Is everyone's experience this brutal?

AA777's picture
Rank: Senior Monkey | 89

I'm completely ready to work hard, but threads like this scare me. Is this the norm, or did this guy have an exceptionally bad experience?

I'm in college right now, considering pursuing IB.

Here's a short list of things banking did to me (a few details changed to protect my identity):

  • Constant heart palpitations due to caffeine/energy drinks/stress
  • Carpal tunnel / tendinitis
  • Lost a lot of hair
  • Put on 25 lbs or more (fat, not muscle)
  • Stress lowered my immune response to the point that I got a serious infection that landed me in the hospital (it started out small but spread to my veins)
  • Became borderline alcoholic (was having 4-5 drinks every day after work, sometimes before work although not that often)
  • Stopped caring about consequences and personal relationships; lost my girlfriend and several friends
  • Developed blood clots in my legs that required medical intervention
  • Became depressed and chronically anxious

In short, I was not very good at dealing with the stress and intensity of banking. My personal life went into a downward spiral and it took me a couple of years to recover. I'm doing better now, but I've learned that taking care of yourself is paramount in this business. I'm convinced I may have done serious permanent damage to myself if I'd stayed in banking past my 3rd year.

Comments (27)

Mar 12, 2018

For the most part, people love to tell you how much harder they work than others, how hard their life is, how much they are sacrificing, etc. It's a well known phenomenon that Americans are one of the few cultures in western civilization where self reported work hours are more than actual work hours, where in most cultures people self report less hours of work than actual work hours. The point being, I'm not sure if that guys specific story is true or not (I lean towards it's a gross exaggeration), but I would take all those stories and, on average, reduce the stress and amount of hours they say banking is putting on them by a fifth or sixth and expect that to be reality.

Listen, banking is tough, at times it can be really hard. Dating is tough, people often gain weight If they aren't vigilant about their diet, finding time and energy to work out is a challenge, but you can make time for all those things. You can stay in good shape. You can have meaningful relationships. And you can make the decision to leave or stay at anytime you want depending on how you are handling the lifestyle. Most people seem to handle it fine, but obviously the lifestyle isn't for everyone. Only you know what works for you and if you have the ability to keep disciplined and live a healthy life.

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Best Response
Mar 12, 2018

The banker saw several large tuna fish in his boat and complimented the Greek on the quality of his fish and asked, "How long does it take to catch them?" The Greek replied: "Only a little while."

The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Greek said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Greek fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play cards with my friends, I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.

Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.

You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Athens, then London and eventually New York where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Greek fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?" To which the American replied, "15-25 years."

"But what then?" The American laughed and said that's the best part. "When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions ... Then what?" The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play cards with your friends."

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Mar 14, 2018

I saw this one time on the wall while I was eating lunch at Jimmy John's, but it was with a Mexican fisherman instead of a Greek fisherman lol... Any idea where this story/parable comes from?

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Mar 16, 2018

You must be Greek.

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Mar 12, 2018

Everyone has a different experience.

However, most times it's just about handling things yourself. There are guys out their who only work 20 hours a week, but still don't take care of themselves, have no personal discipline, can't focus on relationship and lead unhealthy lifestyles. Don't go black/white with having to choose between working less/taking care of yourself or working more and having everything going to shit.

Also, as stated above, look out for the guy who tells you "I work hard for my money", like everyone else doesn't.

Also watch out for the FIGJAM-ers.

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Mar 12, 2018

To avoid telling a long story, IB can advance your career faster than any other job in my honest opinion. Coming from commercial banking, I've learned more in 3 months in IB than 2 years in commercial banking (not joking).

While this was stressful, if I'd have to do it again, I would. Building three statement models in a rush is stressful as fuck and there's no way around that. But - being pushed to create something from scratch and understand dynamically what drives a business in a live deal is an invaluable learning exercise.

The post that you link to is 100% right on the tips.

  • Exercise. Do not get fat. This is crucial. I've learned that if you have one good thing going in your life (even physical health), this helps like crazy.
  • Check your work. In IB, you can quickly ruin your reputation with careless work products.
  • Get your rest, and understand work isn't everything. Go out, have fun, and sleep in late when you can. But, when at work, work your ass off.

Any other advice, feel free to ping me.

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Mar 14, 2018

Don't want to hijack this thread but I'm currently in Consumer Banking and was wondering if you would mind either posting or PMing about how you made the jump? Thanks

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Mar 12, 2018

I'm a little confused about some of the alcoholism posts on WSO. When do you even drink as an analyst from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. then pass out and wake up at 7 a.m.??? I mean that doesn't even sound fun. I wonder if the problem in the original post is really 70% alcohol abuse and 30% banking.

I imagine that if I drank every night of my analyst year on top of the lack of sleep, negative physical effects would appear much much quicker. I definitely had some negative physical side effects of banking but not the laundry list from the original link.

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Mar 12, 2018

For me, it was not being able to go to sleep quickly and need to blow off stress that caused my drinking to spike. Easier to go to bed hammered than wound up and stressed out. Not saying that the sleep quality was better. On the contrary, it was far worse. Now that I'm out, I still overdo it on occasion, but rarely if ever do I equate it with some need to cope with my job.

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Mar 12, 2018

Everyone deals with stress differently of course, but I think it's pretty common for IBD analysts to have problem falling asleep / sleeping. Personally, I found that on really busy / stressful day, I was too wired to sleep when I came home and needed to unwind, even if I finished at 2-3am. The feeling of being dead tired and unable to sleep is not a good one so most people I know had some sort of coping mechanism, wether alcohol, weed or sleep pills. I had some really strong sleeping pills that were prescribed to me by a doctor for emergencies, but they were quite strong and not to be used regularly (they are really bad for you). But mostly, I would smoke a ton of weed as soon as I got home until I passed out.

That being said, I knew getting in what I was getting into and I got terrific training, made some lifelong connections and ended placing well on the buyside so looking back, it was really worth it the stress. Ultimately, I really think you have to see it as a wise investment in your career.

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Mar 12, 2018

That's kind of my point. I know the feeling of being too wired to sleep after a long day of IB. But there are healthy ways of dealing with stress and unhealthy ways of dealing with it.

In my opinion, the majority of the physical side effects that the OP mentions were probably the result of dealing with stress in an unhealthy and counterproductive manner, i.e. drugs and alcohol.

Further on that point, it is not normal in any way to deal with the daily stresses of work with daily use of drugs or alcohol. By no medical or psychological definition is that a normal coping mechanism regardless of your profession. Look, I like to blow off some steam like anyone else and go out for drinks on the weekend, but if you're having to blow off steam every day with alcohol, then that is a serious problem.

Mar 12, 2018

I worked in IB for almost 3 years and saw a lot of analysts who dealt with things in completely different ways. At the end of the day, some people just can't take it. And that's fine. It's a tough job that often requires you to disregard your own desires and personality.

But you should be aware that everyone has a different experience based on tons of factors that are out of their control (such as group culture, which seniors they get staffed with, which other juniors are on the team, size of analyst class, deal flow, etc) and factors that are in their control (such as attitude, ability to swallow your pride, willingness to be told what to do, how good they are at pushing back on seniors, double checking work, healthy coping habits, etc) and many more factors.

In my group alone, I knew people who:
- Lost 30 pounds of muscle (former athlete)
- Gained 40 pounds of fat (not a former athlete)
- Stayed in good shape
- Drank alcohol at their desk late at night
- Self-medicated with frequent nights out/bottle service/etc
- Quit within 3 months
- Quit exactly after 1 year (the day the bonus hit the bank)
- Quit without informing anyone in the office (just stopped showing up)
- Went to the hospital from over-exhaustion
- Cruised through analyst years without breaking a sweat (got in late, left early)
- Didn't complain at all, despite working the most
- Complained non-stop, despite not working the most
- Routinely overslept through meetings due to lack of sleep
- Slept under desk in the middle of the day, to hide from the staffer
- Many more

The point is, all of these people worked in the same group with a similar set of co-workers (not exactly the same due to staffings, but similar enough). Yet, there were tons of different coping mechanisms and outcomes.

Bottom line:
If you are strong and self-aware enough to not allow yourself to turn into someone you wouldn't want to be, then you will be just fine. But if you don't "know yourself" very well or are the type of person that is consumed by stress, you are right to be worried.

Career success & financial independence
www.prosperlyway.com

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Mar 12, 2018

It boils down to living a healthy lifestyle. if you're taking drugs, consuming alcohol and relying on sleeping pills.. then you shouldn't blame the IBD lifestyle but rather yourself. but.. no one wants to hear this and yet they still want to complain.

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

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Mar 12, 2018

Was there anything special about the analyst who cruised through his time there? Was he a genius or something?

Was this at a BB, MM, EB, or boutique?

Mar 12, 2018

Top group at a top BB.

There are two ways I have seen analysts cruise:
- They performed poorly early, no one was requesting to work with them, so they got put on easy projects.
- Worked with a good senior banker early, who would shield them from other staffings.

The analyst I was thinking of in my first post did a combination of both. Wasn't a top performer so wasn't being requested, but found a senior who liked them, so was basically forgotten about by the staffer.

Career success & financial independence
www.prosperlyway.com

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Mar 12, 2018

I worked at a known sweatshop BB group coming out of college and we averaged 100 hours a week and I can tell you the link is definitely exaggerating. You kids work like 80 hours a week nowadays with protected weekends.

Carpal tunnel as a 22-24 year old? Hahaha no.

Only thing true about that post is gaining weight. I gained 10 pounds over 2 years but the funny thing is I would've probably gained even more weight if I worked a 9-5 chill corporate gig.

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Mar 13, 2018

I've found it to be pretty tolerable, but not exactly a picnic. Didn't really gain weight, but couldn't keep off weight I lost early on. Worst week was probably 110 hours, but there were some weeks in August a couple years back when my group was going through some restructuring that I barely did anything at all. I find that the only thing that really gets to me is when I am sleeping less than five hours a night for a few nights in a row. Some people seem to be able to cope with sleep deprivation pretty well; I am not one of them.

The most important factor in my experience has been the members of my immediate team who have always demonstrated a concern for my well being and an investment in my career. Most other people at the bank write off analysts' suffering as dues paying and a cost of doing business. Sure, sometimes we'll be up all night, but if your MD is up until two trying to make things easier, that makes it feel like a team effort rather than an exercise in exploitation. If they are yelling at you that whole time though, obviously it can have the opposite effect.

Mar 14, 2018

It's a lot of chest beating whoa is me stuff on top of the actual suck. It's hard for sure, especially compared to 9-5 jobs, but also look at the vast swamp of human misery that will never have advantages like you do in this business. Life is hard. Get over it.

You want life disruption? Join the service. Or take a look at desperate migrant workers busting their asses 16+ hours a day at backbreaking, low pay jobs while they worry if they'll be screwed on pay or separated from their families for years at a stretch.

But hustling to make more money than all your ancestors combined ever did? Here's the simple truth: you can walk out the door any moment you like.

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Mar 14, 2018

woe is me*

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Mar 16, 2018

I prefer "WOAH is me". Seems very banker bro.

Mar 18, 2018

Perspective - we all need it

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Mar 14, 2018

But hustling to make more money than all your ancestors combined ever did?

What bank are you working for bro?

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Mar 20, 2018
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Mar 20, 2018