Long Term Career in IB | What is the Strategy?

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend. This will be somewhat of a long post so I put some points in bold that I would particularly like addressed.

I'm currently an AN1 in a top group at a top MM and am genuinely curious as to the most optimal path for one to take if their goal was to stay in IB long term.

I've lurked on this site for some time and I generally understand the pros and cons of leaving IB for "greener" pastures like HF, Corp Dev, or PE but don't find those roles appealing for a myriad of reasons. 

Before anyone chimes in and tells me that I'm getting way ahead of myself let it be known that I hear you to some extent but that I came from a non-traditional path (military) and that I'm currently in my late 20's with a fiance and will likely be having kids within the next 4-6 years so I feel as though I know myself quite well.

I'm very hardworking, determined, and diligent, and am confident that will not waver too much as I get older and more seasoned in the industry. I'm also somewhat risk-averse, at least in a professional sense, and not particularly creative or insightful (seems like big paydays on the buy-side only come to the absolute best performers who have both these attributes) but I do have a genuine interest in businesses and have enjoyed the interactions with clients and the work I have done for them so far.

A long-term career in IB is appealing to me because it's an institutional role (repetitive and somewhat predictable at the higher levels) that I feel balances risk vs reward very well and where promotions come with a level of tenure that from what I have witnessed, effectively makes the job and lifestyle easier (senior managers can seemingly delegate 95% of deliverables, the firm and your teams become more accomodating around your personal responsibilities like kids, you can set the beat that everyone marches to, etc.). I feel like this pro of staying in IB will actually only become better as well especially as WFH continues to become normalized (anyone above VP at my firm is literally not required to come in at all ever).

I don't wish for my post to come off as downplaying the role of senior bankers nor the amount of work required to get there or the amount of work they do. My only aim is to convey my belief that there is such a thing as a "process" MD or senior banker who acts in an institutional capacity and that it is far easier to achieve that than it is to become a successful investor on the sell-side. I believe this to be especially true for people like me who may not see themselves as passionate about investing or intelligent enough to stay on top of the game as successful investors do but instead see themselves as workhorses who aren't really bothered by the hierarchical bureaucratic BS that banking has and instead can leverage those things to their advantage. 

So with that said, what is the most optimal way to make IB a long-term career? 

Can I just ride out my whole career at one firm?

Do I aim to go A2A or lateral? 

Do senior analysts lateral into associate positions elsewhere?

Do I have to go back and get an MBA eventually?

How do I manage office politcs at my current firm if I want to stay on?

When do I begin to let my interests known?

What counts most when trying to stay on? Approval from seniors? # of deals? Technical skills?I would imagine all those things.

Lastly, I would love to hear from any senior bankers that began their careers as analysts. How did It work out? Anything you would change? 

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Comments (14)

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  • Associate 1 in IB - Restr
Sep 12, 2021 - 11:43pm

If you like the group that you're in, the play is definitely to ride it out at your firm.  If you can get the job done during the analyst years and get the A2A promote (most groups very much prefer to source associates internally), you're hard to fire.  If you can get the job done during the associate years, you'll get the VP bump, which is not a bad place to sit for an extended period of time.  At least at my firm, 2nd year associates can make more than MDs in down years (2021 has been an ungodly slow RX year) since the MDs are eating what they kill and VPs will make a lot more w/out any of the risk associated w/ your comp being tied to revenue generation.  

Senior analysts can lateral into associate positions at other banks, but other banks tend to prefer poaching associates for associate positions.  

You definitely do not need to get an MBA.  The guys in banking who have MBAs, in my experience, are guys that either did not get into banking out of school, wound up in some corporate role and needed the MBA to re-open options or went straight to the buyside, hit a ceiling there, and needed the MBA to re-open their options.  If you start in banking and intend to stay your bank will not want you to leave for an MBA, let alone require you to for advancement. 

Not sure what the dynamics are at your firm as it pertains to letting your interests be known.  I'm assuming that your analyst program is a generalist one?  M&A analysts at my bank who are getting A2As get the opportunity to say what group they want to work with going forward once A2A promotion time rolls around.  Not sure how common this is, but if your bank isn't interested in listening to your preferences at that point, you may want a new bank.  

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 13, 2021 - 1:15am

Certain banks are just more or less friendly to promoting internally, and I'd say there's a few banks that are more friendly to building senior bankers. You're at a MM so I'll give you insight I know on MM banks. Important to note that even similar banks have very different policies.

Blair/Baird love A2As and pride themselves on home grown senior bankers. If you're interested in MM, I'd think these are some of the best places to be.

HW requires an MBA for associates and basically punts you after 2 years as an analyst. If you're here I'd lateral to one of the above.

If you're at a place like Blair/Baird and stay middle bucket or above, you'll basically keep getting promoted on track without any substantial effort. Only real hiccup is starting to generate revenue as a VP+, but the path there is pretty easy

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 13, 2021 - 2:31pm

Don't know anyone there so not sure. Best thing you can do is go on LinkedIn and look at lots of associates and beyond. How many associates came from MBA vs A2A? How many VPs/MDs came over as senior hires vs started at the firm?

Sep 14, 2021 - 12:43am

Feel like there can be some better answers here. Anyone make it to more senior levels and have tips for each level / anyone start to develop at coverage universe at all or clients of some sort?

Sep 14, 2021 - 11:27am

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