IB vs. PWM

Hey everyone! This is my first time posting on here, something I never really saw myself doing but I'm not sure who else to talk to this about. I'm going into my sophomore year of college and am at a big of a fork in the road between pursuing investment banking or private wealth management. I want to make sure that for recruiting and preparing for a career I am as a ready as possible, so I sort of want to narrow down which direction I'm going to decide to head toward. 

I have no doubt I have what it takes to pursue investment banking. I could absolutely deal with the long hours, work environment, and early career grind. But I am more worried about my overall quality of life having heard and read so much about the lifestyles of people working in IB. To what degree is all of this true? Is there anyone who doesn't absolutely hate their life working in IB? I want to have time for my family, friends, and mental/physical health. I'm not saying I want to sit on my ass all day on the phone with my mom. But I want to make sure I have time for things that are important to me outside of work. If this is how I feel, is it a really bad idea to go into IB? 

I'm also considering private wealth management. I'm generally under the impression that the work/life balance would be better doing PWM, but by the same taken, I don't want to be more. I like having a certain pressure/momentum to my work environment. Also, is the compensation in PWM really never going to ramp up? If I were to stick with PWM and reach a successful level, does anyone have any sense of what kind of money I would be making. 

I really appreciate any insight anyone can offer. Thank you!!!

EDIT: I guess a follow up after having seen a few responses to this already is, if you were in my shoes right now (going into sophomore year of college) and you had total flexibility in terms of your career in front of you what career path would you choose?


you won't do great things in life if you're worried about your work life balance as a 20 year old. All the great people we know in finance had +80 hours in their 20s and 30s. embrace tradition and reject modernity. unless you want to be mediocre.

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The worst advice always comes from hardo interns... 

What is the definition of doing great things in life and becoming someone great in finance? Becoming one out of tens of thousands of MDs in IB? I'm sure you will be mentioned in the history books as one of the greats. If you are really skilled at your job, you might even see your name mentioned in a WSO thread discussing rainmaker MDs. 

IB is an industry that is very difficult to generalize in terms of WLB. You can work 50-hour weeks at a small boutique with pay that is close to BBs and have a great WLB where you can spend time with friends, family and prioritize your interests. You can also be at a sweaty group at a BB working 100+ hour weeks in a horrible culture with 0 time for anything except work. I'm at a sweaty group at GS and wouldn't recommend a long-term career in banking to my worst enemy. Hours are brutal, majority of tasks are extremely boring and repetitive, and the culture is pretty bad. It's very easy to sit on a forum thinking "sure, I could do 100+ hour weeks, no problem". However, I can assure you that no one that I am working with is even remotely happy. 

With that said, start by figuring out what type of work you are interested in. If you decide that you are indeed very interested in IB, then there are shops with good WLB but you will have to sacrifice prestige and exit opportunities. 


yeah if you are working +80 hours a week you better love what you do. Honestly, if you just follow the crowd and prestige and end up hating what you do then you deserve to be miserable. I love what I do and I'm also ok with being called a hardo. 


Even with your hours would you say it is realistic to invest in some kind of side hustle so that it could grow into a business that could replace the IB income? I am a rising junior in college and this is what I am planning on doing but want an opinion from someone that has experience


PWM and IB are opposite sides of the pendulum (in terms of work-life balance). PWM is luxurious if you have a big book, it is tough to build a book when you are younger, what successful entrepreneur is going give a 21-year-old recent graduate their life savings? I think it's a great place to start and learn as an intern and learn from the advisors, but the role is essentially operations. If you want to go into PWM I would recommend joining a team, the business is moving in this direction, gone are the days when you could build a book on your own.


Go IB. When I was an incoming sophomore I thought I wanted PWM but post networking for months and going through recruitment I realized that the PWM door will always be there regardless of what career you do, finance or not bc it’s essentially all sales. As people said before me “what kind of person trusts a 22 year old with their money”? Granted PWM at the client associate level is good WLB but if you realize that setting up accounts and explaining to people how bonds work over and over isn’t for you then the only way to realistically pivot is getting an MBA. PWM isn’t a finance role and while a successful manager can have a AUM of billions and be making 7 figures, that takes decades and the top 10% of managers manage 90% of the money. Solid career but starting in it closes doors to everything else while IB opens doors. At the end of the day if you do IB for two years and hate it you can always go PWM and at the very least people will be more trusting towards you and you can try to get people you worked with in IB for your book. This is just my 2 cents I wish someone told me before I made IB recruitment much more difficult for myself.


Did both - started in WM and worked my way into IB.

PWM is a very wide world. You *can* make lots of money, if you build a book of business and negotiate a good split with your platform. This is extremely challenging and time consuming, and requires putting yourself out there in a way that's very uncomfortable for some people, including me. If you want the WLB, you're going to be someone's associate or assistant and your compensation will be much lower, but you won't be cold-calling old people on the weekend.

IB is a much more standard experience. You're going to work a lot and make a lot (within a tight range) and you sort of know already what kind of questions you'll be asked. Eventually, IB also becomes more of a sales job, but that's at the highest level.

I moved to IB because I'm better at Excel than sales. If you're a creative and entrepreneurial salesman with a thick skin and little interest in financial analysis, go to PWM and make it happen for yourself. If you're an Excel hero who wants to be involved with high-level corporate finance, go IB. Either way, like some other guys said, you will be working very very hard if you want to be successful at it.


Haven’t started yet, but just based of my coffee chats and networking calls it definitely can be as bad as people say in IB. Health definitely deteriorated for a significant # of people. Some people definitely handle it better than others. PWM definitely can make good money though.


PWM is easier if you have the contacts/connections. There's a good number of PWM guys clearing in the 8 figures + annual earnings range. The few people I know who achieved success in the space either came from old money, married into money, or grew up around money. 

As an earlier poster mentioned, PWM is very broad space. It's not just restricted to domestic ultra high net worth clients at Morgan Stanley/UBS, but could be PWM for offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands. Its estimated that there's between 10-50 trillion of wealth offshore. 

You have to analyze your strength and weakness if you want to hit the top in either profession. Are you more of sales guy? PWM.... if not, IBD


My first internship was in PWM and now I work in investment banking, I think IB gives you more skills and a tolerance for working in a tough environment at times.

Analyzing fin statements, learning about different industries that you may want to pursue a long-term career in is how I’m using my time in banking and I think it’s helped with that quite a lot. If you did PWM off the bat not sure you’d get that.

I don’t think you should be so concerned especially at the beginning of your career about a WLB unless you have a young family. The hours for my bank have fluctuated due to deal flow a lot this year as well and will most likely continue through to 2025


Let's be honest PWM is barely finance, if at all. Essentially what you will be doing is kissing client ass (99% of the job) to convince them to give you their money. Like yea you could argue IB is also a sales job, but there is a chasm in the financial and industry knowledge required to successfully execute deals in IB vs PWM. Also, starting salaries in PWM is like $60-70k which is pretty trash (relative to IB). Most first-year IB associates make more than 95% of PWM managers.

Source: I work in a FIG team where we do a lot of PWM deals


That would be total comp. BBs tend to pay the highest for PB/PWM so you'll be looking at something like $80-90k salary and a $5-10k bonus. Not a bad gig at all especially right out of college but nothing like IB. Pretty hard to justify high comp for a job that requires very little technical skills and lesser hours.


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