Feel free to disagree or think whatever you want – this is not a matter of life and death, and certainly not something you should spend much time thinking about.

  19. Philosopher

    While everyone works long hours, I’ve noticed patterns with certain people working consistently longer hours than others. Interestingly I am becoming convinced that there is no correlation between how fast people work and how long they work. In fact the highest ranked tend to be split on both end of the extremes.

    Your thoughts? Is there any real hope that lifestyle would improve, even if slightly, as excel, ppoint mastery increases?

    1. It does get slightly better as you become faster with Excel and PPT but it’s still banking and you’re still going to work a lot and have an unpredictable schedule.

  20. Hello Brian,

    I really wanted to read everything you had to offer on this site before making a comment, but I just had to ask this question.  I understand that IBD takes a rather long time spent at the office…fine.  How do you attend to your personal health and hygiene?  I wasn’t sure if you’ve covered this elsewhere even though I’ve read about 30%-40% of the site and didn’t see an answer for this.  I really have been looking to get involved in this field, but the only setback is the hours that dentist and medical offices are open are the time you must be at work.  When do you have time to go to the dentist, go to the doctor for an annual since there are a lot of models and bottles-haha, get a hair cut, or other personal things that you can’t hire someone to take care of for you?   

    I enjoy the site a great deal being that I haven’t found anything close to supplying what really happens and what it takes to survive and excel in this world. 

    1. You can always ask for time out or say you have to stop out for an hour and have someone else cover for you. They understand that you have to go to the doctor occasionally so that you don’t die.

  21. IB Hopefully

    Hello Brian,

    I really wanted to read everything you had to offer on this site before making a comment, but I just had to ask this question. I understand that IBD takes a rather long time spent at the office…fine. How do you attend to your personal health and hygiene? I wasn’t sure if you’ve covered this elsewhere even though I’ve read about

    1. There is a lot of downtime / you can just tell your team you have a doctor’s appointment etc… no one is going to say, “Sorry, you must kill yourself instead of going to the hospital” – not that they care about you, but they don’t want to pay to find someone to replace you.

      1. Thanks alot for the heads up and advice, but I read the page to the link you supplied about a week ago. I didn’t really get the answer I wanted from there, but your direct correspondence has changed that.

        By the way, this site is addictive. Truly a good idea for those looking to further their career as an Investment Banker. I look forward to learning more of what you have to offer.

        1. Matthias

          I totally agree! I’ve discovered the site only recently, but in this short period I’ve learned so much about IB.
          I am currently working within the Risk Department of a commercial bank to gain some experience as I have no financial background (I know this is not a must for IB, but I’m sure some experience (and probably a good looking MBA) will help me to get into IB within a couple of years).

          Looking forward to see what you’ve got to offer us in the coming weeks/months/years!

  22. Do u think an analyst, or even an associate, would have personal time to have and take care of a dog. Or r the hours too unpredictable? I know this is an out of the blue question, but it’s a factor to consider.

    1. Not unless you hire someone to take care of the dog

  23. […] What is Investment Banking?: Ari Gold: What Bankers Actually Do,Why NOT Do Investment Banking, Why You Work 100 Hours Per Week,The Jack Bauer Guide to Investment Banking […]

  24. Recktmedz

    Nice Art…

  25. oxbridge

    Do you know anyone working in the IBD for any BB in australia? What are the hours like? Similar to NY?

    (BB) In terms of hours, would you say:
    NY > LO/ASIA > AUS

    1. There is an article on the topic here:

      Australia is definitely lower hours overall but not that much different at a bulge bracket.

  26. Is it completely uncommon for analysts to drop out before their two years are up? I mean more out of the “can’t deal with it anymore” type dropping out, not dropping out after a year because they only wanted to do it a year.

    1. Plenty of analysts do that, but usually they wait until the 1-year mark rather than quitting early and foregoing their bonus.

  27. I have been hired by a large investment bank in Canada as an analyst. I have no real financial or valuation modeling experience, is this an issue or will I be properly trained upon arriving?

    1. If it’s a large bank they will train you

  28. An article about “Staying Alive! or Awake!” must be helpful =)
    Maybe a Survival Guide through this body-deteriorating periods.

    1. that’s a great idea :)

  29. This question may be a bit off topic.

    How Old is Too Old for Banking?
    I keep hearing ppl drag’n about how *old* folks wont be able
    to keep up with the pace and 100+ hours in investment banking.

    So as a ex-ibanker, what do you think?
    How old was the oldest analyst or associate you’ve seen?

    1. See the FAQ. 30 for Analysts, 40 for Associates.

  30. Parker Paulin

    Nice article. I was just reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, he brings up an idea about a 10,000 hour rule. This rule, he states, is the amount of time that it takes a person to truly master a subject. Thinking in this vein, and adding to your section on specific knowledge, forcing bankers to put in +100hr weeks helps them to reach a point of mastery much more quickly than if they were to work 40-60hr weeks. Additionally, he discusses the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies in hockey where at young ages kids are selected to receive extra training based, unfairly, on their size (and thus the possibility that they’ll be good). This extra training actually makes them better, so that when the next selection period comes around they really are more likely to be successful than their peers. If we combine this idea with a belief that i-banking is a competitive atmosphere, where people are driven to be more successful than their peers (even in a team environment), it is possible to think of a theoretical game scenario where two players have the choice to work either 40 hours a week or 100 hours a week. If they both choose 40, they will progress at an equal rate, which leaves them equally likely to receive a promotion. If one works 100 hours a week and the other 40 hours a week, the player who worked 100 hours will receive the promotion. If they both work 100 hours a week, they again progress at the same rate, which again leaves them both equally likely to get the promotion. This is an example of a prisoner’s dilemma game, where even though the optimal choice (for the bankers-not the bank) is 40-40, the equilibrium is 100-100.

    1. Maybe, but there’s no way it takes 10,000 hours to master something as simple as i-banking…

      1. Brian, 10,000 hours at 100 hours a week translates to 100 weeks, which is *just* 2 years. Surely u dont consider analysts with just 2 years experience (not even associates) as Masters, even in such a simple field as i-banking, right? :)

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Mastery isn’t all about the hours. Its about working smart & knowing how to play the game.

          What Brian meant was it doesn’t take more than 10,000 hours to master (grunt) work in banking (due diligence, modeling, etc).

          I agree that it takes more than 2 years to do what senior bankers do – When you advance, you will need to build relationships to originate deals. But Brian wasn’t referring to this aspect.

    2. This comment about the 10,000 hour rule as discussed in Outliers is misleading. If you read the book, he has a very specific definition for deliberate practice – which is what you were getting at – and it does not qualify to just do something repeatedly for 10,000 hours. The definition he uses involves deliberate and planned execution specifically designed to improve in small increments over time. It’s not fun, it’s not doing what you’re already good at, and it involves pushing your boundaries. I think he discusses this at length and it’s one of the reasons why it’s not the same thing as just “doing” something for 10,000 hours. I’m not debating the merits or the challenges of investment banking, but I am saying you’re taking the subject of the book out of context and watering it down.

  31. […] Mergers & Inquisitions on why you work so much as an investment banker. […]

  32. I would agree with the above. Would also add that some banks try to run lean (i.e. the real sweatshops), which means that while you may be on a deal that requires late hours, you may also be put on something else. I think this is what really creates the long hours, at least in my case, because you get through the work for a particular client and then you have something else that you have to do that you can’t start until you are finished with work your client requested.

    This is what the difference is between 70/80 hour weeks to 100 hour weeks.

    1. Yeah, some places just love to abuse you….

  33. Summer Analyst

    Interned at a large European firm and two U.S. bulge brackets as a SA for IBD, and I think it’s really 50% demand and 50% the team’s culture.

    There’s that unpredictable demand and inability to divide work efficiently, but when the team (I mean like SVPs and MDs) wants face-time… whew…

    I always did my internship with the principle that SAs should be the first one in, and last one out. And, even though all those firms I worked for had lots of demand, at the European one I only worked about 80 hour weeks, where one of the U.S. bulge brackets, I worked regularly over 110 hours a week. (Sadly, I’m going back to the firm this summer…)

    And it’s very very true that the “knowledge” aspects of it plays into a very crucial role. To give some example, I got a call three weeks after my internship was over from my VP about a pitch that I worked on w/o an analyst/associate (directly with VP because of staffing crunch). I was on the phone with him and analysts I worked over the summer from 10pm to 1am trying to transfer all the knowledge and work I’ve put into it so they can crunch out the final draft before a potential meet with the client next day.

    1. Yup exactly. My last week before leaving was fun, I had to tell everyone what was going on on about 10 different projects… argh.

    2. Though no one can deny the long and brutal hours banking analysts work, I have never, ever under any circumstances worked, seen any one work or heard of a single banker spending 110+ hours on a regular basis in the office. So, Summer Analyst, either your exaggerating or you work for a bank who’s CEO is Satan himself and is headquartered in Hell and not Wall Street.

      1. Haha everyone exaggerates I suppose. 110+ hours on a regular basis sounds unrealistic, though it may happen every once in awhile…

  34. Singaporean Intern

    HAHAHA! I love ur sense of humour :)

  35. Singaporean Intern

    I’m an intern at the moment and am ‘liking’ it so far… but don’t you just get annoyed about being asked to do completely irrelevant and pointless stuff some time?? Does it happen regularly and how do you cope with it? I mean ur already doing 100hr weeks and the last thing i would want to do is make a model that took me 5 hrs just for some fat cat in the middle of nowhere to laugh at!

    1. Welcome to banking!

  36. Sydney Banker

    Uhhh… soo much pitch work… brain hurting!!

    1. At least you have this site!

  37. Wait…I’m kind of confused.

    Didn’t banks overhire in 07/08, and that’s why the industry is facing such drastic human capital dislocation (sorry for the HR speak…gotta get it out of my system somehow…)?

    I think that’s part of the reason why there’s so many layoffs, correct?

    1. In absolute terms, yes, there is -less- work that needs to be done in a recession.

      But those who are LEFT are still working long hours for the most part – it’s just that they’re focused on marketing rather than clients.

  38. It seems to me that working 80-100+ hours a week are too deeply embedded into the investment banking culture to ever really change.

    The only way it could change is for a leader in the field, or an upcoming leader, to change the culture of working ridiculous hours to meet every demand. However, the rewards are many for those that value the money (obviously), prestige, and opportunity to learn more about an industry than they’d ever hope to know.

    I’d be willing to work 100+ hours a week for a great paycheck, but that’s just me.


    1. Yeah that’s true… it’s so embedded into the culture now that it would be difficult to change overnight. There’s always that, “work hard, play hard” mentality in everyones’ mind.

      1. Carlos A.

        The first step to change that embedded culture is “Not to do the same to other customer service executives ” (our own executives). If I forgot to do something important in a company service I won’t call at 2 am to the customer service executive even when it works 24 h/7 days at week; because the mistake it’s not caused by his fault, that’s my problem and my responsability. I preffer to re-order the things to do next morning or create a solution but not at coast of over-work from others.
        If you do the same I’m telling and teach it to your children, little by little the world business culture will change. Except a big leader or a guru appeared and could do it radically…

  39. Tongue in cheek?

    1. Of course not, I really do feel sorry for my old MDs. :)

  40. Nice article, although I think you understate the correlation between the size of the fees charged by investment banks and the necessity of immediately addressing each and every client demand. Those who decide what size fees to charge (MDs) are naturally inclined to charge as much as possible while still getting the assignment. The problem with this is that it creates expectations with the client that his or her investment banker is working around the clock and catering to his or her every need. Presumably, if the fees charged were slightly more ‘reasonable’ (a relative term to be sure), client demands would not take precedence over, say, an analyst’s Christmas dinner. As a case in point, corporate executives have plenty of people working for them whom they would not ask or expect to work until 2am on a given night or to come in on the weekend, and the reason is that those people are not paid to do so. Senior bankers, on the other hand make a point of creating those expectations, in effect writing checks with the time of the people under them in an attempt to justify the size of a fee. Now I will grant that there are clients and situations that will demand 24 hour attention for one reason or another (ego, timing, past mistakes, etc.) but in general, I don’t think the correlation between fee size and client expectation can be understated.

    1. Yup that is very true. This is why I never want to go into a business where I charge that much money, it just sets expectations way too high.

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