It strikes me as bizarre when I hear IB analysts talking about the "exit options" that justify their otherwise miserable career choices. First of all, the fact that the banking career has to advertise itself by promising advancement into other careers indicates that it must truly suck everywhere. Second, I don't see why this claim of "exit options!!!!!111 LoLZomFg" would be true at all. Why in the hell would anyone hire an ex-analyst?
Analyst programs are extremely unselective, and the people in them don't learn shit. They do all the grunt work no one wants to do, because they have no power to delegate and are seen as essentially disposable. The attitude of the bank toward the analyst is: "This dumb fucker thinks he's going to get rich; let's see how much humiliating garbage work we can pile on him before he figures out he's a loser." Why, I ask with no irony, would anyone hire an ex-analyst? If anything, analyst experience is a negative, because of its inevitable tendency to lead premature burnout, pervasive and probably uncorrectable negative attitudes about work, and the high probability of job-related permanent stress disorders.
People go into analyst programs expecting to be picked as "protÃ©gÃ©" by some sort of a corporate finance or trading legend. This is pretty much the only way to get a pass on the dehumanizing work, shitty probabilities of advancement, and miserable hours-- you only need to please one person, and he'll ensure your career success. But "protÃ©gÃ©", my friends, is extremely fucking rare. Very rarely does an investment banking legend wake up and decide that, out of the goodness of his heart, he's going to take a fresh young talent under his wing. You need him, but he definitely does not need you. Most often, he picks someone other than you. Since investment banking is a horrible waste of time for those not lucky enough to become protÃ©gÃ©, well... it ends up being a massive loss for most people.
It seems the reason for the supposedly great exit options coming out of IB is roughly as follows: upon exit from an analyst program, each one claims to have been a star-- he tore up the fast track, received top bonus each year, and managed to get put on interesting (yeah, right) assignments-- when applying for jobs at private equity firms and hedge funds. Banks are often called to verify the details, but rarely contradict their alumni, knowing that it reflects well on them to have an image of having loads of interesting work and being extremely generous with bonuses. It never ceases to amuse me that 90-95% of analyst program alumni claim, in applying for future jobs, to have been in the top 5% of their analyst classes... and that they invariantly get away with it.
To me, all that an analyst stint says is: "I have loads of empty ambition, and wasted my youth doing humiliating grunt work because I thought it would make me rich." Why is that attractive at all, much less enough to command "great exit options"?