PSA: Consider Regional Boutiques. Good Comp + Lifestyle
It seems that most people on this forum have the/EB or bust and I wanted to share some insight as someone who works at a "no-name" boutique (no-name to the average person in finance, but well-known within my industry) and have really enjoyed my time thus far.
There are a lot of regional M&A boutiques out there that are focused on a specific niche that I imagine do very well for themselves. I can only speak for mine and my friends experience, but we're both generally happy with the lifestyle and are paid above market. Some of the niches I've seen include banks focused on food and beverage, restaurants, cosmetic products, niche area of industrials, etc.
I'll start with the cons of working a smaller, less-known bank:
I have 0% chance of getting a top exit that you see people constantly aim for on this board. In my current position, I will never exit to a top/PE fund. I likely won't even have the opportunity to exit to a UMM/MM PE fund. That being said, several of my colleagues have exited to LMM PE funds (<$500 AUM) to their respective industry deal teams. They had a tremendous amount of exposure to these funds through the deals that we primarily work on and had an easy time recruiting.
However, from what I've seen there are a large number of people at BB/EB banks that don't get the "goal" exit anyway. Many exit to Corp Dev type roles that are identical to the roles my colleagues have landed. The biggest thing here is optionality. Perhaps someone at a BB could exit to a wide variety of Corp Dev roles while folks at my firm are again pigeon-holed to the industry that we cover.
The deals are obviously much smaller than a BB/EB and thus the fees are smaller. In the long-run, having smaller fees results in a lower comp ceiling compared to someone at a larger bank/PE fund. I don't think that even the top MDs at my firm makes more than $2 million a year.
There was no formal training program and you were at the mercy of others on your deal team to show you the ropes. Some struggled, but generally everyone eventually gets up to speed.
Our senior team comes from a very impressive background, but generally the people we hire (including me) aren't the most impressive in terms of intellect/background, but we get by.
I average 50-60 hours a week. Typically I work from 8 am - 7 pm during the week (usually Fridays are a bit earlier around 5:30 - 6:30). Weekend work is typically 1-2 hours a week. Occasionally I'll have to work late into the night or through the weekend, but this is typically less than one occurrence a month and it is expected which brings me to my next point of predictability. There are very little fire drills or super last minute requests from seniors that would take up my weekend or evening.
Generally, I know when this is coming i.e working through critical phases of diligence, offers coming in, etc. It's a much different experience being able to plan for the occasional long night/weekend compared to what I see on the board of having it come out of the blue and having to cancel plans. I'm also encouraged to take my vacation days and the team respects when someone is out. Sure I might have to respond to an occasional email while away, but the team is generally willing to help out to ensure I don't have to open excel/PP on the trip.
Respect from seniors:
Senior members of the firm are generally super reasonable/don't make a ton of irrational requests. If I receive a Saturday morning email request, I can be honest and say that I'm out a brewery or something and can get to it in the evening when I'm back rather than sprinting home to complete the task (within reason of course, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do if it's urgent, but this is very rare).
Additionally, our senior guys are confident when pitching from their exp and as a result don't make us do a ton of unnecessary slide work for pitches. Our decks are pretty concise unlike some of theyou hear here.
I'm paid at or above street and believe I will be until the senior level. Many of these banks offer some sort of profit sharing program that can be very lucrative. Reference below:
Analyst 1: $65k base + discretionary bonus + 3% of the fees from deals that I worked on (this % increases meaningfully each year based on title/performance)
I was on $2 million worth of deal fees (average is around $2 - 3 million, 1 or 2 deals) so my profit sharing bonus from deals this year was $60k.at end of year (I believe for those that get screwed on the profit share bonus due to a deal falling through get a higher discretionary bonus to make up for it. All in $135k
Analyst 2: All in $185k
Associate 1: All in $395k
At the associate level you are able to start participating in sourcing efforts similar to a TA/Summit model. This has drastic upside as you receive 10-15% of the fee at this level if you manage to source a deal that closes. Got lucky and was able to source a deal with a nice fee.
Associate 2: All in $630k. Was able to source two deals this year that closed.
I believe the range for positions above me is typically: VPs $400k - $700k, director $500k - $800k, MD $800k - 1.2m
This comp package is in line with a friend of mine who works at similar type of bank.
Just some food for thought. There's a ton of opportunity out there at the MM/LMM level and sometimes it's better to be the bigger fish in a smaller pond.