IBD: Easy high paid exit ops

Hey I'm an IBD Associate, working in an industry group doing both M&A and ECM. Truth is I'm finding it very difficult, I was never book smart in school. I struggle with complex tasks that require thinking and my memory is AWFUL. My family/friends are all shocked I made it into IBD, especially after my teachers said I was better off not going to university and apply for jobs straight out of school at supermarkets being a cashier or carwash.

However, despite this, I'm very hard working so after hearing that I said to myself "f*ck you watch this" and basically studied non stop until 3-4am every day for years and managed to pass my exams then get into university pass my degree and land a job at a BB doing IBD earning 10x my teachers salaries. 

I've only survived banking so long because at Analyst level I was literally just "doing as I was told" and didn't need to think or use any brain power. It was just Associates/VPs drawing out slides for me and then me basically just copying them onto powerpoint without thinking, etc. The only challenging part was the long hours, which I didn't mind.

However, now I'm at the Associate level I am struggling A LOT, as I'm now actually having to start thinking. I am now getting involved with the financial modelling, transaction management, regulations etc. I've realised I cannot do this and it's giving me so much stress I'm struggling. 

I now want to move jobs before my seniors realise how crap I am and get fired. I know most people look for exit ops because of work life balance. However, I don't care about that I'm looking for exit ops that are less intellectually challenging e.g. less complex transactions which require less thinking about all the different aspects e.g. all the different workstreams, all the regulations; and less complex financial modelling. 

What are some other high paid finance jobs that I can do that is less intellectually challenging than IBD

Honestly an ideal exit op for me would basically be IBD just less complex transactions, less things you need to remember/think about such as all the different work streams and regulations and more simple financial modelling.

Comments (39)

  • Associate 2 in IB - Cov

I looked into corp dev but I was both told and also read online that corp dev is actually more complex than IBD from an M&A standpoint because in corp dev you literally have to manage the M&A process internally and you're solely responsible for building the financial models in an extremely in-depth level whereas bankers make assumptions based on the information they get, corp dev you're the one that needs to analyse all the business units and build a more in-depth complex model than bankers. So I was told it would be harder from a transaction and modelling perspective, just much better hours and stability.

  • Associate 1 in PE - Growth

I would agree with this, especially if you are at a public company - more indepth modeling, including synergies and a pro-forma that actually matters, not some BS that bankers put together and slap on an "Illustrative" label. There's also the whole integration planning portion that you will be involved with to various degrees before closing, and you need to have opinions on legal structuring as the principal to drive the definitive agreements, holdbacks, earnouts, employment contracts, etc. 

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen

Private debt is exactly what you're describing

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analystfirstyear, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Associate 2 in IB - CovI thought debt market would be incredibly more complex then equity market due to all the different debt structures and terms etc.?MM direct lending where it's at for WLB

Most Helpful
  • Associate 3 in IB - Gen

From someone that used to work at a rating agency this is far from the truth. You have to understand methodologies well, understand how the models work, have to know the deal well enough to be able to answer questions in committee, and then you have to defend the committee outcome to clients and bankers without revealing confidential information and managing expectations. Additionally, your hours may not be ideal. You have to work the same timeline as the bankers but you'll be getting paid shit, and progression is abysmal. To give you an idea, there were weeks I was doing 75 hours and at the end of the year my bonus was 10%. After 4 years my base salary was only 15k higher than when I first started. The same banker that started 4 years ago is probably making 155k base at least, and bonus is 50% at a minimum. Thankfully I am no longer there.

OP believe in yourself. You told your teachers fuck you, how about you tell your self-doubt fuck you too. Do you have ADD by any chance? That can make it hard for you to understand things? I think you have the skillset, maybe you just need to talk to a therapist that specializes in ADD, and some confidence. You are a successful person, and I had no intention of posting anything but after reading your post I just had to. If there is something you don't know at work, break it down piece by piece and eventually you'll understand everything. Concepts can be reused for all deals. Maybe start paying more attention to things. I have the tendency to do work accurately without paying attention to what I'm doing and then realizing I have no clue what I did despite doing it right. The way I fixed this is by reviewing what I did, asking myself what is this, why am I doing that, and repeating it. This helped me drastically. 

Please don't leave your job for the reasons you stated, you can do it.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs

OP, seconding this. I'm pretty sure ADD has kept me down my entire life but I'm opposed to medication for now (mind is slowly changing although still hesitant) so have avoided addressing it with a psych. Instead I take a little longer to fully absorb some of the work asked of me but I've become much quicker at it with time since, as the commentor above me mentioned, once you get your arms around certain concepts/workflows, you can port it over to the next deal and be quicker on the next go.

There's something also to be said about interest in the job itself. I was in love with how much scattered new learning there was in the first ~year but it got pretty dull and much more difficult for me to lock in focus after the excitement wore off. I've gotten a nice reboot since switching to PE. I am sure it will wane again but wanted to call out it could be (and likely is) an interest factor, not a capability one.

I also was a shitty high school student (<1.5 GPA). Shoutout to all the doubtful school counselors (can't blame them though, I wouldn't have made a bet on myself either at the time).

I-banker assoc 2, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm in a similar situation. Looking at Corporate development roles for clients. My interviewer (previous Morgan Stanley I-banker in m&a) said this is not a hard job. Similar pay base to assoc 2. 160 but bonuses more like 20% (I have heard) but it's a path to align you for CFO one day and those guys don't work as hard, have to be much more personable and have the juniors to do heavy modeling. I think a corp dev role would be harder if you are looking at a company that typically avoids hiring bankers when running smaller transactions

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen

investor relations

NahFAM69, what's your opinion? Comment below:


iercurenc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

How do you know you will always suck at this job? Sounds like you've already given up. You've beaten expectations before, you can do it again. I say keep pushing.

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A

Agree w this. Say fk the haters and keep grinding - you've already done it before

pipole4, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I thought OP was a troll, but will actually give some real thoughts to this:

On sticking to IB:

  • If you know how to grind, how to be consistent, you can do pretty well in banking. A lot of the success in this job comes from experience, being hands on, learning from what you've seen, and going back to basics.
  • the modelling, deal management, etc can all be learnt. The more you do, the easier it gets. Again, seeing bankers pitch from both top boutiques, top BB and lower tier banks, the average quality is not that high, not everyone is Klein

On alternative jobs:

  • corpdev or BD will be massively dependent on the firm and its culture, but I really wouldn't describe it as cushy. You're close to the strategy, on call at all times, and creativity can be super important. If you don't feel comfortable as an associate in a bank where you'll have peers, VP/D/MD in your team to ask for advice, etc, you won't feel comfortable in an environment where you'll have no junior, be accountable for a deal deliverable without anyone to drive your work, etc. I work in corpdev and half the time the guidance is "hey, can you pick this up please; XYZ from the business will explain".
  • people have mentioned here private credit - could work but depends how exposed the role would be to the docs analysis. If you don't have leverage finance or legal background and an interest for understanding terms, it may not be a good idea
  • secondaries: yes, totally. Absolutely the right answer. Would also add co-invest funds to the picture. You basically rely on deal work done by others, it's in essence like doing credit committee work in a bank. You'll still see lots, but for a while your sole job will be to analyse & execute the deals coming through the door.
  • IR: maybe, albeit roles differ vastly by size of company. Jn small biz that's quite an important role & always on call with CEO or CFO. Not cushy.
SageKellyjr, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Honestly an ideal exit op for me would basically be IBD just less complex transactions, less things you need to remember/think about such as all the different work streams and regulations and more simple financial modelling.

Sounds like lateraling Corporate Banking could be a great option for you. I encourage you to go look at the WSO posts about CB. Good luck with everything

falconeagle, what's your opinion? Comment below:

OP - as an ex-IB guy (now PE) in my early 30s who has been exactly in your shoes 6-8 years ago, I would firstly say don't panic! I also found my time as a new associate very tough - as an analyst (especially early on) you are expected to be somewhat "dumb"/inexperienced, so as you said you get a lot of hand-holding or at the very least direct instructions from those above you about what to do (update this PPT, upload these docs to the data room etc).

However as an associate people expect you to just automatically know and do things, even though you might not yet have the requisite experience. Myself I did a liberal arts degree and got into IB via a bit of a long-winded route which meant I didn't start as an analyst until well into my early 20s. After initially being thrilled at making it to associate, I immediately felt like I was drowning - from a) people expecting me to just know stuff, and here I think my undergrad background certainly didn't help as I found myself frequently googling terms on complex deals I'd never heard of before, and b) the sheer volume of work. I was not only trying to get up to speed on new concepts all the time on deals, but was having to juggle multiple deals at once - it honestly felt like every day you were drinking from a firehose. It sounds laughable now but even a simple request from my VP like "we need to rejig the capital structure in this model" would give me a cold sweat, as I knew I was just going to have to figure out the model and the background/context of the deal all by myself without any hand-holding. 

Suffice to say I had a really stressful first couple of years as an associate - whilst I got good reviews and received upper mid-bucket/top-bucket ratings, to say I had imposter syndrome would be a massive understatement - it felt like I was only managing to stay afloat through incredible sheer hard work (so very similar situation to yourself sounds like). Honestly I felt every day like my MD would just call me into his office and say "we've realized you're just faking it till you make it, why are we paying you a six-figure salary" and can me. Not based on any external feedback I was getting, but rather just the fact internally I felt like I was constantly drowning.

Here's the thing though - that doesn't last forever. In fact whilst the "drinking from a firehouse" experience is extremely stressful, it is also an incredible learning experience. Honestly I don't know when it started happening, but over time things just started to get much easier - yes a complex deal might be intense/stressful the first time, but once you've done it two or three times it starts to look much more cookie-cutter. Not just on the modelling side but dealing with lawyers/reviewing deal docs, interacting with/managing counterparties, even internally "managing up" to your VP/MD (as you learn quickly exactly how they like to see things/when they'll expect it).

I think a lightbulb moment for me was when I was chatting to some PE firm on a call that my VP let me run, they asked for background/context on a deal and without thinking I just went into a lengthy explanation of the process and various issues I'd expect, and was able to easily answer all their questions. It made me think "actually I do know more than I give myself credit for!" And today I look back at some of the things I used to stress over and they seem so easy - but that's only because I now have a decade plus of experience.

So what I'm saying is - if you truly want to quit IB then by all means go for it, but if you're looking for an exit based solely on imposter syndrome/an imagined fear of getting "found out" one day by your VP/MD, ask yourself if that's actually a realistic fear? Or is it just that you still have a lot to learn - i.e. the same as any new IB associate. Yes a lot of people might get up to speed quicker than you (maybe they have a finance background/degree or just "get things" more quickly) - but that doesn't mean you won't ever get up to speed! And tbh the only real way to learn this stuff is through experience. And that experience will come. Good luck OP in whatever you decide.

Winnfield, what's your opinion? Comment below:

wow, so much bad advice here

tbh, lots of guys like you make it to MD, if they know how to navigate well internally.

are you personable?  do clients perceive you as hardworking, reliable, someone they want to do business with?  for every true advisory guru among IBD MDs, there are 10 relationship MDs who sought after for financing, and connecting the client to someone smarter within the bank.

so, calls to action:

  • in your current group, get Analysts to do the work for you.  most Analysts believe they're smarter than/technically superior to Associates.  often, it's true.  but true or not, they're expected to do more grunt work.  Sales is at the top of the totem pole in IB, preparing materials (whether they require thought or not is irrelevant) is grunt work.  make your Analysts do your grunt work.
  • if you're unable to do that, then find your way into an IB-adjacent group that isn't intellectually challenging (essentially, ECM or DCM).  regardless of what they tell you, they don't do any real modeling, nor do they have to be right about markets.  they just need to convince clients that the markets will fund an issuance.  lots of slides and stuff you already know how to do.  lots of forwarding to legal, risk, compliance, back to IBD, etc.
  • if you aren't sales-y enough to do that, try moving into a middle office function at the bank, like risk, or capital management, or a purely relationship/process-driven front office group like corporate banking or loans etc.  they mainly work with templates, emails, asking the same questions of every deal, etc.  coming from IBD, you have an advantage.
  • external: investor relations.  it may not be the best fit, as even though it is less technical than IBD or the buyside, you still need to be fluent in basic investing concepts.  but the WLB is better, pay is decent, etc.
  • private banking: can be both internal and external.  
  • don't recommend corporate development, it's just IBD with better WLB and lower pay, but the same thought process.
  • another option is to go to business school.  you wouldn't be the first IBD analyst-to-associate promote to realize they don't like the industry and don't know what to do next, but also realizes their skillset may not be adequate for corporate jobs, and are too expensive to do most other jobs.  an MBA could help you find your next step.
  • hopefully you've been saving your money instead of spending it away on nonsense, and gives you a cushion in case you decide to leave white collar work entirely and go open a mcdonalds franchise or something. 
The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
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rumanddone, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If this was 3 years ago I would say some sort of strategic finance role at FAANG. Been hearing from laid off FAANG workers that they did nothing and had to fight for work so seemed like a good way to coast with 200k a year TC and a whole bunch of benefits.

goosebanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Lots of great suggestions here. I'd bump corporate banking, ECM / DCM, IG debt investing and be a primary funds investor also. These are all likely modelling 'light' jobs compared to your current job. Especially funds investing actually, if you want to really chill (albeit is a big pay cut I think and more boring)

huntermiller, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey, I found this very informative, and kinda relaxing about analyst being taught a lot of the stuff on the job. I'm currently working on my MBA and praying one day I'll be able to land a IB job. I live in Houston so I'm told jobs are hard to come by. I'm working my ass off working 70hr weeks and going to school full time so I know how to work hard, I just fear I'm going to be overlooked because I don't come a big school or have any work experience in the field. Any advice on being able to land a gig out of school? I'm constantly reading every post I can and have been studying all of the interview questions on here.

If anyone could help I would be extremely appreciative.

I hope everything works out on your end, you seem like you overcome adversity, and from what I have gathered this job requires a lot of that! Best of luck!

justrynabank, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen

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