Pigeonholed in a Career

Hey guys and gals, I'm looking for some advice.

I am a first year analyst at a BB Private Bank and graduated from a top tier public school. Recently I've taken a harder look at what I want out of a career and what would make me happy. In my current position I'm paid well, don't work terrible hours and my boss isn't an asshat. So why am I unhappy? Am I ungrateful?

The main concerns I have currently are that I feel like I'm going down a path that will lead to my being pidgeon-holed. I don't do any in-depth Excel modeling nor do I personally analyze or vet the investment in the clients' accounts. I don't really use my brain or think critically very often and I feel like I'm not really developing a transferrable skill set.

Also, being a 20-something in WM may be challenging because old rich people may feel uneasy about giving their coin to some young dude.

I am taking the CFA Level 1 in June and am using the studying to become more well-rounded, but again, I feel like the CFA may not help me get out of this path if I don't develop transferrable skills. I enjoy the studying I'm doing because it is the stuff I studied in college and think that IB/ER would be something I'm better suited for. The pickle I'm in is that the longer I wait in WM, the harder it becomes for me to "catch up" to my peers in IB/ER.

I feel like most people outside of the finance community wouldn't understand what I'm going through and would look at me crazy for not being happy with where I am. Am I worrying too early or are my worries justified? How long did it take you to become satisfied with your job, or are you still searching?

Thanks

Comments (60)

Feb 26, 2017

Don't worry about "catching up" to your peers - it's not a race against others. Your end goal should be to get somewhere where you'll be happy, as you state.

CFA is less applicable in IB than in ER. In either case of IB/ER, learn some modeling in your spare time. It's actually used less than you'd think in IB (at least I think you'll hear that from several people, including me), but it's a must-have skill.

Do you get to interact much with your clients at your current bank? Network. Worst case scenario, the clients may be willing to follow you in the future if you do start your own firm.

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Feb 26, 2017

I understand. By "catching up" I mean the longer I wait the steeper the learning curve would be if I were to lateral.

In regards to the CFA relevance- That's what I've heard. I think ER would be more interesting to me and long-term I'd like to run a fund or be a portfolio manager, so the CFA will help in that regard.

I just recently started doing creating some valuation models in my spare time (which isn't very much with work and CFA studying). I think it will help me solidify what I'm learning and would also show future recruiters my commitment.

Feb 28, 2017

I think it is definitely worth pursuing a professional qualification (PQ) (CFA, CPA, CIMA, ACA) as a lot of job applications say that they want someone who has a PQ.

I can relate to you in that you don't want to be pigeonholed but as long as you enjoy what you do and there is longevity in it then should take happiness over money. I worked for a firm in a relatively niche area (different scenario) and I made lateral move and I have not progressed in my career much but it opened a few more doors. If you specialise and work hard in what you do then you will climb the ladder quicker than someone who is jack of all trades and master of none.

Best of luck.

    • 1
Feb 28, 2017

You should be able to work on some of the modeling during your downtime. If you want to move over to IBD do it sooner rather than later, unless you are trying to do it within your own bank and need to wait a period before applying internally. Go for what you want now and be sure to not burn any bridges on exit.

If you do not mind WM then try to partner up with a solid team and potentially inherit some of their book as you build yours. Older people will work with you if they trust you.

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Mar 1, 2017

Thank you guys for the solid advice.

Mar 4, 2017

You're on a good track. The CFA will help, and I've met people who've dive the same transition. The thing to think about that has suited me well is that there are jobs that are similar to IB and ER (credit research, corporate banking, corporate development, for example). IB and ER are highly competitive and small worlds (IB less so), so it may be worthwhile to explore those fields too.

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Best Response
Mar 4, 2017

Are you actually at a Private Bank or a Wirehouse? If a PB are you a banking analyst or investment analyst?

First off, you're very young (22/23?) and just starting out, it is natural to not be sure what you want. If you do want IB the CFA would be a waste. If you want ER, continue on the CFA path, it will definitely help. Focus on passing lvl I in June, after that you'll have some time off from studying where you can re-group on the job front. Also you can work on excel/modelling skills during this time.

Are you in NYC or another major city (CHI, LA)? You are at a BB which is a great resource, start doing some internal networking and meeting people in areas you see yourself a fit. Take advantage of the firm, any events or analyst meet and greets etc you hear of...attend them all. Crush your job performance, you will never be able to make an internal move with sub-par performance. Depending on your relationship with your boss, during your review let him know you would be interested in exploring different area's of the firm. He should be well connected and could put you in touch with the right people. I know there are plenty of times where PWM teams are interacting and working with other areas of the bank (IB/ER/S&T etc) Also, be open minded, you never know where your career can take you.

FWIW I made an internal move from PWM to S&T (and at a much later age than you). I've also seen a lot of people move from S&T to ER internally (CFA progress definitely helped them). I am also taking lvl III this June.

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Apr 16, 2017

Thank you. I'm in a PB in a non-major city, though I interned in a major city in the same role. I'm technically an investment analyst though there really isn't much distinction between the two this early on.

I've decided to do what you mentioned - pass level 1 and use my spare time after June to model and work on more transferrable skills. For instance, I just bought a book on VBA programming and have been doing that after studying at night but can hit it harder after the test. At that point, I'll also begin to look at outside jobs and re-group like you said.

Good luck on the Level III.

Mar 6, 2017

I have worked at two Bulge bracket banks in PB / PWM.

a few actual career paths I have scene from people in the pb analyst position:

1) lateral to BB IB (had to start over as entry level analyst despite being 24/ 2 years experience)
2) Equity Sales (you will run into the same complaints you have above)
3) Investment Strategy within the PB/ PWM division - this gives you a bridge between 24-30 before you can transition back in to sales
4) Investor Relations - still very salesy / little to no analysis done
5) stick with it and enter the transition program your bank has or train under a successful team

At the end of the day I had internships in PE and IB and didn't get a BB IB offer and took a PB offer instead thinking I would lateral later. I couldn't be happier that I stumbled in to it. Yeah its a sales driven industry but so is everything when you get to the top. IB VPs and up are expected to source deals at most IBs. Lots of PE firms cold call companies...

Base at a BB PB was the same as IB when I entered but with smaller bonus. Trade off of 50-60 hours vs 80-100 is worth it to me. Years 3-10 IB pay outpaces PB much more but after year 10 and you are still in the biz you will be making just as much as IB if not more.

My background: work at BB IB in PWM and we have BB IB MD's as clients (mainly for referrals) so can see their financials vs. the guys I work for.

Apr 16, 2017

Bump I guess

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Aug 27, 2018

Thanks for the info @JUMP. You brought up a good point about sales being an important part of the higher level people in the bank regardless of LOB.

I'm digging up this old thread as a refresher. I actually forgot I'd written it, but I am now doing some soul-searching as I near the end of the Analyst program and stumbled upon it. (I am a comment lurker and rarely post - I should do better...)

My current plan (for any of you that care) is to focus my efforts on lateraling to our ER group in NYC (even though some tell me it's a dying business) and pass CFA III in June '19 (passed LVL1 in '17 and LVL2 in '18). Before I start studying for LVL3 I am studying for the GMAT for the added optionality. I believe if I do well (i.e. 700+) on the GMAT I'll consider going to get my MBA, but if not, then I think the NPV of a lower-ranked MBA is negative. If NYC doesn't work out, I'll network for external opportunities and try to find a more analytical role locally.

Apr 16, 2017

I thought you took a job at a hedge fund? Didn't work out?

Apr 16, 2017
ideating:

I thought you took a job at a hedge fund? Didn't work out?

It worked out alright, but I changed my mind about joining them after I learned that that same group within the fund had also just hired a much more experienced trader. B/c of that, they wanted to push me more into a quant development role initially, which I figured I would enjoy a lot less than trading (although it was better in terms of comp). Was a tough call, but I think I made the right choice here.

Apr 16, 2017

"Intuitively, I'd guess that jumping between somewhat related asset class (swaptions to IR exotics, equity options to FX options, ...) should be feasible, but not if the gap is too wide (e.g., structured credit to rates)"

1st is possible but other direction would be easier.
2nd would be tough.
3rd not so hard.

Apr 16, 2017

Thx Jimbo! Could you clarify why some of these routes would work and others wouldn't? I'm especially baffled that it's easy to move between rates and structured credit...

Apr 16, 2017

Fair enough. Care to shed some light on what your story was on going from consulting to trading for your internship?

Apr 16, 2017
ideating:

Fair enough. Care to shed some light on what your story was on going from consulting to trading for your internship?

Was a bit tired of advising rather than executing + the sometimes fuzzy nature of consulting, so I wanted a job with clear accountability and measurable results. Visited some trading floors for informationals and loved it. I also like the quant nature of certain asset classes, the game theoretical aspects of trading, and the psychology/emotional control dimensions of dealing with randomness in markets.

Other than most people looking to do trading, I wasn't used to following markets very much when I entered b-school, especially equity markets (and frankly I still find cash equities mind-numbingly boring as an asset class). But that's easy to fix by just setting your homepage to ft.com, reading the economist (a fun read anyway) and paying attention to what's going for a semester. Also studied a few random stock pitches, just in case it would come up in my interviews (it did), and opened up a $1000 spot FX trading account with oanda.com to get a feel for how markets move, the pain of losing real money, etc. (note: this is good to learn about markets, but don't expect to make money trying this).

The whole process requires some luck, and quite a few traders don't particularly like former consultants so you'll have to overcome that, but it can definitely be done.

Apr 16, 2017

Too late for what? What do you want to do?

Why couldn't you pick up the analytical tools you want working there in < 5 years, given that they've a stake in actually developing you?

As a general rule, get a feel for the market every 2 years or so and see where you could land and at what comp level if you're not currently in a senior role.

Apr 16, 2017

Thanks @TheGrind" .. not sure if leasing is the end game, as to what is I'm taking some time to figure out exactly... I know for sure that my team wants me to do well and supports my development which is worth its weight in gold.

Apr 16, 2017

It sounds like you're more interested in development than office leasing. Go for development now.

Apr 16, 2017

yes, you absolutely get pigeon holed in leasing. You may learn some of the nuances of construction scheduling and entitlements, but not even close to the level of detail you would experience and master working for a development shop. I was in the same boat working in landlord rep leasing for a top brokerage of office developments...the fees are great but your experience is pretty limited to a) figuring out the nuances of marketing a development vs. a built project; b) stacking an empty building effectively and c) maybe learning about some of the construction typology/building materials to boost marketing.

In today's market, the longer you spend in leasing, the more you are stuck in leasing. That being said, as you know you can make a shitload of money in leasing at a relatively young age. There is certainly something to be said for leveraging that position to investing in deals, low barrier funds, etc. and teaching yourself the principal side that way.

Feel free to PM me.

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Apr 16, 2017

Thanks Rick pm on the way

Apr 16, 2017

What does pidgeonhol mean, my English not very good.

Apr 16, 2017

Usually, to be pigeonholed is to be limited to a small set of roles, without room for expansion or advancement. (Read: small raises and few promotions.) Sometimes it happens because a person lacks the talent to go forward: for example, a star engineer might have such terrible social skills that he just can't be put into management. Well? He remains an engineer, and his income will plateau at a certain point. More often, pigeonholing happens when a becomes too good at fulfilling a function that is low on the authority chain (e.g. computer programming) and becomes essential. Good companies will find a way to provide him with the means to advance, but shitty ones will leave him stuck where he is.

The first poster wasn't talking about that kind of pigeonholing. Rather, he was describing that his bank tried to force him into a department into which he didn't really want to go. It sounds like he is of the quantitative/technical persuasion, in which case he's not likely to find work he'll enjoy unless he becomes a quant.

Apr 16, 2017

It is a vicious world out there when money gets involved so you must always keep an eye out for potential problems. It is best to be prepared to handle them instead of being caught off guard.

Apr 16, 2017

How would you guys handle a problem like this? What's the best way to prevent it from occuring?

Apr 16, 2017
abmohan:

How would you guys handle a problem like this? What's the best way to prevent it from occuring?

Chances are they pigeonhole because they CAN.

And sadly...as a new entrant to the industry you got no leverage asides from trying to find another job or sticking it out.

Apr 16, 2017

If you're getting pushed into something you don't like during an internship, do a great job and get letters of reference then start networking your way into another firm.

Apr 16, 2017

I got pigeonholed early in my career... I got stuck working for one director all the time. Case was nobody else wanted to work with him. Lucky ME, the honor was mine. I had no choice but to try to stick it out. Ultimately I left.

Apr 16, 2017

Do what you gotta do.

Apr 16, 2017

Being pigeonholed should not be an issue if you have a decent staffer.

Apr 16, 2017

What do you do when you apply for one particular full-time position with a bank, interview, and then find yourself being told by MD's to look into an entirely different division? In my case, for instance, I just finished my BA in economics and was looking into corporate finance and instead my resume got pushed into public finance. Thanks.

Apr 16, 2017

No, you won't have as easy of a time recruiting for the top HF/PE jobs as people with past IB/HF/PE experience but but as long as you work the alumni network of your school and get a good internship after your first year you will be fine

Apr 16, 2017

I strongly dislike the term "back office rat", however, as stevenbn says, a strong internship is crucial.

Apr 16, 2017

Assuming you're looking for an IB job, then yeah, you'll be fine. Just work really hard your first year and nail a good internship. I'm a second-year MBA student right now -- lots of my friends were in your position and came out just fine. If you're looking for HF or PE then it's a bit harder, but even then you can still do it, assuming you're going to a good school, etc.

Apr 16, 2017

I'd say breaking into banking from a good school (top 7) after working back office (and by back office I mean, Ops, not middle office finance or accounting) may be a little bit difficult. But if you prepare yourself for summer associate interviews well, you should be able to use your school's network to get your foot in the door. I'm hesitant to say it will be even remotely easy - while almost all of the associates I worked with had no prior banking experience, most of them did have some sort of accounting or finance (or something more difficult like engineering backgrounds, for example).

As for PE/HF I think it would be incredibly difficult without at least prior banking or consulting experience (and difficult still without prior PE/HF). I've never heard of anyone going from back office to IBD summer internship to full time PE/HF, but I guess it wouldn't hurt to try.

Apr 16, 2017

Is it easy to go straight into a PE/HF shop after 2 yrs of M&A BB experience without an MBA?

Apr 16, 2017

^ A great deal of individuals go straight from a BB to a PE/HF shop and are Pre-MBA associates

Apr 16, 2017

What's wrong with being pigeonholed? If you want to make the big bucks, you need to become an expert in your respective field. Henry Kravis was fortunate to have been able to exploit the PE industry since he one of the founding fathers. He made the rules. Nowadays, PE has become a bidding war and requires industry expertise. If you want to succeed in PE, or IB, it's best that you become a guru in your specialization. I'm sure some will disagree, but very few people are well rounded bankers. VERY VERY few. To answer your question, yes we are pigeonholed, but I dont see anything wrong with that.

Apr 16, 2017

^Well obviously there is something wrong with it if you don't end up liking your field...but I think if you work hard enough you won't be pigeonholed if you take the right steps.

Apr 16, 2017

I have jumped around in several areas of distressed debt. However I wouldnt ever think of doing something different. If want advice go into an area that has decent deal flow but is not known as the glamor and rock star area. You will find out that you will be worth alot more to the firm if you are one of three analysts on the coal advisory desk when the technology desk has 10 analysts and their deal flow is reduced.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

Apr 16, 2017

i got stuck in FIG and FIG it would have been on the buyside. i bailed on that.

Apr 16, 2017

It depends on your industry, but you can make a move into a generalist fund after your stint.

Apr 16, 2017

Talk openly to people higher up.

Apr 16, 2017

I don't know how to work around your issue but all I want to say is that it's great that you're thinking about this as early as possible since this is a very real problem within investments. I feel like too many people pidgeonhole themselves before they know what they're really getting into/what their options are just because they got placed in that division out of college.

Apr 16, 2017

Hedge funds are businesses first and foremost. In any business, its not always the hard working individuals who move up, but rather the people who develop good relationships with superiors. If your meeting, or even exceeding expectations, management wouldn't consider any changes to your current role unless if they feel a need to or fully recognize your desire for change, which will be lengthy due to the time it takes to build a healthy relationship with your superiors. Keep working hard, communicate often with management beyond strictly work related conversations, drop subtle indirect hints about your desires, and most importantly, be patient as good things take time. It sounds cheesy and cliche, but there is no other way to put it.

At my previous job as an analyst for a HF, I naturally enjoyed my work, built an excellent work and personal relationship with my boss yet I still worked at the same desk, doing the same job for 3 years without a single promotion or offer for one. I was okay with this as I understood my place as their youngest employee. When I left my job to start my own fund, my boss was 100% supportive, introducing me to his network of brokers, lawyers, and compliance officers and even provided me with seed capital. When I asked him why, he responded by saying something along the lines of "you've been a drone doing the same shit for three years, I honestly can't see how you can possibly fuck up if continue what your doing." The moral of the story - be patient, while satisfying your superiors, and good things will come.

Portfolio manager of a boutique value-oriented long/short and event-driven hedge fund

Disciple of Graham since the age of 12

Started an investment fiirm and two funds at a young age, all you young-lings interested in hedge funds, pm me.

Apr 16, 2017

Most of the transfers I see are analysts doing 2 years in a product group and then transferring to do their 3rd year in an industry group in which they're interested. That's not to say industry to industry transfers aren't done, they just don't make much sense. The Energy industry is pretty specialized and unique, so much of what you learn won't be easily transferrable to say healthcare or consumer retail. Why would you join Energy if you weren't pretty darn sure it's what you want to do?

Apr 16, 2017
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