Investment Banker perception to non-finance people

Do you ever get the vibe that the average person thinks we are just bankers sitting in retail branches selling mutual funds?

Comments (91)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jan 13, 2022 - 9:42pm

if only it were that good, people think I am a literal banker, i.e. I'm a banker teller handing people $20 bills in exchange for $100 dollar bills

Jan 13, 2022 - 11:02pm

In my opinion, most people think Wall Street. Most people think a bunch of hard asses trying to make money by doing deals. What deals exactly? I think that's where they kind of lose it. Where they don't know what happens.

I think most people know who retail mutual fund salespeople are, and mutual fund wholesalers can make a TON of money if they choose a great area to work. Most people can probably differentiate between those two.

  • VP in IB - CB
Jan 14, 2022 - 12:17pm

Nobody really knows what bankers do and it's generally viewed as less impressive than being a doctor or lawyer.

Jan 17, 2022 - 3:12pm

Which really fuxking blows my mind if you consider here in Germany you regularly study for 8 years to maybe become a lawyer to enter your job with a max60k salary vs. 3 years Bachelor to get 100-130k as a banker.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jan 19, 2022 - 9:51pm

that's pretty fucked up but seems par for the course to those not clued in on the finance track.

Jan 14, 2022 - 1:33pm

No, I think most people's perceptions are a dude sitting in an office 10 hours per week, making millions and spending it on drugs and booze.......oh yeah and we're also stealing money from the middle class somehow.

Jan 14, 2022 - 2:05pm


No, I think most people's perceptions are a dude sitting in an office 10 hours per week, making millions and spending it on drugs and booze.......oh yeah and we're also stealing money from the middle class somehow.

Well very indirectly, where do you think those M&A synergies come from? Certainly not out of the CEOs pocket

  • 3
Jan 15, 2022 - 8:59am

.oh yeah and we're also stealing money from the middle class somehow.

Almost all major corporations literally do just that in an attempt to maximize shareholder returns whether it be pursuing "synergies" as the commenter below mentioning or shipping jobs overseas.  I support capitalism, but let's not pretend corporations get away with a lot under the excuse of "Oh it's a private business too!"


  • Associate 1 in VC
Jan 14, 2022 - 2:14pm

I would say the vibe is that people think you're probably making a shit ton of money, work many hours, and maybe aren't the nicest lol. But I'm talking strictly in the 20-30 nyc age group. The other perception is that you're a "stock broker" for the people really out of tune with severe different types of jobs. I think the hardest thing to explain to people outside of the broad industry is what specific groups in S&T do and why they aren't FAs, "stock traders", or "stock brokers" especially explaining what a market maker is lol.

Jan 14, 2022 - 5:31pm

Bro, even a lot of finance people don't know what we do.

In my experience, most non-finance people just think were obnoxious "finance bros" who are scheming to cause another financial meltdown while getting rich in the process.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jan 15, 2022 - 8:18pm

This. To the common folk, we are the evil greedy capitalists that are somehow stealing from the poor and crashing the economy

Jan 15, 2022 - 1:26pm

Retail banker or S&T would be to most common perceptions.

If you want prestige and to get laid, getting a BO role will do the job. Tell them the brand name of the bank and they will think that you go with a suit from conference room to conference room signing documents without even reading them - when in reality you are arranging pens by length and scanning.

Jan 15, 2022 - 5:25pm

When I was networking back in undergrad there were several profiles I came across that said "Analyst at BB" but then when you clicked it and read further they worked in like ops lol. 


  • 5
  • Prospect in RE - Comm
Jan 15, 2022 - 2:45pm

I actually got into an argument with my Indian grandfather a week or two ago. He wants me to be a Doctor/Dentist, and I want to work in Finance (Im a senior in high school, so I have not yet decided what I want to go into, ex Asset Management or IB or S&T). He said I would never amount to anything in this field because he has "seen the world" (he just set foot on American soil for the first time 8 years ago). When I asked him what he thought people on Wall Street did, he only responded with "they do the share market stuff". When I said that that was only partially correct, he scoffed at me. So most people probably just think Wall Street guys stand around in trading pits screaming at each other or working at a retail bank. 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jan 15, 2022 - 8:16pm

Not surprising tbh when you have movies like Wolf of Wall Street that focus mostly on the trading aspect. I do think most people know what an IPO or M&A deal are. That's probably the simplest way to explain what people in IB do.

  • Associate 1 in PE - Growth
Jan 16, 2022 - 12:07pm

My Indian grandfather refused to speak to me for weeks when I told him am not gonna be a doctor or engineer and hence will drop science in high school. He said people who go into anything except stem are dumb

Jan 15, 2022 - 7:49pm

Most girls I dated are more impressed that I'm a politician (albeit not a high flying one). When I mentioned my IB/PE background, they either think I do something like CRE (because I mention "deals") or a literal teller. They're far more impressed that I'm a Rhodes Scholar and went to big name schools that has layman's prestige like Oxford and Wharton.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jan 15, 2022 - 8:14pm

Lol whenever my friends ask me where I'm working next summer and I say UBS, they always think it's the postal service company (UPS). I think it's safe to say if you tell people you do banking, most non-finance people assume you're a bank teller. Who gives af tho. I do shit for me, not for being perceived as impressive or not by outsiders. If you say you work on Wall Street or something like that, I would guess most people would have a negative impression. The populist sentiment that has risen ever since the Great Recession has led many people to hating the big banks and the people who work in them. 

Jan 15, 2022 - 10:15pm

Why are you morons telling people what you do for a living???

I'm going to present you with a whole other view on this and would encourage all of you to be significantly more discrete in talking about your work. Make no mistake about it, there is definitely a significant part of the population that takes a negative view of anyone working in banking & finance. The housing crisis of 2008 is a real thing, wage garnishments are a real thing. Occupy Wall Street was a real thing. You simply never know when someone out there harbors ill will towards banks, your bank and then, by extension, you. For example, if your bank does mortgages, do you really want someone thinking, "this little fawker works for the thieves that took my house from me 12 years ago!!!" or "this is the same fawker that's garnishing my wages right now!!!". That is not a position you want to be in, I assure you of that. 

Do what I do. From now on, when someone asks what you do, just tell them you work with computers, "fixing people's antivirus and stuff . . .". That still explains why you have a decent income and no one usually cares to ask more questions beyond that. Please, for the love of all that is holy, exercise significantly more discretion than telling people what you actually do for a living. 

Jan 16, 2022 - 2:20am

No, that would be lying. I will not compromise my identity to cater to the delusions of other people. I am an investment banker and if someone wants to come at me for that, let them come at me.  Banking is perfectly morally defensible, in fact we are playing our part in keeping the biggest economy in the world running and efficiently providing capital to deserving companies. If you're talking to a bartender or something, what moral good does their job really do beyond getting people drunk? Stand by your integrity everyone and don't contribute to the problem of misinformed people.

Jan 16, 2022 - 4:58am

Facts.  I come from East Europe and my grandpa told me that they lived near a neighbor which was very pleasent to talk with. He said he worked at a tractor manufacturing factory for 30 years. When he died it came to light that he worked for the KGB. Even his wife didn't knew it.

The simpler you portray what you do, the easier is to get along with other people.

Jan 16, 2022 - 3:30pm

How did this get eight silver bananas?

This may sound good at first but what if you meet this person more than once?  Eventually you'll have to explain that you lied because you thought they were a killer commie, and that will be awkward as fuck.

Jan 17, 2022 - 6:37pm

Do what I do. From now on, when someone asks what you do, just tell them you work with computers, "fixing people's antivirus and stuff . . .". That still explains why you have a decent income and no one usually cares to ask more questions beyond that. Please, for the love of all that is holy, exercise significantly more discretion than telling people what you actually do for a living. 

You work in IT? 


  • VP in IB - Restr
Jan 16, 2022 - 6:09am

Honestly, people think we make WAY more money than we actually do. Like way more. I wish we made as much as my family thinks I actually make 

Jan 16, 2022 - 9:08am

As others have said, most people outside of finance either don't understand or care what you do. These days (I'm in PE) I just say I work in finance or banking generically, and maybe add "work on Wall Street" if they're still confused.

Tbh there's no real need to get any more specific than that - I know young kids/newbies on here get big hardons for prestige/rankings, but seriously no-one outside finance cares. If you say Goldman Sachs they might be impressed for a brief few moments - but equally they might think you're a vampire squid. Also if you're a junior analyst and still driving a Honda they might be confused (as everyone at Goldman is making $10m+ a year right?? That's the perception outside of finance anyway).

Also to be honest if you have to go into extensive detail about your job just to impress people then you probably don't have much of a personality to begin with (I'm sorry but it's true - you need to develop some hobbies etc).

I mean think of it from an outsider's perspective - you meet a doctor socially. The fact that he's a doctor is impressive enough, so maybe after enquiring about his speciality you'd move on. Now imagine he was a boring person but was some top surgeon and proceeded to go into excruciating detail about his job - would you suddenly find him interesting? I wouldn't.

Jan 16, 2022 - 1:19pm

Yes of course a top surgeon could be said to be a much more important job (to society) than some IB banker, but that's also my point - medicine is much more interesting/relatable to the general public than banking or finance (think of all the hospital dramas compared to banking shows lol).

And yet despite this if there was a boring doctor at a party very few people would want to sit there listening to him explain the detailed intricacies of his work. Now imagine a blowhard PE associate doing that - i whereas the dull doctor might just bore people, a dull PE guy might send them to sleep! So yeah basically don't give excessive detail if no-one is asking for it was my point haha 

Jan 17, 2022 - 1:04pm

I've been asked half a dozen times as to which branch do I sit at

Jan 17, 2022 - 3:41pm

Why not simplify it into positive benefits? Copywriting 101! Nobody cares about what something is called, they only understand the benefits.

-Raise money to help companies grow by engineering new products and hire more people.

-Make sure entrepreneurs get the most for their company when it's time to sell by helping them negotiate vs massive corps.

-Help pension funds invest their money.

Definitely don't say you're in IB/PE/etc, it will just confuse people. 

Jan 17, 2022 - 8:24pm

Never lived in the US but have heard that people could harbour negative emotions against people working in banking there. My experience growing up in a country where very few people went into investment banking/S&T, if your ego can handle not flexing on people, a simple "I work at a bank" should suffice.

Coming from an Asian household, my mom inevitably wants to flex on her acquaintances that her son works at a large bank, to which people ask her about loan rates. When she tries to explain it is an "International Bank", not trying to sound dumb, they say "Ahh World Bank" or some shit. Every time I have tried to explain what I did, it has always ended with the question, "so what stock should I buy?"

Just not worth it.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 17, 2022 - 9:04pm

The other day I told someone I was in banking and I was really surprised when they lit up and got excited........ turns out they thought I said I was in baking

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Jan 18, 2022 - 8:45pm

Such a WSO question, no one cares or knows. People think I invest money when I tell them I am an "Investment Banker". Even I literally had no clue what the job entailed until I started. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB - CB
Jan 19, 2022 - 1:51am

Random people off the street - Bank Teller

Non-finance College Peers - Somewhere between Patrick Bateman and Charles Koch

Hardo Undergrad Prospects - Ultra busy, modestly wealthy, deal maker

VP - Overpaid indentured servant

MD - The other brown-haired Caucasian analyst who lateraled six months ago

GF - A fattening, overworked, stressed out home-office drone, or a solid movie date

Jan 19, 2022 - 4:46am

totally understand, my friends brother told me i'll end up in a retail bank anyways so why i am studying hard or doing internships, he thinks banking/finance is only retail banking so i wouldn't ever take advice from such a person or will I listen to him because he doesn't know shit he's like 29 and still finishing his masters has zero work experience lost his virginity like a year ago hahaha this turned into a hate post about him dont like the guy at all but nobody gives a rats ass about IB so stay on your grind

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 19, 2022 - 7:24pm

Signed my offer for next summer. Cousin asked what I was doing post-grad. I said banking, he responded with "when did you start baking??". Other cousin has asked me what stocks to buy, so more or less same as above. Literally no one could give a fuck what we do 

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Jan 19, 2022 - 9:31pm

Idk man, most of my friends think I'm like a genius. Sometimes I play into it and throw a buzzword like "basis points" or "capital structure" out there just to milk it. Rarely fails tbh. But also my friends are total knuckleheads and went to average state schools, not a buncha prestige freaks.

Chicks just feel bad for me because they assume I get abused at work.

Jan 20, 2022 - 2:37pm

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Jan 24, 2022 - 7:35pm

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  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Jan 24, 2022 - 8:30pm

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Jan 24, 2022 - 10:45pm

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