Chimps, after working with all of our first years at our firm on several deals, I've found that I'm frequently getting asked for tips and tricks that I wish I had known as a new analyst. Now, that being said, this may or may not be helpful to share with the forum, but either way, I've listed out some insights on what I think every analyst should know as they begin their stint in banking.
As I've shared this with the first years at our firm, I've made it very clear that my goal for them is to help them get as efficient and as fast as possible, make less mistakes, and go home earlier (meaning I go home earlier) while looking like rock stars to the senior bankers.
I've broken the list into three buckets: 1) Managing Internally, 2) Efficiency and 3) Managing Externally. Is this an exhaustive list? Definitely not. But if you can do these things, your life for the next two years will be much more enjoyable.
So, let's begin:
- Don't be afraid to be assertive and clearly outline everything that you are working on at a given time - if you are not communicating your workload to your seniors, you will get overwhelmed, stressed out and frustrated. Are you going to have to work late? Yes. It's banking. However, this helps you to avoid unnecessary late nights and weekends.
- If you have a problem or conflict with workflows, your schedule, etc., always accompany it with a proposed solution when you approach a senior. This is huge.
- Learn to balance asking questions vs. trying to figure things out without spinning your wheels. There are only 24 hours in the day, and you need to sleep for at least of 5 of them during the week. My general rule when I was first starting out is 30 minutes. If you can't figure it out, ask the associate. It's his/her job to mentor you.
- Always ask what the timing is on any request that is provided to you. This allows you to prioritize and identify any potential workflow conflicts ahead of time, allowing you to communicate, be assertive and also appear that you have your ducks in a row (even if you don't yet).
- Give seniors and associates a heads up ahead of time that you have a question and what it's about. This shows respect for their time and schedule, and also shows that you're being professional.
- On top of that, always ensure that the senior clearly knows which project/item you are referring to before you start rambling off questions. They have just as much on their plate as you do, so you may need to remind them on what you're talking about.
- Make an effort to walk out to lunch with senior bankers that you are working with on deals. Don't be a creeper, but if you have 10/15 minutes to walk out and grab something quickly, this can be a great way to get facetime and chat.
- Easy on the college stories, high school stories, etc. "Cool story bud" I haven't been in high school for 10 years now, so somewhat hard to relate. Save them for happy hour.
- Never start a conversation about the weather. It just shows that you have nothing interesting or important to say and that you are lonely.
- If you are the best dressed person in the room or have to proactively identify your accomplishments to people, you're doing it wrong. Don't draw attention to yourself. If you are doing great work and are a great performer, others will bring the attention your way.
- Own your projects. Be proactive and work to identify problems and solutions before they happen. What is the big picture or the main idea of what you are working on? What are the key points that the senior bankers are trying to get across with the data/book?
- Over communicate. Keep the seniors informed on where workflows are at, expected time to finish (you'll get better at this as you learn your work pace), and what potential issues/outstanding items you foresee. If you are going to be late, ensure that you email the team.
- Consistently come into the office early (~15-20 minutes) ahead of the normal start time for the day, you will quickly develop a reputation of being an early bird and being responsible. That way, on days you are late (sleep in, appointment, train delay, etc.), nobody questions you because they know that if it's in your control, you would be there.
- Should you get vacation, make sure it's booked and on the calendar several weeks in advance. The week of your vacation, email everyone that you are working with on Monday, first thing and provide them with a "kind reminder" that you will be out from xx date to xx date, and that you will have your phone and laptop with you should anything urgent arise. Even if you don't plan to be available, this shows that you are responsible and that you are willing to be a team player if needed.
- Don't go around volunteering for extra work outside of your projects unless you are a glutton for punishment. All this does is get you overwhelmed. As a first year, you will get plenty of work from the staffer and seniors. I would much rather you absolutely crush your projects vs. getting overwhelmed and not being able to finish everything that you asked for (which looks terrible by the way).
- Hit F7 on everything, even if it came from a senior banker.
- When you receive comments or a request, print it, and take a highlighter to check off each comment/request as you do them. I see directors that still do this.
- Note your mistakes. It's ok to make them, but it's not okay to make them 3x.
Efficiency (Minutes become Hours which means you go home sooner):
- You should generally only use your mouse for PowerPoint, Adobe and opening new instances of applications while one is already open. Yes, I just said that. Spend the extra time, learn the shortcuts and figure it out.
- Everyone has their favorite set of excel shortcuts, learn them, love them, use them.
- Get proficient with your bank's -in. We have both Capital IQ and FactSet, but in Excel and PowerPoint, FactSet is king. If your bank doesn't have it, reconsider where you work.
- To open an application, hit the Windows button and start typing the name of the application
- To open windows explorer (share drive, etc.), hit Windows button + e.
- For process and keystroke combinations that you use often in Excel or PowerPoint (general rule for me is 4+ steps/keys), customize your quick access toolbar and record a macro for that process. This includes:
- Headers filled with the bank's primary and secondary RGB colors that are bold and centered across selections
- Centering across selections
- Top Border
- Right Border
- Sorting Largest to Smallest
- Sorting Smallest to Largest
- Camera function (amazing for pasting a dynamic image of an output on an input page so that you can see the change without tabbing through your whole model every time)
- In PowerPoint, learn how to distribute items vertically and horizontally, along with aligning items either to slide or to selected objects. Start with ALT+JD+... or ALT+JP+... and you can thank me later.
- PowerPoint files should only be using one slide master whenever possible. This both reduces the file size, and also makes formatting consistent.
- Learn how to insert page numbers on slides the proper way (different between version of PowerPoint). If you are manually typing in page numbers, you are in for a world of hurt.
- Pin you most commonly used applications to your taskbar. That way, when you right click them, you can open new instances of that application or even reopen files that you recently accessed vs. drilling back down on your drive to find them.
- Paste links in your emails/IMs from Windows explorer to help others and yourself find data more quickly.
- Save all of your logins in your browser so that you can automatically login to any online application.
- Format all of your excel sheets in the same manner with column alignment, row alignment, etc. This makes your life easier as you reference other sheets and cells throughout the workbook.
- Use conditional formatting on your checks and create checks for the following in your workbook out to three decimal places. The formatting should be green if it's zero, red if it's not. This should be a recorded macro on your quick access toolbar.
- Anything pulling data from or pushing data to another sheet
- Ticking and tying out totals
- Balance sheet balancing
- Ending cash on cash flow statement (helps to catch historical financial mistakes as well)
- Net income from P&L is flowing correctly to the cash flow statement
- Box and label anything that is a side calculation or helper calculation that shouldn't be deleted. You will have to come back to this model down the road and will NOT remember why or how you did things.
- Place a comment box on any hardcode in the model indicating the source and who told you to do it/when they told you.
- Only have one hardcode driver for each item in the model that requires a hardcode and reference directly to that hardcode. That way, if you delete a sheet, but not the hardcode, other sheets won't be affected.
- Never have a model with external links. Hit ALT+E+K. If nothing pops up, you're golden. If a dialogue box does pop up. You'd better figure out why.
- Color coordinate your cells properly. The fastest way to find hardcodes (without hitting several keystrokes) is CNTRL+~. This also helps you identify external links and formulas.
- When you print, first print to PDF and compare it to the previous draft in PDF that is marked up. Set the zooms to be equal to each other, place the windows on top of one another, and you can ALT+Tab between the files. If something flashes, the numbers/values changed. This also works with Excel. Always do this before you print a hardcopy and save yourself some time.
- Get a gaming mouse if you can. I personally like the G700s from Logitech.
- You can program the buttons to be shortcuts to excel, drive folders for your deals, applications, etc.
- The click wheel helps you navigate through pdfs and webpages much faster
- Everyone has their own "method" for email, but here's what I do and so far, it's been pretty bullet proof:
- Set up your Outlook to show your to-do's and calendar on the right hand side
- Each live deal has its own, single folder that contains everything related to the deal
- Admin has its own folder with sub folders
- Create a graveyard folder - anything that you are not working on for live deals goes into the graveyard so that you have it for later.
- Whenever you receive an email that is new to your outlook, add it to your contacts, so that when you respond in the future, names will autofill and you don't have to search for emails.
- When you get an email with a request, flag it and file it. Don't flag it as complete until it's done.
- If you can resolve/respond to the email within 30-60 seconds, without much thought, do it. If not, flag it and come back to it when you can set aside time to clear out your inbox.
- I try to have a clean inbox at the start and finish of every day.
- Read your inbox top down so you are not behind on threads - it's both annoying and inefficient to respond to an old thread.
- Before you go home each night, look at your to-do's pane and make sure that you've cleared out everything that you need to clear, and that you know when everything else in there is due. Let Outlook do the remembering for you so it's one less thing to stress about.
- Make sure you develop a good relationship with your IT manager. Once you do, request a RAM upgrade and possibly a computer upgrade. I7 quad-core with 16gb+. It's worth the effort to get it. Life's too short to wait for data tables.
- In Windows Explorer, pin your most commonly used deal files to the favorites section, this reduces time spent drilling down through the shared drive.
- Rip as much prior work as possible, especially in PowerPoint. As you create more and more different versions of Excel files, you'll be able to leverage your prior work (this is another reason why you keep all tabs the same formatting style from above), so you can rip and replace.
- If your model is driven off of a consistent excel output that the client provides, instead of typing in updated numbers, create a data tab and have everything pull off of it. That way, you can simply copy paste the client's output into that tab and the model updates itself. If the client doesn't have one, make one for them. They will appreciate it.
- Find a time when you work the most efficiently. It will either be early in the morning or late at night depending on your personality. This time needs to be when you are not being barraged with emails or calls and you can get your work done and out the door. Save these times for your big projects that require 100% of your attention.
- Lastly, I preach this often...All nighters are a result of two things: Lack of planning/communication (By you or your senior) or making avoidable mistakes. I have never had an all-nighter that wasn't driven by one of these in banking or Big 4 accounting.
- Find a hobby/interest and make time for it. By make time, I mean wake up early for it or set aside time on the weekends.
- Do not let this job consume you. If you do, you will die alone and very well dressed.
- Don't forego relationships with family and friends for the sake of work. Work should never be in the top two spots in your list of life priorities
- When times get rough, family and friends are there to pick you up. Work won't.
- Work acquaintances are nothing more than that
- Set up your Dr. appointments for the morning. Most Dr.'s offices are open at 9 am.
- Make time during the day to call/facetime a family member or friend - it will make your day better
- If you are religious, get your worship in. It makes your week better
- Don't be "That guy" that checks his email while talking to others. If it's really that urgent, work will call you.
- Go to the gym. Don't let your freshman 15 turn into your analyst 30
- Exercise will keep you young, give you more energy and allow you to have an "out" from work each day
- Go for a walk every day, even if it's just to grab a Gatorade at the corner store.
Like I stated previously, this list isn't comprehensive, but I wish I had known all of this when I first started my career.
Hopefully this helps.
Mod Note (Andy): Best of 2016, this post ranks #3 for the past year