The 100-hour Work Week Fallacy
A typical investment banking analyst can expect an 80-hour week.
Yes, there will absolutely be weeks where you will work a hundred hours, but those weeks are outnumbered by 80-hour weeks. A user shared a wise comment below:
The amount of misinformation about the banking lifestyle is fairly absurd. And it stems largely from these nerdy kids who think it's a badge of honor to somehow work ridiculous hours.
Despite this, don't expect a work-life balance during your first two years.
What are the Hours of an Investment Banking Analyst?
Our users shared that the hours that are usually stated are inflated.
People in Investment Banking tend to inflate their hours a bit, and no one is working 100+ hours a week consistently. A good portion of my analyst class (including me) would keep track of their hours in a spreadsheet, and we would often compare. And over the first two years, average was about 75 hours a week for people in coverage groups and Lev Fin and about 85 for people in M&A.
Hours vary by group. M&A groups have the most hours, and as you can see, 100 hour weeks, even for M&A groups, are the exception.
Investment Banking Associate Long Work Week
Generally, associates work less than analysts because they've already learned the ropes.
That being said, my life as an associate has been a lot easier than my life as an analyst - 65-75 hrs, depending on the week. You become much better at managing your time, less concerned about face time, and get more slack from your MDs/VPs who you've worked with for years. (I'm a direct promote.) Not great by any means but certainly more manageable." This is only a general rule and definitely varies depending on group culture, bosses, and sector.
Vice President (VP) Investment Banking Long Hours
VP hours vary a ton based on a few factors, the overarching theme being how much you care about your work and how efficient you are.
VP hours vary depending on how active you are in bringing in deals, covering clients, and supporting MDs. The typical VP puts in 60-80 hours.
Work Week for Investment Banking Senior Vice President (SVP)/Director
Hours here vary because of everything previously mentioned and how effective you are at your job.
SVP/Director tends to be a hybrid between VP and MD. Basically, if you are good, then you are just running deals and making it rain. If you aren't, then you are more in the weeds.
Managing Director Investment Bank Hours
MDs are the first to leave the office.
At MD level, you are mostly dealing with clients and relationship building. So I guess the nature of your work is far more enjoyable than doing a bunch of gruntmodeling work as an analyst. Expect lots of travel, lots of golf, and lots of dining out with clients.
What Do Investment Banking Analysts Do?
There are a million ways to answer this question. The simple truth is this: a lot of grunt work. A lot of(with , of course), developing pitchbooks on PowerPoint (the earlier you become familiar with PowerPoint and the better), and just random things that come up throughout the day.
How to Handle the Long Hours?
Some will have it far worse than others in terms of hours/week. 100+ hour weeks are an unappealing but unavoidable reality of life as an Investment Banking analyst. While these weeks aren't the norm for most, some analysts will deal with 100+ hour weeks on a consistent basis.
@square_miles, an investment banking associate, explains in eight steps how he survived the grueling hours of an Investment Banking analyst, summarized below.
- Adopt a survivor mentality: Maintain fortitude, avoid self-pity, and, most importantly, accept the hand that you've been dealt.
- Put it in perspective: Understand that there are a thousand people who would kill for your job and many, many people whose lives are infinitely worse than yours.
- Rationalize two years: Break down the time you are spending as an analyst into milestones: Thanksgiving, bonus seasons, etc. If you are really struggling with the hours, then reaching the milestones you set will make things more bearable.
- Be strong: Don't complain and don't make yourself a victim. These becomes a legacy and reputation that you don't want to be attached to.
- Create options: Set yourself up for future job opportunities by networking proactively.
- Think creatively about your career: Carefully consider what you value in life and what you enjoy so you can find a career for you.
- Exotic jobs: Consider spending a year or two doing Peace Corps, MSF, Red Cross, War Child, LeapFrog Investments, etc. You can live a healthy lifestyle in that time, get irreplaceable experience in a foreign country, and your MBA applications become much more complete.
- Heroes and mentors: Look at individuals a bit further ahead in the same career as you, and ask yourself if that's the life you want. As for mentors, find someone who you have commonalities with, build a genuine relationship with them, and they will hopefully help you get ahead in your career.
How Does Lifestyle Differ between Investment Banking Groups?
While hour variation within groups is dependent on banks, there are general trends. @Ukon, a private equity associate, and @macro, a hedge fund analyst, did a nice job summarizing how the hours vary by groups.
M&A and leveraged finance will usually have the longest hours.
Restructuring groups and consolidated TMT (technology, media, and telecommunications) groups also have long hours."
Healthcare is a long hour group at every single shop. They have way too many companies to cover, and those companies like to acquire each other as well. Similarly,(Financial Institution Groups) are long hour groups across the board."
How Do Investment Banking Analysts Deal with Long Work Weeks?
Here is a summary of the sleep schedule as an analyst. 9am - 12am Monday - Friday gives you 7+ hours of sleep each night, a 75 hour work week and a free weekend. Sure, there will be a particularly bad week here and there, but that's a sustainable lifestyle for a couple of years without going crazy.
To the question of whether it gets better or if the hours go by: when you are driven by a deal, the last thing on your mind is sleep. Adrenaline keeps you awake, and you manage to blow through whatever you need to get through.
My #1 suggestion would be to do something non-electronic for at least 30 minutes before you hit the sack. Blue light emitted from smartphones and laptops have been shown to mess up our circadian rhythm. Reading a light fiction book (in paper form, not on a tablet) is a great way to unwind and relax the brain. I have a few collections of classic short stories (usually 20-30 pages) that are great for bedtime reading.
Read up on sleep cycles, find out what yours is, likely 75-90 minutes. If you're sleeping an even multiple of that (e.g. 6 hrs or 7.5 hrs if a 90 minute cycle), you're better rested than 8 hours or 7 hours.
Again, the hours are more than your average Joe will be getting out of undergrad, but it isn't as excessive as the world would have you believe. The hours are blown out of proportion for reasons previously mentioned. Even then, if you don't think you could handle the hours and sleep, put yourself in the shoes of Investment Banking analyst. Understand that, in the moment, there are things that drive you to overcome sleeping less, the same way kids are able to crank out an essay in the wee hours of the morning without falling asleep.
One issue many Investment Banking analysts face is falling asleep after a long, adrenaline-filled day at work. Turning off electronics before bed is key as studies have shown that the blue light messes with your circadian rhythm, which is also a crucial when it comes to waking up on time.
80 Hour Weeks in Investment Banking
Investment banking analysts face long hours. While those hours vary, it typically comes out to about 80 hours a week. Even then, there are ways to cope. Below is an excellent post from @Marcus_Halberstram, an industry CEO, painting his thoughts on the investment banking lifestyle, and why you shouldn't believe everything you hear about it.
Banking Lifestyle: What Are the Hours Really Like? @Marcus_Halberstram
In light of the recent death of an investment banking intern in London (who was apparently epileptic) and with all the misinformation and romanticized bankingbeing peppered all over the place, I thought I'd (try to) settle this for once and for all and clear up all the bullshit.
'With respect to the people saying that it's "NEVER" expected to work three back-to-back all-nighters or that interns aren't expected to work all-nighters, you guys might be too senior to notice it happening.
'There is a team that sits near me at my shop that regularly has to pull back-to-back all-nighters, because they have a terrible staffer and awful seniors to work for. They don't even go home to shower anymore; they have a few sets of fresh clothes under the desk. Unsurprisingly, the majority quit post-bonus. HR is puzzled, but people are too afraid to tell the truth about how badly the workload for that team is managed.'
This is just patently false. It's not at all like this in the industry.
This sounds more like one of the college kids that so frequently troll WSO and are, for whatever reason, turned on by the idea of working ridiculous (beyond the pale of reality) hours in banking.
The amount of misinformation about the banking lifestyle on WSO is fairly absurd. And it stems largely from these nerdy kids who think its a badge of honor to somehow work ridiculous hours. It's the same kids who, when they first start working, will stay in the office for absolutely no reason. It's the same kids who try to impress people by bragging about their ridiculous work schedules. It's the same kids that build a 16-tab model with 11 different scenarios and 8 sensitivity tables to run statistics on how many hours per week they are working.
You see this through levels in banking, these are the VPs that are in the office until midnight or 1 am consistently. It's the directors and MDs in the office until 10 or 11 pm. They are legitimately sad people; you feel sorry for them. To some degree, banking is constantly forcing people to demonstrate their worth, and some people think that their worth is quantified by how many hours they spend in the office. What you start to see is that the 'face time' people initially started putting in to demonstrate their worth to other people starts becoming their own sense of self-worth. Yeah, that's some deep Dr Phil shit.
Pulling 100 hour weeks is fairly intense. But even still, it's working from 9 am to 1 am during the week. And working from 10 am to 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday. It's not really that bad. It's just horrific in comparison to working a normal job and going to happy hour after work, brunch and college football on Saturdays, and chilling at home all day on Sundays.
Even in the banking 100 hour week, you're still averaging about 5 to 6 hours of sleep during the week, and as much sleep as you want during the weekend. Will there be weeks when you work more than that? Yes. Will there be weeks when you work less? Yes. The busier groups will work those weeks more often and have the absolutely ridiculous weeks come up a few more more times than the less busy groups. But if you're consistently working meaningfully more than that on a regular basis, it's because you're not effective at your job.... and often times because you like the idea of always being in the office. Everyone who has actually worked in banking for a year or more knows exactly what I'm talking about.
The truth is the industry has its fair share of characters, but they are still within a few standard deviations of reasonable human beings. After you work a really long week and the deliverable are off the table, you can bounce early if you want. If you worked all weekend until 2 am, worked until 4 am Monday night, and were in the office at 8:30 am to flip books on Tuesday, you can bounce early. Or come in late the next day. No one is driving a slave ship. Meetings can get pushed if there is not enough man power. Analysts get shuffled around. Most banks have templates, canned presentations and pages from past books, presentation operators that turn changes, outsourced analysts abroad, and graphics departments to create shit.
The real gruel of the banking lifestyle comes not from a lack of sleep... even though there may be instances where you're fairly sleep deprived when you're sprinting towards the finish line on a few projects... rather it comes from the fact that everything outside of work is always hanging on a string that may get snipped if the smallest thing requires your attention at work.
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