For VPs who failed to get into PE, what's the path forward?

Do you see most becoming career bankers trying to make MD? Or exits into lower paying corp dev/strategic finance roles at F500/startups/portcos. Have to imagine joining a portco would not be super desirable given you'd have a daily reminder that you failed to make PE and have to answer to a 27-yearold's PE associate sitting on the board.

Comments (5)

Jul 5, 2022 - 1:59am
angrybanana, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Man I'm sorry but you sound insecure. So what if you sit across a 27 yr old associate? You're doing a deal. If you were buying a house and the seller happened to be a 25 year old guy, would you care? What if they were 70? Do you think the plumber who's 50 years old cares when he comes to your house to fix a (guessing) 32-35 year old's faucet? 

In finance, you're always transacting. This notion of what your age is, what your title is, etc etc is irrelevant. The crux is the transaction. If you're in a portco but you are GOOD at doing great deals, you will ultimately win and do well. If the 27 yr old ends up not being great at deals, ultimately he will flame out. 

Focus on what matters. Doing the work at a high level, with nous, with savvy, with hard work. Fck the age and ageism and titles and where who sits in the hierarchy and how big the name of the firm is and all these other distractions.

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Jul 5, 2022 - 9:11am
mrharveyspecter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You sound like you're probably about 19 and don't have a great sense of how banking/PE works. Given that there are plenty of people who work as VPs in banking and do very well for themselves, I don't think many would consider those folks failures by any means. Let me give you few thinks to think about.

First off, being a VP in banking, especially nowadays, is likely an equal if not higher paying job than the equivalent in PE. While I'm not 100% up to date on the comp ranges, I know that most VPs are clearing over $500k and some even higher than that. At 27, that's a ton of money. At the same time, the job, while challenging from an hours perspective, is getting to a point where it's likely a little more manageable, you likely have a good team of Associates and analysts beneath you so your job gets more into management of those folks as well as starting to build a book of business. PE salaries look high because on WSO folks are throwing around the figures they see from folks at the UMM/MFs of the world. In reality, PE salary tracks pretty closely to banking and from a cash perspective is likely below. You can make up with it with carry of course, but that takes years to materialize.

If you go into a Portco, the work is fundamentally different from just doing deals as a PE associate. That person is likely managing a more unique set of responsibilities, actually has a hand in operating a company, managing people, and could potentially leverage that experience into something meaningful both financial and in terms of future roles. Being an exec at a portco can be a pretty awesome job. To be able to call the shots and make decisions to grow a business is rewarding, likely more so than doing the next incremental deal, which is why many people in PE leave after a few years and go try their hand at something more operational. Somewhat similar to consulting, PE folks like to think they're masters of the world and are business experts, but running a business is a completely different skillset, one that most folks in PE/Banking can't do. So don't sleep on operating roles.

Lastly, PE isn't the be all end all that most people make it out to be. You're probably not sitting on any actually boards as an Associate and even when you do get there as a VP, you're likely not doing much besides listening in and providing the occasional input. I thought it was sick the first time I got to sit on a few boards, but you start to realize that it's really not that special, especially if you're just at a MM PE firm. It's likely different if you're at a MF, but I doubt too many junior folks are getting reps sitting on those boards. The work itself in PE is a grind and many folks are actually better off in banking. The income is more predictable, the work can be more varied as you're working with a number of different companies. In PE you can be working on a single deal for years, both in the acquisition and then eventual management of that business. It's tedious, focusing on every single cost structure, every dollar of free cash flow, etc. While it can be interesting, it can easily become high paid white collar work, same as banking, consulting, and everything else.

At the end of the day, all of these jobs are shades of the same grey. PE can be extremely interesting and lucrative for some, but unless you're starting your own fund or make it to the top at a big fund (which is very difficult nowadays) I wouldn't get too ahead of yourself thinking that you're gods gift to finance just because you land as an Associate at a MM fund somewhere. In reality, you're getting paid way less and likely working as hard if not harder than your banking counterparts. If you really cared about prestige, being a VP at Goldman probably impresses more people than a no-name PE shop. If you really care about money, you're probably better off starting an Amazon drop shipping business or some other small business where you can chill and make a few hundred thousand a year.

I think most VPs have career banker as at least one of their aspirations. If you stay in banking all the way through, so no B-School and you're getting promoted quickly, you could be a director by 30 or so and pull in ~$750k. Assuming you're not getting crushed at work that's honestly an amazing life. Some folks pivot and maybe go to a more relaxed bank or make enough money that they want to pursue some type of c-suite gig. Some get hired into PE, especially if they're at a top bank, and others have a mix of industry roles available to them. The options aren't too bad. The comp increases in banking as well as the ability to go from Analyst to VP in ~5 years to me is making banking much more palatable, especially if you can work in a group that isn't soul crushing in terms of hours. For some, the actual work is more fun as well. It's sales-y, you're wheeling and dealing on deals, running a competitive bid process, get to know all the sponsors, etc. For some personalities, it's actually better than the grind that PE can become. All things for you to think about. 

Jul 5, 2022 - 5:24pm
UncookedBooks, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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