What banker careers really look like: real private data

bankerella's picture
Rank: Neanderthal | 2,154

Mod Note: Throwback Thursday: this post originally went up on 8/22/12.

The most common arguments on WSO are about what it really takes to make it to Wall Street... and then what your options are if you get there. Working professionals come here to engage in witty banter and relax, only to spend half our time here debunking bullshit and writing advice based on our (limited) personal experiences.

How can we cut to the chase and give these kids hard data on which to base their life decisions, as well as save ourselves some time so we can get back to important things like ass and titties?

The answer came to me as I was googling a few ex-coworkers from a long time ago, just to see how they've been doing and whether I've done better or worse (something people do far more than they'd like to admit). The data is out there.

Yeah, anyone with enough connections could throw a data set together from LinkedIn. But let's face it: there are a lot of losers out there who did some shitty back-office role at GS five years ago and are now answering phones at Ameriprise. We don't want them in the data set. We want certified ballers only, right?

Let's just say that, thanks to some HR friends and a truly brilliant data miner, I now have a high-quality data set that contains details of education and career path (over the past 5-10 years) of hundreds of bulge-bracket investment bankers at every level from analyst to MD. (Yes, it has names and such as well, but obviously I'm not sharing those.) It is longitudinal, meaning that it follows these bankers from a certain point in their careers up until today. It also gives a sense as to comparative compensation levels, though no dollar figures there.

Just looking at the initial cut of the data, I see lots of surprises. (The last 10-15% of the data is still being compiled, so I'll throw hard numbers behind these statements when I have them.)

  • A lot of these people did their undergrad at good state schools. Far more than I expected, at every level. Maybe I shouldn't worship quite so intently at the HYPS altar.
  • Far more analysts got a direct promotion to associate than I expected.
  • Canadians are everywhere. Some kind of secret fucking society. (Hey Canadians, if you love socialism so much, why did you cross the border to fuel the capitalist juggernaut? How's that Visa status looking, by the way? Better keep your nose clean or you'll be back in fucking Saskatchewan cutting lumber with your six brothers before you can say "Tim Hortons".)
  • Late career is more brutal than it looks. People who leave the firm over 50 almost always take a big step down. People who stay are either the 1/1000 who can ride that bull all the way to the top... or they gradually get put out to pasture. From what I can tell in the data set, it doesn't look voluntary (i.e., comp/dealflow starts to wane, then two years later they're either playing poker or they start a boutique shop with two buddies and an analyst and have no dealflow).
  • More associates than I thought come from nontraditional paths (i.e., not straight from the analyst program or b-school.
  • The concept of a two-year analyst program is just that: a concept. The actual tenure of people hired into traditional two-year programs varies from that ideal by quite a bit.

There are more surprises here, but I'll get to them. Let me ask you: what sort of queries should we run on this to answer some of the eternal debates here?
Some examples of questions we could answer:

  • Average/max age upon entering business school?
  • Is business school necessary?
  • What percent of people who start a two-year analyst program actually finish it?
  • What percent of analysts actually accomplish a 2+2 banking/PE combo?
  • Which b-schools will get you there? (So far, this looks pretty traditional. I think the point may go to Brady on this one.)
  • How many chicks make it to MD, and is comp similar to males?
  • How many chicks make it past analyst? Associate?
  • Ditto Asians/Indians (would take some doing since I don't have ethnicity data in the set, but could be done).
  • On average, how many Wall Street firms do people work for over their careers?


EDIT: By the way, don't bother asking a question if you're not ready for the answer. This hasn't happened yet, but I fully expect someone to start dissing the data if the answer isn't what they want/expect to hear. (This ain't my first time at that particular rodeo, kids.)

Going deep into sampling methodology would risk burning my source, not to mention myself. So folks will have to take me at my word that the sampling method is sufficiently strong. If you don't take me at my word, don't ask the question.

The entire point of statistical sampling is to cut through existing bias, not confirm it. So if you just want some stats to confirm your belief, it's probably easier to just play senior banker (or WSO monkey) and make up some stats that sound right to you.

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