Back Office ain’t half bad. Thoughts after working in both BO and FO.

So we all know everyone loves to hate on Back/Middle Office on here, I'm here to say that compared to Front Office it's honestly not that bad of a gig. I spent a few years in Back/Middle office before moving over to a Front Office Banking role. All you hear on this website is how BO is the lowest of the low and how glamorous FO is.

BO is extremely underrated. I used to work 20-25 hours a week and consistently have free time to do whatever I wanted. The people who work in BO are very understanding and highly value your free time (IE never work on weekends, can count the amount of times I worked past 5 pm on one hand, no one has mobile email access). I lived in a LCOL city making more on a per hour basis than I do now in FO.

My mental health was great compared to now and I can't afford more than I did with my BO job now that I had to move to a HCOL city for the Front office role. Girls had no clue what Back vs Front office even means and I got laid way more in Back Office since I actually had time to go out and meet girls and go on dates.

Back Office isn't all great (work is boring, lower pay ceiling) but I think it is not as black and white as people on this website will make you believe. I'm now in a FO role and my happiness and quality of life has significantly decreased compared to my BO days. I don't even feel more well off considering I made the switch from a LCOL city to a HCOL city.

Comments (49)

Most Helpful
Oct 28, 2021 - 11:33am

It is very easy to get caught up in the self-imposed, self-comparison to others. Whether it's choosing a university, career, firm, whatever (even personal things such as partner), you'll have these thoughts such as "what do others think about this" and "how does this look to others." Yes, they're are certain situations where a choice will dictate later outcomes (i.e. you are 100% committed to breaking into IB/PE/VC - obviously certain schools/firms will provide better opportunities), but you also have to make that choice yourself and know that's what you really want, not some sort of external pressure pushing you that way.

Determining what it is that provides you happiness and fulfilment can be one of the hardest topics to understand. I also spent some time in a "lower-tier" role, but I also know there are countless individuals out there that would have loved to be in my shoes (having the opportunity to live in NYC, be paid a decent wage, have friendly colleagues and have good WLB).

Bottom-line is, FO type roles aren't for everyone and that's ok. Just need to find the thing that gives you the chance to do the things you want, whether it's earning more to be able to travel more, save for retirement, or have more time to try different hobbies, spend with friends and family, etc.

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Oct 28, 2021 - 11:39am

The recent thread on here about how every job is already "priced-in" is extremely accurate, and this is a good example. Way too many people are hyper focused on prestige

Funniest
Oct 28, 2021 - 3:14pm

Honestly I enjoy mansplaining to broads how prestigious my job is and how it's multiple tiers above being a lawyer, surgeon, rocket scientist, astrophysicist or whatever coke-addicted sluts think are good jobs.

I once spent 2 hours at Nobu arguing why BX was too large and corporate to be prestigious anymore when compared to KKR or Apollo, similar to how Evercore's brand has diluted and can't be considered a EB anymore (more like a upper middle market nowadays).

Oct 28, 2021 - 4:26pm

BO/MO bad is WSO dogma. BOMOers are still better off than >80% of the workforce. and there is no pressure to drive revenue. no up or out. no ankle biter hardos trying to steal your spot. to a certain extent. would love to hear back from some of the WSO prospects from ~10 years ago that were gunning for FO spots to see where they are now. either we find the finance industry has grown exponentially in the past 10 years and the thousands of prospects have walked in to sexy jobs and maintained them... or not.

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Nov 2, 2021 - 9:07pm

I'd argue you're even underselling it with 80%. People in echo chambers where everyone they know is a credentialed professional don't realize how many working stiffs there are out there with jobs that do nothing more than put food on the table and keep a roof over your head. A back office job at an investment bank, in the grand scheme of things, is an excellent job.

Oct 28, 2021 - 6:17pm

I work in back office in a LCOL city. The money isn't great but it's above the median for my city and I'm not in debt other than a mortgage, and I have time to spend with my wife and kid. Sure I'm driving a Nissan Maxima and can't blow money every weekend, but I'm working 45-55hrs a week and get to see my family on a normal basis. I've thought about getting an MBA and trying to move into front office or consulting, and I still might try to do something that is more lucrative once my kid is a couple years older, but for now I'll enjoy seeing my kid grow up and getting to go to whatever school functions those of us squandering in the middle class have to do with all this free time. 

Nov 2, 2021 - 1:34pm

kiltedlowlander

I work in back office in a LCOL city. The money isn't great but it's above the median for my city and I'm not in debt other than a mortgage, and I have time to spend with my wife and kid. Sure I'm driving a Nissan Maxima and can't blow money every weekend, but I'm working 45-55hrs a week and get to see my family on a normal basis. I've thought about getting an MBA and trying to move into front office or consulting, and I still might try to do something that is more lucrative once my kid is a couple years older, but for now I'll enjoy seeing my kid grow up and getting to go to whatever school functions those of us squandering in the middle class have to do with all this free time. 

I was fine with every thing you wrote until you mentioned the Nissan, man that made you sound poor. 🤣

SafariJoe, wins again!
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Oct 28, 2021 - 7:18pm

Fwiw, I work in corp banking in a mcol city after gunning for IB. WLB has been great and I get payed really well. People roast corp banking for being a boring debt job but that's just what work is, it's going to be boring anywhere. I think from a holistic view on life, corp banking and similar positions are very underrated as you get sort of the best of both worlds.

  • Assistant PM in AM - FI
Oct 30, 2021 - 4:29am

Wrong, AM at Senior levels either as a Head Analyst or PM is the sweetest gig on the street, you easily clear 1m+ working 30-40hours a week

  • Partner in PE - LBOs
Oct 28, 2021 - 8:58pm

There is nothing wrong with BO / MO, and you will have a good salary and live a great life.

However, that being said, if you are a recent undergrad, it's almost always better to take the harder route. 

It's significantly easier getting "off the corporate train" and trading down, then "getting on the corporate train", if you catch my drift.

Use your 20s to build that career capital. 

Oct 29, 2021 - 2:00pm

The nicest and happiest person I ever met was someone in a MO/BO role at a BB. He was an MD who was super chill, worked less than 50 hours, and had many hobbies. I met him through a D&I program 3 years ago and we still meet every 3 months for an hour. Clearly this is just one guy so mileage will vary, but for long term careers as apposed to short term "stints" or springboards, MO/BO is amazing. People might see it as less PrEStIgE being in one of these role, but in my experience the prestige whores come and go quickly in life - they either exit chasing greener grass or age out of it. Personally would much rather be an MD at GS in compliance than an associate at a MF

Oct 29, 2021 - 7:59pm

I used to work in BO (NYC role). Starting salary was 65k. When I hit associate, it got bumped to 85k. Bonus was 10k a year (just to give you some figures). Starting IB this summer….let's see if it's really that bad. I'm also coming from the military so I doubt it could be worse than standing post for 18 hours a day…..

Oct 30, 2021 - 12:29pm

Nothing against back office. But for others who value interesting work, this isn't the best job. I do not prioritize money in IB, and might be the only one who thinks along those lines, but it's about learning curve. Real money is made in entrepreneurship, not working for others

Nov 2, 2021 - 1:37pm

WilliamBlanks

Nothing against back office. But for others who value interesting work, this isn't the best job. I do not prioritize money in IB, and might be the only one who thinks along those lines, but it's about learning curve. Real money is made in entrepreneurship, not working for others

FYI, that is my current journey to work for myself.

SafariJoe, wins again!
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Nov 2, 2021 - 1:41pm

That's the plan! Always something to learn, whether back office or front office. Can't believe people on here complain about "not learning things," when you can learn things and look into stuff no one else looks into.

A job is a job, whether as a farmer or a banker or billionaire. We're all tryna live well and make it! Nothing wrong with back office at a bank, still a great job!

Oct 30, 2021 - 3:38pm

Back office/Middle Office is not a bad place to start. Plenty of people have moved to front office roles such as equity research, sales/trading. investment banking, quant, from a back office/middle office role. You can learn a lot about different financial products in middle office roles. The only problem with the roles is if you encounter managers and co-workers that are jerks and do not support your career goals (but that can happen in front office as well). Other than that, it is a great place to start, especially if you are not sure if you want to take on the commitment of investment banking quite yet. 

Array
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Oct 30, 2021 - 10:39pm

Generally, pay per hour is still near the top of the developed world.  So certainly a good job on breadwinning capability.

Is it right for you, I think highly situational on the role and the person.  Where I'm at, they mostly make the same reports over and over while dealing with crappy IT systems.  Not my cup of tea. 

Oct 31, 2021 - 2:05pm

Worked at SS&C/HedgeServ in HCOL. 
Pay is above median American wage, but significantly lower than typical finance job. Bonus sucks. Average person thinks you work in trading since your clients are funds. Work is pretty boring. Significant portion of people have CPA, and most MD have MBA. MBA will be a place that anyone on this website would say not worth it.
Hours vary, if one day you need 9-5 you can leave at 5, but dont be surprised if you have an impossible client and you work til 8 a couple nights a month. Weekend work is extremely rare. Almost every team is pretty chill. 
So if you are looking to have a life outside of work,and dont care about being a partner at KKR, not a awful option.

Nov 1, 2021 - 9:39pm

Everything about this is so true. I started out of college a couple years ago in a back office role at a BB in a LCOL area. Super chill team and everyone is on the same page that the goal is to do the work in as little time as possible. Probably worked 35 hours a week but the job could've easily been done in less time. Pay was actually solid and came out to be around ~$33/hr right out of college and I was getting 26 days off + holidays. I am now in a IBD role and my comp is probably ~45/hr (~80 hr weeks and assuming 190k total comp) but taking into account the huge jump in cost of living and extra city taxes, I am honestly making less per hour.

Downside of BO is super boring like you said, and the constant feeling that your job is pointless and can/will be automated down the line, but man I definitely feel like I was bamboozled that FO is way better than BO and I am honestly getting the sense that generally speaking, people in FO are just more insecure about their lives and don't have as much to do in their spare time so they fill the voids with more prestigious jobs and don't value their spare time very highly.

Nov 2, 2021 - 1:31pm

livinlikelarry

Everything about this is so true. I started out of college a couple years ago in a back office role at a BB in a LCOL area. Super chill team and everyone is on the same page that the goal is to do the work in as little time as possible. Probably worked 35 hours a week but the job could've easily been done in less time. Pay was actually solid and came out to be around ~$33/hr right out of college and I was getting 26 days off + holidays. I am now in a IBD role and my comp is probably ~45/hr (~80 hr weeks and assuming 190k total comp) but taking into account the huge jump in cost of living and extra city taxes, I am honestly making less per hour.

Downside of BO is super boring like you said, and the constant feeling that your job is pointless and can/will be automated down the line, but man I definitely feel like I was bamboozled that FO is way better than BO and I am honestly getting the sense that generally speaking, people in FO are just more insecure about their lives and don't have as much to do in their spare time so they fill the voids with more prestigious jobs and don't value their spare time very highly.

Couldn't agree more even in some technical MO positions like Treasury - it might be the large "prestigious" companies rather than strictly the FO vs MO/BO roles - there are just tons of prestige whore with nothing better to do than to "circle back" on every topic with a presentation or deliverable at some point when a conversation would more than suffice, just to show how hard working, prepared, and analytical they can be (although the people under them are the ones that are actually doing the work).

I think a lot of people get the relationship problems and work stress/bad WLB relationship backwards. Its not that stressful careers often single-handedly destroy what are already strong relationships - it's that the people who don't get along well with others, who are bad at communicating and leading teams (and thus poorly suited for long-term, monogamous relationships), are the same people jumping headfirst into careers where their quantity of output is so highly-valued that they can get away with never learning the skills most of us learned in Kindergarten (sharing, caring, not assigning work at 2am to be delivered "by tomorrow").

Nov 2, 2021 - 4:29pm

front office is an investment into your future 6-10 years down the road.

Within 6-10 years, if you manage to stay in the front office, you will be making 500k-1mm/year.  You will have "f*ck you" money, where you can always decide to retire and can say f$ck you to just about anybody if you want to.  You probably won't, but you have that option.

In BO, you can't retire in 10 years if you want, you won't have enough $$ saved up, or the ability to easily save $1mm by reducing your spending for a year.

long game vs short game....you are only seeing the short game.

Nov 2, 2021 - 6:55pm

ironnchef

front office is an investment into your future 6-10 years down the road.

Within 6-10 years, if you manage to stay in the front office, you will be making 500k-1mm/year.  You will have "f*ck you" money, where you can always decide to retire and can say f$ck you to just about anybody if you want to.  You probably won't, but you have that option.

In BO, you can't retire in 10 years if you want, you won't have enough $$ saved up, or the ability to easily save $1mm by reducing your spending for a year.

long game vs short game....you are only seeing the short game.

What about doing what you enjoy?

SafariJoe, wins again!
Dec 26, 2021 - 12:44pm

the vast vast majority of people in FO aren't making 1m 10 years into their career, but I get your point that they pay gap widens at the top levels (although I still think one of the best jobs is being an MD in BO/MO or compliance where you basically just sign off on things).

The reality is that nobody in FO is actually retiring after 10 years or so. You've spent the last 10 years of your life centered around work and you have don't have a social life or close friends, probably don't have a family, no hobbys, etc. Work is the only thing these people know and they aren't just going to drop the only thing they have going for them in life. It defines your entire life at this point. 

When I'm seeing one of my MDs send 20+ emails on christmas eve and getting immediate responses from buyside folks, it tells me all I need to know about the sad life that these people live and I really hope I never get sucked into the rat race past the analyst level.

  • Partner in PE - LBOs
Dec 26, 2021 - 2:55pm

Everybody who said I'm going to make fuck you money never really made fuck you money, and never became truly successful.

Doing well in FO really is a mindset thing. 

Nov 3, 2021 - 3:39pm

I worked BO at a top tier PE/AM and at first loved it due to the great work-life balance. However, after 2 performance reviews and identical (small) bonus & pay raises, I quickly lost motivation to perform. I found after working BO for a few years, the best way to get a raise was for your boss to quit, there was no real career progression, at least not compared to FO roles. That's ok with some people, but making $100K a year without much upside and zero learning from day-to-day wasn't for me. I much prefer the lack of WLB but increased career progression and insane comp that IB offers.

Nov 8, 2021 - 5:30pm

Completely agree. I wasn't born on the states, at school and college we didn't get too much exposure to what IB/PE is. I learned of the whole industry and the path to front office once I made the jump from B4 to a solid MM shop. Once I learned about it, my instant thought was that I'd wasted my years and smarts studying and working for a role that was less prestigious and my earnings wouldn't be as much. Fast forward a couple of years and I'm 32 now and my role is what you call Middle Office. I've been making $200k+ and working 35 hours per week since I was 28, with free Coinvest, 100% paid for insurance and 401k match. I make close to $275k now and the job is so simple that I can easily see myself making it to CFO and earning $500k+ by the time I'm 40. I always take two full weeks of vacation during the summer and winter as well, never missed anything related to my kids, wife or friends. I also have a lot of free time, so I regularly compete in Ironmans and Triathlons, read a lot of books and go out for drinks and dinner once or twice every week.

A lot of people have called me a liar in forums like these and think it's too much for the role and honestly I could care less about it. I wont lie --I've always wondered how my life would have turned out if I knew of all these career paths at 16, but I'm pretty happy with the life I live, my current comp and career prospects.  

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Nov 8, 2021 - 10:02pm

Good points, although the work you do in a BO role is extremely boring and repetitive. Yea you get more time for hobbies and friends, but even that 40 hour week will feel like eternity with the type of work that's involved (usually).

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