IB is not intellectually challenging

I thought IB would be great. Intellectually challenging but it just flat out isnt. The only incentive is the pay Imo. Is there any intellectually challenging fields in finance or can really anyone with a brain do this work?

Comments (44)

Most Helpful
  • Associate 1 in IB - Ind
Jan 22, 2021 - 7:22pm

Gotta be honest, I get pretty sick of this comment. We get it, you're sooo smart even IB isn't challenging enough for you. Maybe you can start by challenging yourself to do more than go through the motions. Create a macro that can be used across transaction types in excel so you only need one starting template no matter what deal, deep dive the companies in your comps set to find time-series trends relating to critical/inflection points of growth, etc. Your MD isn't your college Philosophy teacher. It isn't his job to stimulate you intellectually. And if you don't have the initiative to figure out how to add value outside of going through the motions without fucking up, there's a reason you're working a day job and haven't started your own business. That's what someone who really wants an intellectual challenge would do, but you don't actually want a challenge, you want someone to tee up pins for you in neat ways so you can feel good about yourself when you knock them down. Fuck yourself.

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Jan 22, 2021 - 7:49pm

I know a bunch of 3.8+s from top schools who struggle with data analyses, pivot tables, LBOs, etc. They can barely wrap their heads around how to properly use Index Matches and get stuck when they have to do even slightly difficult data analyses using sumifs and things like that. 

Content generation like CIM creation or process work isn't that bad for them though.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 22, 2021 - 7:59pm

Academia. Finance is an interesting field for research, and you can specialize in an area you enjoy. 
The main incentive for any job in the private sector is money, especially in finance. If youre on a salary, it's because theyre paying you to get work done and make them money, not to intellectual stimulate you like you paid your university to do

  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Jan 22, 2021 - 11:30pm

Agreed. I find buyside more intellectually stimulating even though you are doing pretty similar analysis. Having to always think about investment merits and risks. 

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Jan 23, 2021 - 6:49am

Hi Intern in IB-M&A, I'm AQR Capital Management's head of HR. We were deeply impressed by your r/iamverysmart considerations and your opinion of puny mortals such as IB analysts.


Pls figure out my phone number and reach out, we are looking for impressive talent just like you.

Kind regards

Jan 25, 2021 - 10:00am

Not OP but the pay of an academic is lower than what one could get in industry with the same qualifications, so I wouldn't be surprised to see really smart people not pursue that route. 

Jan 23, 2021 - 11:34am

IB is a role for bright, hardworking people who want to maximize optionality while also earning good-income. If you want to do something intellectually challenging you are more than welcome to become a quant researcher or cure cancer.. Does that sound too difficult for you? 

F*cking moron

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 23, 2021 - 2:43pm

Haha get a FT offer first, then work 120 hours a week and see how sharp your brain is on even basic tasks.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 24, 2021 - 8:12am

Sure, because there is a genuine need to slave away for those 120+ hrs a week.
I have yet to understand why someone would be proud of being explored this way.

Jan 23, 2021 - 3:47pm

I mean how intellectual are you if you did not realize that beforehand? There is plenty of information about the work you do online. Plus, most entry-level jobs don't require crazy amounts of intellect bc, we as junior-level guys, do not have the knowledge or skill set yet to do the work that requires intellect

Jan 23, 2021 - 6:32pm

I made some points about intelligence in a previous post that I think were pretty interesting, and in my opinion accurate. Going to resurface some of that in this comment since I think it might be helpful.

I think we tend to conform to a very mainstream vision of what intelligent looks like or sounds like. Unless you're working on complex data structures or quantum physics you are below the bar for certain occupations that others might consider intellectually prestigious. The fact of the matter is intelligence is relative in terms of the context tasks are being performed for.

One classic example of this are when people refer to artists as "musically genius". Just because that person might be horrible at math doesn't necessarily mean they are dumb. They're simply gifted in a completely different way. It's no different with finance, which requires a degree of numerical intelligence, but IB more specifically requires a high degree of verbal intelligence.

I think you should look internally and decide the exact capacities in which you think your work is not stimulating enough. IB requires a different type of intelligence than the mainstream concept of what intellect resembles.This doesn't make it dull, just stimulating in different ways.

  • Principal in HF - Event
Jan 23, 2021 - 11:40pm

Intern in IB-M&A

I thought IB would be great. Intellectually challenging but it just flat out isnt. The only incentive is the pay Imo. Is there any intellectually challenging fields in finance or can really anyone with a brain do this work?

lmao STFU intern.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 24, 2021 - 8:11am

I don't get why so much MS here. IB isn't intellectually challenging at all, and no, most entry-level jobs aren't this dull. I get that we aren't paying to be intellectually stimulated like we were in college, but IB is just plain dumb.
What are we even doing? Slaving away our 20s to make some rich people richer, aging like crazy and developing a plethora of mental and physical health issues in the process? This route is not even not intellectually challenging, it's just plain dumb,
And no, you don't fully understand how bad this is until you actually start full-time. Understanding that this job is terrible is not a matter of intellect, but rather experience.
Get over yourselves. There is no need to ostracize OP for expressing something that you all know it's true, but that you try to deny as some form of self-preservation. Everyone I've met who has the intelectual capability to do anything more challenging (tech, engineering, quant) has jumped ship. And those who had the creativity, ambition, and risk appetite to start their own business also have.
No shame in working in IB, but one has to acknowledge that many other jobs out there are way more intellectually challenging, and that your choice of career didn't involve that. Again, no shame, but a necessary realization.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 24, 2021 - 10:49pm

As someone who majored in cs and interned in cs, it's really not all that much different from IB lmao. Instead of an excel monkey, you're a code monkey and all of the "intellectually challenging"  aspects of the job are done by people far more senior than you. It's just how entry-level jobs are. WSO really likes to put tech on a pedestal but all things considered, it's really a comparable job to IB.(difficulty wise) I don't disagree with your other points but to make a blanket statement like "Everyone I've met who has the intelectual capability to do anything more challenging (tech, engineering, quant) has jumped ship." is just patently false. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 25, 2021 - 9:55am

As someone who majored in Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from a top school, and also has interned in both SWE and Product Management, I respectfully disagree. Surely my personal experience in IB and tech was different than yours, but you can't deny that today's top graduates, generally, don't go into IB anymore. There are a LOT of average people going into Finance, more so than in top tech companies and MBB. I also disagree that these are comparable jobs. At least in tech, you do get to use some creativity, and coding IS harder than updating some ppt. We aren't comparing Excel to coding here, as most of the time IB analysts aren't working on Excel anyways, but rather realigning logos. Lastly, the work you do in tech as an intern is a lot easier than what you do once you start full-time, at least from my experience and that of my friends. And yes, everyone that I've met that majored in something other than Economics, or was able to start a startup or work in something more intellectually challenging, has done so. I haven't said that EVERYBODY has, just that everybody I've met, which is a significant sample size, has jumped ship. Perhaps you need to sharpen up your text interpretation skills before claiming what's more intellectually challenging, but I get it.

Jan 26, 2021 - 9:16am

I'm considering ditching the pursuit of a career in high finance completely and going for the option of starting my own business or continuing my family's business. Would you say other aspects of financial careers such as consulting is equally mind-numbing? Or is it just an IB thing.


Would appreciate it if we can talk more about this in DMs, if you don't mind offering some perspective. You seem to really know your shit.

Jan 24, 2021 - 8:30pm

Or do something outside of finance! There's so much out there that's intellectually challenging... Although this is a finance forum, I'm getting sick of people saying the only other options people have are within finance. Imo, IB just concentrates some of the worst aspects of working in finance, and leaving the field altogether might be a great, if not the best, option.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 25, 2021 - 9:43am

This guy got lots of monkey shit - but truth is that very average kids get into IBD nowadays and the work (at least on junior level) is very admin type of work. When considering the hours, money is at best okay. Work is not intellectually stimulating as per below:


You receive comments on Sunday, 9pm on a deck that needs to be ready for Monday's pitch -


Thx for this. Pls change below:

Change title to XYZ

p2 add KKR and Blackstone logos in the top left box

p2 remove ''consideration'' from the call out box

p3 change font to standard font we use

p6 order logos alphabetically in the right box

p7 put ''our added value'' in italics

p8 add call out box

p11 add source

p12 change 2020 to 2021 in second paragraph

p13 add ''strong capacity'' in the second to last bullet points

p16 reformat the charts manually to our format

p19 remove third bullet point

p21 insert a new page with top 2 charts from Goldman Sachs commodity markets survey p57

p25 resize the photos to 0.4cm*0.35cm

p26 add red line below latest transaction to separate from strategic M&A

p29 add a box to highlight 2020

p31 change the colour of the boxes to grey

p34 add usual disclaimer

add section dividers

add table of contents

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 25, 2021 - 9:57am

Exactly. If someone has had an experience IB that's anymore intellectually challenging than this, let me know. I don't see how one can add value much beyond this (saying this as a top-bucket analyst) if they're forcing you to put in 120+ hours just updating stuff like this.

  • VP in IB - DCM
Jan 28, 2021 - 8:07am

I guess both sides contribute to that. From my point of view, I could not accept that we have to tell interns to use the standard fonts or to add a table of contents/section dividers/disclaimer. The more someone thinks along with me, the more we can save work and assign more intellectually challenging tasks.

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