What is that Analyst skill set everyone is talking about exactly?

Analyst 1 in IB - Ind

TLDR: I'm a 1st year Analyst at BB in London, unhappy with current situation. Life is tough, but we all know that and am trying to cope.

Realising recently that I respond better to intrinsic than extrinsic motivation factors, one of them being learning, "figuring things out" and the desire to acquire a tangible skill set that will allow me to add value not only in banking but also broader finance and business/society in general (and with that achieve financial security and independence at a modest standard of living).

Feeling like I don't make any real progress in that sense, so was wondering whether I am too entitled / need to change my perspective / banking is not for me / that's just how things are and if there is a better or smarter way to approach this?**

Also wondering what really constitutes the Analyst skill set, what makes it valuable (why is it so desired?), what are the specific skills you learn and how you maximise learning.**

**Full post: **

Hi Monkeys,

I am currently a 1st year at a BB in London and, like many others from my intake, reached a point in recent weeks where I am doubting whether my decision was the right one.

Obviously the hours are grueling, the lifestyle is tough and no time for anything remotely private is a given. I knew that before I started (although I underestimated the impact it would have on my physical and mental well-being - but this will be for another discussion). Somehow I believe there can be a way to rationalise all that. However, what is really getting to me recently is that I get the feeling I am not building a tangible skill set that will help me to add value in one way or another in the future, may it be in banking, finance in general or some other area of business or society.

I knew from the beginning and to some extent realised even more over the past months that extrinsic motivation only gets me so far. I have a high preference for a clean and modern living space, although I don't need a lot of space. I like "nice things", although I tend to buy a special item in a certain category only after doing extensive research over longer periods of time (and spend rather more than less on it) to then keep it for years on end. I try to have the least number of "things" as possible, as I believe each material possession comes with a certain mental toll (starting to sound a bit hippie here). I like nice experiences and enjoy spending money on fancy dinners and the likes, although I prefer to have these experiences only every once in a while to keep them "special". When I think of bonus season, I don't feel any particular emotion at all, other than the happiness that comes with seeing my savings go up (and the security and freedom that comes with that) and maybe spending a couple of hundred on something nice for myself.

At the end of the day I could live happily on my current base for the next few years - although I would like to build more wealth (again financial security and personal freedom are very important to me) and maybe get a studio on my own.

In terms of other extrinsic motivation factors like prestige, social standing, etc., I realise that it is only a way for me to cope with my past emotional and mental baggage, lacking self-confidence (not nessecarily in interaction with the outside world, but rather in terms of perceived self-worth) and as way to feel superior to others ("I am worth something because I made it into this industry, whereas thousands of others did not"). I am becoming aware that these will never make me truly happy and the only way to achieve happiness will be intrinsically.

I am understanding that I am getting a lot of satisfaction from learning new skills, figuring out "puzzles" and seeing myself improve vs past versions of myself (I am still too often falling into the trap of comparing myself to others, but I am working on it). Recently, I am also thinking a lot about the concept of "adding value".

To a certain extend I knew all this before and I chose banking to gain valuable experience, build a tangible and diverse skill set and have exposure to high calibre individuals from whom I could learn. I knew that it would only be a temporary step ("maybe a few years"), while I figure out my "true calling" or the "next best thing" subject to my views in the future.

Now what is slowly killing me, is that I feel my progression in these terms is lacking significantly. Yes, I have gotten better at certain tasks, however, I do not feel like these are skills that are adding value outside of banking or will allow me to keep me financially well off (well enough) should I leave or be made redunant say in a year or two. Furthermore, I am missing a feeling of intellectual stimulation.

I am wondering, what is this Analyst skill set that is so desired and that everyone is talking about really?

Financial expertise? I feel my technical knowledge has actually gotten worse since finishing my degree, since almost all modelling is backup or template driven (DCF/LBO? Build op. model plug it into template and shoot it off to LevFin to add structure, maybe add/tweak some sensitivities or additional cases later). Yes I can spread comps faster than ever and know more obscure FactSet formulas by now, but is that it? Every once in a while there is some non-off the shelf stuff that actually requires building novel models from scratch and actively thinking about things. I get great joy from figuring these things out and time just flies, but it happened about two times in the past six months. I feel I could learn more simply by reading, studying and practicing on my own.

Client interaction? What client interaction. The amount of times you get invited to a client meeting by a senior and actually have time to make it is rare (again about two times in the past six months, one of them with about 5 hours of sleep total in the two days prior, so not really in a state where you can absorb a lot of information). Although attending is very interesting and extremely insightful, given the right circumstances.

Administrative/Process skills? Figuring out which courier delivers books fastest, scheduling calls and keeping WGLs, DLs etc. up to date is fine and I appreciate that it is part of the job, which I want to do well in its entirety, but not really what I understand to be a set of very unique skills to learn.

I could go on like this...But most of all it is not getting a sense of the big picture. Day after day you execute specific, given tasks as precisely and fast as possible, churning output after output, always someone chasing you, always the next staffing awaiting. There is no time to just take 15 minutes to actually try and understand what you are doing, why you are doing it and where it fits into the grand scheme of things. And if there is a day where you get off an hour earlier, you just want to go home, talk to no one, and sleep.

Furthermore, with the the occasional rare exception, seniors don't go out of their way to give this kind of perspective to you, even just for a few minutes per week (which I can understand from their perspective, don't want to sound entitled here). They are also not really approachable during day-to-day business, so it is hard to find a way to actually benefit from their experience. Churn is extremely high (e.g. not a single Analyst or Associate was still in the team about 1-2 months after I joined for full time that was already there before I started my Summer Internship) and I am getting more and more the feeling that juniors are viewed as a resource that is to be depleted with no intention of personal development. I have talked to other Analysts about this and they feel the same.

I could go on, but I notice this post is getting quite long, so I am going to stop here for now (might edit later) and would be happy to get your take on this.

Am I too entitled? Do I need to change my perspective? Is it a culture problem? Is banking not for me? Is this just how things are? Is there a better/smarter way to approach this?

And what really constitutes the Analyst skill set? What makes it valuable and what are the specific skills you learn? How do you maximise your learning?

I am looking forward to your answers!

Comments (34)

Most Helpful
Feb 11, 2020

You don't understand how unproductive most people are day to day. In IB, the best way to do well is to become a machine: follow directions, do things on time, optimize. That's what employers want; that's why IB is valuable. That's the skillset.

Also, 0% chance anyone reads your full post. Delete like 85% of it and you'll get a lot better insight than mine.

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Feb 12, 2020

Appreciate the insight. Fair point, added TLDR at the top.

Feb 11, 2020

TLDR

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Feb 12, 2020

Added.

Feb 11, 2020

There is no true skillset. If you are frugal, you can build the wealth you talk about. Otherwise, you take the long shot of trying to get rich via your own start-up or go do a more interesting job elsewhere that pays less and does not let you accumulate wealth.

It, like life, is a trade off where the grass is always greener on the other side.

    • 1
Feb 11, 2020

Basically working excessively.

Also, you do develop a sense for urgency, understanding of the financial impact of decisions, and a general sense for how the c-suite views business.

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Funniest
Feb 11, 2020

Being concise is one of them and fuck do you need it dude

Array

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Feb 12, 2020

Haha, fair. Added TLDR at the top.

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  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Feb 13, 2020

I love how your TLDR is also pretty long

    • 1
Feb 11, 2020

I can speak to the analyst skill set for any role. Not IB Specific

Use Excel without a Mouse
Align objects in powerpoint
Write well
If you have to do something that is not the above, find the training or resources necessary to get it done.

    • 1
Feb 12, 2020

Speak well should be included*

But yes, this is 99% of the skillset of most business/finance jobs. Technical stuff is done by technical folks.

Feb 12, 2020
princepieman:

Speak well should be included*

But yes, this is 99% of the skillset of most business/finance jobs. Technical stuff is done by technical folks.

I agree

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  • Intern in IB-M&A
Feb 11, 2020

I actually read your whole post and I pretty much had the same thoughts when I finished my summer internship last summer. So I decided to not take the return offer and recruit for other things, mostly tech. I've been taking coding classes and learning about computer science and I have found it a lot more interesting than finance because it's more about real problem-solving and building rather than just going through the same process/formulas over and over again. The tradeoff is that it's my last semester in college and still don't have a job, and whatever I end up getting definitely won't pay nearly as much. But at least I'll be more interested in my job and be able to have a bit more of a life. For me, that was worth the risk of graduating without a job.

I also had similar feelings to you in that I felt like whatever skills I was learning in banking I could just learn somewhere else. Perhaps you should look into STEM jobs - I feel like they are a lot more mentally stimulating and you actually develop valuable skills that add real value to the world. The tradeoff is that they're actually challenging jobs to get and excel at because it's not just powerpoint fluff

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Feb 12, 2020

Thank you for taking the time. I think coding is very interesting (had two classes during my studies which I thoroughly enjoyed) and satisfies this ,,figuring things out" itch, but I fear it's too late to pivot completely after two degrees and a handful of internships. Will be hard for me to compete with the kids who are self taught coders since the age of ten.

Are you aware of any jobs on the verge of tech and finance that require a solid economics/business/finance acumen and some basic tech skills (I know a little python and R) that offer the possibility of building the latter while working?

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Feb 13, 2020

Data analysis at a FinTech enterprise or startup (ie. Bloomberg, Stripe, Robinhood). It would be tough but all the information you need to learn is out there on the internet for free. It's a more meritocratic process in that degrees and prestige don't matter nearly as much as what you actually know how to do.

That's just one potential path though, I think you should think about it for a while and also try out different things, because if you do end up changing to a different career such as this one it will be quite challenging to learn about a whole new world from scratch especially while you're still working full time... however it can definitely be very rewarding to discover you enjoy doing something else

    • 2
Feb 12, 2020

I read you're post. I know it's brutal. Wait it out. You don't realize it yet, but you soak a lot of what goes around and internalize it. Maybe you don't have the time to process it yet, but one day you will.

One day when you're in a startup or in a big corporation. You will find yourself automatically doing things better than other people; in terms of speed, efficiency, and work product.

Lastly, and this is from someone who took on some senior ops roles (on secondment from my PE firm), doing other things isn't rocket science at all. You will find yourself outperforming other people in these settings because you actually have the stamina to work harder and longer than they do and therefore get lot's of work done and analyze things. As a poster above said you underestimate how unproductive people are, and also how much they lack "common sense".

Stay strong.

    • 4
Feb 19, 2020

Genius response - totally agree. You don't even realize the skills you're developing - the kinds of intuitive skills that you may use in 15 years starting your own business. Could be an ice cream shop even - but the baseline skills are in there and transferable.

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Feb 27, 2020

Thank you for taking the time and offering your perspective, really appreciated.

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  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Feb 12, 2020

Harveyspankster is spot on. I've been in your shoes and still kind of feel like I am; however, one thing that really helps me to think more about what I am doing and enjoy my job even when doing grunt work on a new slide that I was told to create is thinking about the bigger picture and what you're doing, specifically how it is benefitting the overall project. The more you learn to think like this (which is what an associate or any more senior member should be thinking), the more interesting the work becomes as you realize the importance of your work and can even provide suggestions that the senior members might use in building the deck.

    • 3
Feb 12, 2020

I think that it may also be a cultural issue in your team if there is such a churn - don't you do 3 statements models? My guess is that you also are in a fairly vanilla industry group ( C&R, Media and telco) thus the technical part is relatively low no?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Feb 27, 2020

You are correct, fairly generalist industry group.

No 3-statement models really, mainly operating models, some valuation/merger analysis and some weird non-off the shelf stuff every couple of weeks.

Would say >75% is spent in PowerPoint though (if you exclude minor PPT backups).

    • 1
Feb 12, 2020

I think that the most important "skillset" that an analyst learns is the ability to suck it up, grind, and get things done. It's the mentality that you take away from banking that is most important, not the tangible skills (i.e., Excel modeling). In banking, people don't care about excuses, how tired you are, how you are not spiritually fulfilled, etc. It's literally: "Just get it done." After you leave banking, you carry that mentality with you for the rest of your career. It is probably the single most important factor that has made a difference in my career over the long run.

    • 3
Feb 12, 2020

Move to a LCOL city and grab a less "prestigious" job at some mid-sized company and live a simpler life?

Feb 19, 2020

I hate the "use excel without a mouse" answers. Stop drinking the hardo kool aid. I don't give a rats ass if my analyst is using the mouse occasionally if the stuff he puts out is timely and accurate.

    • 1
Feb 19, 2020

YEEESSSS

Feb 19, 2020

"Am I too entitled? Do I need to change my perspective? Is it a culture problem? Is banking not for me? Is this just how things are? Is there a better/smarter way to approach this?"

I'ts not that you are too entitled, or that you need to change your perspective - it's that you don't yet have the perspective to look back, because you're just starting. You're first getting used to working, and that's ok. Deep breath.

I started in public accounting, which had a similar ultra-strenuous work ethic with many of the same complaints for a new graduate. What I want to convey is that it is simply an adjustment period. Your mind, body and spirit is getting accustomed to the grind, of working seemingly endless long challenging, soul-sucking hours with no real break. It's different from school, and different from a summer internship where there's an end, and down time before your next big push.

It is difficult, and you're not wrong to recognize it, but you need to get a certain amount of baseline experience until you are at a level where you can interact with clients, you have more polish and maturity. Right now, you're forming the "callous," so the shoe still hurts! I do get it, and sympathize, because it's rough - but most importantly, know this is temporary. This job, this career, these hours, are for now. You can actually quit at any time, sure, you'd find something else to do - but maybe you're moving towards a goal. It's for you to determine where you want this current position to take you, but patience is key. When you're younger, patience is a tough challenge to master. Again - it's ok! It's an adjustment. Is you current position giving you the experience or cred you need to do something else?

When I was in the trenches grinding out very long hours, late into the night, in public accounting (pre-finance MBA), I once saw the cover of a National Geographic with a woman in India, covered head to toe in red silt. She worked outdoors making bricks, 6 days a week, 12+ hours a day, and then walked miles to and from the site. In the extreme heat, and as I mentioned, completely red with head to toe dust. This was to make survival wages, to feed her family, and needless to say, she went home every night to cook in who knows what conditions, but no 6 burner Wolf range, to say the least. I realized the level of misery and extremes of the world, and that although it didn't really reduce my misery with my job at the time, I was of the fortunate. Almost embarrassingly so. Not to induce guilt here, just to say "opportunity, vs. zero opportunity" You're not being ungrateful, you're just struggling with the noose that is entry level work!

So yes, for now, the culture might be crummy, the hours long, the work not very productive. My suggestion is - really recognize that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. You won't be doing this forever. Work on a daily log of deals/transactions and skills/details that you can use to describe transferable skills. Create a resume. Network inside or outside of your firm, even if you're not leaving anytime soon. Take a deep breath and a step back - do something that truly relaxes you next time you have a day off to change your perspective. You need physical and mental rest. Think about how you can add something to your daily schedule to help you cope, and look towards what other skills you can reach for. Are there colleagues you want to work with that you haven't yet? Don't worry about anyone else - how can you utilize this position to further yourself? You don't have to be an I-banker, the world will not end (by a long shot) if you choose a different path. But have you gained enough gravitas/experience to transition to your next move?

There are many finance paths worthy of your attention. Look into it.

I think you must realize that many are weeded out along the way, just like the Marines, or med school. This is why more senior people are not looking towards your personal development. You must prove you want to excel, and want to move up the ranks, for them to invest in you. Right now, the onus is really on you. Your development is in your hands! This may be a first. We all come from relatively privileged backgrounds as far as receiving kudos for academic success. But full time work is a different ball game. You have to earn your senior's attention - offer to buy them a coffee. They did what you're doing now. Everyone must go through this. When you're 35, you'll laugh at your old self - and that's ok! Not making fun at all. I'm just getting back to the first main theme - perspective. Yes, it's tough, but if you want it, you can do it, and if you don't, take what you have and craft it into your next opportunity, without guilt or feeling that you failed.

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Feb 19, 2020

see above points about being concise pls

    • 4
Feb 19, 2020

If you don't wish to read it, don't. Maybe learn to control yourself - you don't have to say every negative snarky point that comes to mind. Being an adult as I know you are, you can sometimes keep your comments to yourself.

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Feb 27, 2020

Thank you for taking the time and providing your opinion. Although I don't resonate immediately with some of your points, it is an awesome answer and great food for thought.

Feb 27, 2020

Very well said

  • Analyst 3+ in PE - Other
Feb 27, 2020

Bro, I get how you feel

I moved from BB to an MM PE and I feel even worse. I was doing WGL/DLs and useless appendices... I don't do WGL/DL anymore but I am making even crazier appendices and also add some BS internal crap

When I was doing my intern (a non-ibd job), I worked with some MBA folks who did FP&A prior to their MBA. I just feel the technical argument of IB on WSO is complete BS.

I built models but I also read FDD reports by big 4. I referred to models made by FP&A team of our clients. I don't think they have "worse" technical of modeling skills. I even need them for some adjustments to financials that are really "technical".

Their modeling skills are as good as me if not better although they may take longer to build a model. They have in-depth accounting or industry knowledge. And they work much shorter hours. Yet, they make MUCH MUCH less than us just because their hours and lack of pedigree.

This industry is just complete BS. We feel superior because of our pedigree and our pay. What an unrealistic joke... What we have and they don't is just the hours spending on menial tasks such as WGL, DL, profiles and useless appendices

Those so called intangible skills such as attention to details / work ethics is just some BS excuses that make us feel better and complacent. Such skills can be acquired by pulling all nighters and playing Where's Waldo for a few weeks.

Weaker knowledge than industry folks (such as those FP&A trainees), only some intangible skills. I don't know if one day I will find myself too late to switch job

    • 2
Feb 27, 2020

Look, some people enjoy the scenic route, others would rather sit in traffic for 45 mins. You can build wealth by having more time and less restrictions. It isn't necessary to achieve social status first by working in IB, in order to accomplish the holy grail of financial freedom.

Feb 27, 2020
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Feb 28, 2020