A Day in Life of My Sell-side Days

I got people find this very relatable and funny, but sadly real. Enjoy. 

During my sell-side days, I lived in Manhattan and my apartment was 3 blocks away from the office. This represents a day during earnings season, so it's particularly bad, but more entertaining (for you only of course.)

6:00am – Wake up, brush teeth, shower, make coffee.

6:30am – Attempt to read Wall Street Journal, but fail. Instead I watch last night's NBA highlights for an hour.

7:30am – Head to office while listening to podcast about an investing nerd interviewing another investing nerd

7:45am – I observe a giant line of people waiting to get breakfast from this flimsy food truck, owned by this gentleman who sells watery coffee for $1.50 and stale donuts / bagels for $2.00. After a 15-min wait, I get my turn and order "The Usual" – breakfast sausage on a (bagel) roll with two eggs, cuz I eat like a champion.

I also get another large coffee, knowing it's a long day ahead with FOUR of our companies report earnings after market close. 

8:00am – Enter the office. My MD (Managing Director, the Senior Analyst) doesn't come in until 9am. I check my email and then talk to a buddy who covers retail. He is a "closet buy-sider", so every conversation with him ends up being an hour long because I enjoy talking to him about stocks. 

9:00am – My analyst walks into the office. He is a good guy. He small talks with me briefly, but his office phone rings. He has to close his door and get down to serve clients.

9:30am – Market opens. Equity sales person begs me to talk to a client, some old dude Portfolio Manager from a Midwest state pension fund who barely trades and is of course asking about the attractiveness of legacy tech companies as investments. I agree to babysit him for an hour, and at least he is long-term oriented.

10:30am – My MD is off the phone and calls me into his office to brainstorm a deep dive note. Of course, I already know this note is going to be a waste of time and no client will read it. But mindlessly writing the note is less exhausting than convincing him that his idea is stupid. I prefer him to find out through the lack of client readership and call requests.

I tell him I will put together an outline for his review. He doesn't even correct my outline, cuz by now I know pretty well what he wants.

11:00am – Getting hungry, but another equity salesperson calls to ask if I can talk to her pod shop client. I fake a stomach ache, cuz I never want to debate with a pod shop person.

Instead, I go upstairs to hang out with my research buddies who cover financials and try to line up a group of slackers to get lunch together. Turns out everyone else has real work to do, so I go back to my cube to research fantasy football lineup. 

12:00pm – Lunch time! A coalition of lunch-getter is formed: my teammate, two from the Media team, and two from the Insurance team. We go to this Lebanese place near office. I get my chicken shawarma with extra chicken and extra garlic sauce. Bad, food coma-inducing move on an earnings day, but life is short.

12:30pm – Finish the food in the office kitchen. Time to do some real work after some calls and goofing around.

1:00pm – I start "prepping the earnings." I will be responsible for two companies tonight. I copy last quarter's notes into a new template and highlight the numbers to be updated when the actuals come out.

3:00pm – Done with the prep. The actual work takes me half an hour. The rest of time I go to vending machine like 5 times.  

3:30pm – My MD finally comes to his senses that four companies are reporting tonight after a full day on the phone with clients and his channel check contacts. He starts tripping out, without knowing my teammate and I have done the prep work (If we count on the him to be a good project manager, we will all be homeless.)

The game plan is: For the HOLD-rated company, my MD will not dial in to congratulate the management on a great quarter. The other three, my teammate and I have to dial into the conference call before it starts and press star-1 to put my MD in queue so he can ask management a question.

We also have to do "call backs" which are exclusive group or 1-on-1 calls with the company management for sell-side analyst to ask more questions. But callbacks usually become a giant schmoozing session so it's a 15-minute to an hour of wasted time for the junior sell-siders like me. 

We are now on hold for three earnings conference calls, big boss is in the question queue. We are lock and loaded.

4:15pm – Earnings are out. Two companies beat earnings and raise guidance (the good ol' "beat and raise") and we are BUY-rated, so the big boss is victory lapping.

The third BUY-rated company sht the bed, stock is down 20%, but big boss doesn't seem to care, because we are the lead-left banker. BUY-rating for management access and investment banking fees.

5:00pm – I listen to my company's earnings calls, which drop in informational value rapidly after the third analyst question. So I start writing the notes, I just regurgitate the positives said on the conference call and make sure the answer to my analyst's question is included in the note. Easy peasy.

Then I update the models with actual results and goal-seek (oh yes, the secret weapon) my forecast to match the top end of company's guidance (since we are BUY-rated).

7:00pm – Done with all the work, but management callbacks are going to be very late (damn you, west coast companies), so this shapes out to be a midnight day. I order dinner from my favorite Thai place for four days in a row, so at this point it really just comes down to some permutation of Pad Thai, Pad See Ew or Pad Kee Mao (some sort of Pad basically). Also need my Thai iced tea and deep fried Crab Rangoon. Yes, I stress eat. Don't judge.

9:00pm – My MD barely knew what the quarter result for one of my companies because he was hopping between four earnings calls. I knew he will ask a super generic question on the callback. As always, I was right – he asked "so what inning are we in for 5G?" a question you can even ask a farm equipment company.

10:00pm – My MD ok's my notes and models. I submit for Supervisory Analyst approval. Of course, those SOBs reject the notes, citing that I cannot use provocative note titles, so I had to reword and resubmit.

There is a long queue for notes approval because it's earnings season. I walk around to annoy the oil and gas research guys who have 20 companies reporting at once. I feel a little better relatively. 

11:00pm – Notes are approved. I hang around for a bit to spiritually support my teammate as he is writing the script for my MD to go on morning call tomorrow to explain the 20% blow up of our BUY-rated name.

11:30pm – We are all done for the day. My MD heads out, implying I can head out 10 minutes after, so that I don't run into him in the elevator. I walk home and crash in bed. Tomorrow I need to come in at 6am for the morning call.

Comments (71)

May 10, 2022 - 9:41pm
Associate2416, what's your opinion? Comment below:

So how has your routine changed since you started WFH? What are your thoughts about back to office vs. remote?

May 10, 2022 - 10:22pm
dickthesellsider, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I no longer work on the sell-side. But when I was WFH, I was already working for my analyst for a while, so WFH was great in some aspects. 

I think new entrants should work in office (hybrid is fine) and learn the profession and what your analyst wants as in-person as possible. As you have gone through 2-3 earnings cycles and know what you are doing, fully remote is fine to be honest. 

May 11, 2022 - 2:45pm
NoEquityResearch, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Fairly accurate for myself during earnings, but it was more intense. Wake up at 5 a.m. and am already working on drafts of notes or working on updating a post-earnings industry piece by 6 a.m.. There was a lot less quiet morning that you're describing. Also, in my case, if four companies were reporting, I was writing all four reports.  If six companies were reporting, maybe the lead analyst would write 1 or 2 of the notes.  Would end most earnings days between 10 pm to 2 a.m. 

Only other thing that I would note is more urgency from the sales guys. 10 minutes after earnings came out, they want a summary of key points and what's important and they want it NOW! But besides that, this is a pretty good outline.

May 11, 2022 - 3:00pm
dickthesellsider, what's your opinion? Comment below:

God, I just ignore sales who call right away. Technically not a compliant move to be calling us. 

Also this is not an article to claim myself to be the biggest loser in sell-side research. If there is a competition, we are all losers, only variability would be the extent of it. 

May 11, 2022 - 3:04pm
NoEquityResearch, what's your opinion? Comment below:

dickthesellsider

God, I just ignore sales who call right away. Technically not a compliant move to be calling us. 

As  I remember, there is some fine print to this.  You can't say. T"errible quarter I'm dropping the the Buy recommendation" but you can provide a general summary of what happened.

Also, I've noticed across different shops that there is a spectrum interpretation of SEC rules. Some shops don't want you talking to sales at all as you note while others ok with an informational summary for example. This is true on a lot of equity research related issues.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
May 11, 2022 - 3:08pm

Great stuff dick. Did you ever break into the buyside ? I always assumed you were a sell side lifer given your screen name so it was funny to hear about you watching nba highlights and football fantasy and not really putting that much effort into making highest quality notes. What do you think about the odds of making senior analyst ? Is it just too much of a wait and likely to never happen since these guys never move from their seats? What kind of role are you in now ? 

May 11, 2022 - 3:24pm
dickthesellsider, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks! I did break into the buy-side, but I left my job earlier in the year. I am a full-time entrepreneur building a coaching business helping students and working professionals get jobs in sell-side and buy-side research. 

I think the odds of making senior analyst have always been hard because it takes a lot to build a brand and yes, it takes a long time. It's an interesting time to think about getting coverage on the sell-side and becoming a senior analyst because a lot of established analysts are hanging up the gloves and leaving to a better lifestyle career path (eg. John Pitzer, the II #1 semi analyst from Credit Suisse just left his firm) so it opens II votes for rising star types. 

  • Investment Analyst in HF - Other
May 11, 2022 - 5:24pm

I don't work on the sell-side anymore but this honestly closer to reality than I expected.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
May 11, 2022 - 6:11pm

Oh I thought this was an every day thing. That makes more sense

  • Prospect in IB - Cov
May 12, 2022 - 1:57pm

Would like to know your secret weapon for forecast adjustments. I started the ER job not long ago and I've been struggling a bit

May 12, 2022 - 11:52pm
SacrificingAdolescentYears, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yes, IB ain't that bad. I think if you're disciplined and hard working then it won't be as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I always see people complaining or ranting about the hours they work and so on. A whole bunch of cry babies if you ask me haha.

May 12, 2022 - 11:52pm
SacrificingAdolescentYears, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yes, IB ain't that bad. I think if you're disciplined and hard working then it won't be as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I always see people complaining or ranting about the hours they work and so on. A whole bunch of cry babies if you ask me haha.

May 12, 2022 - 11:52pm
SacrificingAdolescentYears, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yes, IB ain't that bad. I think if you're disciplined and hard working then it won't be as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I always see people complaining or ranting about the hours they work and so on. A whole bunch of cry babies if you ask me haha.

May 15, 2022 - 12:54am
wolfofnorthpartkstreet, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Dick, great write up as always! Love your posts. Would love to hear about your Buy Side experience, why you left the BS, Job security on the BS and what it takes to succeed on the BS. Also, would be great to hear your thoughts on how to recruit for roles in ER if I want to work for II ranked Analysts (Eg: How do you specifically target such teams?)

Thanks!

May 16, 2022 - 11:30am
Street Smart, what's your opinion? Comment below:

"10:30am – My MD is off the phone and calls me into his office to brainstorm a deep dive note. Of course, I already know this note is going to be a waste of time and no client will read it. But mindlessly writing the note is less exhausting than convincing him that his idea is stupid. I prefer him to find out through the lack of client readership and call requests."

Oh the amount of truth in this one. Even better when half of it is updating tables/charts/graphs used in a previous iteration that literally hold no relevance anymore but it's a "deep dive" so we need more pages.

May 16, 2022 - 4:29pm
Street Smart, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Not overwhelmed so much as very appreciative ha. The only thing worse are the repeated notes than you do on a weekly/monthly/quarterly basis that never get read yet still waste a day or two of my time because that one mid-level corporate guy reached out about it once so if we don't keep doing it we "can't get the banking business"...

May 28, 2022 - 10:15am
GenericUsername119, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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