Python to automate in IBD/M&A

WBI2994's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 532

So after trawling through other discussions about programming languages (Python/VBA), I gather the general consensus is this: great to learn for personal development and numerous future endeavors, but not so applicable to the 2 year period as an M&A analyst.

I have spent the past couple years casually picking up some python and vba skills, and have tinkered with some personal projects related to scraping financial data from the web, cleaning/formatting it, and importing it into excel. While these skills might not always be readily applied on the job, given the hectic pace and unique client demands, I could totally see how one could find ways to automate some tedious tasks and thus have more office time to spend on Wall street oasis.

Python is definitely much faster than vba in this regard, especially once you start working with larger datasets. (Think 5 year price history for every company in the s&p)

My question is, do the network administrators at investment banks typically allow people to download the python interpreter and IDE, as well as numerous packages, on the office desktop? I will be starting my FT position in a couple of months, and would be absolutely stoked if this is allowed.

Comments (12)

May 19, 2017

Good thoughts - my advice would be to get a little bit of experience under your belt before attacking this stuff. You want to checking all the boxes in your day job before publicly bugging IT to give you local privileges to install Python/other software. They might or might not allow you to, and your whole team (at the very least) will know you as the kid who wants to do 'tech stuff'. If you have spare time though, definitely start thinking about how you might attack some of the specific problems you think you could solve to add value to your own process.

The other thing is that PE/HF recruiting starts very soon after you begin. If these exits are of interest, make sure you're allocating enough time to prepping and networking. It can be easy to start missing beats once the pace starts picking up.

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May 19, 2017

Thanks for the insight. Figured it was something best to hold off on, at least until i have established solid footing in the firm.

Just getting antsy here in the brief time between graduating and starting work. Trying to keep my brain from turning to complete mush by staying somewhat productive.

May 19, 2017

I deffo think we should have a python topic in the M&A industry !

I'd hold off too wait a good 6 months, taste the water, be friend with the quants (they use that everyday), be friend with the admin, and then make your case to your MD, and then it should be a straight yes.

May 19, 2017

Would definitely love to have a dedicated section on WSO devoted to coding.

I obviously know i will never be on par skillwise with the compsci and hacker nerds of the world, but i still find programming fascinating. It gives me a greater appreciation for the power of software, algorithms, and the potential of machine learning. As hardware in this world becomes increasingly digitized and connected, i think everyone could benefit from some general knowledge of computer logic - to be able to tinker with code.

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May 19, 2017

There are definitely a lot more uses with programming languages than you might think, that will save you a good amount of time in the long run. This comes in hand with automation of models and building/maintaining databases. My first firm I used a decent amount of VBA in order to automate different processes we had for maintaining different databases. It may cost you ten hours or so to write the logic up front and test for errors and exceptions, but in the long run will save you hours of work each week.

By first showing my MD that I was able to efficiently/correctly program VBA through most Microsoft software platforms, I eventually was able to get the approval for Eclipse IDE software download with the PyDev ID package (only took a chain of 3 people to approve). This gave me the ability to use both Python and Java, which as you said are more efficient and quicker than VBA. You also have the ability to call VBA functions using Java/Python, which can be useful as well.

I was just hired at my BB, and have not started yet, so I am sure the download will need more approvals, will take longer, and more people up the chain to sign off, but can not say for certain. i do know at the MM I just left, that anything that would save time, they were all for.

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May 30, 2017

My boss never heard of Python, and I told him about how much it can do for manual tasks, and he was blown away and told me to install it. I just went down to the IT support department and asked them if they could download it for me, and they did! So, for some parts of my internship, I will try to learn Python from scratch and build scripts that automate maybe 50% of their tasks.

May 30, 2017

PM me on how this is going. Given all the attention this automation of IBD subject is getting, I'm pretty curious to see what people do with it if anything

May 19, 2017

As shown in my response below, it is possible these scripts could shave 5 to 10 minutes off every hour spent on excel tasks. Honestly, there are so many little things i probably havent thought of - any semi skilled / creative IB analyst could probably tinker with vba macros to automate recurring tasks.

By "automation of IBD", I assume you are referring to growing fears that advancements in machine learning and AI can displace entire hordes of young white collar monkeys - a matter entirely different than my cobbling together simple vba or python scripts.

I personally do not know enough to contribute intelligently to the debate. I fear that train passed me by the moment i chose to study finance. Could definitely see myself enjoying working in a data scientist capacity, but not sure how i would go about making such a career change / developing that expertise without the undergrad background.

May 30, 2017

Could someone give some general examples of where Python might be applicable in IB or M&A in general?

Best Response
May 19, 2017

Just some i have thought off and experimented with after doing a 10 week SA stint:

  • renaming / copying / moving hundreds of files, usually right before uploading to dataroom
  • auto recalculate and toggle circular references on/off to refresh value errors
  • sort worksheets into alphabetical order
  • using lxml parser to neatly pull financial data from the web into an excel file (100s of companies)
  • auto format all worksheets in selected workbooks to fit one page inside print borders
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May 31, 2017

I'm very interested in this topic as someone got 6 years CS training and work in IBD right now. Which excel package and data source are you using?

Sep 5, 2017
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