What Did Banking Used to be Like?

I saw a comment on a thread basically saying that current PE partners have no idea what analysts today go through because, when they were junior, cell phones didn't exist, computers were less relevant, and practices were largely different. This got me thinking and wondering how finance and banking in particular used to be. 

  • What were hours like? Did work generally shut off when everyone went home?
  • How did communication work internally and externally without email?
  • How were marketing materials/deliverables constructed and edited?
  • How were models constructed and edited without excel?
  • Was culture different? 

If anyone has info on this, or better yet actual experience, I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts/stories

Comments (22)

Dec 6, 2021 - 1:09am

Second hand-scoop, but I'd sum up what I've heard as: same level of grind, with both more and less scope to add value.

The bad: Getting faxed comments on pitchbooks, making sure each page came through in right order. Not having ctrl + f to search through docs. Some people I worked for have been in the industry since before EDGAR, but they generally avoid talking about those days and I'm not one to stir up repressed trauma. Culture (better for some/worse for others).

The arguably good: pay (relative), opportunities for upside in emerging pockets of the market (e.g., waves of HY->PE->Distressed), culture (better for some/worse for others).

2020 Update: recounting my experiences in PE and sharing thoughts on recent deals at https://leverup.substack.com
  • 2
  • Associate 3 in IB - Gen
Jan 6, 2022 - 9:18pm

Hou would send you a fax? Does your MD to tell you to Lokey for comments in this fax?

Dec 6, 2021 - 1:15am

I can't speak from experience but have heard it's always been demanding. Recently heard stories from a current PE partner (~50 yrs old) about how when he was an IB analyst, they would often sleep in sleeping bags under their desks.   

I think technology and WFH have made things a lot worse but you could also argue technology has made us more efficient. In the 80s, most models were done on paper still and excel didn't even exist. 

Dec 6, 2021 - 3:35pm

Forget that, the glory days of IB were back in the roaring 20s and before when people came to work on horseback carrying the daily newspaper which showed the daily stock prices and interest rates. Even before, investors and brokers would gather around a cottonwood tree on the corner of Wall St wearing their powdered wigs to broker deals with absurdly high spreads. Talk about the real Gordon Gekkos

Dec 6, 2021 - 4:40pm

Grandparents remember when bankers would get the train into town at 10, have a couple of hours in the office, go for lunch, go play golf, get on the train home at 5.

diminishing returns to the market mean you get paid comparatively less in a world where the best things in life are cheaper - on the plus side far fewer cavemen around 

  • VP in PE - LBOs
Dec 6, 2021 - 4:45pm

For PE, MDs were also used to buying good businesses at 4x multiple so when you show em a decent deal at 12x, they think you can't negotiate. 

Most Helpful
  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Dec 6, 2021 - 4:48pm

The hours were better at some firms.

The pay was better (inflation ruined the coveted 6 figures)

You went home to no emails, but you would get faxed so it wasn't quite the dream world.

You had the extreme golden era of 80s PE and the most people were very well off.

No one feels bad for any of us who make over a 150k, but honestly I wish I was working in the 80s. I'd love a second Hampton home instead of making a few hundred thousand and still feeling meh.

Plus side is bonus and pay is finally rising. Pre-2008 was a good banking time for the modern era and it seems to be recovering. We will all make it, kings.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Dec 6, 2021 - 5:45pm

Old MD told me how they used to build early financials models in the early spreadsheet programs in the 80s.  Updating them was a pain, so if there was a messed up number or an MD changed his mind on an input...you just went with the flow and didn't do the change.  Said it was honestly better than the current version of thousands of stupid updates on inconsequential numbers/inputs.

Modeling is pretty much fake anyways...sort of stupid how we try and perfect it now.

Dec 6, 2021 - 8:24pm

One of my MPs told me that back when he worked on WS their office of guys would basically work nonstop. Some time within the day they would have a cab ready outside to pick you up and drive you back home to shower. The cab would wait till you were done showering to take you back to the office. Your sleep would consist of the trip to your apartment and back.

Dec 7, 2021 - 10:11am

Talked to my old boss about this....hours were not necessarily better in some ways. You had to stay at the office until you were sure no more comments would come in. Yes, we get blown up all the time on our smart phones but we get to leave the office and then be interrupted. Back in the day, it was much harder to ever leave the office. So much much more face time.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jan 6, 2022 - 9:32pm

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