A2A vs Buyside - Should I stay in banking?

I am a 2nd year analyst at an EB in a regional office. I didn't participate in the 2022 on-cycle recruiting that seems to be wrapping up now for a couple reasons. One reason is that no matter how much I research about PE/GE (have been on-and-off researching about buyside this past year), I can't seem to get myself to be interested in it. The idea of investing in general and looking at / analyzing a bunch of companies and evaluating whether or not they will be good investments doesn't sound very interesting to me. Second reason is that I actually can see myself staying in banking. 

For context, I am considering taking the A2A, since I never felt like I really dislike the work or feel overwhelmed (I've only had 4~5 really brutal weeks this past year). Our team is relatively small and I like the senior bankers (definitely more respectful of their junior bankers than the norm from what I've heard) and have a good relationship with them. 

However, I can't shake off the feeling that I will be missing an opportunity if I don't participate in buyside recruiting during my analyst years. I do know that PE has potentially better exit opps, since not only does it open up higher buyside roles, but also gives me the option to return to banking if I wish to do so. To be very honest though, part of me is thinking this because that's just what everyone else is saying/doing. 

I honestly don't mind the work I'm doing in banking, the pay is good and our group's hours are pretty good relative to other banks (averaging around ~70 hours a week ). But part of me feels like I'm just being lazy about recruiting / preparing and convincing myself that I should stay. Sorry for being so back and forth but it's just how my mind has been these days especially with recruiting in full swing. 

Any insight would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

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Comments (20)

Most Helpful
  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 21, 2021 - 8:30pm

As an A-A associate at an EB, I went through exactly what you're going through.

I personally didn't feel like spending time doing diligence, arguing working capital minutia, plugging into the same models, dealing with diligence vendors and drafting investment memos on a recurring basis was that much more compelling of an opportunity than my current banking job (this is a pessimistic view of investing, don't get me wrong I fully respect the career just not for me)

After talking to a lot of mentors and peers, I came to realize that I appreciated my group, liked seniors, etc much as you described. And ultimately, didn't want to leave banking for a somewhat better experience. I wanted to leave when I found something that I would LOVE. Until then, I tend to like the high level strategic thinking within IB, working with execs and plotting out the chessboard of the industry I cover (maybe grandoise description but whatever). Plus the pay these days is quite nice (thanks GS13).

As for your question about opportunities, my personal experience is that I have received just as frequent of inbounds from headhunters/companies. Definitely don't think the door is closed despite you not fitting the mold of the traditional on-cycle recruiting process. I have A-A friends who have - after a couple more years - decided they wanted to try buyside and entered as a senior associate. I know more A-A friends who have left and become senior managers in strategy roles and are doing well there. 

The constant here is everyone still wound up in a place they liked and their long-term career is uninterrupted. We're young! 23, 24, 25 years old? A couple more years anywhere isn't going to stop you from achieving what you're set out to do :)

Sep 22, 2021 - 7:43pm

OP here - thank you for the input! This is super helpful. Yes I completely agree - a big reason why I am not recruiting is because I feel like I'm not going to like buyside job any more than I like banking. 

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  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Sep 21, 2021 - 11:00pm

Bump, in a similar boat. Currently at a top EB and did not participate in on-cycle recruiting as I am happy with my current role and WLB and am planning on going A2A. However, after seeing my fellow analysts recruit (many at MFs) I'm starting to get FOMO. Am I doing the wrong thing here by not participating? Does recruiting for MFs become significantly more difficult as an A2A? Is it even possible? Thanks and sorry to hijack OP's post, just want to echo OP's sentiments.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 21, 2021 - 11:30pm

If you're currently a second year analyst (at an EB too for that matter) you had a full year to think/prep before on-cycle started. To be completely frank asking these questions now implies that you never really had much conviction in staying for the A to A promote, and that perhaps you were just complacent and were too busy / unmotivated to do the recruiting prep work upfront. Ultimately, most IB analysts don't stay until MD. You probably aren't staying in banking for life either. Better to recruit off-cycle as an analyst now (as opposed to as an Associate) to maximize your opportunities. Contrary to the above comments, from what I've seen most traditional buyout / growth firms won't seriously look at IB associates. Always the stigma that you couldn't recruit out as an analyst.

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 22, 2021 - 2:50am

Idk about that. I know plenty of associates that have left for buyside roles at my EB, didn't seem to have too much trouble. I just don't want OP to think he's that constrained, take your time and make a decision about what you want to do rather than FOMO.

  • Associate 2 in IB - Cov
Sep 22, 2021 - 10:30am

I don't think you've been around long enough. I've seen MANY AS0 - AS3 recruit for PE down the road and have great success. The difference is you had some time to build relationships with specific firms while on deals. So instead of relying on a headhunter + a couple hours of on-cycle interviews, you've got 6+ months of direct m&a experience with this firm. Now, there are definitely firms that are very structured and only take IB analysts... but the firms you won't to join for LT growth aren't those.

Going PE will provide more optionality, but if you know its not for you - there's nothing wrong with staying in IB and cashing in on some elevated comp. There will always be Director / VP corporate development / strategy roles looking for IB associates / junior VPs.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 22, 2021 - 10:58am

Thank you and good points, but you are assuming that OP is in a group that works with PE clients they'd potentially be interested in working for. Most groups don't consistently work with the same PE clients.

Sep 23, 2021 - 4:24pm


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Sep 22, 2021 - 4:59pm

Haha yeah, losers. While they stay in crappy IB, we all leave for PE, throw $300k towards an MBA, lose 2 years of pay, and all for the chance to get back into PE. Do A2As not realize that going the buyside route is guaranteed MF, HSW, and then MF again? Clearly, the only reason why they wouldn't go the latter path is because they're losers.

And don't get me started on analysts who leave for Corp dev. Finish work before 7pm and live only an upper middle class lifestyle? FUCK that. We're better than that 😎

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 23, 2021 - 12:04am

I totally get what you are the other commenters are saying, and you make great points, but if you really wanted to give PE a shot, why not recruit and then go back to banking if you dont enjoy it as much? Everyone I know that went to a MF/UMM fund never had the desire to go back to banking, but I know a couple A2A   buddies that still want to try out investing. It's not impossible to go to PE as an associate, but the MF/UMM opportunities pretty much all go to those who recruit during on-cycle or from undergrad. Ik you're saying you have FOMO, and I'm hoping youre not trying to convince yourself that A2A is the best option just because you didnt recruit. Prepping and going through PE recruiting was a bitch ngl, but it was definitely worth it imo, so if I were you I would really consider going through off-cycle if you truly want to try out PE

Sep 23, 2021 - 1:31am

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