Stuck in Corporate Banking - Fighting Complacency

B2Banker's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,178

Monkeys - WSO has always been good to me and I've done my best to give back via useful advice. Hoping to call on you all once again for some much needed advice.

Background:

Junior credit VP at a large regional bank, ~4 years industry experience + 2yrs non-finance experience, ~125k all-in comp, t20 private, 3.9 gpa, good work-life balance 45h on average.

In a nutshell, I feel stuck and vastly underutilized in my current role in which I have been for the last 18 months. My job primarily entails underwriting & structuring bank loans to large corporate clients. Bulk of the job is financial statement & cap structure analysis, financial modeling (operating model & cash flow), and credit memo writing in support of the transaction. Most interesting parts of the job are pitching new credit structures / facilities to clients at the lower end of the risk spectrum but given I'm not at a bulge bracket, we are either not winning mandates or deal won't fit within our risk appetite.

I've been at this job & company for 18 months, previously have done the same thing at a BB and also another regional bank. Bulge bracket was fun as we were leading lots of deals and financing large corporate M&A. Had to give that job up and move back home to help care for a sick family member. Took the other job while in transition and left in a year due to things not working out from a fit perspective. Now married and settled down in same city, which is a secondary finance market. No kids.

Having done this type of work for last 4+ years and also quality/sophistication of work was higher at the BB level (as well as more lead deals), I can do the current job with my eyes closed and learning curve have completely flattened out. Right now all banks are focused on cost cutting so career opportunities are limited with very few new positions being created (especially in my market).

The pros are, outside of IB/consulting, I am my compensation compared to peers is above average, if typically takes longer to break this range in this line of work. Although clients are large corporates, I do not roll up into corporate & investment banking as compared to my BB so comp is lower.

Interests:

Strategic finance, cap structure, capital markets, acquisitions, and other analytical finance roles. Right now goals are still broad, basically want to work with smart motivated people and keep developing. Mid term goal of making finance manager or continue down the corporate banking path but in a more challenging group.

Challenges:

Industry facing headwinds relative to hiring and comp, prefer to stay in current market as we own a house here and wife is happy, might be open to move but not to NYC, worked at 3 different firms in past 4.5 years (some may call that job hopping but I had a clear & well thought out reason for each move), jobs outside of banking might require a pay cut at this stage - I'm not sure if I can come in at Manager level for a corporate client with current experience as it takes much longer to hit Manager at the client side, and SFA comp is wastly below my all-in.

Would appreciate any advice you guys have as now is not a good place to be stuck and any industry suggestions as I am very open to doing something new after having done the same role these past years. I wouldn't sign up for pure IBD but would be very interested in syndications or capital markets given genuine interest, better lifestyle vs other groups, and better comp. Only issue is there is only 1-2 firms with such groups in my city and hiring is down.

I considered an MBA but the only way for it to make ROI work is to land into a better paying job, which is primarily IBD. I feel that I shouldn't need an MBA to transition to syndications or DCM given my experience is very relevant. Also considering some extracurricular development activities to keep learning (I.e. CFA, non-MBA masters online from a school like UNC/Georgetown).

Comments (25)

Aug 6, 2017

Sounds like you just need more challenge. If your group doesn't have complex deals- maybe you can move to the cap markets or lev fin side? That might be enough to peak your interests again instead of doing crappy annual reviews day in and day out.

Aug 6, 2017
SkiMBA:

Sounds like you just need more challenge. If your group doesn't have complex deals- maybe you can move to the cap markets or lev fin side? That might be enough to peak your interests again instead of doing crappy annual reviews day in and day out.

Thanks for chiming in. Most of our clients are high grade so there isn't much to dig into on the underwriting in addition to not leading much so I am not getting as many reps in structuring & documentation as I want. Organization is flat so in addition to VP work I am doing a bunch of analyst type work (e.g. writing the credit memos and sometimes doing annual reviews & risk ratings) whereas in past groups this would stop at the Associate level.

My BB background has been very well received here and people have been impressed with my analytical skills (most on the platform haven't had much exposure to intense financial modeling and really digging into and disecting the financials all of which was an expectation at my former shops). In summary, I have developed a very strong reputation in my group (across managers) and with product partners, risk, etc. but have not been able to capitalize on it so far due to limited internal opportunities & new headcount restrictions.

I've been networking internally for about 6 months but haven't had much luck making a move due to very limited internal postings (most are at the analyst level. In a good group such as syndications I would see myself as more of a strong associate rather than a VP but would characterize myself as a junior - strong VP depending on whether it's a commercial banking group vs sophisticated corporate banking function. With that said, I'm definitely willing to take a step back as an As1 but can't rationalize it as an Analyst (would feel demeaning even though I would see a decent pay bump....also most postings are for An1-2 roles). A few product partners that I keep an active dialogue with are very in tune to my situation and would happily bring me as an associate if there was an opening. How much time do you think is too long to wait for something to click?

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Aug 6, 2017

Very good points. I think in your situation if I saw an A1 or A2 posting in lev fin or cap mkts- I would chat up the hiring manager and see how open they are to bumping up that requisition to something more inline with where you fit. VP to Assoc. isn't the end of the world but I also agree that there is no way I'd bump down to analyst either. We've upgraded openings for the right candidate in my group. I get where you are coming from- I'm in a similar position. The only thing that keeps me going is the customer interaction (I'm in the MM side at my shop). Have you thought about networking over to the coverage side? Does that fit your skillset?

Aug 6, 2017

That's a great point - I haven't tried this in the past. If I see an Analyst positing that asks for ~2+ years of experience or so I might just reach out to the hiring manager, express interest for the group, and see if it's possible to fill it at a high level.

Definitely open to coverage (assuming on the bank side vs IB coverage side - hours would be a bit too steep) and love to make the switch (my top choices would be syndications, coverage, cap markets)...unfortunately there haven't been any openings since I've been looking. I was expecting an exodus following bonuses but looks like most roles have been filled via the MBA program or at the Analyst level.

Sorry that you are going through the same situation, it's really brutal. What are your goals in the next few years?

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Aug 6, 2017

We have started having "Associate RMs" same paygrade as Associate/early career PMs. I suspect you have to tread lightly about your true feelings. Maybe find one or two people whom you can trust and let them know you're bored. Honestly that's a tricky thing to do and I'm not sure I would have the guts to do it though. Easier said than done.
Edit to add: my goal is to make it RM. I live for the challenges of making customer requests fit into the bank's world. I also do really well with customer interaction. That's about it for me- help provide for my family with decent work/life balance. Not too much to ask!

Aug 7, 2017

@skimba Not to derail the thread but what is the work split for the Associate RM positions you have seen. I'm actually pretty far down the rails interviewing and the group seems solid, but i feel like i don't have a great grasp on what I'm actually going to be doing, is it a hybrid between an Analyst/PM and an RM or is it basically doing all the leg work that a full fledged RM doesn't want to do?

Best Response
Aug 7, 2017

@dr_mantistoboggan_MD its a very new position here with a lot of attentiontion from Sr. Mgmt. to be an associate RM- you should be accompanying RMs on larger high touch client calls and having a small portfolio of your own clients. With the goal of being a full RM (In my best guess ) in 2 years. As to how the work is broken up- I can't say for sure. We have a regional model so everything is different for each team. In my group- we don't do things that way. Even as a PM I have autonomy when dealing with clients. As we have never had associate RMs- it could be that the team you are interviewing with hasn't quite figured it out yet. I would recommend spending a lot of time getting specifics from the TL as to what you would be doing. I would ask them if you would have your own clients (that is the overall plan) while also working with more experienced RMs on more complex deals (in my group that would probably look like bond issuance/construction monitoring/M&A/asset finance or leveraged deals). From what I have seen we have some really great RMs, smart and experienced and overall good people who have helped me a lot with my career. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful.

Aug 7, 2017

DCM guy over here - it's definitely doable if you have some kind of relatable transaction experience. I'd try for a Corp, Leveraged Loan, or some kind of credit desk. And when I say credit desk, I mean a desk that structures debt entirely based on credit. That would be the easiest jump for you. Lev finance would be tough, as would any SBA/Mortgage desk. Be warned though, Capital Market jobs are a fly by the seat of your pants type of a job. So if you like taking a lunch longer than 5 minutes, or doing anything remotely non-work related before 6:30-7 pm everyday I wouldn't do it.

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Aug 7, 2017

Just out of pure curiosity, have you looked at the tech sector?

Aug 7, 2017

Finance roles on the tech side or actual tech jobs? I would be open to a strategic finance or capital markets job at a tech company, we do not have many in our market though.

Aug 8, 2017

That's a tough cookie then, but yes. Both tech sector in finance and tech jobs in general. I do not think it does not hurt to have some diverse options in this matter. It can only help, right?

Aug 7, 2017

I'm in the same boat as OP. Sub'd to see more responses.

Aug 7, 2017

Should post your story in here too, maybe we can get more feedback.

Aug 8, 2017
B2Banker:

Should post your story in here too, maybe we can get more feedback.

Graduated UG (borderline non/semi target) four years ago and went to do corp banking at a large international bank (non-BB; call it Bank 1); previously summered at the same bank, but more of a middle market coverage. For full time, I was in an industry coverage group and we primarily covered investment grade, large corporates. Was on the RM track and I mainly worked on plain vanilla RCF/TLA refi (participation) deals. W/L balance was great, typically 9-6, late nights were rare and I never worked weekend and no one sent emails past 7pm, but paid severely under market (think 60-65-70 base for Analyst 1-2-3, with 30-40% bonus) I was there for a little over 2 years and left to goto a top 10 (non-BB, but close, call it Bank 2) to do the same (corp banking, same industry vertical).

Vastly different experience vs. Bank 1, since here we were the agent or joint leads on deals and dealflow was much heavier. Portfolio was primarily leveraged focused, with a few large investment grades to round it off. As such, the work was far more challenging (and interesting) vs Bank 1. However, W/L took a hit. Hours were typically 9-7/8, but was very unpredictable based on how many deals you were working on. As such, late nights were common, as well as weekends. You were pretty much expected to bring your laptop home to continue work in case something flares up from the IB or product team (obv be on call with your BlackBerry too). Base salary was equal to IB (85-90-95 analyst 1-2-3) but bonus was about half (50-60% of base). Since I was married and had a kid recently (I'm a little older than the typical analyst), I sought out other finance roles with better W/L balance, including FP&A and treasury at a couple of large corps, FinTech, commercial banking at a BB and corp banking at lower tier banks. Ultimately took a corp banking role at a lower tier European bank (call it Bank 3).

Currently at Bank 3, which gave me a promotion and a higher base vs Bank 2 (lower bonus expectation %, think 25-30%). Work is virtually the same as Bank 1 i.e. same industry vertical, IG large corp, participation deals and W/L balance as well (never stayed past 7; usually out by 6) and rarely get urgent emails past that time and no weekend work. Although I love my team and boss, the work is not challenging and quite frankly I find it boring. I have thought about going for MBA, but that would result in me gunning for IB or consulting (for best ROI), both of which aren't exactly what I'm looking for when it comes to maintaining a decent W/L balance.

Corp banking long term isn't bad since you have decent W/L and the pay is decent, but I'm open to other opportunities as well, just not sure what else is out there that pays as well as corp banking that 1) could use my skillset and 2) doesn't require an MBA.

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Aug 7, 2017

I must say, your all-in comp seems very low compared to market. Our corporate banking vps at my bank are around $130K-150k before bonus. However, your hours sound wonderful in comparison.

Aug 7, 2017

I'm on the credit side, comp is lower since it's viewed as non-revenue generating (although I disagree given structuring deals that are acceptable to bank and client drives revenue, when you have a disconnect, you typically don't win the business).

Also my current group does not roll up to the CIB vertical although our clients are large corporates & publicly traded. Had I been part of CIB, base would probably be 20-25% higher and bonus a bit higher as well. Comp-wise I am about where a CIB Associate would be but am on the top end for a new VP on the commercial banking side, typically takes 7-10 years to break 6 figures there...this is one of those hybrid groups.

Also I'm not NYC based, if you are at Citi, JPM, CS, RBC, they tend to pay more for corporate banking than the BAML/Wells/super regionals of the world.

Aug 7, 2017

I was in the same boat. I went the MBA to IBD route and haven't looked back.

Aug 7, 2017

That's awesome. Did you pursue a top MBA to get there?
I was a career changer with my MBA so that's how I got into Corp. Banking.
I have a family- young kids- need to be home (it's always a toss up- want the challenge but please don't challenge me later than 6pm most weekdays!) Do you work long hours?

Aug 7, 2017

sounds like you are bored out of your mind. Def look into DCM. you will see your highest number of deals there. not sure exactly where you are but it seems a sleepy area have you considered moving to a secondary market? not NYC but places like Philly, ATL, Boston, etc all have decent Corp/Commercial Banking options.

I know you are a VP now but our sr associates get comped better so if thats the route you have to go to get a gig, it might not necessarily mean less $$$. and a lateral to slightly backward step to a much more clear path is well worth it.

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Aug 7, 2017

+SB for the great advice.

Aug 8, 2017

Thanks for the feedback I'm actually in one of the markets you mentioned, we have a few commercial banking players and 2 corporate banking players (I am at one of them, the other one is a satellite office). On the commercial side it'll be very hard to squeeze that much more comp out of them, for instance BAML and Wells are both in my market and pay less than this for people with my work experience. On the commercial side it takes about 10 years to get 125 base or so. I know a couple of 07/08 grads that have worked their way up since then and are making about 125-130 all in.

I'm very open to moving back to corporate as an associate, not too fixated on the VP title. For commercial, I'd need to stay at that level but in corporate I actually map closer to a senior associate than a VP (needing1-2 years to move up).

I've been trying to pivot internally (you are right, seasoned associates in corporate banking are making more). The one challenge I've come up again not being in NYC/Charlotte/Chicago are there not as many opportunities. Internally we're mainly hiring at the Analyst level or not at all. I've been looking since January and haven't seen much but will keep at it. Trying to figure out how much time to give the bank before moving on.

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Aug 8, 2017
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Apr 10, 2018