What I Wish Every First Year Analyst Knew

Chimps, after working with all of our first years at our firm on several deals, I’ve found that I’m frequently getting asked for tips and tricks that I wish I had known as a new analyst. I’ve listed out some insights on what I think every analyst should know as they begin their stint in banking.

As I’ve shared this with the first years at our firm, I’ve made it very clear that my goal for them is to help them get as efficient and as fast as possible, make less mistakes, and go home earlier (meaning I go home earlier) while looking like rock stars to the senior bankers.

I’ve broken the list into three buckets:

  1. Managing Internally
  2. Efficiency
  3. Managing Externally

Is this an exhaustive list? Definitely not. But if you can do these things, your life for the next two years will be much more enjoyable.

Managing Internally:

Communicate Effectively

  • Don’t be afraid to be assertive: Clearly outline everything that you are working on at a given time – if you are not communicating your workload to your seniors, you will get overwhelmed, stressed out and frustrated. Are you going to have to work late? Yes. It’s banking. However, this helps you to avoid unnecessary late nights and weekends.
  • Problem and solution: If you have a problem or conflict with workflows, your schedule, etc., always accompany it with a proposed solution when you approach a senior. This is huge.
  • Learn to balance asking questions vs. trying to figure things out without spinning your wheels: There are only 24 hours in the day, and you need to sleep for at least of 5 of them during the week. My general rule when I was first starting out is 30 minutes. If you can’t figure it out, ask the associate. It’s his/her job to mentor you.
  • Always ask what the timing is on any request: This allows you to prioritize and identify any potential workflow conflicts ahead of time, allowing you to communicate, be assertive and also appear that you have your ducks in a row.
  • Respect everyone’s time: Give seniors and associates a heads up ahead of time that you have a question and what it’s about. This shows respect for their time and schedule, and also shows that you’re being professional.
  • Be clear: Always ensure that the senior clearly knows which project/item you are referring to before you start rambling off questions. They have just as much on their plate as you do, so you may need to remind them on what you’re talking about.
  • Over-communicate: Keep the seniors informed on where workflows are at, expected time to finish (you’ll get better at this as you learn your work pace), and what potential issues/outstanding items you foresee. If you are going to be late, ensure that you email the team.
  • Never eat alone: Make an effort to walk out to lunch with senior bankers that you are working with on deals. Don’t be a creeper, but if you have 10/15 minutes to walk out and grab something quickly, this can be a great way to get facetime and chat.

Build a Professional Presence

  • Easy on the stories: College stories, high school stories, etc. “Cool story bud” I haven’t been in high school for 10 years now, so somewhat hard to relate. Save them for happy hour.
  • Never start a conversation about the weather: It just shows that you have nothing interesting or important to say and that you are lonely.
  • Don’t draw attention to yourself:: If you are the best dressed person in the room or have to proactively identify your accomplishments to people, you’re doing it wrong. If you are doing great work and are a great performer, others will bring the attention your way.
  • Own your projects: Be proactive and work to identify problems and solutions before they happen. What is the big picture or the main idea of what you are working on? What are the key points that the senior bankers are trying to get across with the data/book?
  • Consistently come into the office early: Come in ~15-20 minutes ahead of the normal start time for the day, you will quickly develop a reputation of being an early bird and being responsible. That way, on days you are late (sleep in, appointment, train delay, etc.), nobody questions you because they know that if it’s in your control, you would be there.
  • Book and plan for vacations several weeks in advance: The week of your vacation, email everyone that you are working with on Monday, first thing and provide them with a “kind reminder” that you will be out from xx date to xx date, and that you will have your phone and laptop with you should anything urgent arise. Even if you don’t plan to be available, this shows that you are responsible and that you are willing to be a team player if needed.
  • Don’t volunteer for extra work: All this does is get you overwhelmed. As a first year, you will get plenty of work from the staffer and seniors. I would much rather you absolutely crush your projects vs. getting overwhelmed and not being able to finish everything that you asked for.
  • Hit F7 on everything: Even if it came from a senior banker.
  • Print and highlight comments/requests: When you receive comments or a request, print it, and take a highlighter to check off each comment/request as you do them. I see directors that still do this.
  • Note your mistakes: It’s ok to make them, but it’s not okay to make them 3x.

Efficiency (Minutes become Hours which means you go home sooner):

  • Learn keyboard shortcuts:
    • You should generally only use your mouse for PowerPoint, Adobe and opening new instances of applications while one is already open.
    • To open an application, hit the Windows button and start typing the name of the application
    • To open windows explorer (share drive, etc.), hit Windows button + e.
  • Get proficient with your bank’s Excel add-in. We have both Capital IQ and FactSet, but in Excel and PowerPoint, FactSet is king. If your bank doesn’t have it, reconsider where you work.
  • Customize quick access toolbar: For process and keystroke combinations that you use often in Excel or PowerPoint (general rule for me is 4+ steps/keys), customize your quick access toolbar and record a macro for that process. This includes:
    • Underlines
    • Headers filled with the bank’s primary and secondary RGB colors that are bold and centered across selections
    • Centering across selections
    • Top Border
    • Right Border
    • Sorting Largest to Smallest
    • Sorting Smallest to Largest
    • Camera function (amazing for pasting a dynamic image of an output on an input page so that you can see the change without tabbing through your whole model every time)
  • PowerPoint tips:
    • Files should only be using one slide master whenever possible. This both reduces the file size, and also makes formatting consistent.
    • Learn how to distribute items vertically and horizontally, along with aligning items either to slide or to selected objects. Start with ALT+JD+… or ALT+JP+… and you can thank me later.
    • Learn how to insert page numbers on slides the proper way. If you are manually typing in page numbers, you are in for a world of hurt.
  • Pin most commonly used applications to your taskbar: That way, when you right click them, you can open new instances of that application or even reopen files that you recently accessed vs. drilling back down on your drive to find them.
  • Paste links in your emails/IMs: This helps others and yourself find data more quickly.
  • Save all of your logins in your browser: This allows you to automatically login to any online application.
  • Format all of your excel sheets in the same manner: Use same column alignment, row alignment, etc. This makes your life easier as you reference other sheets and cells throughout the workbook.
  • Use conditional formatting checks: Create checks for the following in your workbook out to three decimal places. The formatting should be green if it’s zero, red if it’s not. This should be a recorded macro on your quick access toolbar.
    • Anything pulling data from or pushing data to another sheet
    • Ticking and tying out totals
    • Balance sheet balancing
    • Ending cash on cash flow statement ties to balance sheet (helps to catch historical financial mistakes as well)
    • Net income from P&L is flowing correctly to the cash flow statement
  • Box and label anything that shouldn’t be deleted: This includes side calculations or helper calculations. You will have to come back to this model down the road and will NOT remember why or how you did things.
  • Use comment boxes: Place a comment box on any hardcode in the model indicating the source and who told you to do it/when they told you.
  • Only have one hardcode driver for each item in the model that requires a hardcode: Reference directly to that hardcode. That way, if you delete a sheet, but not the hardcode, other sheets won’t be affected.
  • Never have a model with external links: Hit ALT+E+K. If nothing pops up, you’re golden. If a dialogue box does pop up. You’d better figure out why.
  • Color coordinate your cells properly: The fastest way to find hardcodes (without hitting several keystrokes) is CNTRL+~. This also helps you identify external links and formulas.
  • Printing tips: When you print, first print to PDF and compare it to the previous draft in PDF that is marked up. Set the zooms to be equal to each other, place the windows on top of one another, and you can ALT+Tab between the files. If something flashes, the numbers/values changed. This also works with Excel. Always do this before you print a hardcopy and save yourself some time.
  • Get a gaming mouse if you can:
    • I personally like the G700s from Logitech.
    • You can program the buttons to be shortcuts to excel, drive folders for your deals, applications, etc.
    • The click wheel helps you navigate through pdfs and webpages much faster
  • Email tips:
    • Set up your Outlook to show your to-do’s and calendar on the right hand side
    • Each live deal has its own, single folder that contains everything related to the deal
    • Admin has its own folder with sub folders
    • Create a graveyard folder – anything that you are not working on for live deals goes into the graveyard so that you have it for later.
    • Whenever you receive an email that is new to your outlook, add it to your contacts, so that when you respond in the future, names will autofill and you don’t have to search for emails.
    • When you get an email with a request, flag it and file it. Don’t flag it as complete until it’s done.
    • If you can resolve/respond to the email within 30-60 seconds, without much thought, do it. If not, flag it and come back to it when you can set aside time to clear out your inbox.
    • I try to have a clean inbox at the start and finish of every day.
    • Read your inbox top down so you are not behind on threads – it’s both annoying and inefficient to respond to an old thread.
    • Before you go home each night, look at your to-do’s pane and make sure that you’ve cleared out everything that you need to clear, and that you know when everything else in there is due. Let Outlook do the remembering for you so it’s one less thing to stress about.
  • Develop a good relationship with your IT manager: Once you do, request a RAM upgrade and possibly a computer upgrade. I7 quad-core with 16gb+. It’s worth the effort to get it. Life’s too short to wait for data tables.
  • Pin deal files: In Windows Explorer, pin your most commonly used deal files to the favorites section, this reduces time spent drilling down through the shared drive.
  • Rip as much prior work as possible: Especially in PowerPoint. As you create more and more different versions of Excel files, you’ll be able to leverage your prior work (this is another reason why you keep all tabs the same formatting style from above), so you can rip and replace.
  • Use data tabs for models: If your model is driven off of a consistent excel output that the client provides, instead of typing in updated numbers, create a data tab and have everything pull off of it. That way, you can simply copy paste the client’s output into that tab and the model updates itself. If the client doesn’t have one, make one for them. They will appreciate it.
  • Find a time when you work the most efficiently: It will either be early in the morning or late at night depending on your personality. This time needs to be when you are not being barraged with emails or calls and you can get your work done and out the door. Save these times for your big projects that require 100% of your attention.
  • How to avoid all nighters: Lastly, I preach this often…All nighters are a result of two things: Lack of planning/communication (By you or your senior) or making avoidable mistakes. I have never had an all-nighter that wasn’t driven by one of these in banking or Big 4 accounting.

Managing Externally:

  • Find a hobby/interest: Make time for it. By make time, I mean wake up early for it or set aside time on the weekends.
  • Do not let this job consume you: If you do, you will die alone and very well dressed.
  • Don’t forego relationships with family and friends for the sake of work:
    • Work should never be in the top two spots in your list of life priorities.
    • When times get rough, family and friends are there to pick you up. Work won’t.
    • Work acquaintances are nothing more than that.
    • Don’t be “That guy” that checks his email while talking to others. If it’s really that urgent, work will call you.
    • Make time during the day to call/facetime a family member or friend – it will make your day better.
  • Set up your Dr. appointments for the morning: Most Dr.’s offices are open at 9 am.
  • If you are religious, get your worship in: It makes your week better.
  • Go to the gym:
    • Don’t let your freshman 15 turn into your analyst 30.
    • Exercise will keep you young, give you more energy and allow you to have an “out” from work each day.
    • Go for a walk every day, even if it’s just to grab a Gatorade at the corner store.

This list isn’t comprehensive, but I wish I had known all of this when I first started my career.

Hopefully this helps.


Mod Note (Andy): Best of 2016, this post ranks #3 for the past year

Best Response

Great tips. Can't reiterate enough the communication aspect of being a good analyst. Some add'l commentary below:

Build a good rapport with at least one of the associates or a good 2nd year analyst in your group, preferably more than one. If you don't have frequent formal review processes, once a month ask to have coffee with one of them and ask for feedback. Have them focus on all the stuff you could do better and improve upon and how to build from there going forward. It'll pay dividends as a lot of the things you don't notice / think about and people always take this type of initiative well.

Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate. If you've done x process 2 or 3 times, learn what you have to do every single time one of those comes up and do them once you know the process is starting instead of waiting for somebody to tell you. Ex: At my bank once we have a new deal mandate we have to do background checks, money laundering checks, setting up email distribution lists and all that admin stuff. Just do those on your own volition.

For a lot of the shortcuts using something like the Training the Street macros will be a godsend and so you won't have to write your own. Getting a nice keyboard is great too for the macro key banks many offer.

My one counter to not asking for more work is if you know somebody in your group is notoriously hard to work for (ex: my douchebag svp who is a short tempered and incompetent troll) it's ok to jump on projects that overextend your workload a little bit just so when a new project with them comes up then you can say you have a lot of other ongoing work and then that project gets dumped off on somebody else.

Be nice to all admins including print guys. We don't have somebody in 24/7 but if you're nice sometimes they'll stay later to help you out.


Great thread. One other small tip: set shortcuts on your desktop to most-used areas on your share drive, such as a specific deal folder. Right-click on the shortcut, go to Properties, and then enter in a key in the shortcut box. Now, you can open the folder by simply hitting ALT+CTRL+whatever shortcut key you set. That also helps not having to dig through your share drive.


Good formatting that makes your material easy to ready.

That's what I wish all bankers knew.

Those who can, do. Those who can't, post threads about how to do it on WSO.

Good stuff

Agree on most of the general internal ones except for always coming in early...if you're always early then being on time is showing up late, by your own standard that you've created for everyone to see. In general always keep all sorts of expectations super low so you can exceed them opportunistically

With respect to the efficiency ones, reading them reminds me of how I'm so glad I don't work in banking. Yikes

As to the external ones, if you're religious and believe in some dude in the sky, the solution isn't to pray more. It's to read some Nietzsche, Alan Watts, Sam Harris, etc. so you can straighten yourself out...


If you go to customize your quick access toolbar, you can add camera to it. To use it, highlight the cells (cells around chart if pulling a chart) then select the camera icon. After that, go to the tab or location and place your cursor where you want a dynamic image of the chart and hit enter.

This is a lifesaver on football fields and lbos IMO.


This is all great advice - though it's somewhat contingent on being surrounded by a good group of smart, hardworking and REASONABLE people who want to work with you to get the job done. Also people who want to help you learn and appreciate the hard work and long hours the analysts pull. I would say in some banks/groups the analyst is seen purely as a resource that an associate/VP uses up until their time runs out (2-3 years), and the new class of analysts join (and the cycle continues).


Somehow I find it funny that one the things is to know how insert the page number in a PowerPoint without manually typing it. I mean I knew that I-Bankers are "spreadsheet" monkeys but that's ridiculous. I can't even imagine the sudden drop in IQ most analysts go through the first year


You'd be surprised...

Granted, she's only an assistant....but my bosses assistant wants to shoot one of us every time we have a slide to add...and I've only shown her how to add pages to slides 4-5 times...in the last three months.

Director of Finance and Corporate Development: 2020 - Present Manager of FP&A and Corporate Development: 2019 - 2020 Corporate Finance, Strategy and Development: 2011 - 2019 "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." - Benjamin Franklin

This is good. For efficiency - make sure to include the following:

  • when dealing with logos (eg buyer pages, industry landscapes, etc.) use www.Logointern.com

  • use bamsec.com for filings

  • macabacus for modeling education content when you're bored and have downtime.

~~~ Other analyst tips:

Do not be the analyst talking about recruiting from day 1. Obviously it's important - it's probably on your mind, but everyone notices and judges, because your focus should be on performing well on THIS job.


Brush up on excel and power point if you aren't comfortable with them, maybe a data visualization tool if you want to get crazy (Tableau, Qlikview).

Spend more time now figuring out what industries/capability areas you find interesting and target your networking efforts. Very few new hires have skills that differentiate them from their peers, so it helps to have a few people you have talked with to pull you on/put you in contact with people who need resources.

Other than that, focus on your work quality, work hard, and be enthusiastic and positive (but don't over do it). Everything else you need you will pick up on the job.

Good luck!


Thanks for the suggestion. Looking at some of the reviews on it, are you sure this isn't for people who have a finance foundation in IB or will it help a total beginner who lets say knows nothing about IB?