The Truth About PWP
I've just exited from PWP London into an MM hedge fund I only dreamed of getting into, 4 months into my second year. Over the last few months, I've seen people write all sorts of nonsense about PWP on this site. As annoyed as I was about how inaccurate all of this was, I refrained from actually writing anything while I was still employed there. Now that I'm leaving I can tell you the truth. At least in my team, I do not believe there is any bank in the world where you can get the full package of deal flow, exposure, comp, culture, and exit opps that we had. Many of you will be able to guess who I am from the info I give here, and if you stalk enough I'm sure you can find me. I ask that you respect my privacy and not do that, and if you do decide to do it, that you don't send me dumbass messages (you know who you are). Happy to take any genuine questions though.
I was told by most recruiters and interviewers that I had more deals attempted, completed, or in progress on my CV than most BB candidates. And I wasn't even in one of those teams which had high deal flow. I'd say they didn't really mind that some of the deals failed, as long as they were buy-side deals in which I made the models, interviewers saw that as a good and relevant experience.
There is no facetime in my team A lot of firms say that but don't mean it. When I say there's no facetime I mean it completely. On some live deals, I did work the full 100 hour week, and even on some pitches, I have done the full all-nighter. These are just part of the job. But when there were no live deals and the pitches were relaxed, I often went home at 2 pm, as long as I remained contactable and ready to come back if required. I also had no real issues coming in at 10 am, or randomly going to the gym, or meeting a friend for lunch/dinner for an hour or so, as long as I kept the relevant people informed and did my job well. On multiple occasions, I was allowed to push back on the internal deadline because I had a date that night (and I also got advice on good date locations together with that). When I did have to work really late, it was taken as obvious that I would be coming in later the next day unless I had something urgent in the morning. On average I probably worked 50 hours a week.
I'm sure many banks have a great culture, and it's all team dependent. Working in my team wasn't very different from doing a group project in uni. We had lunch/dinner together all the time, randomly disappeared to buy cookies as an entire team every now and then, and we even went on holiday together. We still produced really high-quality work, and I know I did more analysis in some pitches than you would do in some live deals at a BB. When you're best friends with your colleagues, working hard is legitimately not very difficult at all. When I interned at a GS/MS type place, I was so miserable and hated my life so much I developed major physical and mental health issues and spent everyday questioning whether IB was the right path for me to take.
Senior exposure was so strong, my Partner frequently called me one on one to coach me on how to present certain slides to clients in my first year. I have been for site visits with just me and a CEO and sat in a room grilling the CEO and CFO about the business plan. We were encouraged to have genuine sector expertise - i.e. fully understand not just the technical terms of the industries we dealt with but even had teach-ins to learn the engineering specifications and the operational differences of the company's products. All of this is on top of the basic expectation that I'm the main person working on any model, with my Associate only making light changes. In fact, the first thing I ever did when I hit the desk built an LBO from scratch for a live deal (this was pretty terrifying). I've built everything from a RAB model to a Monte Carlo American options pricing model, from a vanilla LBO model to some strange triple recapped bridge loan LBO model that took advantage of changes in regulation for Danish mortgage bonds, all from scratch. Even the pitches started becoming interesting - especially the ones which were bottom-up outside-in OpModels of listed companies (very good practice for HF interviews). The exposure became ridiculous when I started originating ideas, and then I found myself on the phone with megafunds in both US and London pitching my idea - one of which eventually sort of actually became a live deal. The flip side was that if you weren't good enough to be this independent, you were also very rapidly sidelined, so take that as you will.
I'm not going to mince words, I made £55k+£56k in my first year (this is in the middle of Covid - it was higher last year), not inclusive of my sign-on bonus. This was about 10-30% higher than my peers in other banks. On a per hour basis, it's pretty insane.
I stayed in PWP for about 15 months. For the first 12 months, not a single headhunter called me and I was a bit worried. Around the 12th month, I started being offered interviews for Analyst positions at just about every PE megafund in London. Just when I was considering taking one of those, the Asian headhunters started calling and offering me interviews for Associate positions in HK megafunds with just 1-year experience. As I was entering the final rounds with a few global PE megafunds in Asia, I started getting offered interviews with HFs in London, one of which I went with. The number of live buysides I'd done in my first year, all of which involved me being the main person holding the entire model, meant that I didn't even need to practice for any interviews or modeling tests. I knew what all my deals were about, and when you're used to building all sorts of random LBO adjustments for demanding clients and have the time and space to debate the philosophical granularities of finance with your colleagues, the tests and interviews just weren't that difficult. My favourite was OpModel tests, so few Analysts in other banks have had the chance to build OpModels, but since this was my daily life at PWP I could always outperform.
My desk was so massive I had plants on it, a food area including several boxes of cereal, markups and writing area, an area for deal toys, an empty area to eat on / my Associate to sit on, and an entire teaset. It was also a beautiful mahogany. Loved my desk. Plus the office is in Mayfair, which means I got all my Deliveroo from Soho.
Honestly, PWP is the best experience I can imagine at the junior level. As the interviews started coming in, I sat down and thought about it and realised I loved my team, my Partner was the best boss I could have asked for, I really liked the firm, and I loved what I did everyday. If it wasn't for the specific role which came, I would have stayed. I ultimately called the headhunters and set a hard line - I would only leave for a specific role in a top multimanager hedge fund (as a personal interest) or a very specific PE megafund doing a very specific role in a specific geography. Ultimately I was actually offered both these two things, but I rejected all the interviews and offers from the other funds simply because they weren't actually paying me more, I would be working much harder in places with terrible cultures, and there wouldn't actually be any room for my independent contribution within that. I definitely do not regret not choosing a BB over PWP, and I cannot imagine I would have acquired the skills and experience to get to where I am now anywhere else. You really can have a fulfilling junior-level career in banking without any of that toxic culture.