Opine: You dont need brains to be in IB

Typing this out with extreme annoyance at my Friday staffing of some super menial and dumb work that makes absolutely no difference to the client and requires no brain cells at all but a crap ton of time.

I'm sure everyone has had similar experiences, but tell me i'm not the only one stopping to wonder: why on earth am i doing such a stupid job? what do you guys think? we're all fairly smart people here, and our intellect honestly deserves a lot more respect...

apologies if this is 50% a rant but i really also want to hear what you guys think - how the heck do people get through these dumb tasks that are an absolute insult to intellect?

Comments (62)

jimbeamzzz, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I made ~$195k 1 year out of college last year, is why

Edit: Your "intellect" is also owed nothing.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen

IB is all about execution/getting things done rather than intellect.

I guess the confusion comes from the academic requirements. When you see someone with a 4.0 GPA + lots of other achievements, either that person is a genius (so that they don't need to study too much) or they are super hardworking/ambitious and very good at managing their time. IB wants the second type of students, yet because grades cannot distinguish perfectly between these two type of students and the high salaries, you end up seeing a fair amount of really bright individuals in IB as well

  • Intern in ER

That's a rlly good breakdown - yep, i guess it comes down to IBD actually wanting the latter type, but due to the nature of filtering for the latter type, actually intelligent people slip into the ranks and get depressed for that mismatch.

Another trait is that the filtering requirement - 4.0 HYP, sick activities, great internships calls for a character that dichotomizes his 'learning' and his grades, aka picking easy classes (strategic management), being practical, memorizes answers that examiners look for, memorizing the exam format, skip content that don't get tested on, etc. Practical people who are trained to think of the bottom line (grades in this case) and not kill themselves over unnecessary details (picking hard calculus classes out of ego).

Philosophers will just get depressed in IB

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BeveragedFinance, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Wow! Look Guys! 

The 10,000th thread about how "IB doesn't require brains" by some first year analyst who somehow didn't realise this before accepting the job.

I'm 22 and make $180k. That's why I do this job. I can 'stimulate my intellect' or whatever the fuck by reading, having interesting friends and doing interesting things.

And what's the alternative? Most jobs aren't really intellectually stimulating. Whatever you leave IB for will probably be similarly menial tbh - it's just a job.

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  • Intern in IB - Cov

You have time for reading and doing interesting things? Let me go full time at your bank man please I don't have time to take shits

  • Associate 2 in IB - Cov

I'll tell that to my many economist friends. They'll be happy someone thinks like that.

Truth is that I've talked at length to then about it. When they work at a bank they feel they are not doing anything intellectually stimulating. Even if it's research or as strategists. In fact they feel their skills are going to waste, that it's over an over talking to people about same uninteresting stuff, etc.

When they are in pure academia, they feel they are having fun but zero impact. Writing a paper to get it published somewhere and knowing that maybe a couple of people will actually read it (mostly because you make it mandatory for your students to read it…)

theAudiophile, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I wouldn't say an economist is doing stuff of little value.

As someone with an econ background that did want to pursue it at the high level? I will have to hard disagree. Used to be actual philosophical pursuit, with some math of course. Interesting subjects like game theory, transfer pricing, or debates about Keynes vs Friedman and Adam Smith vs Marx. Now it's just how well do you know R? Or what's your Python skills? And what's your nearest FRB office unless you want to stay in academia?

  • 1
  • Associate 2 in IB - Cov

Let's get real. Most people at universities are not curing cancer. There are some very select people in some very limited fields where there's true value add.

Clearly that's not the case of your standard undergrad professor that teaches finance and publishes research on whether Moody's or S&P are better at predicting defaults, or if equities take 2 days or 2 weeks to absorb information depending on whether the information is in the 8-K or the 10-K, or write a paper titled "Capital asset pricing model in Portugal: Evidence from fractal regressions"


Do you think spending time writing that is value add? Please…

Teaching the new generation? Universities for the most part serve to signal underlying unobservable traits (IQ, discipline, etc.) vs. teach skills. So yeah, most faculty are just no that different from glorified SAT tutors, proctors, and graders.

My group head studied political science and philosophy. Very useful for M&A…

  • Associate 1 in CorpDev

Almost every entry level job has undesirable aspects because you give new people the mundane work that no one else wants to do. That's just how it is. And I will say that you guys who complain about creating/updating slides, which is about 3/4 of the complaints, don't realize deck building is as valuable or more valuable skill than modeling. You are an advisor trying to influence strategic, executive level decisions and your deck is the key support tool. Moreover, good decks are extremely appreciated by leadership so learning proper PowerPoint skills will serve you well regardless of what you end up doing. I will even go as far as to say PP has helped me directly get promoted more than Excel. No one cares about your complicated model but rather the outputs and the thinking that went behind it, which ends up in slides that need to be skillfully contextualized and packaged for effectiveness. 

Now all this goes out the window if your bank sucks at deck building. Won't call any group or bank out but you know it when comparing your materials to other teams. 

  • Intern in Consulting

But what else would you be doing? Working in tech spending weeks coding and in meetings to change the colour of a button in Gmail? Working in law spending all day drafting documents? 

dantehisthegoat, what's your opinion? Comment below:

would u rather make 500k WFH 10 hours a week in Miami, while working on side projects that could potentially make u billions down the road, or would u rather work 80 hrs a week. your choice

Arthur Digby Sellers, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I would argue IQ is actually quite valuable in IB. To do the job competently, you have to learn and apply fairly complicated concepts (finance, modeling, business models, markets) and deal with difficult people, while operating under enervating constraints (stress, sleep deprivation). Hard to do all this if you're stupid.

And that's not to mention the meta game of managing upwards, optimizing staffings, etc which adds another layer of complexity

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Restr

None of any of that is particularly complicated: it just takes time to become accustomed to and learn. There's more people who can do the job than there are opportunities - that's why IBs have to be somewhat selective than FP&A at XYZ F500 company. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A

You don't need to have intellect, just common sense and basic technical knowledge that is relatively easy to learn.

koby, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Correction- you don't need brains to be an analyst in IB. You need to know how to follow instructions and execute.

cindy lowden, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
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reformed, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Always funny how many first year analysts think they know better than the people who have 20+ years of experience and been in the industry their entire careers.

If the materials/analysis/pages you're working on didn't matter at all to the clients or help the seniors better speak to the situation or in some way benefit them, they wouldn't pay analysts $150k+ a year to put them together and would just pocket the extra cash. That's not to say that every single thing you do will add value, but in aggregate, if it didn't add value, banks would find a more efficient way to do things.

  • 5
rxrx_distressed, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Let's be real. There are just so many incompetent and straight dumb analysts in BB who just don't get it. It is quite shocking to see how these entitled dumb fucks complain all day while making so many mistakes over a simple turn of comments and think they are doing a at least okay job. Smh

Rookie in hk, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I absolutely agree…I think what IB takes is not IQ or knowledge of the market. Instead it requires a different set of skills, e.g. EQ, people skills, patience, attention to detail, resilience, determination etc. I personally find those skills even harder to acquire, so I quit pursuing a career in IBD after some internships.

That said, I do think you need a brain if you want to go senior (like ED and above) in IBD when you need to make the decisions for the team.

BoutiqueAsc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You're right intelligence does not equal good investment banker. However you do need to be able to spot a wrong number on a page of 50 numbers and for a lot of people that attention to detail is hard (ADHD, etc especially). But yeah don't need to be a rocket scientist none of its that complicated tbh.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs

Come to the buyside - debatable, depending on the firm, on how much more intellectually stimulating it is (would argue much more for MM and UMM vs. MF and thats just banking 2.0), but its definitely much more interesting as you need to better understand companies and are more operationally focused 

Amicable Chungus, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Correction: You do not need brains to be a Boomer IB MD. 

I would argue a TON is expected of junior bankers, mostly in terms of work ethic, but also in terms of pedigree, intellect and academic success. However once you've been an MD long enough you can get away with being a complete bumbling fucking idiot that makes his subordinates work 3x as hard so he can get away with being 1/3 as effective. That's what gets me about this job. It's one thing to work hard, but it's another thing to work hard to accommodate somebody else's complete fucking lunacy and inefficiency.  

/End rant. Now it's back to finishing up Scenario #5, Version 100 of the financial model for my MD who needs to see 500 variations of the same analysis before he feels comfortable standing by any individual section of the financial model. 

BankBoy23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Nah this is a great great point. If you compare the backgrounds and general abilities of analysts to the MDs it isn't even close bc of how much more competitive it is now

  • Associate 2 in PE - Growth

I've made this comment before and I'll make it again. You are missing the point severely on what you are doing in your role. Your arrogance has you not seeing the forest for the trees.

The ignorant and arrogant entry level IB analyst take is the following:

  • IB is moving logos and doing hyper detailed redundant work that your brains/ intelligence are above.

The experienced professional perspective from someone who hated IB with a passion:

  • Saying IB is moving logos and doing stupid admin tasks is about as reductive as saying all a rocket scientist does is write numbers down.You are completely missing the bigger picture and lacking an understanding of what is going on around you because you are so fixated on the details that you are immediately responsible for. Stop viewing your immediate job as the only thing you are directly responsible for and start viewing IB from the perspective of doing your superior's jobs. My personal take candidly, is you might just be too stupid to understand the value of the information around you. Do you genuinely think people are paying millions or tens of millions for bullshit work?

Here's what's actually happening-you are the grunt doing all the work no one wants for one of the biggest sales in the world with an incredibly complex product (a company). All entry level jobs suck, it just so happens that you have one where you have a front row seat to watching a transaction. Just as an fyi, most people never see a transaction in their life or get this exposure to c-suite execs and major business decisions. If you were to ask your computer science friends what makes a company unique and what they need to prepare for investors to invest or buy their company they would have no idea. If you are intelligent, what you do is you do the grunt work in exchange for seeing what goes on around you, then in the future you can either buy or invest in companies in a more informed manner or run or sell companies in a more informed manner. 

The gist, you are so arrogant you are ignoring that your bosses are making millions a year. If the job is that easy and stupid, you should be able to replicate it or profit off it. 

rabbit, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is harsh but well said. I got this reality check as an A1 and it changed my approach completely. A lot of our learning is by osmosis, understanding the hows and whys of the ideas being pitched, listening in on how relationships are built, clients are pitched, execution strategy is formulated. There is a steep initial curve but a hard cap on what you can learn building slides and doing model work.

BankBoy23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Obviously CS people would have no idea... if they were to ask you the most rudimentary thing about a computer, you would have absolutely no idea

BankBoy23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Also, just because the boss makes millions doesn't mean it's a stimulating job, I think most of us can agree (or those of us who know about the space) that an MD is really selling the bank's services then is on to the next, and that execution across banks can be quite similar (i.e. the MD is not in there making all these great calls that lead to substantial value, maybe save for a few rainmakers.) 

  • Associate 2 in PE - Growth

Again, I hated banking, so preaching to the choir. MD is a sales job, but they also are providing advice based on years of experience in transaction dynamics in particular industries. They really chiefly do the following:

  • Decide how to frame the opportunity for investors/buyers
  • Decide which investors/buyers to call
  • Decide which investors/buyers to press on and the messaging to get to a certain price
  • Decide what price/when to sell and how to pit the buyers against each other for a successful auction

In practice, this work ends up being they have to do a lot of phone calls schmoozing and focus on things like slide subtitles--personally, I don't love the thought of obsessing over that work late in my career. However, I think that's a matter of opinion and know people who think modeling is equally as lost in the weeds and unfun. Once you have modeled 6+ businesses it becomes a chore and loses the thrill.

Finally, on the comp sci point, yeah, you are right we wouldn't know the most rudimentary thing about computers--they are equally as incompetent when it comes to business. Just the concept of valuations being dynamic and not static is something I think more than half of the ceo's I worked with during my banking career failed to understand. They seemed to think, "Let me grow EBIDTA from 50 to 60 over 2 years and the business will be worth more. We should wait to sell."

Well not if your growth slows and you get multiple contraction. Many non-IB people seem to think multiples are fixed like oh, a consumer business goes for 2x revenue or a tech business 10x revenue versus the reality that an identical business sold at different times will have very different valuations.

BankBoy23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

"rare intellect" cmon man. Uber important politic game that is basically BS made up by the ppl in your group that serves no actual purpose

douglasolson, what's your opinion? Comment below:
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douglasolson, what's your opinion? Comment below:
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NonTarget5, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Haven't posted in a while but thought my experience so far as an MBA stub associate with 8 years of prior corporate experience may help some of the younger guys/gals with their expectations.

I've tried to do a good job of making sure I get my hands dirty these last several months with some of the menial tasks that analysts do on a daily basis. For years now, I've read comments from people on this forum saying all they do is rearrange logos, and I always thought they were being prima donnas.

I was wrong though. A lot of this work is literally hours worth of PPT formatting.... but that's ok! As others have said, there's definitely a lot more strategic things going on that you aren't aware of while you're in the trenches. I'd be proactive and speak with your Associate/VP/MD about the company you are working with and how your role and the deal team fits in the overall process.

Most importantly, understand that it gets much more intellectually stimulating and strategic as you move up the ranks. Additionally, as someone who has done a lot of different jobs at another large company, I can assure you that this work ain't so bad. Especially when you factor in pay (hours is another discussion). As an Associate, while some of my tasks are menial, some are not. The tasks that aren't are infinitely more desirable/stimulating than the work I did prior to IB. Then, when you factor in that on an annualized basis, I'm making 4x what I used to with way more upside, I am so grateful to be doing what I'm doing.

And for what it's worth, I am not the brightest bulb out there.

  • PM in HF - Other

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SafariJoe, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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