In 2019, IB still sucks, but are you happy you did it?

suciv's picture
Rank: Monkey | 48

Title says it all. I know this question has been asked before, but I feel it is especially relevant given the rise in popularity of careers in the tech industry, particularly high paying entry level software engineering positions at the big tech companies.

The day to day life of an IB analyst is brutal for all but the most extreme masochists. For those who have paid their dues, are you happy you did it? Where are you at now? Any regrets?

Comments (43)

Apr 8, 2019

Wondering this too... I've been debating whether to pursue IB or SWE because of my joint interests in tech and business

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Apr 9, 2019

Same boat here!

Apr 10, 2019

Generally go for the one you like more, but if really torn I'd suggest the SWE route because it's the more reversible decision. A software guy who later discovers he was really meant for finance can find a lot of good outlets IMHO. Can join a VC firm, become a tech banker, do corp dev at a large tech firm, etc.

All of these would require some re-tooling and a long job search, but ultimately the industry-level knowledge would be very marketable because you'd have a familiarity with the tech sector that a lot of finance people never really acquire.

Doing the reverse seems harder; banker who later realizes he was meant to work in software is probably going to face a steeper learning curve.

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Apr 14, 2019

Actually think it's the other way round. There are 3 ways to break into IBD in the US, assuming we only consider BBs, EBs, and major MMs: join as an analyst out of undergrad, join as an associate out of bschool, or join as a partner out of being the WH Chief of Staff or something.

Wanna break into software engineering? Fuck degrees, who cares about that shit, just do a 6-month coding bootcamp and you're set.

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Apr 8, 2019

IB still sucks but I think on average the hours have gone down in the industry (for junior personnel atleast). Not every bank enforces protected weekends/saturdays, but some of my friends in the industry have managed to maintain at least a semblance of a life.

Apr 8, 2019

Absolutely still sucks. Thought about quitting many times when I was still an analyst. But glad I stuck around. Helped my financial situation a lot and really puts things into perspective.

While the hours and pressure can be a bit tough sometimes, after you complete 3 years of IB, everything else seems like a cakewalk - better start with a difficult base and move on to something easier than vice versa.

Despite all the recent craze with tech firms and startups, still think I would choose banking if I could do it all over again (Although I have to say that money is the key driving factor for me. My philosophy is that all jobs will suck to a certain extent, so I might as well be making money out of it).

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Apr 9, 2019

If money was the key driving factor, why did you choose IB over software engineering positions that often start with higher total comp packages?

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Apr 9, 2019

Because they require very similar skill sets?

Apr 9, 2019

IB wages grow significantly compared to software engineering which plateaus over time.

Funniest
Apr 9, 2019

@ me next time you want to copy my "Title says it all" opener.

Have you ever thought of investing in real estate?

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Apr 10, 2019

Thanks for bringing this to my attention - I just saw "Title says it all" on reddit and was wondering, who's the dude who started that whole thing?

Apr 9, 2019

A bit unrelated question but it would be helpful to get your views. Im at mid senior position in asset servicing bank (junior director) which pays well but is not interesting. Work life balance is excellent yet not a great learning curve.. So im thinking about real estate which is what interests me. Im in mid 30s, would prob have to take decent pay and grade cut if i moved to do real estate (havent figured out exactly what it would even be - most likely asset mgmt). Is it a risk worth taking? Advice will be appreciated!

Most Helpful
Apr 9, 2019

I have posted on this before if anyone cares to peruse my posting history.

I am absolutely glad I did it. I graduated in the tech crash with no job and moved to NYC and stayed on a buddies couch. All of the banks were still laying people off, but I wanted to see if I could make it. I figured I'd stick it out until I ran out of money/credit card capacity and join the military to pay off the credit cards as they were giving huge signing bonuses to college grads to sign up as we were starting to invade Afghanistan. I came within a week of that happening.

Upon moving to NYC I had some promising leads, and they all fell through. After three months of job searching and maxed out credit cards, I took a temp job filing trading tickets (literally putting papers in filing cabinets) with the promise that if I was good, they might bring me into something more interesting. I took every odd assignment that came up and worked a ton of overtime hours. They converted me to an analyst in 3 months because of it (the overtime hours add up quickly). I moved into MO and then FO, but I really wanted to be in IB.

Once the economy improved I lateraled over to another BB and started back over (2 years out of school) to become a first year analyst (again) in IB. I spent a total of 5 years as an analyst as I did a 3rd year at the second bank. I then moved to a boutique where I was an associate and then VP.

All of the painful hours taught me a lot about work ethic and what other people's limits are. Having greater tolerance for BS than nearly anyone else is a great skill for life and career. 7 years ago I started a healthcare tech company, and so many things that I learned in my early career have proven incredibly valuable. Hard work and dealing with BS are direct requirements for anyone starting a company and trying to raise capital.

Apr 9, 2019

Well damn...

Apr 14, 2019

When you say dealing with / having a tolerance for BS what do you mean exactly? What kind of "BS" did you have to deal with in your analyst years and how'd you put up with it?

Apr 10, 2019

I'm still a student so I can't really speak to the decision in hindsight. However, I do think about the labor market of programmers a fair bit when considering this. In other countries, China in particular from what I hear, there is a far greater supply of people with CS/programming experience. As a result salaries are lower, tech company benefits are diminished or nonexistent, and those cushy salaries are significantly slashed. The main reason CS degrees are in such high demand, and why we are seeing the emergence of programming boot camps (or otherwise hiring less credentialed programmers), is because the growth of the sector is far outpacing the supply of graduates.

I don't see the demand for this type of worker decreasing anytime soon, but I still think it is worth mentioning that the CS/programmer/whatever job market in the US does not reflect the rest of the world, at least at an entry level.

Banking, on the other hand, has an oversupply of highly credentialed students, as I'm sure we are all aware. Analysts don't seem to get much respect for value added, but I'd suggest that their salary much more closely reflects their actual worth.

Entry level software developers can still be doing boring, low value add work that requires low critical thought. Part of the reason tech boot camps are successful is because it is possible to build fairly robust applications by simply using software development kits/frameworks/APIs/etc. I wouldn't be surprised if junior developer projects are often on par with the logo rearrangement the first year analyst is doing on the deck turn.

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Apr 10, 2019

This is actually very accurate - markets outside the US are very different for CS grads.

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Apr 10, 2019

I don't think IB sucks, and I plan on staying in IB for the long run. Sure, it's tough from time to time and I wouldn't even want my worst enemy to work on ten projects at once, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

First world problems are problems too, but I think it's easy to forget how lucky we really are sometimes. You are in the top 1%-income bracket for your age group and have gotten a head start on your career that will most likely follow you to the day that you retire.

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Apr 10, 2019

Couldn't agree more. +1

Apr 15, 2019

If you plan on staying in IB for the long run, you haven't gotten a headstart for your career. You have gotten a perfectly normal start.

Apr 15, 2019

That was tied to the second paragraph and OPs (who looks like he won't stick for the long run) question.

As far as a "headstart", I guess it depends on how you measure your career. If you measure it by monetary standard I would still argue that you have a headstart on pretty much every other profession.

Apr 10, 2019

It's not that rough. Second year is easy if you have the next gig lined up, which you generally do. And these days you also have protected weekends and all that other HR-driven bullshit. All in all it's a pretty good deal.

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Apr 11, 2019

How I sum it up: I don't regret it at all, but I could never do it again.

Basically, it's a mentally and physically exhausting 2-3 years. During that period, you're just a kind of depleted that none of your friends/family outside of banking will ever be able to understand. When the hours are bad, they're realllly bad. And I worked with some of the biggest assholes I hope to ever encounter in life.

But at the same time, I know I'm better for it. Learning how to work to the depths of hard is truly a skill. Every job's hours requirement once you're out of IB seems lovely in comparison. The politics game is an unfortunate part of life and there are few crash courses on it that could compare to working at a BB. Plus for every asshole, there's always someone you grow incredibly close to because of the shared suffering--truly friends for life.

I don't think SWE and IB should really ever be the two options you're contemplating between (unless you're one of those true anomalies that just honestly really enjoys / is great at both). They are very different skill sets (coding either comes naturally to you or it doesn't; finance, or at least business broadly, is either interesting to you from the get-go or it's never going to be). Money and prestige are important, I'll never try to deny that, but you have to think beyond 2 years out of school when choosing what broad field you want to go in. People at the top rarely have no interest and/or natural talent in their chosen fields--you've got to have one or the other and that's hard when you're choosing just based on grad salary or prestige.

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Apr 11, 2019

I think for good SWE's the coding becomes secondary over time and your value add becomes more big picture. It's not as extreme a transformation as a banker goes through, where you go from excel as an analyst to client schmoozer as an MD. But it's a lighter version of the same concept. Senior SWE spends most of his time managing people and processes and thinks more about design than the actual code.

Apr 14, 2019

Actually more senior (senior, staff, principal, distinguished etc) SWEs still largely code and are very much still in the depths of the technical rabbit hole. Their scope might change (i.e. they become the go-to person for a technological area, they might headline conferences or give tech talks etc) but if you're still on the technical ladder you are still very much technical.

What you might be confusing is the option to essentially "switch careers" into what is basically a business job (i.e. people management) where you pretty much stop coding and your time is now mostly meetings, mentoring, hiring, performance management etc.

Apr 14, 2019

don't think SWE and IB should really ever be the two options you're contemplating between (unless you're one of those true anomalies that just honestly really enjoys / is great at both). They are very different skill sets (coding either comes naturally to you or it doesn't; finance, or at least business broadly, is either interesting to you from the get-go or it's never going to be).

Amen, amen and amen.

If OP were actually being serious they would be considering a product manager path vs banking not SWE.

Apr 14, 2019

I can see why it's an odd combination of paths, as people are generally super technical or super people and business oriented. I find that I am truly split in the middle of these two things. I have always had a passion for STEM, especially tech because of the amazing products you can create with just your mind and a computer. And like most tech oriented people, I think the actual creation and marketing of tech products is also fascinating, and I eventually don't want to be coding all my life and want to move on to the bigger picture. This is why I think IB may have an advantage to tech as far as getting yourself into top business roles faster

Apr 11, 2019

Let me try to answer this question as someone who will be entering into IB this year. I got offers from two of the five FAANG plus a couple of startup offers in SWE. I've been coding since I was around 12-13, and you could say that I was pretty good at coding, especially web development. However, ever since I entered college and was coding for actual companies, I realized how little of an impact I was actually making and how I just didn't want to code anymore. I genuinely felt like a code monkey.

However, when I was doing banking this summer I actually felt like I was adding value. Sure some deals fell apart, but I could see how my day-to-day work could actually impact people. Some were bad (cost synergies meaning people get fired), but some were good (guy who's been working on this company his whole life about to get a windfall from a sale). Additionally (this might be an anomaly with my group) but I genuinely felt like my VPs/MDs respected me and tried to use my past skill set to complement my work. I work in the Tech group in my bank, and my MD/VPs would regularly introduce me to the C-suite of our clients (as an intern) and tell them about my background. I'm not even at a top BB/EB, but I genuinely enjoyed doing banking for 90-100 hours over coding for 40 hours. Sure I gave up close to $200k over $150k and a chance to tell people I work at Facebook or whatever, but I don't regret it at all.

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Apr 14, 2019

Kudos, very similar sort of background and mindset.

Apr 14, 2019
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Apr 15, 2019
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