Dear Undergrads and Highschoolers

 

If the sheer volume of recent threads addressing burnout and attrition for analysts/associates didn't clue you in, banking culture is in a very rough place right now. I would strongly advise all of you to deeply contemplate why it is that you want to pursue this industry. Typical reasons why kids are drawn to finance include money, prestige, and exit ops. These are all legitimate incentives to pursue a career in my opinion, but right now I would argue the costs at which you will achieve those goals have changed.

You truly can't know what it is like until you actually experience it

Everyone knows banking is hard and how draining it can be - you have seen it hundreds of times before on here. Reading the experiences of anonymous users on an internet forum can be easy to dissociate from because you have no basis of comparison or actual relationship with these people. However, I can assure you their testimonies are real. I speak from experience, and I'd wager many other juniors feel the same way, when I say that you truly can't know what it is like until you actually experience it. I was also gung-ho about banking when I was in college. I didn't care to listen to people when they talked about the importance of group culture and WLB. I figured I would just suck it up and it would all be worth it. 

Well having now endured it for a few years, I can tell you it has not personally been worth it for me. The continuous mental health strain and erosion from this industry's broken practices have taken a significant toll on me, and have altered the way I will approach future career decisions. There is blatant disregard for the well-being of analysts, associates, and even VP's at times, largely due to the mass supply of kids looking to break into banking. High turnover rates and the mantra of "earning your stripes" aren't helping things either. The comradery and bonds that helped many juniors get through long weeks have been destroyed by WFH.

Those who stayed in finance and achieved progression in the banking or PE space STILL have no free time and are under constant stress and pressure. 

I have friends making 50% less than me who are infinitely happier, work 40 hours a week, and can actually use their vacation time. They still have the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder and live a comfortable life, without sacrificing what I consider to be a lot, just for money and prestige. Bankers often times rationalize the sacrifices made in their 20's with the notion that things will magically get better later on in life. From my experience working with my superiors, those who stayed in finance and achieved progression in the banking or PE space STILL have no free time and are under constant stress and pressure. 

Insecure AF

The point of me saying all this is not to gatekeep or to try and dissuade anyone from doing something they are truly passionate about. I think many young guys want to pursue banking for the wrong reasons. I'll tell you a big secret, and I think far too many people don't talk about this enough. A ton of junior bankers, and front office finance analysts for that matter, are insecure af. It seems as though many kids choose this career path to fulfill a need to prove to their peers, family, or whomever that they are smarter, harder working, or have the ability to earn more money than anyone else. I was one of those kids - I wanted to use banking a means to escape my economic situation. Contrary to what you see in movies and all over social media, finance guys are not always the imposing alpha male types. There plenty of people who clearly have some serious, deep-rooted personal issues and are out looking for validation.  

There are plenty of ways to make money and become successful

Looking back now with a bit more perspective than when I came in, I can ascertain that there are plenty of ways to make money and become successful, and banking is only one of them. I didn't intend for this to be a sob story or a rant, rather a statement that could possibly offer a view from someone who has been through the process and found it was not what I thought it was going to be.

I'm here to tell you that there is a whole other side to it

Undergrads right now still have the opportunity to try and consider new paths, and I would highly recommend at least exploring alternatives if you are solely focused on banking.  High schoolers - (lol) why tf are you even interested in banking? Seriously ask yourself that. If your answer is to make money, yes, banking will do that for you, but there are so many ways to achieve that, including other avenues of finance. IB has been hyped up so much recently with youtubers, tik tokers, and ig finmeme pages alike shoving the prestige, salary figures, and all the shiny aspects down your throat. I'm here to tell you that there is a whole other side to it and I hope you at least take into consideration much of the valuable information on this site. 

Anyway, just my thoughts. Would love to have some other more experienced members jump in here. 

Comments (70)

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 11, 2021 - 5:16pm

I know most of the stuff in the past few days has been posted in the IB forum as it's the most popular but curious to hear if people are feeling the same sentiment about other career fields such as S&T, PE, AM, CO?  Are the hours just as bad, the same, better?

 

Sounds dumb but would anyone be able to rank the increase in workload for each of these aforementioned fields?

 
  • Analyst 2 in S&T - Other
Jan 11, 2021 - 5:27pm

I'll offer a perspective on S&T. I think the transition to WFH, for my desk at least, has been great. I can imagine starting as a first year would be pretty difficult without direct access to people for questions, and given the steep learning curve for many products. However, having already learned the product, I think the culture has improved dramatically. S&T work in general seems to be much more structured than banking with regimented daily deliverables for most analysts. I can easily separate work time and home time as market hours sort of help reinforce this. No more walk to work, no more paying $15 for lunch, no more sitting around doing nothing when there is downtime. I can work out freely during the mid-day lull, and also now have time to cook dinner and lunch. I truly feel for the guys in banking rn. Seems like they are getting absolutely worked. 

 
  • Analyst 2 in Consulting
Jan 12, 2021 - 4:46pm

A perspective from MBB with close friends in banking & consulting across a whole litany of "tiers": Honestly, OP's post is so achingly true. Many of us who joined these firms did so with praises rained down on us for how "talented" and "amazing" and "smart" we were. In hindsight, I find the biggest irony is that we were all smart enough to grasp the complexities of the interviews, the contextual knowledge, and the networking nuances, yet we completely failed to internalize the very real warnings we received from our peers and general internet resources on just how bad things can be in these fields despite the universal abundance of these warnings.

One thing you guys should consider: who is the bigger fool? The one who eschews suffering for potential long term satisfaction, or the one who deliberately suffers because there is a "promise" of a better future in years to come? I used to think it was the first one, but now I realize just because it's harder to be in the second position doesn't make it a better problem to have. We are all fools in one way or another.

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Jan 12, 2021 - 5:13pm

Great point, the problem is not unique to Banking. A lot of my Consultant friends are feeling the burn out too, obviously to a lesser extent and group specific. Obviously a guy in Accenture Consulting doing a 4 month implementation project won't be as burnt out as one doing 4 week Due Diligence projects working 80+ hours every day for a bs industrials business

 
  • Prospect in AM - FI
Jan 11, 2021 - 5:25pm

Pre-COVID, would you say that bankers in DCM and ECM had a better experience (work/life balance) overall compared to M&A? I understand the exit opps to PE aren't as good, but for someone who isn't necessarily shooting for the buyside do you think its a decent career starter? College freshman here

 
  • Summer Associate in IB - Gen
Jan 12, 2021 - 6:02pm

My theory on why you don't hear about DCM/ECM:

  1. There's nothing to complain about and getting promoted or finding a good exit is not that uncommon
  2. They don't have enough time to go on WSO and write a detailed post on DCM/ECM because they are worked to death

 

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 11, 2021 - 5:41pm

You would have to be really dumb to do that just so you can suffer the same, if not worse effects of the industry, 2 years down the line...

 
Most Helpful
  • NA in IB-M&A
Jan 11, 2021 - 6:05pm

For reference, he was theorizing that other undergrads/high schoolers are posing as analysts and making these type of posts with the goal of trying to dissuade other prospects from pursuing banking to reduce competition

 
  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jan 11, 2021 - 10:23pm

I hoped my joking tone was clear. I'm not a hardo I promise, I almost became a premed.

 
Jan 11, 2021 - 6:14pm

It was tough before covid, but from my analyst class whose still there after I left my group it has without a doubt gotten worse.

 

I would take this with a grain of salt. Just like joining the army / navy etc, there's something about going through this "getting fucked in the ass" experience that really hardens you and is invaluable in how you approach your career afterwards.

 

I've left IB, started 2 businesses and have molded my outlook on work from my IB days into the new industries I'm in (telecoms + HNW advisory).  It is a huge advantage to see a client email at 1 AM when they're in the UK and you're on the west coast and be OK with popping the laptop up and responding whereas your competitor is simply sleeping.

 

^ Musk did say that no one ever changed the world working 40 hours a week. I'm not trying to change the world lmao, but if it means building a successful enterprise, the 2 years in IB i got fked are more than worth it looking back

 
  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Jan 11, 2021 - 11:56pm

Bankerconsu

Just like joining the army / navy etc, there's something about going through this "getting fucked in the ass" experience that really hardens you and is invaluable in how you approach your career afterwards.

We are at the point where kids here are comparing banking to being in the military... Jesus Christ

 
Jan 12, 2021 - 3:40pm

I'm in the military as many of my superiors used to be. The sentiment this person is trying to draw is accurate. Know your place instead of trying to act high and mighty. The camaraderie and rank structure is actually similar, and I've been deployed and seen combat, not just a weekend warrior.

 
Jan 12, 2021 - 10:29pm

Is IB the same as the military? Obviously not. 

Is working in IB doing 80 hours a week for a year or two similar to say going to bootcamp for example?  Yes, I'd say so. I see the same results where people come out of bootcamp as completely different human beings.....and note boot camp is only 8 weeks.

 
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jan 11, 2021 - 6:44pm

I'm pretty sure the WFH-born extra immediacy + way more client meetings (Zoom = no need to travel = way more space on calendar) is going to pollute the industry for years to come. 

Not sure I'd sign up for an analyst stint '21-'23, even though I consider my time in IB to be a mild positive.

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 11, 2021 - 6:56pm

Honestly it's not even that deep. It's a pretty good job and im getting good pay. All I could ask for 

 
Jan 11, 2021 - 7:10pm

What are your thoughts/advice for the equity research industry. I know hours are typically better than IB already (I've heard 60-70 a week and up to 80 during earnings vs. up to 100+ for IB) but would you say the same about equity research as well, or is work life balance still much better than in IB? Curios to hear from OP and any IB analyst with friends in ER but would also like to hear from any ER folks out there.

 
Jan 12, 2021 - 8:28am

Joined an equity research role in COVID. Had prior work experience before so was a lateral hire. Honestly, it's been good but tough. I know my analyst pretty well but have never met them before in person and some days do feel a little isolating. But, the firm I joined has done a good job on making sure junior talent is connected and that there are opportunities to progress even in this WFH environment. 
 

I would say the main negatives are that given normal lack of overlap with other teams, in WFH, you really don't have that much interaction with people outside of your team. Would also add that for anyone joining a research team without any registrations, don't think it's just 60-70 hours a week and that's that. Getting fully licensed takes 6-7 months if you pass everything on the first attempt and that period of time will be weeks of 80-90+ hours with trying to fit your studying into after work hours. Throw in earnings and it's a pretty hectic period trying to manage everything while also getting ramped up to speed to replace someone who left w/ years of experience and knew how your analyst liked things done. 
 

On the other hand, the team I joined really values my input and thoughts and I find the sector I work in pretty interesting. Not a whole lot of busy work (lean teams should = lack of pointless work) and usually pretty interesting topics. 

 
Controversial
  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jan 11, 2021 - 10:14pm

As a college freshman, this post honestly really makes me think. Growing up in a low-income household (my parents made it seem middle class, but w/e), I always wanted to go into a profession that would allow me to provide my family with everything they needed. I thought that if I ended up in a 9-5 with middling pay, I would likely pick up a side job (hourly or independent) to supplement it. As I've been learning about IB, I rationalized that the cost of time spent working was offset by the pay. I mean, if I went through hell at work, all that I would have to do is sit back and think to myself: wow, I made $1,000 today.

However, seeing all of these posts, I've become pretty scared of committing to IB. While I'm no IFBB pro, I want to maintain a bodybuilder-esque physique which means time to sleep, train and eat correctly. I can't imagine going into IB without my body vastly deteriorating or literally only going to the gym and work. I also love animals, and a post I saw earlier today about people in IB (without a 9-5ish spouse) not being able to have a dog is definitely upsetting. I'm also a loving person who wants to have kids (not some kind of bluepill simp tho) and while I'm certainly not unhappy with the hookups that I've had, I struggle to rationalize my ability to pull a worthwhile woman while I spend 90% of my life asleep, at the gym or at work. 
There's no real point to my comment here other than I greatly appreciate the advice from older users. It's easy to say that in a bubble, I wouldn't mind the hours, but thinking about all of the other sacrifices involved definitely makes it a lot worse.

 
Jan 14, 2021 - 2:28pm

You're presumably 18/19 and thinking about how IB would impact life stages typically in the what 28+ age range (kids, spouse) when for many people IB is a 2 year stint when you're 22-24. Unless you went to BYU but didnt make the ring by spring cut, I dont see how a 2 year stint matters in this grand scheme of things unless you're saying IB is a FT career forever or none at all. 

It's analogous to those people who say they dont want to lift because because "then I'll get too big" or "then this body part will get to big," theres a pretty big gap between those two things happening. 

Also, when I was growing up, my dad (immigrant parents) washed dishes and scooped ice cream while my parents went to school to learn english and get a professional job. I too rationalized thinking if I went through IB I could rationalize the cost of time spent working with the pay .... and I was absolutely right!

 
Jan 11, 2021 - 11:52pm

Thank you for posting this. Someone really needed to let these kids know

Array
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Jan 12, 2021 - 2:31am

I can only echo what has been said before. There are so many other ways of making good money while at the same time enjoying that financial flexibility in your free time - even in finance. I very rarely read anything about corporate banking here, people there are mostly in it for the long run because they are actually passionate about what they are doing. Whether it's one of the many product teams or corporate coverage/relationship management, there are great possibilities with good pay and decent hours (around 55-60 for my group).

 
Jan 12, 2021 - 3:25am

I know lots of people on the capital markets side (specifically DCM) who are all extremely happy with their lives while earning IB level comp. I've talked about this before but it is an amazing path for those who value WLB and still want to make near IB level comp (sometimes even higher if at the top banks). However, it is somewhat of a niche field and you have to have a passion for it or at least be somewhat interested in it as I have been told that people who were not interested in the field found it extremely boring (way more so than regular banking).

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 12, 2021 - 8:28am

Facts. I mean, if I were rich I would do an easy job without caring about pay, but I grew up poor asf and my dad worked long ass hours for shit pay. I guess the standards/expectations of a job are different for each person. Im tryna help my parents and also have enough to have a family here in america in a good area. Maybe im in the minority here, but my experience hasnt even been that bad, and I couldnt really see myself going into another industry except maybe consulting 

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Jan 12, 2021 - 10:19am

Can't agree with this post enough. Many years ago, IB was the place to be because it was one of the only career paths which offered such high salaries with strong exits. However, this is definitely no longer the case. Consulting, tech, product management, quant etc etc are all viable and better options. 

 

Also, I went to a tough school but I still always had time to work out, chill, participate in greek life etc. I feel like 90 percent of my life now is getting up from bed going to my desk working till 2 AM and then trying to fall asleep right away. You gain weight, your mental health gets severely affected and worst of all, you're doing menial work most of the time e.g. adding columns, aligning logos. 

I went to a target and really regret not being open to other career options. Please don't disregard OPs post and experience. Trust me, as a freshman / sophomore  I too was absolute gung ho for IB

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Jan 12, 2021 - 2:47pm

+1 to this comment. Yes I worked a lot during college too in order to maintain a good GPA that would make me a strong candidate in these competitive roles; however, I also had a social life, used to hit the local bar with mates and get absolutely slammed. I came into IB with the idea that IB would be a similar experience and I would at least have some good memories with fellow analysts in the bullpen, but unfortunately, these past few months as a first year analyst have been a total sh*tshow. Now I'm trying to make the jump to startups or corporates in industries that spark an interest in me. I don't even recommend IB anymore to lower classmen who reach out for networking. I tell them to gun for the product management roles for a similar pay while at least having a work life balance so you can spend that money, in IB yes you earn good money but literally don't have any opportunity to spend it on experiences (going on a weekend getaway with family&friends, fine dining with your squad etc.) Many students have the mindset "it's only 2 years, I can get over it easily, will just  grit my teeth" I was the same, however, I quickly realized that the toll this job takes on your mental health makes it unbearable especially during a freaking global pandemic.

 
  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jan 12, 2021 - 3:08pm

I feel like I am in a similar situation to you in regard to working hard to have a good GPA as well as partying to keep the balance. I also am currently in the mindset of the 2 years grind it out and then I will be set moving forward. If you could redo college, what field/profession would you try to go for? I think for me I just don't really know options that will set me up better than IB. Thanks in advance

 
  • Associate 1 in CB
Jan 12, 2021 - 4:00pm

I'm in commercial banking in Canada and have absolutely loved my experience. I work 50 hours per week in normal times, and 70 hours per week when the credit reviews are heavy or new deals are on the go, so I have time to use all my four weeks of vacation each year. I also get paid $80K +15% bonus as a 2nd year commercial banking analyst, which is enough to survive and do well and be able to enjoy music festivals, nightclubs, vacations, and family events freely. 

The work is still stimulating, I do deals agnostic of industry or capital structure so I get great exposure, I get to go to client meetings and lead the entire conversation with CEOs and CFOs of companies generating $100-300MM in Sales, and I do this probably 1-2x per week on average. 

Yes, my pay will cap at $130K all-in compensation in commercial banking, but the work/life balance makes it so worthwhile. 

I'm debating moving to Corporate Banking, but wondering if it would be a major sacrifice of work/life balance... if anyone has insights I'd love to hear them!

When I graduated I was upset I didn't make the cut for investment banking/M&A (I had some interviews, but a low GPA and lack of prep made me lose out to competition) and overall I've been REALLY happy with my commercial banking experience. 

All in all, new grads and students, explore all your options in Finance, there's tons of high paying and interesting jobs where you get super cool work and great opportunities - reach out to your network and have coffee chats with professionals to learn about all the options outside of M&A/IB/PE.

 
Jan 12, 2021 - 5:34pm

OP - you mention there are many other ways to make IB-type money with a similar time period as an IB career....without going into IB.  So, the high probabilty potential to make 400k-500k per year by the time you are 26-28 years old

 

would you kindly list them out here, and give specific examples?

just google it...you're welcome
  • 2
  • 1
 
Jan 12, 2021 - 6:01pm

That's what I always get hung up on too... the probability is fairly high if you can break in. Sure, you can make a lot of money being an entrepreneur but there's like a 10% chance you are even successful, and the stress is probably worse. Sales can be decent, though, but not everyone is cut out for that. 

I'm entering B-school this fall and targeting IB, goal would be to spend 3 years as an associate, save as much as I possibly can, and then start to reevaluate. Having half a mil in the bank by 30 will only provide more options for future endeavors. 

 
Jan 12, 2021 - 6:16pm

The probability of most college/highschool kids making MD, Director, or even VP in IB is incredibly low. Statistics can already tell you that SA positions are extremely  selective - like 3-8% for all applicants depending on the shop. Then you have to get a FT role. Admittedly conversion rates are high for SA, but after that it really tapers off. Far less analysts will become associates, and even fewer will become VP's, and so on. Granted, many of them will go to PE or other investing roles and have great careers, but some will burn out, and others will go to corpfin or other general finance roles. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, all I am trying to say is the likelihood of these undergrads/high schoolers actually obtaining a seat where they can make the money you are describing is very low.  

 

To answer your question though, I may have some suggestions:

  • S&T (FICC): High performing VP's and directors in this space can make the money you describe. Say what you will about S&T's decline, but you can still have a great career and work far less hours (50-70 I'd say on average)
  • Tech: In quant work or sales you can pull great money, and have much better WLB
  • Bio Engineering: Lots of friends in this space and these guys have the potential to earn quite a lot. Legitimately interesting work and there is also something to be said about actually creating things
  • Trade work: I am deadass 100% serious. You get a union job after an apprenticeship (welder, plumber, electrician). Lets say you achieve that by 20-22, then work two more years for the union and get licensing/experience. Next open a private practice and make double what you made for the union and slowly scale your business and add more employees. If your chances of making VP at a BB/EB are 1% as a high school senior, I'd bet the chances are much greater you could start your own successful small trade business. 
 
  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jan 12, 2021 - 10:31pm

Lots of good points made here, but here's why I think people would still go after IB in comparison to the careers you listed (which are still excellent paths).

S&T: It's more risky because of decreasing headcount, automation, and the fact that your performance can be determined quantitatively.

Tech: Requires you to know how to code. Most people (at least finance majors) aren't really into CS so they didn't pick up those skills. If they did, it's probably not to the level you're talking here.

Quant: Asumming quant research, you have to be extremely intelligent and might have to go the PhD route.

Bio Engineering: Bio and engineering? IB is mentally draining, arduous work, but it's not innately complex or difficult. Bio is a tough subject and engineering is a tough subject. 

Trade Work: The stigma against it is just too strong for me to see HS or college kids going this route. Especially the overachieving ones.

 
  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Jan 13, 2021 - 12:16pm

Going to post anonymously because real friends who I've said this to will identify my account but I've always said if I could pull back the clock hands, I would go into a trade and by now likely be opening my own small practice, trying to add bodies along the way. There is a serious shortage of tradesmen out there and a little business sense can go a long way into building a strong company. The Catch-22 of that of course is having that mindset and frame of view at the end of high school or even middle of college to at that point pivot for the specific reason of opening your own practice down the line.

LIFE, BRO. GODDAMN.

 
Jan 12, 2021 - 7:28pm

I'll say this, the job is hard, and depending on the firm you end up at it can be doubly so. The only way I've been able to get through the rough times is by remembering my why for doing this in the first place. The only times when I've seen people burn-out is when they lose their "why". "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."

Good reasons for wanting to be in IB are if you have long term career goals that you need IB to accomplish or skills you want to learn. (have a goal aside from money or ideally multiple goals) IB has always been and still is one of the best places for a new grad to build professional skills and polish in a short amount of time and I stand by that. 

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Jan 12, 2021 - 7:54pm

As a first year analyst who quit before new years without even waiting for stub bonus, I agree with your point about the "WHY". The reason WHY I entered Banking in the first place and decided to sign my FT convert offer after SA was exactly that. However, after being confined between 4 walls turning mind-numbingly dumb comments from 9 AM to 3 AM while eating dinner on my desk made me realize that my WHY has changed. Yes "Good reasons for wanting to be in IB are if you have long term career goals that you need IB to accomplish or skills you want to learn." but IB is not the SOLE career to become successful. It seems like you have been able to grind for the past couple of months and are determined to keep on going, so wish the best to you -- hope you don't lose your sanity like I did because man that really suckeddd.

 
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 12, 2021 - 8:56pm

I'm starting ib full-time in February and have been seriously questioning the decision for I realized how little I care about the job… would you mind sharing what you are doing now? 

 
Jan 12, 2021 - 9:42pm

Totally agree man, many things can change with new life experiences and realizations. I wish you the best in whatever you choose to do in the future. 

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.

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