The Proverbial "What's Next?" Post

Hi all,

Currently a 3rd-year Senior Analyst at a leading EB (think EVR/CV/PJT). My story is one that I am very proud of - immigrant, first-generation college student, grew up poor, went to a non-target state school (full-ride via scholarship), and broke into IB against all odds.

I worked my whole life to get to where I am today and now I just sit here and wonder - what's next? I've come to learn that I don't love banking. I can honestly say I did this for money and knew that from day one. I was a poor immigrant and was willing to work as hard as possible to get my family and myself out of poverty.

While I'm extremely blessed to have this dilemma and do not regret my 2 completed years in banking as it changed my life, I know that I don't want to be working this hard my whole life. Coming from a different culture (European), we strongly emphasize work-life balance and have very strong family bonds. But, I can't seem to find a career to exit to.

I really enjoy financial modeling, Excel, crunching numbers, math, analysis, etc. I hate the "sales" part of the job - I hate making CIMs, I hate being told to "fluff" bullets or being told to make slides look "punchier". Most importantly, I hate working 18hr days and essentially being on call all weekend. 

I worked my a** off my whole life to get a high-paying job so I can escape the 9-5 rat race and obtain financial freedom, and now I find myself wishing I had a 9-5. Is this normal? Has anyone found themselves in the same spot? 

I guess wrapping up this stream of consciousness, my main question is where do I go from here? I'm not quite interested in PE/HF given I know the hours and culture will be just as bad or marginally better (and potentially worse). On the flip side, I'm riddled with the "golden handcuffs" syndrome and cannot imagine leaving a high-paying job that helped me and my family so much for a less-paying job. My parents worked 6 to 7 days a week and each held 2 jobs to take care of my siblings and me and provide us a foundation to succeed. Now, I would feel like I'm letting them down to leave a respectful, high-paying job in search of work-life balance. 

What do you guys recommend? Open to advice, both in life and in my professional career. I enjoy Real Estate and was thinking of an Acquisitions type role, but am unsure of comp/WLB. Am also considering just starting my own business. Franchising a Starbucks? I don't know... What other common exits are open to top IB candidates that still pay very well and have a good WLB? Sorry for the rant and appreciate the help.


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Comments (17)

Most Helpful
Jun 8, 2021 - 8:40pm

There are so many roles to choose from. You said no HF or PE. I think your background would make you best suited for something like corporate finance/corporate development/business development. These roles are definitely more relaxed, and often have limited or no weekend work. They can, if you find the right one, involve lots of the same skills you are using now (the ones you mentioned you liked). These jobs can be a little bit harder to find, not because there are fewer of them, but because they have varied titles. 

Another option would be something like real estate private equity. I have friends who started in that area straight out of college and they do plenty of modeling and rarely work a weekend. They make around 120K two years out (not sure what kind of pay cut you're willing to take, if any). Lastly, you can just apply to a million business/ffinance type roles at mid-sized tech companies. They will have a great work-life balance (if you select for that) and do some very interesting and varied work.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Jun 8, 2021 - 11:27pm

OP here, thanks for the insightful response. I guess I need to do more research into Corporate Finance/Corporate Development/Business Development, as I always hear these roles thrown around but they're so broad that I don't actually know what they entail. What is the actual day-to-day and what do comp and progression look like? Do agree on your REPE suggestion, it is an area I've started to seriously consider. Thanks again for the reply. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Jun 8, 2021 - 11:16pm

I don't have advice to offer but wanted to post to follow as I'm in a similar spot with an almost identical background (e.g., Eastern European refugee, first-gen immigrant and college student, came from a complete non-target). I also value WLB and am thinking ahead to wanting to be a present father for my firstborn in the near future but not sure where to go.

Have you thought about corporate banking at all? No clue how much better than IB it is in terms of hours while still being able to retain a healthy income but that's where my head has been at lately…

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  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Jun 8, 2021 - 11:29pm

Have not thought about Corporate Banking, but have started thinking about moving to a BB and going into Asset Management or Sales & Trading. Feel like the salary will still be strong, the bonus will be discounted compared to IB, but all in all still good comp for much better WLB. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 9, 2021 - 12:16am

Same advice I give to anyone younger-just budget your life bro.

Golden handcuffs are a problem if you have concrete goals that include living beyond your means. If you want wlb, just budget your life and you can find a salary range you would be willing to accept. Think about how many kids you'd want, the price of tuition, and the home you'd want and you should be able to model out your expenses for the next 30 years. 

  • Intern in AM - Other
Jun 10, 2021 - 4:39pm

I know you don't like the sales aspect of the job, but Private Banking (not Private Wealth Management) could suit you. I know some banks (like JPM) have partner-coverage teams (i.e. multi-person team covering clients wealth) have a role titled an "Investment Professional" who focus strictly on the portfolio of a client. It's far more technical compared to the banker who is the quarterback of the relationship. 

Jun 10, 2021 - 4:46pm

Come to the world of Long Only Asset Management. Most days, I work 7am-4:30pm, no weekend work ever. I make around $115k annually having started out of college in a LCOL city. I made the transition after two summers working at 2 different EBs. Very worthwhile for work-life balance, despite demanding a bit of a haircut in terms of salary and bonus. 

I enjoy the position, and the company I work at maintains a fairly erudite, no-nonsense culture. Fairly new material everyday, and always learning. Get to top people at F500 companies regularly. If you're looking for a solid, verrry chill career path, with lots of potential benefits and fairly generous upside, nothing beats Long Only. 

Speaking personally, I'm actually the kind of person who likes to work hard, but as I start my own family, having time to spend with them is important to me. It's one of the key reasons I wanted to move to this industry. It's an industry that I believe will allow me to progress my career in a way I find impactful to people around me and that allows to prioritize what is important to me. 

In conclusion, here's what I would do if I were you: figure out what you want to prioritize, find careers that will allow you to prioritize those things, and then try to progress in that space. Coming from IB, you'll have a ton of options. Choose one that works for you.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jun 10, 2021 - 11:38pm

$115k in a LCOL? That would actually be a pay upgrade assuming you were in NYC before. Sounds like you got a solid spot there especially with the hours.

  • NA in IB-M&A
Jun 11, 2021 - 3:01am

Interesting thoughts. I keep reading about conflicting opinions on this. Some say its a dead industry with all the etfs while others say its going to have a comeback as with all the dumb money entering and quant strategies, fundamental valuation will become as important as ever. The truth is - as always- probably sonewhere in thr middle but I was wondering what your thoughts are on this, and on long only AM in general as a career choice from someout out of uni.

Jun 15, 2021 - 1:51pm

Going into Long Only AM is very rare out of college. To give you an idea of how few people there are, my firm with 550 investment professionals only took 13 new grad hires for its program. This places me in a very unique position to start my career, one that will set me up very well for any future career in markets and asset management of all kinds, albeit one with less optionality than an investment banking career.

I think choosing this as a career path required me figuring out a little bit of what I wanted in my career earlier, rather than delaying it and then lateraling, as so many do with investment banking. I would encourage everyone to do this, that is allowing themselves to figure out what they want a bit earlier, but not siphoning themselves too much. I did some of this myself and figured that I would have great opportunities from a career perspective while being able to enter an industry I want to enter more quickly.

So then, why Long Only AM? Long Only AM still remains an excellent place to learn about markets and investing in a way that investment banking is removed from. Having great compensation and a work-life balance does not hurt either (great for starting a family too!). For me at 22, I think outside of the most common career paths people take in professional services (investment banking, consulting, law, etc.), this is one of the best places to learn investing skills and build a solid understanding of business.

Additionally, I am able to utilize many of the quantitative skills I learned during my undergraduate years as an engineering triple-major in my career. The specific position I work in is geared especially toward those with a combined finance and engineering background, and having this combined focus will give me the chance to succeed in something I am not only passionate about, but that will make me happy in my day-to-day work. Having this combined focus, novel work on a regular basis, and the specific benefits that Long Only gives makes this job tough to beat in my opinion. The connections I get from the job are stellar as well: I got my job offer from the CEO of my company, regularly chat with F500 CEOs, and almost every professional at the company is willing to sit and have coffee (and actually listen to a junior associate!)

As for a longer career, I still am unsure of what I will do. I absolutely plan to try and make it to the top of whatever industry I decide is best for me to pursue long term, be it in investment management (Long Only, Hedge Funds, Quant, etc.), or another industry. Pushing toward PM is very appealing, has potentially very large upside, and still will allow for excellent work-life balance.

It may appear that moving to Long/Short or to a Quantitative fund may allow for faster career progression, considerably more upside, and work that focuses even more on my quantitative skills, my personal strong suit. Additionally, Long Only, as nice as it is, just a bit…well…dated. Many of the companies that dominate the space are, as my company describes it, very conservatively minded (i.e., they are cool with doing what they've been doing forever). This lack of innovation will contribute to current fee pressures and may hinder the industry going forward. As mentioned previously, starting in Long Only is very rare, so I still have a lot to learn in terms of what industries outside of Long Only I may want/be able to pursue!

TLDR: I thought about what I wanted in my career, looked at opportunities that matched my background and potential future goals, and went with something I feel good about today that will give me some optionality for other similar careers going forward.  

Happy also to give some personal insights on the industry as well! See next post. 

Jun 15, 2021 - 1:54pm

As for the AM industry overall, the beginning of your last sentence sums up most people's opinions perfectly. Active and LO AM is certainly not a dead industry, but it is an industry with a shrinking number of seats. Even from my perspective, ETFs and quant seem to be the "Ford LTD going forward into the future," (i.e. a pretty mundane product in the eyes of fundamental managers that nonetheless seems to be dominating). 

If you want a great post on the industry and ideas concerning the future of active asset management, long only, and other strategies check out @Theeloneous recent post on the topic and especially @Secyh62 's response. The post and response take a solid dive into topics ranging from the efficient market hypothesis, the paradox of passive investing, and even some career path perspectives.… . The views made in that post and my own views are fairly in line. I highly encourage everyone reading this post to also read that post and give an SB or two to the people who made it.

It definitely appears that fees will continue to compress with large institutions lowering to 15bps over an extended period. Additionally, the current paradigm of firms' focuses and growth lying in the hands of investment analysts and portfolio managers will give way to an increasing in importance of sales relationships with institutional clients and internal positions associated. Operating leverage in AM due to the structure of the industry is the primary reason for this. Companies are more incentivized to just get clients to invest more money in their funds to grow AUM rather than organically grow their portfolios. This is discussed fairly in depth in the above post, and I will not be rehashing every point made in @Secyh62 's line of reasoning.

This ultimately has a result of lower compensation for investment staff, possibly more difficult internal promotion pathways for tenured staff, an even lower number of tenured staff at large institutional managers, and possibly a shift in focus away from investment research by corporate leaders industrywide. The last two points are unquestionably bad for smaller asset managers that have been consistently focused on internal and organic growth rather than price competition and growth by acquisition of assets.

However, I am not necessarily sold that the corporate leaders of those companies will maintain the discretion necessary to avoid losing focus on internal growth. Other industries, like the environmental services and specific areas of defense contracting, have faced similar issues, leading to corporate leaders large and small compromising on their previous internal focus to keep up with price competition. I won't discuss those industries here but will happily talk about them if you would like via PM or separate post.  

Passive will dominate going forward. Active investment managers primary job is to find mispriced assets in the market and invest in those assets to create as beneficial an outcome as possible for their investment portfolios. According to @Secyh62 's line of reasoning in the above post, passive investing cannot exist without proper active investment management, and eventually, we there exists a point where passive and active are at equilibrium. This is something I do agree with, and that this split is fairly unclear. That said, I think passive will greatly continue to be a difficult force for active to reckon with going forward. 

  • Analyst 2 in CorpFin
Jun 15, 2021 - 2:20pm

Gonna reiterate the corp dev / corp strat roles. Our corp dev guys came from IB and work less than 40 hours (at least now as we're not acquiring currently, but have been a very acquisitive company). Not sure how their hours looked during those deals, but I'd take a couple 60+ hour weeks knowing the rest are 40 hours or less. 

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