Best Associate you've ever seen

As a follow-up to a recent thread and as someone starting soon as an IB associate, curious to hear stories of the greatest associate you've seen, whether from the perspective of being an analyst, associate, or more senior.

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Comments (28)

  • Business School in PE - LBOs
Jul 30, 2021 - 9:30pm

He sent 4,899 "confirming, receipt" emails back to potential buyers in one season, an associate league table record. He also ranks third all-time in associate career MD extra work deflections and second in slides handled without analyst support. If the voting committee gets this right, he'll be in first ballot.

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  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Jul 30, 2021 - 10:17pm

From the perspective of an analyst. Not one in particular, these are some of the qualities the associates I've enjoyed working with the most have possessed. The great associates inspire analysts to to do a greater job for them, resulting in a more efficient team, positive culture, all around better working experience for both. In my experience, these have been rare, but those that stood out were treasured and garnered an immense amount of respect.

1. Knows how to do the analyst job and can step in when analyst is slammed and also effectively train fresh analysts. This comes from having a strong grasp of the technicals/intricacies of the job. Easier for A2A's to do. The post-MBA associates approached the job with a humble attitude their first year and took on as much as possible/worked alongside the analysts.

2. Delegates effectively and takes their fair share of work. Doesn't waste time with unnecessary requests due to not understanding what's required or not having the confidence to communicate upwards. Doesn't dump all of the work on analysts after a call and signs off expecting to review all of the work the following morning.

3. Shows respect for analyst's time and wellbeing. Develops a trusting relationship where deadlines and expectations are clearly communicated. Doesn't ping/call every hour for status updates if it's not a fire-drill. Doesn't micromanage unnecessarily. Place trust and confidence in your analyst delivering quality work. For fresh/weaker analysts it can take some time to get there. The great associates invest time in training their analysts to deliver and in building a trusting working relationship and get to reap the benefits.

An easy way to gain points here is to be willing to tackle low hanging fruit. Quick comments come in and you were already in the deck? You've got it. MD asks to send around a dial in for a call? You send it. MD asks to tweak x assumption on the model but your analyst is at a dinner they had flagged to days ago? You've got it. You show you've got their back and they'll do the same for you when the time comes, because you're part of a team. Most of the time analyst are juggling 3-4 things at a time. Nothing is more infuriating than your associate just forwarding or expecting you to do something that would take them minutes just because you're below them.

4. The best associates have strong leadership qualities. They provide actionable feedback when you're not doing well and make sure to reward strong performance. Your analyst busted their a** for months on a project? Make sure it's known come review time. Know your analyst is weak on M&A modeling? Spend a couple of hours coaching them or provide resources. Your analyst spent hours researching and put together a killer slide? Encourage them to present it for a few minutes on the call. This helps build ownership and accountability. Great associates provide opportunities for those below to step up and take on bigger responsibilities, which also frees up their own plate. Those that had the most positive impact helped me grow and become a stronger analyst. As a result, I was willing to run through walls for them.

5. Very rare and more common in senior associates. Excellent grasp on the market, industry, players, competitive dynamics. Enabling them to develop value-additive content specifically tailored to the client's needs. Directors are largely hands off with these associates and trust them to run most of the process or pull together a deck for a client with minimal input. They have excellent judgement to know which analysis, industry data-points, relevant transactions and whatnot will matter to the client and are able to efficiently guide the analyst on pulling these together without spinning their wheels or wasting time on endless turns trying to figure out what the team wants. The associates that fit this description tend to be passionate about the industry and enjoy the job.

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Jul 31, 2021 - 6:36pm

+SB & saved

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Aug 1, 2021 - 7:19pm

Its good that you recognized you are speaking from the perspective of an analyst. Many of the things you listed aren't necessarily what makes a top bucket associate (except #5) but my experience is usually the best associates do what is on your list as well as doing the things that get them recognized by the senior bankers too

Aug 2, 2021 - 7:42pm

as someone else noted, you could do nearly everything on this list and end up ranked mid to low bucket. and you could do the opposite of most of these (within reason) and still receive top bucket bonus. success as an associate is principally about managing senior bankers' perceptions. this overlaps somewhat with your actual contribution to the work, but not perfectly.

most analysts have an incredibly myopic view of investment banking that's centered on modeling and processing. presumably because that's literally all they do

Aug 4, 2021 - 6:54pm

This. As an A2A would agree with a lot of what's been said, but as mentioned above what makes a good associate from an analyst's perspective rarely jives with reality. Analysts would love an associate who is always in the trenches with them, but given time is a finite resource, the more time spent on grunt work, the less on other expectations that come with the associate role. This is particularly true for groups with lean deal teams - often times, the associate is expected to run point as both an associate (ensuring work quality) and as a VP (driving the process / liaising the client on execution). The associates that are stuck in the analyst mentality will fall short on the latter, and realistically that's where you can truly add value.

Execution is a commodity, and that's why the payscale in IB commensurate with your responsibilities / how much value you truly add. Learning how to delegate is an important skill as you rise up the ranks in any organization (whether it's IB or not). Associates who "roll up their sleeves" all the time don't seem to recognize this, and think they're doing a great job because the analysts are appreciative (obviously from taking work off their own plate). As an aside, analysts who think they're indispensable to the team because they can crank out a super complex financial model don't have a strong grasp of what investment banking as a business truly is.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Aug 1, 2021 - 4:37pm

Have an associate who bears a great bear of the load and strategically brings me in on stuff as learning experiences, (i.e. starts the rebuild of the fucking worthless client model and shows me what he's thinking then has me complete it for my own benefit and my eventual ownership allowing me to make my own changes as I see fit) knows how to figure out deadlines well in advance and effectively communicates with both seniors and myself when he sees areas to push back on. these little things make me more than okay with turning the bullshit comments and the grindier parts of the job. It's really not difficult to work as a team and make everyones life exponentially easier. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Aug 3, 2021 - 12:19pm

Can you elaborate on the associate background (MBA associate, A2A) and type of firm / group? Known to have a good culture?

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Aug 4, 2021 - 6:03pm

MBA, but went straight to ER for a few years before switching to IB, so came in with modeling and industry knowledge, so obviously not your typical MBA aso. Group is also pretty chill with a great culture (MM coverage)   so I guess I've got it pretty nice. 

Aug 2, 2021 - 12:42pm

I like this because I think it complements a hot take that I have, which is the best associate is the one that thinks they suck.

Insecurity can manifest itself in a number of ways, but at the associate level it could mean delegating way less, constantly checking in and offering to help the analysts (who are the real stars of the junior team), and prioritizing task completion over getting credit.    

  • Associate 1 in IB - Cov
Aug 4, 2021 - 2:31am

One-of-a-kind associate I know who knows the industry inside out, better than all the MDs. Super eloquent with clients and MDs literally won't go into certain meetings without him. They will have him talk to like high-level BD guys from big consolidators and strategic buyers, guy can answer all their questions about the industry and any potential target. He put together an 80 page industry landscape deck on one of our sub-sectors like it was nothing and it rivals some of the best research out there.

Crazy thing is he's like 4 or 5 years out of college. Don't know if he's any good at actual "associate work" though and don't think anyone cares cause he adds too much actual value.

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Aug 4, 2021 - 2:55am

wow, that's truly impressive. What sector is he knowledgeable about? Curious if this level of expertise can be developed just by reading/research and keeping up with the news or if you have to have worked in that specific industry to know it like that. Is this a post MBA or A2A? This is the type of value I hope to provide, and am willing to put in the work to get there. Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Aug 5, 2021 - 1:29am

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September 2021 Investment Banking

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