Memoirs of a First-Year Associate

It is late afternoon, and the sun is setting outside the window adjacent to my desk. Rays of sunshine splinter through the neighboring buildings, and spill their tangerine guts over the corner of my computer monitor.  The flood gates of Vitamin D cut short by the precipice of my cubicle's east-facing wall.  Surrounded by a stale trumpeting of keyboards and casual conversation, I take a deep breath and am hugged by the familiar nose of stale coffee. 

The faint mechanical churning of a Xerox machine can be heard bellowing in the distance.  The crude machine shutters under its constant and unrelenting workload.  I almost feel pity for the beast…

As I adjust my seat, a familiar voice echoes through the office daze. 

"KEYSER!!!!" 

I spin out of my seat with a premeditated twist and abruptly make my way towards the genesis of the noise.  Like a drone moving towards its homing beacon, I march deliberately but not in an overt hurry.  I weave through the maze of cubicles to find my Managing Director's office.  Fresh off the phone, my MD is in a particularly volatile mood:

"F#cking #sshole," my MD mutters as he hangs up the phone and stares directly at me. "Keyser, never get married!  You'll save yourself a lot of trouble later in life…. that goes for you too!"

My MD gestures to a young intern flanking the desk. 

After enduring the unscheduled conversation with my MD's divorce attorney, the intern's eyes have glazed over as he concentrates on the floor.  Visibly discomforted, the realities of middle age degradation and the inevitable fate of a high-profile career in banking have begun rooting inside the poor college Junior. 

The young intern nods vigorously; He'll have a bright future in Private Equity.

I chuckle nervously to break the tension, "I have the dial-in for our call with Generic Deciduous Shrub Capital."

My MD replies as he shuffles various papers on his desk, "…Good, let's figure out what the hold-up with this deal is!"

To provide background, Generic Deciduous Shrub Capital (GDSC for short) is engaged with us under LOI to acquire our client's Food & Beverage company, but they've been dragging their feet through Due Diligence.  Intentionally disorganized and operating under a perpetual state of amnesia, GDSC has been re-inquiring about due diligence items already provided to them and asking clarification where little is warranted. 

We postulate they are buying themselves time to raise capital for the deal.  Our call with GDSC's senior leadership team is an attempt to uncover the truth and if possible set our deal process back to true north.  We expect no more than a 15min conversation.

We dial-in, and exchange pleasantries

Out of the gates, GDSC's Senior VP tries to rail-road the conversation.  She goes straight at the jugular asking about our client's Wholefood's account, "Our analysis shows that channel sales are down 1.5% on the year – what's the story behind this?

My MD broods, and gestures towards me to deflect the inquisition.

If you're unfamiliar with banking, gesturing to a first-year associate to make a key play on the phone is similar to the head coach calling down the bench to the third string.  I'm not quite the team towel boy, but I'm sitting right next to him.

Adrenaline floods through my veins as my mind races for syllables.  I stumble, stutter, and squirt out the following automated response: "Hi… ummm this is Keyser… we would be happy to schedule another call to address all of your questions on sales skews, but for sake of the time we allocated for this call, I kindly suggest we move onto addressing the overall direction of the due diligence process."

My MD nods his head and gives me a Thumbs Up (I blush), but before I'm able to congratulate myself for a perfectly executed rebuttal­.  The Opposing VP throws the entire weight of her Kellogg MBA at me – I turn white.

"Keyser, I DO NOT appreciate being interrupted, and I actually find it incredibly disrespectful.  My questions are important to our process, and we need answers before we can get comfortable with this deal!"

My MD laughs, and lets the VP punch herself out as he calmly retorts, "That's great, I want to discuss the fact that we're three weeks into this process and we still haven't received a complete due diligence checklist despite repeated requests for one.  If I hadn't worked with your firm on other transactions I would have assumed this was your first time buying a company."

Mic Drop

The deal falls apart in glorious fashion.  After a series of white-collar back-handed exchanges, both parties decide to release themselves from the obligations of the LOI. 

Upon "huddling" with my MD after the call, he explains that my role on today's call was to get practice at having confrontation over the phone. As I get up to leave his office, my MD chuckles, and says "I was ready to call it quits with these clowns weeks ago." 

And just like that, a deep sinking feeling takes me over.  Like I am at the mercy of higher powers - making active and seemingly independent moves to win a game that's already had its outcome decided.  Such is life as a junior banker.

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Comments (44)

Most Helpful
Apr 8, 2021 - 1:56pm

Great write up and story. MD sounds like a baller - I'd definitely club with him.

Go all the way

  • 8
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  • Intern in IB-M&A
Apr 8, 2021 - 4:08pm

You should make different parts and continue to write about your time as an associate

Apr 8, 2021 - 4:24pm

Keyser Söze 123

The young intern nods vigorously; He'll have a bright future in Private Equity.

I had a good laugh here

STONKS
  • 8
  • VP in IB - Gen
Apr 8, 2021 - 6:56pm

MD sounds like a champ - all the bluntness / prickliness of the classic banking MD but without the 'let's use juniors as cannon fodder for the clients' sleaziness.

Apr 9, 2021 - 11:43am

lubar

What kind of loafers does you MD wear? 

If they don't have tassels does your MD even close?

"A man can convince anyone he's somebody else, but never himself."
  • 2
Apr 9, 2021 - 11:39am

All true stories.  I change/remove names for anonymity.

"A man can convince anyone he's somebody else, but never himself."
  • 2
Apr 9, 2021 - 9:12pm

This is hands-down one of the best re-tellings of this industry I've ever read. I will fund your writing career (in single digits) so you can get a realistic book of what IB is actually like out there for the masses (a.k.a disillusioned high school students and college students like myself). This is just brilliant. The word choice, the pacing, the story-telling, it's all just so high caliber. You could've made a career as a writer for sure (probably still can). 

Apr 9, 2021 - 10:41pm

Coming out of the woodwork to give some honest reflection:

First half read like a lukewarm attempt in the vein of LSO, I was not supportive.

But everything after the confrontation with the SVP made me laugh. Good stuff, if you keep it up I think you will find a good groove with this. Keep them coming.

Array

  • 5
Apr 11, 2021 - 12:13pm

Always appreciate honest feedback. My writing style isn't for everyone.  What is LSO?

"A man can convince anyone he's somebody else, but never himself."
  • 1
Apr 12, 2021 - 6:50pm

Keyser Söze 123

Always appreciate honest feedback. My writing style isn't for everyone.  What is LSO?

Your writing works for me. Please, open a forum for people like me can read of this. With all the stress in the world, this for a few minutes made me forget mine!

Thank you!

SafariJoe, wins again!
  • 2
Apr 12, 2021 - 6:51pm

Eren Yeager

Ever consider literature? Might be a good exit opp for you

He certainly is gifted in that department.

SafariJoe, wins again!
  • 1
Apr 10, 2021 - 6:42pm

Wonderful - like a cross of Joyce and Dostoyevsky.  

I come from down in the valley, where mister when you're young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done

  • 1
Apr 12, 2021 - 6:48pm

This beautiful, I loved every single line. Great writing too a talent that few have. Bravo!

SafariJoe, wins again!
  • 1
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