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What are the long-term prospects for people pursuing careers in finance and what is the culture of the industry? I feel that students entering into the financial services industry don't have much of a plan (perhaps you don't really need one) except to exit into private equity or attend business school. What happens afterwards when you are 30 or 40? Are you on a sustainable career or do you milk it for all its worth until you get canned?

My views:
1) Financial services has recently been highly volatile with low job stability. (I don't know if this is generally the case)The skills you gain as an analyst tend to be more technical but success in the industry requires cultivating contacts and being highly personable. Essentially, once you're a VP or MD and you're fired or have your reputation tarnished, it's difficult to maintain your lifestyle with the skills that you actually have.

2) Undergraduate students have no idea what to do after they go to business school and/or enter into private equity. This is of course after they've exploited the numerous "exit ops" after being a 1st or 2nd year analyst. It seems that students are short-term greedy and don't have concrete plans after 5 years.

3) The more I meet MD's, the less I want to become one. I may be unlucky, but I tended to meet staid and boring individuals. I don't want to be a workaholic who puts off fun until 50. I feel that people who enter into the industry tend to just put up with a lot of crap for the money, and there is a lack of job satisfaction.

So, just some uncertainties I have regarding the industry and the people who enter. How pervasive is the attitude, "I'm going to make so much money that I can retire when I'm 40?" Thanks for any input, especially from older professionals who have a much better perspective.

Comments (12)

  • Marcus_Halberstram's picture

    #1- the industry has been and always will be highly volatile with low job stability; this isn't something new. I was reading an article in the throes of the credit crisis about lay offs on wall street and how this marks a major paradigm shift in Wall Street excess and culture and will shake the way banks do business to the core. The more I read the more I kept getting a dejavu feeling. Finally I went to the date on the article and it was published in 2001, I had the same article almost 10 years prior.

    #2- Undergraduate students have no idea what they want to do after b-school? So what? There's nothing wrong with that. You've never worked a day in your life, much less worked in such a demanding environment making such huge sacrifices. You have no idea how you'll deal with it for a protracted period of time, if you'll be a rock star or mediocre or below average, how much you'll enjoy it once the novelty of it wears off etc... there's nothing wrong with leaving undergrad at 21, 22 years old with the intent of getting on the 2+2+2 track and figuring out what you you're going to do long-term somewhere along the way. In fact the kids who are the know-it-alls and swear they know exactly what they'll be doing 5 years down the line are immature and naive.

    #3- I think its a mixed bag. I know a lot of MDs that are actually pretty cool. Its usually the ones that are laid back and not completely full of themselves that are normal. How many MDs have you met exactly? And of those, how many actually gave enough of a shit about you to have a real (non-recruiting) conversation with you?

    As for your actual question about long-term prospects in the industry... different strokes for different folks. Maybe you'll be a career banker. Maybe you'll move to the buyside, get your MBA and go back to the buyside on a partner track. Maybe you'll switch completely out of finance all together. Maybe you'll leave banking for a more moderate lifestyle in another finance capacity... a lot of women do this because of the challenges in such a demanding career and having a family (many move to IR on the buyside, HR in banks, etc...). Many people move to a CorpFin/Biz Dev type roles.

    It all depends on the person. I know people who fit every single one of those scenarios I listed above. As you move through the 2+2+2 you learn to stop following the track and do whats right for you, because it doesn't matter where you work if you're miserable doing it.

  • D M's picture

    1) After working 90 hours/week for two years you have an insane work ethic. This is probably the most valuable thing you learn. It's just like any job, become a plumber, after 15 years your job options are limited unless you learn a new trade. Also, VPs/MDs (if youre not a moron) have been networking the whole time they've been in the business. Exit ops could include going to work for some other company in the same type of business or moving out to a company youve done work with in the industry you're an expert on. Or starting your own company.

    2) What's your point? I think a lot of people have an idea of what they want to do, at least coming out of B-school. Lots of people seem interested in entrepeneurial pursuits, continuing in PE/IB/whatever, corpfin if they want lifestyle or a number of other options. It's up to you to decide what YOU want to do after you go to B-school (if you even do go).

    3) You work your ass off in IB, that's just how it is. If you want a work/life balance, give some thought to PWM or corpfin or something that requires less of a ridiculous schedule. If you want to make so much money that you can retire when youre 40, look into PE/HF, but you're going to have to live a somewhat muted lifestyle.

    Im not an older professional, but these are all questions that you can easily come up with the answers on your own. Dont want to work 70 hours a week until youre 50? Dont do IB. Think about what you may want to do after B-school, your ideas will probably change as you work as an analyst or whatever you do. It happens, it's normal. Make a bunch of different plans if youre concerned about what you are going to do after so you have a general idea of different post-analyst career paths. Seems like you need to do some introspection, not have other people tell you what to do.

    "You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer
    "Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee

  • Marcus_Halberstram's picture

    As an aside, the douchey senior bankers are the ones where work is still their #1 priority, its still the most important thing in their life and their #1 priority... which at 40-50 years old, is just fucking sad. In addition, they tie most of their self-worth up in their careers so they feel the need to make themselves feel important by being douchey and posturing how successful they are.

    Its a pretty pathetic and pitiful existence if you ask me, and I've started to come to the conclusion that all of these people are the ones who somewhere along their junior banker days didn't see the light and realize that they need to find something that they find personally fulfilling.. 10-20 years down the line, its too late and they're stuck with what they've got and they refuse to let go of this delusion that they did in fact get all they wanted out of life.

  • Dr Barnaby Fulton's picture

    I disagree with your MD being boring assholes. About a month ago, I met an MD on campus who was the fucking man. He was interesting to talk to, was not a one dimensional know-it-all, and bought everyone a bunch of drinks at the bar after the alumni event.

    On the other hand, I've met another MD who is an egotistical douche bag. I had an interview with him (as a sophomore) and he started asking me questions in Spanish because I told him I studied abroad for a few weeks in a Spanish speaking country. At the end of the interview, he told me IBanking is on the same level of NFL, MLB, NBA, etc,. and I couldn't cut it.

    The funny thing about this....the asshole was an MD at some no name boutique in Cleveland and the cool guy was named a partner at Goldman the week after he was on campus. MD assholes are like any other asshole ....they have an inferiority complex.

  • brewster-keegan's picture

    Thanks for the posts. I definitely agree that I need to some more introspection, but I also need more information to make a decision. I want to try to avoid a path that leads off a cliff (in general whether it be an engineer or plumber, not saying investment banking leads off a cliff at all).

    Feel free to judge and bash this dilemma that I'm facing, but I've thought about pursuing a career in medicine. Also, feel free to make the connection between medicine and banking (hint: it sure as hell ain't altruism). I'm an engineer and more technical, and I know that medicine is perhaps even more of a structured path than banking. Once you're 27-29, you're almost completely SOL if you decide you want to become a specialist or surgeon. I realize that this is a 180 degree turn, probably shows that I'm not man enough to fulfill my greed, but I just want to see what the culture and attitudes of investment bankers are. I'm also in the process of researching the lifestyles and culture of doctors.

    What happens to people who put life ahead of work and realize that they want more balance in their life? Do they go to business development or work in the corporate finance departments of companies and in general earn less income? Since money is a lubricant for many unpalatable experiences, I just feel that it'd be a shame to come out of banking in a job that anyone with a finance degree could do, especially after enduring so much. Sure you come out with a work ethic, but I'm sure that special forces soldiers and MIT engineers can put up with a lot as well. I guess I came into university without an idea of what the financial services industry does or what the culture and ideology of bankers are. I don't want to follow the herd mentality and I want to be more aware of opportunities, career satisfaction, and lifestyle after the IB, MBA, and PE.

  • Kenny_Powers_CFA's picture

    You want boring try working with accounting firm partners.

    There have been many great comebacks throughout history. Jesus was dead but then came back as an all-powerful God-Zombie.

  • wolverine19x89's picture


    If your dreams don't scare you, then they are not big enough.

    "There are two types of people in this world: People who say they pee in the shower, and dirty fucking liars."-Louis C.K.