Investment Bank Life Style Better At Boutiques?

So I was wondering what life is like at a smaller boutique firm. I know a couple guys to work for different boutiques - and they both work around 60 hours on average a week and rarely pull all nighters or do weekends. Another person I know, in NYC, is working about 65ish hours a week, no all nighters or weekends either. Partly, this is because there's less work to go around, the personalities are less intense type As, and the concept of "face time" isn't too established. All of them say that compared to the bulge banks, the boutique level of competition and intensity is also much lower.

Given that I don't care that much about money/prestige and that I'm doing banking because I really like finance, I'm thinking boutique might be the way to go and still maintain a little sanity (100 hour weeks are not for me). I know even a boutique is still not easy and that banking is a tough career, but boutiques sound more manageable. Can anybody elaborate on how typical my friends' experience are and whether the boutique offers at least some type of work-life balance?

Work Life at Small Investment Banks

Work life balance is often a concern for those looking to break into finance. Boutique investment banks can offer the best of both words through a good experience and less intense hours. Our users share their insight on the work life balance, firms to avoid, and salary below.

Prestigious Boutique Investment Firms

There is an important distinction to draw between boutique and middle market firms and "prestigious boutiques" that will work analysts just as hard bulge bracket banks.

Solidarity:

Top boutiques work more intensive hours than their bulge bracket counterparts.

PWP, GHL, Moelis, Lazard, and others work their analysts to DEATH. The tradeoff is that you are receiving incredible experience and exposure. You aren't sitting around and you'll be working constantly.

Read more about these company in the Wall Street Oasis Company Database.

Hours of Boutique Investment Banks

Our users described the hours of non-prestigious boutiques.

Solidarity:

At other boutiques, you won't have as much deal flow, but you'll constantly be pitching and still putting in 80-100 hrs a wk.

In short, if you want a good lifestyle then I-Banking isn't for you. Try corporate or commercial banking -- similar in the fact that you're providing financing for your clients; not as sexy and the comp isn't as good, but such are tradeoffs in life.

Boutique Investment Banking Income

Our users shared that a boutique investment bank (outside of the prestigious boutiques) will have a salary between $50-60 thousand.

Seahawks7777:

Pay is about 50-60K a year for my boutique analyst friends. Then 10-20 K in bonus. So let's say 70K a year total, on average, for maybe 60 hours per week. From what I heard, Associates might hit around 90-120 K a year, depending on their performance. No Goldman for sure, but at least they get to sleep.

Read more about investment banking salaries in the 2018 Investment Banking Industry Report.

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Comments (52)

 
Aug 31,2010

I should also add that my friends work pretty hard, even at their boutiques. They aren't burning out, but they have no free time (on the week days) and there's still considerable stress on the job. So I don't wanna give the impression that the life is easy. It's not. It's just not anywhere as bad as what is considered the industry standard and offers some breathing room. Though, from what I heard, if you really want a good lifestyle (ie below 50 hours week), don't do finance.

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Aug 31,2010

what is their pay like out of curiosity?

I look at like this; your young so why not work your ass off for a few years and get as much exposure and learn as much as possible in those two years.

 
Aug 31,2010

Top boutiques work more intensive hours than their bulge bracket counterparts.

PWP, GHL, Moelis, Lazard, and others work their analysts to DEATH. The tradeoff is that you are recieving Incredible experience and exposure. You aren't sitting around and you'll be working constantly.

At other boutiques, you won't have as much dealflow, but you'll constantly be pitching and still putting in 80-100 hrs a wk.

In short, if you want a good lifestyle then I-Banking isn't for you. Try corporate or commercial banking -- similar in the fact that you're providing financing for your cliients; not as sexy and the comp isn't as good, but such are tradeoffs in life.

 
Aug 31,2010

Pay is about 50-60K a year for my boutique analyst friends. Then 10-20 K in bonus. So let's say 70K a year total, on average, for maybe 60 hours per week. From what I heard, Associates might hit around 90-120 K a year, depending on their performance. No Goldman for sure, but at least they get to sleep.

That's a good point too, ShortmyCDO. Do BB for a couple years, then maybe do something else. Though, I wonder, what percentage of BB analysts get let go because they can't hack it in the 100-hour week environment? It must be more than a few, given the really high turnover. Maybe better to excell in a boutique than just get by, or not meet the workload, in a BB. I like to think I'm made of steel, but I don't wanna set myself up for failure. I'm sure a lot of you guys are capable of thriving no matter the odds, but there must be some guys who'd be better off in an easier (ie getting adequate sleep) atmosphere.

Solidarity, I think a lot of corporate banking jobs require a little bit of i-banking experience, but I agree that may be a better longterm path to follow for a better lifestyle. As for the hours, I've heard the top boutiques are really intense, but it's not so intense below there. For example, an analyst at Financo Boutique (NYC) made this comment about her time working there:

http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/college/f...
"Boutique investment banking is completely different from the big banks. It's very friendly and relaxed.
* I was only at work until 3am once, and they really appreciated it afterwards. I usually worked 9am - 10, 11pm but I had weekends to myself. There's no need for face time, either.
* My advice is to consider big v. small firms' differences in lifestyle when you're applying. Look at the people you'll be working for. If you enjoy the people, you'll never feel like it's a drag."

 
Aug 31,2010

I read your posts pretty carefully, from what I'm picking up is that you are not sure whether you can take the abuse (for a lack of a better name). You're gut is more often right then it is wrong. From what I am sensing is that you like/are interested in finance but you do not want to take the abuse and something like money or prestige is not enough to make you want to reconsider. That is completely fine. Some people are more able to handle tough situations then others. Their is no reason for you to subject yourself to something that you are just not cut out for. If I was you I would pursue the boutique. Being in an environment that is tolerable will allow you to succeed more than in one that's not.

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Aug 31,2010

boutiques give much better lifestyle? I would say it's more like the same amount of work shared by 4 analysts but now by only one. Granted my boutique is known in the industry, but whatever you senior brings in, you are staffed on it. So unless your MDs are more lifestyle people( only doing deals if they come by), you will get more work and be stuck in the office at 2am almost everyday by yourself like me.

 
Aug 31,2010

you dont get into high finance because you like your weekends free. scared money dont make no money.

I'm making it up as I go along.

 
Aug 31,2010
Cornelius:

you dont get into high finance because you like your weekends free. scared money dont make no money.

well said, I know it's going to suck if I ever get the chance to work those hours, but got damn it the money and prestige is more than enough comp for 2-3 years of work being a prison.

 
Aug 31,2010
Cornelius:

you dont get into high finance because you like your weekends free. scared money dont make no money.

well said, I know it's going to suck if I ever get the chance to work those hours, but by golly the money and prestige is more than enough comp for 2-3 years of work being a prison.

 
Aug 31,2010

Right. I really like finance and banking and that's a passion of mine, which is why I want to be a banker. I'm just satisfied doing a cool job that tops out at 100-150K a year, lets me sleep/eat/train adequately, and then spend time with my family and doing hobbies on the weekend.

I actually do like a fast paced and hard work environment of finance, which I find cool and exhilirating. It's just that hard work means 60-70 hours a week, not 120. I respect what some of you guys can do, but I suspect that there must be a lot of people like me, given the high turnover in IB. I suspect a lot of Goldman analysts would be better off taking the easier route.

It does seem that the elite boutiques compete a lot against the Goldmans and JP Morgans for business, which is why they work their analysts just as hard (if not harder). You're gonna work Goldman hours if you're bank is competing against Goldman. Smaller boutiques aren't competing against those super BBs and also, I believe, get their deals by contacts. The result is that their analysts do smaller deals, make less money, get less exposure, and leave at 9.

By the way, money/prestige are good goals too. If that's gonna make you happy and you can take the hours, then go for it. I would just caution that the competition is immense and that the first 5-6 years (analyst and associate) are gonna be tough, but then when you make VP, you're gonna rake in big $$$. Boutiques are easier to advance in, but VPs and MDs make a fraction of the salary of BBs.

 
Aug 31,2010

Dude, if you really don't wanna do IB just do S&T...

Not to be a dick, but not using your and you're correctly will not roll in IB as an analyst

 
Aug 31,2010

Assuming you're from WSU which is a non-target, you should be happy that a boutique is willing to take you in.

Most BBs won't even take a second glance at your resume because of the lack of name recognition.

 
Aug 31,2010

For the most part, you summarized what the vast majority of the users here already know. Flirting with "Captain Obvious" status.

Make room for the notion that some will cut their teeth for two years at a bulge bracket or elite boutique to make it into a PE shop not merely b/c they're money-hungry, but also b/c they enjoy certain aspects of the work. In banking, the modeling is fun -- the extraneous BS is not. PE has its share of BS, but not nearly as much as what you'd find in banking.

So that's why many want a spot at the most brand-name bank possible. They want careers in "high finance," but not in banking. Your boutique pals will probably have to jump to a more reputable bank before entertaining the thought of PE.

 
Aug 31,2010

I actually do like a fast paced and hard work environment of finance, which I find cool and exhilirating. It's just that hard work means 60-70 hours a week.

Hard to believe that 60-70 hrs would suffice in any demanding, client-driven environment. I know event coordinators and PR people for rock stars who work a minimum 80-90 hrs/wk.

Pay is about 50-60K a year for my boutique analyst friends. Then 10-20 K in bonus. So let's say 70K a year total, on average, for maybe 60 hours per week.

Financial services firms are not the same things as investment banks. Tell your operations/financial consultant, accountant, and other random friends to stop lying to your layman's ass. I have never heard of comp like this in the industry circa 2010. Are your friends working at banks in New Mexico and advising on the deals like the recent IPO of 150 roadside taco stands?

I'm just satisfied doing a cool job that tops out at 100-150K a year

Read: Fortune 500 corporate finance lifer -- you will top out at exec VP or asstnt treasurer. In all seriousness--I'm not trying to shut you down. I'm just telling you what's painstakingly obvious.

 
Aug 31,2010

Pay is about 50-60K a year for my boutique analyst friends. Then 10-20 K in bonus. So let's say 70K a year total, on average, for maybe 60 hours per week.

Financial services firms are not the same things as investment banks. Tell your operations/financial consultant, accountant, and other random friends to stop lying to your layman's ass. I have never heard of comp like this in the industry circa 2010. Are your friends working at banks in New Mexico and advising on the deals like the recent IPO of 150 roadside taco stands?

hahahahaha

 
Aug 31,2010
Solidarity:

I actually do like a fast paced and hard work environment of finance, which I find cool and exhilirating. It's just that hard work means 60-70 hours a week.

Hard to believe that 60-70 hrs would suffice in any demanding, client-driven environment. I know event coordinators and PR people for rock stars who work a minimum 80-90 hrs/wk.

Pay is about 50-60K a year for my boutique analyst friends. Then 10-20 K in bonus. So let's say 70K a year total, on average, for maybe 60 hours per week.

Financial services firms are not the same things as investment banks. Tell your operations/financial consultant, accountant, and other random friends to stop lying to your layman's ass. I have never heard of comp like this in the industry circa 2010. Are your friends working at banks in New Mexico and advising on the deals like the recent IPO of 150 roadside taco stands?

I'm just satisfied doing a cool job that tops out at 100-150K a year

Read: Fortune 500 corporate finance lifer -- you will top out at exec VP or asstnt treasurer. In all seriousness--I'm not trying to shut you down. I'm just telling you what's painstakingly obvious.

Agreed. The OP is a total fag for thinking there could possibly be more to life than money. His confusion regarding the distinction between IB and financial services firms is also incredibly disenchanting because of my already low self-esteem. I have sacrificed too much to begin thinking that no one gives a fuck what I do and that my sexy, prestigious job matters very little to anyone else.

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Aug 31,2010

I agree that if you want to do PE, go the BB route. PE shops are so selective for who they hire that you need everything in order (MBA, GPA, BB experience, contacts) before you jump in.

According to the 2003 Inc. 500 survey, 71% of CEOs work less than 60 hours a week. Another survey found physicians work 51 hours a week, on average. Lawyers work a median number on hours of 50 per week. 60-70 hours a week is banking-lite, but otherwise a lot of hours by societal standards. I don't want to dissuade ambitious people from pursuing their dream, but there are real sacrifices (health, personal, relationship) to working 100 hour weeks, 5-6 years straight, before you make VP - and everyone is up to it.

Payscale's salary survey indicates i banking analyst tend to have a median pay range of about 60-100K, but the BBs tend to be at around 120K. My friends salaries seem consistent with that, but tend to the low end.

Fine by me. As long as I like what I do and get a decent level of money/respect, it's all good. Also, remember that very few of the BB analysts end up ever making VP or partner. Where do the rest go? A few into VC, PE, and HF. The rest end up doing well, but making VP/MD at a BB or PE shop is not easy.

 
Aug 31,2010

It might be Captain Obvious stuff, but not working on Wall Street, I know my info through friends and contacts rather than first hand. I posted this topic here to check my assumptions/facts against people that have worked in financial industry and can elaborate or set me straight. Also, I figured a lot of people are like me, so it'd be useful for them to read this too. Not all of us are experts in the workings of i banking.

 
Aug 31,2010
  1. BretEastonEllis -- stop using the word "fag," you intolerant fuck. This is the 21st century. Go back to the Jersey Shore or rural Kentucky if you're going to spout pedantic nonsense.
  2. I can offer you a job at the financial services firm that I started. It's just like banking. It's called: "raise capital for me that is cheaper than current rates on unsubsidized federal stafford student loans". GO, boy, go!
  3. The successful people in this industry, in the long run, are the people who do not care about "prestige". Talk to your MD's. They just love raising capital (as weird and hokey as it may sound to anyone still in college). The only people who care about prestige are the dumbass college students on this forum, who have nothing better to do than rank percieved "exit opps." Obviously, some banks are better at certain products and industries than others, but NEWS FLASH--you have much better exit opps by being the top performer in a shitty group at a shitty bank than you do by being bottom bucket at a Goldman or Lazard.
 
May 31,2014

@"Solidarity" #1 was said!!!! #3 is absolutely true, a BB name may get you in the door, but how you perform, if you "fit", and how well you network will really determine your exit opps!!

 
Aug 31,2010

I think we can all agree that everyone has their niche. Let's respect that each of us is cut for something different - PE, BB, boutique, corporate finance. No better or worse here. It's just a question of what you like, what lifestyle you are looking for, and what level of money/recognition you need from your job. Then you make a choice that's good for you.

I didn't start this discussion to call people out or demean anyone's lifestyle or choice. I just wanted to generate a discussion about the the different options for the potential i-banker and, specifically, discuss how lower end boutique lifestyle bankers can fit into this. Just because some people want to do less/more, doesn't imply superiority/inferiority. Some of us got other obligations, while others can commit it all. So I'd like to discuss, without insult to anyone or myself, the different i banking options. For a lot of people that normally would never touch banking, a banking-lite boutique option could be excellent; whereas for the future Lloyd Blankfeins or Schwarzmans, BB is the way forward.

Right. Top performers get ahead - and you tend to perform at the top when you are doing something you like.

 
May 31,2014

One thing I will say to you that no-one has mentioned: it all depends on your time management skills. You say you want sleep/a lifestyle etc.

At my bank during my SA, I worked 80-100 hours a week on average. I also worked out 3-4 times a week, and had enough time to do things on Friday night/Saturday night and for a little while during the day on weekends too (in most cases, and when work wasn't crazy). I also slept ~5 hours a night during the week and more on weekends. During the week, I literally only worked, slept and exercised (would read on the way to/from work etc) - no free time for hobbies etc. But I was able to pursue my hobbies etc on weekends.

I don't know what you call adequate sleep, but how are your time management skills? I know people in other jobs who work 9-5, kind of mess around after work each day (some TV, facebook etc) and still only sleep ~5 hours a night...

If you are that kind of person, you will essentially be giving up a lot of money and great experience to watch some extra TV and have time to mess around (or genuinely pursue hobbies) but you won't be sleeping 8 hours per night or anything....in that scenario, banking seems very worth it to me.

One more example: during my SA (and when I go back FT) I spent all day at work doing work I enjoyed with people I liked, then would have dinner at work (which translates to having dinner with a bunch of my friends every single night) then did some more work (and often enough, once the senior bankers have gone home, you do some work but also shoot the shit a lot etc, which is fun). Essentially, I was (and will be) getting paid a LOT to do work I like with people I really enjoy being around all the time. My experience, I think, is a little unique in that I actually enjoy banking and am not doing it for exit ops, so take it for what you will.

Oppositely, I could be working 9-5, pursuing a hobby or two (or messing around after work), sleeping around the same amount of time, likely eating alone or with fewer friends every night (and I'd be paying for it, rather than the bank) and on top of all of it would be doing much less interesting work and earning a fraction of the money.

Life is too short to sleep 8 hours every night anyway - if you can get used to sleeping ~5 hours a night on average (and a bit less whenever you need to, which is definitely doable) I think banking is worth it over some other random job anytime.

Finally, I know people in other fields who work worse hours than banking - as mentioned above, if you want to do really well (career recognition, advancement/achievement, pay etc) in any competitive field, you're going to have to find a way to suck it up and trade sleep for work.

 
May 31,2014

This is phenomenal, really. Wish I could wire my brain like this and get off my lazy ass

 
May 31,2014

Ha thanks. Not difficult, just gotta do it.

 
 
May 31,2014

You're a sophomore from a non-target.

Go work for CVS.

 
May 31,2014
SirBankalot:

You're a sophomore from a non-target.

Go work for CVS.

What's CVS?

--
Recent Actuarial Science (good statistical skills) grad looking for entry-level work ANYWHERE.
Writing CFA Level 1 in June 2010. Passed 3 actuarial exams.

 
Jul 31,2017

BB investment bank. its lowkey though so not many people have heard of it.

 
May 31,2014

i'd try doostang. i found one through there and it was great! worked on a potential deal and pitchbooks without doing those banking hours enjoying california weather

 
May 31,2014

Offering to work for free reeks of desperation. You might as well stand outside Piper Jaffray and be a human sign twirler like those poor schmucks who advertise the new taco bell supreme gordita special. maybe if you work 60-80 hour shifts, you'll be as good as this guy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHIwSHL1gxk&feature...
And no son, there is no half-assed work life balance internship, but you sound perfect for Deloitte FAS.

=========================================
We are excited to formally extend to you an offer to join Bank of Ameria

 
 
May 31,2014

Been looking for a thread like this for a while. In addition to the OP's questions, which of these banks have the most/ least prestige?

 
May 31,2014

post is absurd

Get busy living

 
May 31,2014

Couple of dubious inclusions on that list -- e.g. I'm not sure why you've included Rothschild on here, they're definitely not a mid market/ non-elite boutique bank and for most people should come in the same bracket as Lazard, Greenhill, Evercore etc...

 
May 31,2014

I would LOVE to work for BMO Capital Markets. Probably over all the BBs and elite boutiques. Had a super day with them, honestly the best guys ever. (didn't get the job though) And to me, that's the most important thing when looking for a job.

 
May 31,2014

Heard good things about BMO and Wells but nothing substantive to add. A friend works in S&T with a reputable firm and said there's been a fair amount of attrition from Jefferies recently. Stay away from FBR; several rounds of layoffs there the past few years. Friends there said they have tried sweetening the pot with slightly higher bases (from recent lows), but the bonus is a pittance and general feel is that the bank is downward trending.

 
 
May 31,2014
CAinPE:

The responsibilities are enormous. The Associates are so bogged down with their own work that when I hand over a calculation to him, he will only glance over it before passing it on to the PM, who will carry out his negotiations based on my numbers. It is, frankly, terrifying to think that a negotiation might move based on a number that I gave to the PM.

Congrats, glad you are enjoying yourself. I can understand how you feel because I am currently in a similar position - just under $500m AUM PE fund with similarly few associates can be daunting for an analyst.

Where are you located? My firm looks primarily at Emerging Asia deals and am located in the region. Which region of Emerging Markets do you focus on?

 
May 31,2014

I'm in India and we focus here only. Where are you located?

Move along, nothing to see here.
 
May 31,2014

South-East Asia. India is a very promising area for PE investments although we have hardly any expertise there.

What was the most difficult part for you as a fresh analyst? Personally, I struggled a lot with managing the multiple deadlines (and of course the sheer responsibility). Every job description in fund management states that being able to work independently is very crucial factor but until I was put in the situation I never expected it to be that difficult!

 
May 31,2014

Exactly. Initially, I struggled with working without any clear directions. Come to think of it, even now this is what I struggle the most with. The PM will give me something to do but will forget to mention a crucial point or two, and later on the blame will fall on me for missing it out. In the beginning it was difficult to analyze the situation on the spot and ask the PM for any further info that might be required, but now slowly I'm getting the hang of it.

Overall, the sheer responsibility, the ability to look at the big picture and the above point are the most challenging aspects of the job. I don't think there are many areas other than PE and HF where a 1st year guy is expected to work so autonomously.

Move along, nothing to see here.
 
May 31,2014
CAinPE:

Overall, the sheer responsibility, the ability to look at the big picture and the above point are the most challenging aspects of the job. I don't think there are many areas other than PE and HF where a 1st year guy is expected to work so autonomously.

Similar situation myself, definitely agree

And so it goes

 
May 31,2014

For those of us pre-MBA associates at firms in New York, what would the best path to take if we are interested in working in an emerging market? Would recruiting during business school be better than attempting to make the jump pre-business school?

What are the backgrounds of your coworkers and where do you / they want to be in 3-5 years?

 
May 31,2014

I doubt if I'm in a position to dole out career advice, so I can't say much about how business school would affect your chances. What I think is you'll need to network in your target country to get in. Cultural fit is quite important in Asia.

All my co-workers are CA's and the Associates have past experience in M&A. I can't say where they want to be in 3-5 years, but as for me, I plan to stick around here long enough to learn as much as I can. After that I might think of moving to a bigger place. However, I see myself staying in PE for the long haul.

Move along, nothing to see here.
 
May 31,2014

Curious guys - how does language come into play? Do you both speak the native language where you work?

 
May 31,2014
Wangta:

Curious guys - how does language come into play? Do you both speak the native language where you work?

Language is hardly a barrier here as all business conversations are in English. The only place where one can miss out is when your PM cracks a joke in the native language to lighten the mood. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's rather awkward when everyone is laughing loudly and you're just sitting there smiling stupidly.

I should point out that although I'm a native of India, I'm still in a location where casual conversations are in the regional language and not Hindi (national language). So I still stand out like a sore thumb when the language switches to the regional one.

Move along, nothing to see here.
 
May 31,2014
CAinPE:
Wangta:

Curious guys - how does language come into play? Do you both speak the native language where you work?

Language is hardly a barrier here as all business conversations are in English. The only place where one can miss out is when your PM cracks a joke in the native language to lighten the mood. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's rather awkward when everyone is laughing loudly and you're just sitting there smiling stupidly.

I should point out that although I'm a native of India, I'm still in a location where casual conversations are in the regional language and not Hindi (national language). So I still stand out like a sore thumb when the language switches to the regional one.

LOL, I know exactly what you are talking about. Thanks for the insight. I would love to work in Asia (I'm Korean) in Hong Kong or Singapore, however, despite good experience, I feel like there are so many candidates out there that are completely bilingual, AND have good experience.

 
May 31,2014

In Singapore and HK (where I am located), English is commonly used - especially in Singapore which is primarily English speaking. As such, communicating internally is not really an issue for most. Even in India, I believe most professionals are able to speak English but I'll leave that for CA because he's the one there.

However, I believe you will need to understand the native language when working with the portfolio partners. This is because most of them will operate in their native language unless they have sizeable operations in English-speaking countries.

 
May 31,2014