Mod Note (Andy) - We're reposting the top discussions from 2015, this one ranks #13 and was originally posted 2/22/2015.
I'm a long time reader and first time poster. I've seen a lot on the forum regardingand I wanted to write a full review of the firm. I think the mini reviews in the Firms section of the site are a great way to collect data, but I'm going to provide additional details for any prospective monkeys who are looking for information. A disclaimer before reading this is that everyone has different preferences and opinions, and below is the opinion of one person. I hope to set a precedent with this post and hope others will follow suit in giving honest descriptions of their experience and firms. The bank does have a separate PM and Corporate Banking program, but this is all focused on . I realize I can't cover everything, so if there are follow up questions please shoot me a PM or post and I'll do my best to answer. TL;DR at the bottom.
I have divided this into six buckets: Lifestyle and Culture, Location and Compensation, Recruiting, Experience, Exit Opportunities and Senior Management
Lifestyle and Culture
I think this should be the main selling point forwhen recruiting for the Analyst and Associate level. The bank offers a more laid back lifestyle than you would find at larger banks and although it's still banking, you can have a life. As an Analyst, you could probably get away with working a 65 hour week and coast to a middle of the road rating. As an Associate, that probably goes down to 55 hours a week. This is actual office time - you obviously have to be available by e-mail at all hours of the day and night. Top Analysts are probably working about 80 hours with heavy weekends.
The senior bankers are generally good people and somewhat understanding of your time in comparison to other large. While does have a significant NYC and SF office, it is Atlanta-based lot of the Atlanta/Charlotte senior bankers either moved to those cities because they wanted to start families or they are originally from the Southeast. It's the culture of the South to move at a slower pace and the bank reflects that. You are going to get your difficult personalities no matter where you go, but I think the overall culture of the firm is collegial and friendly. You don't have Analysts being cutthroat about exit opportunities or Associates gunning for MD approval.
Location and Compensation
One of my least favorite things about the bank was how negative people were about having to live and work in Atlanta. True, Atlanta is not New York or San Francisco, but it's a major city that is top 10 in the U.S. by population and has hosted a Summer Olympic games. If you are someone who would take issue not working in a major banking city, do not come to. I personally think the Northern suburbs of Atlanta where is located are a great place to spend any stage of your life and I am someone who has traveled quite a bit. It is also far more affordable than the aforementioned cities as you can buy a very nice house within 15 minutes of the office for probably $600k. For single people, an absolute top of the line 1BR apartment with a view is ~$2,500/month. You can get a really nice 1BR for $1,400. The nightlife in the Buckhead section of Atlanta is great and you can easily stay entertained by Atlanta in your 20s.
Compensation is another positive selling point and a dollar takes you twice as far in Atlanta than it does in NYC/SF. Some rough numbers including the recent bump in base salary are below. They assume an average rating for Analyst and Associate.
The senior levels are heavy in stock and deferred comp as you may expect. We will get to experience in a little bit and this is wherefalls short at the junior level, but if you want to be a career banker or are a recent MBA grad with some debt, is an outstanding place to build a career.
The waydoes Analyst recruiting is a bit odd and in my opinion hurts the firm. Target schools with on-campus recruiting are as follows:
Undergrad Targets: Emory, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida, UNC, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Indiana, Richmond and UVA
MBA Targets: UNC, Duke, UVA, Emory, Georgia, Chicago, Cornell and Vanderbilt
Each summer,will bring in a class of about 60 new "IB" Analysts. About 30 of these will be who are returning from the previous summer and are already placed directly into a group. Intern retention is fairly high - I would say that about 70% of interns are given offers and the amount of acceptances varies from year to year. The other 30 analysts go through a 2 week rush process in which they eventually get placed in one of 17 (I think) possible groups. This is where things get a little bit dicey. If you want to talk about pure investment banking, only 9 of those groups fall into that category and one of these is the brand new group which only has 2-3 analysts. So the 8 remaining are , Energy, Healthcare, Consumer, Industrials, , M&A and . Naturally, these are the most sought after groups since they provide the best exits. If each of these groups take 1-2 analysts, you've got 15-20 incoming analysts who end up in groups such as Equity Research, Fixed Income S&T, Tax-Exempt Finance and Supply Chain Finance. The upside of being in Equity Research for example is that you work way fewer hours than someone in LevFin, but you make the same during the Analyst program because it is one uniform compensation schedule. This evens out in the long run obviously as the LevFin person leaves for a better job or gets promoted, but for the Analyst years, being in one of those easy groups and making 140k a year is a solid deal. The point is that you can be one of the 15-20 incoming who thought they were going to be "investment bankers" but really are not. There is an Analyst each fall and everyone is given a generalist offer. Anything group specific at that time is rare.
is also full of lateral hires who range from Big 4 to Analysts originally from Atlanta to micro-boutiques. Surprisingly, I see a trend of a lot of these lateral hires accepting Associate promotions as they are typically people who are from Atlanta or have some tie to the city.
Associates are placed into groups before they enter the firm so they don't go through the rush process. The Associate class each year is usually about 10-12 as they tend to stick around a lot longer than Analysts.
This varies drastically by group, but in the big picture I think this is wherefalls short. has a well established debt platform with a strong syndication desk, but this is the only place where the bank excels. In a given year, bank-wide may do about $40mm in M&A fees. From a junior development perspective, the numbers just don't work. Let's say that $40mm is spread across 25 deals. Obviously you have other mandates on deals that don't close, but for simplicity I'm leaving those out. Each coverage group has about 7 analysts and across 6 coverage groups that's 42 total. With 25 deals in a year and senior analysts hogging most of those, you could go your first 12-18 months without doing any M&A. Yes co-staffing exists but the young guy just doesn't get the same experience. Exiting from is an uphill battle to begin with, but the bank just doesn't have the deal flow to get every Analyst a great experience. On the debt side, may have 20-25 left lead deals in a given year and the story is the same. This is why I would suggest going after LevFin or M&A - being on deals is more of a sure thing and it shows in the exits those groups have compared to coverage. Yes, you will work harder, but it pays off. M&A and LevFin each about 12-14 Analysts so it is almost certain you will touch a couple deals in your first year.
TheAnalyst program is really 3 years instead of 2 years. You have to clearly not want to be there or screw something up to not get the 3rd year offer. This is very helpful when it comes to exit opportunities as you just don't do much modeling and get on deals in your first year. Recruiting for a legitimate PE shop and having deals to talk to on your resume is nearly impossible 12 months in at . There are analysts who are 2 years in who still struggle with this. The Analyst experience is a lot of grunt work and not a lot of development and you have to stick it out for the long run to get good work. So while the lifestyle is better than a or , those Analysts are going to be far more prepared than an STRHer coming out of IB with rare exception. They just have more reps and the banks are more focused on prepping their junior bankers with financial analysis skills. Analysts spend more time in PPT than as there is no outsourcing of , industry analysis and graphics. You just don't develop as a junior banker doing right bookrunner deals that require a data entry model and an internal memo.
When it comes to reputation, I view peers as places like Stephens,, , and . is a step below top MMs like Blair, , , Jefferies and Piper. is a step above true corporate banks like and BBVA. Although the full platform IB model is still young, the M&A and equity deals give an edge over pure debt shops.
The bank has gotten infinitely better about this during the past 3-4 years. Analysts talking about exits with senior bankers used to be a taboo subject and you were generally on your own trying to find another job. This has shifted significantly during the past several years and it has shown in the quality of the exits. I'd say that even as recently as 3 years ago, the most common exit was Corp Dev in the Southeast. If you wanted some corporate job in Atlanta, Charlotte or Nashville, that was basically automatic and remains automatic. However, during the past 12 months, MM PE has become the norm. Some recent notable exits include Quad-C, Grey Mountain, Comvest, Roark,, , Lightyear and Sentinel. On top of these, there are many other analysts who end up at small PE funds ranging from $100mm-$400mm in fund size. Whether or not exits continue to improve remains to be seen, but a lot of the exits I just listed would not be believable to Analysts who were at in 2011 and 2012. is significantly improving in this regard and is being taken more seriously by HHs.
On top of this, the lateral is still fairly common. Some laterals I've seen recently include, , , , and . This move is not as common as it was a couple years ago, but it still happens.
As far as groups are concerned, I think LevFin has the best exits followed by M&A followed by the coverage groups. The bank hasn't really developed a stance on the Analyst to Associate promotion and there is still some stigma around this.has been burned recently by promotes leaving very early into their Associate years so Senior Management is still working on a strategy for A to A and it varies by group.
I thinksuffers from an identity crisis at the moment. It's not clear what the firm is trying to be. Clearly, it is trying to shake the title of "glorified corporate bank," but I could never tell if they are trying to compete with top MMs and the BBs or if is satisfied being where it is - a firm that is often looked down upon but continues to grow and get better. Senior management is a little delusional as to the strength of the platform. I've heard things such as "Our Sponsor connectivity is so much better than " and "I can't believe we lost that mandate to ." The reality of the situation is that those banks have equivalent or better talent top to bottom, are taken more seriously by Sponsors and Corporates and have better reputations. is still developing as M&A and equity are brand-builders, but I'm not sure has figured out what it's trying to be yet. It doesn't like losing to Jefferies and the BBs, but I've heard MDs say isnt't trying to be like those places. is an afterthought for most Sponsors and it's going to take a while to shake that off as the bank tries to move from a regional to a national platform.
offers a good lifestyle and compensation package in a Southern city while providing solid exit opportunities, but falls short in providing a top notch junior banker experience on par with the BBs and top MMs.