Bad team culture: A vent

This is a long post, and it's intended to be a vent. Apologies in advance. I have no one else to talk about (lower middle class family background, no close friends work in IB except me, who makde a lot of efforts to break in) and I still need to hit my 1-year mark to make my lateral move's success rate higher. 

After being an analyst for only a few months, I've realized that office politics is maybe the single most important part in this job, or any white-collar job. 

Depending on your group and bank, how you play politics right may be the key to promotion and a long-term career.

If you find your bank/group/supervisors intolerable because they play way too much politics, albeit subtly, it's not a place you want to be for the LT.

This post from a few years ago is extremely important.

Landed Your First Job? EXTREMELY Important Thread: Office Politics | Wall Street Oasis

Notice that this is for the China/HK market and my bank mainly operates within this area too. Asia is a place where politics seems to be given much more weight compared to Americas or EU. It's also the area where nepotism flourishes. 

Team structure: 1 MD, 1 VP, 1 Associate, 5 Analysts including myself.

All analysts are chill people, including myself. I went to college in the US and worked in NYC for a couple years before coming to current bank, so I'm considered "too optimistic" and "no very humble" when other people say good things about me. I'm also considered "inexperienced and immature" for calling other people by their English first names instead of Mr/Mrs.XYZ. 

The VP, who less less than 3 years of full-time work experience, constantly tries to belittle all other junior people's work experience and say we are "young lads", sometimes in very subtle ways. nevertheless, it's not hard to tell her intention. 

Mind you, one of the analysts is 33 years old, way lder than VP (28) herself. 

I mean...what the fuck.  

Once I called a VP from another team by his first name, and my VP immediately commented that "yo that's way too immature to call him that lol...you should call him Mr.XXX".

The other team's VP was educated abroad as well and doesn't give two shit about Mr.XXX. 

That's just poor personality from my VP. 

Backgrounds:

MD:

worked in an SEC-equivalent for 20+ years. Joined current bank because many years ago he befriended the current CEO of the bank during a deal.

MD was the guy responsible for giving comments regarding say IPO prospectuses of healthcare companies. He also knows a lot of people from FDA-equivalent entities. That makes him powerful in terms of his political connections and the amount of off-table resources he can source for the company.

He graduated from a top, top university in the area, think HYP-equivalent as an economics & finance major. Not pushy. Don't communicate a lot with us either. Everything is done through VP.

MD asks us to source deals if possible. There will be a fee cut %, and it's pretty generous. I think it's as high as 10% of say total equity financing raised in an IPO for total M&A advisory fee.

That essentially rewards connections and family resources, not hard work, because with below-street pay, our bonus is mediocre at best. 

Apparently, he knows the VP I'm gonna talk about next on a personal level.

My guess is, he knows the VP's parents, and they are quite close friends. 

Evidence: during a team lunch, MD directly talked to VP about a surgery he did after golfing with VP's father last weekend. I don't think it's very usual for an MD and his/her VP's father to be golfing together during a weekend. It's, curious. 

On the other hand, MD is a nice guy who takes our questions whenever he has free time, and he tries to answer our questions as detailed as possible, in order for us to learn something. 

For example, my group is working with GS/MS on an IPO right now, and he got the financial analysis work for my group. I'm not sure what that entails, hope its modeling, like an operating model with depreciation and all that built in. As the only person who has had real world experience and is fairly good at modeling, I will be doing the heavy-lifting. If I didn't ask for modeling, I probably wouldn't get it though (will goes to GS/MS). 

The current audited financial statements I got from one of the Big 4 companies, is shiit. For example, no color differentiation is made between hard-coded/key-in numbers and calculations, like blue and black. Depreciation was simply put in. No salvage value or equipment useful years given in the Excel sheet. I don't even know whether it's calculated on a SL basis or an accelerated depreciation basis, and if the latter, what the depreciation schedule is. How am I supposed to play around the depreciation expenses if I'm given raw data like that? 

I asked the VP if we could get the raw financial statements/items and talk with the Big 4 firm about how they get to those numbers, only to be told that "why do you worry about this? That falls on the shoulder of the execution team. We got the deal for our bank and we get paid $. That's all you need to know." So...an analyst's eagerness to learn and grow, and help his coverage team build an internal financial model for the IPO, clearly means nothing to VP (talking next).

As you'll see next, VP is a VIP kid who has tons of resources and doesn't know shit about financial technicals. She told me once she did a revenue projection analysis and "learned a lot". My understanding is, that was a projection from revenue down to net income...which is some pretty basic stuff when you do a 3-statement modeling.

MD once said in a group dinner that "don't hire senior bankers. They are expensive."

So...what he essentially meant/means is: pay junior bankers shit money is enough to keep them in this business because I don't think young people deserve to make a lot in this industry.

He didn't make a lot when he was young...was in the government. 

VP:

Graduated from NYU as a non-finance related master's student. Think marketing/anthropology/agriculture/professional gamer management. Not your standard Fairfield-CT damsel who wears Gucci loafers all day and fondle with her hair. Ugly AF.

She has tons of resources and pulled in 2 big, big deals for MD during her 2 years in the team. 

As a reward, she got promoted from Analyst 1 to VP in 2 years. 

She is on the verge of ignorance when it comes to financial literacy, not to even mention modeling skills. I don't think she can even build an illustrative DCF, not to say an LBO. She also lacks industry knowledge that a VP who grinds his/her way up often possesses.  

However, VP is extremely good at down-playing people's work products and abilities.

For example, she might say something like "hey MD, job was split into 2 parts. A did that part really well; B received a lot of comments, and we'll send a draft by EOD today." While the situation was A had already gone through 4 iterations of editing, and B only had to go through 1 iteration of editing. Purely based on how many drafts each had done, I believe it's fair to say B did a pretty good job too. (B is me actually). Can feel her somehow trying to downplay my ability and accomplishments, in a subtle way. 

Is there a possiblity that I'm thinking too much? Maybe. Experience tells me she's not a good person, but she pretends to be one. Dad is some high-up political figure in the government.  

Subtle things like this often accumulate. Another example being, she did not read something carefully, and then when there's a phone call discussion, she would say something like: hey A, what B just said is totally right. Make sure you put that in (it's on next page, almost verbatim).

She constantly tries to market herself as that VP who really gets along with direct reports and really cares about what kind of experience people are getting. 

Gradually, analysts learned that she is not someone who she says she is, or pretends to be. 

This VP was pulling all project management work towards herself (remember, MD is chill AF, doesn't really give any comments on anything except stuff he think is a MUST), to the point that another VP left the team a while ago. I had a dinner with that VP a few days ago, and he mentioned said VP's "subtle yet recognizable moves" in playing team politics. Politics was not the whole reason that male VP left, but a big part. 

If you are more capable than said VP, somehow she finds a way to tell you "I'm the boss, suck it up", whether it's industry knowledge, financial modeling, or how to execute certain transaction work. I'm in a coverage group, and as a VIP kid she did not do that much execution work whatsoever. 

Yesterday, said VP, a VP from the execution team, and I had a discussion regarding something I just wrote. Execution VP said that's a really good job. Today, said VP didn't say a single thing to the MD when it comes to weekly meeting time, only "we need to make edits on that".

An apparent thing is, VP doesn't want people to get promoted as fast as her. She wants to be that "office leader" who has the final say over all daily operations. She cannot stand a single threat. 

A bitch can dig you a hole deep when it takes time to know someone is a fucking bitch. You might be diving into that hole smiling. 

Associate:

Works on her CPA exam 95% of the day. Does not do ANY work at all. AT ALL. Throws every single thing to me and another analyst. When there are things we do not know, "let's talk about it so you know what to put in". Meanwhile, when she talk to said VP (we 3 sit in a row), everything becomes her accomplishments. Taking some credits is common. Taking all credits is shitty behavior. Would create work out of thin air just to let analysts know her title. Tbh, we don't even know how she got that Associate coming from a small company's corp dev department, after working for only 2 years full-time. 

That taking-credit thing happened multiple times. Both I and another analyst who worked the most in the group talked to VP about Associate being a dick. VP said she would talk to MD. Based on the feedback I got, don't think VP did this. Even if she did, she downplayed this a lot. MD apparently doesn't think it's a big deal that Associate is making every single analyst repulsive to the point that literally no one wants to work for her. I said for particularly because that's how Associate thinks about this.

Asso had a conversation with a female analyst after said analyst refused to comply with some totally unreasonable requests from Asso. Asso said: I'm more experienced than you, so listen to what I'm going to say carefully: I want you to take everything I say and implement instructions with a big smile on your face. I want you to agree with everything I say from your heart. 

That is fucked up team culture. 

To answer questions some of you might have:

  1. Is nepotism viral in Asia?

I believe it's everywhere in this industry because at the end of the day, you need to get deals for the firm. If you Analyst or Associate or whoever takes a soon-to-be IPO with him/her and joins your team, you are closer to your revenue target as an MD. Seems like a win-win situation. I don't blame anyone for this. At the same time, it's extremely bad for other junior people because said Analyst/Associate will not be doing grunt work, and will get promoted way faster, like getting put on a fast track. 

That essentially rewards resources, not efforts.

  1. What's the pay structure like at my bank?

Base pay is shit, like so shit compared to other big banks that have good deal flow in Asia. Bonus has 2 parts. First one is your personal performance bonus (I'll get a fair amount for this); second one is if your group CLOSED any deals during the calendar year. If your group has something, then you might have a big payday, meaning your total comp for the year will get to match those of GS/MS/JPM operating in your country. 

Pay attention, if your group have closed deals, the best you get is something that might be SLIGHTLY better than GS/MS/whatever. 

All other times, our pay is 30%-50% of their pay. Hours are comparable, not meaningfully fewer. 

Which essentially tells people: hey, you do the same job as that guy at Goldman, and you are getting paid 30% of what that analyst is getting paid.

That's...fucked up I guess? Banks will tell you that it's important to "grow"...through what exactly, poor pay?  

Sad thing is there are way too many people craving for an IB job, and if you do leave, no one really cares, so banks don't have any motivation to raise pay. 

  1. Wall Street is raising base comps across the board, how about banks in other parts of the world?

Not a chance. End of discussion. 

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Comments (20)

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Aug 27, 2021 - 10:14pm

I believe it's bank-dependent. The one I work for has very solid deal flow (one a current medical devices IPO, we split work with MS 50-50), but pays employees like shit and has poor culture, as I've written in this post. 

Our pay is 30% of those of MS. I've talked with 2 MS people. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Aug 28, 2021 - 11:34pm

I got laid off because of a revenue downturn caused by covid-19. Plus, I've been away from home far too along. My parents barely speak English and I don't see them moving to the US. 

Aug 28, 2021 - 10:56pm

Man, not to dox myself to the three ppl who've heard this story but I've met a similar VP-type (except she was hot). Not sure if this will help you, but I ended up hooking up with her. I guess my advice is to try that and report back here. Ymmv

2020 Update: recounting my experiences in PE and sharing thoughts on recent deals at https://leverup.substack.com
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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Aug 30, 2021 - 3:28am

OP here. Some comments on other analysts:

Analyst A: did trading at a medium-sized firm for 3 years before coming to IBD. Got the Analyst title. Knows ~0 about finance. I literally need to write Assets = Liabilities + Equity for A and talk about the difference between total assets and net assets.

Good thing is A is willing to learn and put in the hard work. Is a nice person in general and I'm willing to be staffed on projects with A. 

Nevertheless, I don't see how someone with close-to-nil corporate finance knowledge can get into a fairly big investment bank.

Oh wait, nepotism.

Analyst B:

Somehow B worked at a small PE fund for 2-3 years before coming over as Analyst 1. Absolutely incapable. B got into the team only because MD knows his parents well. B would go AWOL for like 6 hours before anyone can reach B. Quality of work product is dismal. I often find myself doing formatting for ALL of B's work, which takes a tremendous amount of time. A good person though, out of work.

Nepotism += 1

Analyst C:

Is much older than the rest of us, think 35+ yo...C comes from a wealthy background and doesn't give a shit about $$$. I'm grinding my ass off and I'm making the same base pay and probably not meaningfully better bonus compared to C and all people mentioned in this thread except Analyst D.

Nepotism += 1

Analyst D:

Actually works hard. Comes from a non-finance background. Did a STEM major and now chimes in on a couple specific industries. A bit stubborn sometimes, but overall a nice person and we get staffed on a lot of projects together. The most important work in the group often gets separated between D and me.

Ex-Associate:

The story that happened on this Ex-Associate, whom we'll call E, is beyond absurd. E did 2 years of BB banking at a fairly reputable group in a US tier-1 city (think SF/NYC/LA) before coming back to the country/area where I"m at, and then she got the SAME BASE PAY as someone who just GRADUATES out of school (the same for me and ALL other people with the title "Analyst" right now). She is 100x more capable and knowledgeable in terms of PowerPoint, deal experience, Excel, financial modeling, and some industry knowledge (specific to E's previous coverage sector). Still, VP is the actual leader of the group.

E left before hitting the 6-month mark. I mean, E definitely gets looked at after working for a mid/top tier BB for 2 years. I have 0 fucking clue why MD gives E the SAME BASE PAY as fresh graduates.

I'm still in touch with E. Now E works at a family office. Not a big one in terms of AUM but is famous across the world because of the family's last name. 

Do y'all see how this kind of group structure and culture drives people nuts? I hope you do. 

As a side note, I don't mind getting worked up if I'm getting paid at least street. What I can't bear with is...all this. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Sep 3, 2021 - 8:50pm

OP here. Some more details to entertain y'all.

Was having an IPO prospectus drafting meeting with company management yesterday.

I wrote the Strategy section. When it's my time to talk about it, VP just took over. She missed a lot of details and she probably didn't read my writing carefully. She told me to take notes while all those "notes" are already there in the paragraph.

Then, when it came to Industry, another Analyst got to speak. I don't understanding why VP did that. Maybe it's because both of them are women and they get along? Or because VP knows I'm more capable than her technically and doesn't like me for this? Hell, my group is very non-technical.

That Analyst sometimes got insecure and all defensive for things she's done. I can understand that because she's the least experienced. Somehow VP trusts her because Analyst went to med school and we are on HC deals.

Does that mean said Analyst gets everything right? Clearly no, but Analyst and VP both blame the industry consultants for writing the wrong stuff.

I mean, that is just not fair. Learn to take ownership and admit you simply CANNOT be right your whole life even if you are W. Buffet or Bill fucking Gates.

Terrible. 

  • Prospect in HF - Macro
Sep 10, 2021 - 8:42pm

Dude I am sorry to hear all this... I am also Chiense studying in the US and my family has zero connections in Finance. I sometimes wonder if I made the right decision to work in IB. Hang in there my friend I hope everything goes well.

As a side note, "not your typical... With gucci loafer, ugly AF" cracks me up so bad hahaha hahaha. Made my day.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Sep 15, 2021 - 4:26am

Thanks...I just spoke to an alum at a BB HK yesterday. He sympathize with a lot of what I said, but unfortunately his team is not hiring right now (he's relatively senior). 

I don't think it's wrong as this job will open a lot of doors for ya, and tbh it's rare for 20 yos to be talking with CFOs and CEOs directly. It's pretty much IB and MC. 

Sep 11, 2021 - 1:39pm

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