What is the career progression for those in (IB) BO/MO?

As a student it's very clear to me what the "generic" path is in IBD. I know everyone's story and path is different but from what i've gathered it can be very straightforward.
Analyst -> Associate/MBA/PE/HF/Other ->VP ->MD etc.

What is the pathway for those who don't make it into FT FO positions out of undergrad? What is the pay like for middle office and back office positions and how high does it get? I have never seen any threads or topics regarding what people in these positions go on to do, besides lateral moves into FO. I am very, very curious what it is like if one does not make it into the front office but still decides to join an investment bank.

Comments (65)

May 22, 2017

bump. also, what even are titles of these positions?

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 22, 2017

My bank has the same series of titles for BO and MO positions as for FO

May 22, 2017

So would a "Business Analyst" or "Financial Analyst" at Goldman/JPM/UBS/etc. be Middle Office, whereas the "Investment Banking Analyst" are FO? Where do these guys go after their analysts stints then? Or is it not a 2 year/3 year set program like in IB?

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 22, 2017

At my bank they are still 2 year stints - a Tech analyst might go to an actual tech firm or could stay on to be an associate at Tech in the bank

May 22, 2017

Its just like how people who go to non targets go to ivy league med schools, MBAs, law schools etc. It might be difficult but in no point in your career is the rest of your life really set in stone. The best way for people in MO/BO to get to FO is through an MBA though. Business schools need a more diverse class than IBD analysts and management consultants.

    • 1
Learn More

7,548 questions across 469 investment banks. The WSO Investment Banking Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to start your career on Wall Street. Technical, Behavioral and Networking Courses + 2 Bonus Modules. Learn more.

May 22, 2017

Yes, I understand MO/BO positions in the essence of lateraling into FO, however, what if they don't lateral to FO? Where does their ladder, figuratively speaking, lead to? Or is it as simple as they * need * to move on to an MBA or leverage FO?

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 22, 2017
<span itemprop=name>zeezy</span>:

Yes, I understand MO/BO positions in the essence of lateraling into FO, however, what if they don't lateral to FO? Where does their ladder, figuratively speaking, lead to? Or is it as simple as they * need * to move on to an MBA or leverage FO?

No it all rolls up eventually to your C suite. MDs and VPs can come from Ops backgrounds as well.

    • 1
May 22, 2017

Interesting, so would an "analyst" in MO move to an "associate" in MO, and then up?

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 22, 2017
<span itemprop=name>zeezy</span>:

Interesting, so would an "analyst" in MO move to an "associate" in MO, and then up?

That is exactly what I am saying. WSO paints the completely wrong picture of the BO and MO. For some bright folk who aren't insane about 1 or 2 types of jobs its a really good path to quick promotions and recognition for what you do.

May 22, 2017

Awesome to hear! I was just very curious because I hear so much about how difficult it is getting out of MO positions.. but they still seem like good jobs and everyone acts like they're retail sales jobs

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 23, 2017

Some of them. Compliance is fucking miserable, but risk and economics focused MO roles are an important role at the bank that can lead to C-suite level positions. Tech guys also seem to have a good time provided they actually like doing tech work.

May 22, 2017
zeezy:

What is the pathway for those who don't make it into FT FO positions out of undergrad?

I can't tell you from first-hand experience, but I've spent a lot of time here on WSO, so I think I can take a crack at this. If you don't make it into FO directly out of undergrad, it looks like this:

UG --> Flood of Shame --> Unmitigated Despair --> Begging, Pleading --> Non-Elite MBA --> Certain Failure / Flyover States / Equities in Dallas

Guys? How'd I do?

    • 5
May 22, 2017

Haha damn, is it really that bad? I was just curious. I'm working hard doing everything necessary to land an FO position in IB and was just wondering if it's worth it to go MO instead of an analyst at big 4 or something like Deloitte/Accenture (in the event that I don't secure an IB job)

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 22, 2017

i know minorities who have done BO at BB, then M7 MBA - MO jobs are decently solid, just not adequate for the prestige-whores on WSO

Best Response
May 23, 2017

there are more than enough of good, well paying jobs at MO and BO. This forum is all about prestige and while that's fine, one should remember that a career path in MO/BO can yield you good salary with decent working hours. It's all about your preferences: got a wife and want to spend time with your children? then probably IBD FO is not for you. Want that PE megafund associate role? Then you need to be a rockstar at everything you do. Not everyone needs to and definitely can't become an M&A banker.

and before someone's witty comments, no I never applied for/worked as a banker.

May 23, 2017

The problem with MO/BO jobs is that they are usually really boring, you are literally processing/entering the same data all day, everyday. I worked both in BO and MO, and it sucked, also 70% of your colleagues are "below average" + half of them are women and that sucks even more.

You killed the Greece spread goes up, spread goes down, from Wall Street they all play like a freak, Goldman Sachs 'o beat.

    • 2
    • 8
May 23, 2017

And how is processing/entering data any different from plug and chug on model templates in FO? Not to mention menial PPT nuances?

All jobs have equal lefts of polarization, there is not perfect job. The prestige dimension on this forum has skewed the perspective immensely.

    • 2
May 23, 2017

This is an excellent point. Sure there are some exciting times when you're about to close the books or doing something interesting on some arcane M&A structure but we still spend most of our time crunching numbers and formatting Powerpoint.

Having said that I worked alongside BO/MO people in a previous job - a lot of the work (but not all) is indeed creating the same reports on a daily / weekly / monthly basis.

    • 1
May 23, 2017

BO/MO skills are less transferable, yes you would crunch numbers as an analyst but the work is far more diverse as the projects are always different and the experience you gain is very valuable and can be applied further down your career path, IMHO. I've started in BO, moved to MO and then went to an M&A boutique as an analyst. The analyst work was much more enjoyable. However I've seen a lot of people who are happy in BO.

You killed the Greece spread goes up, spread goes down, from Wall Street they all play like a freak, Goldman Sachs 'o beat.

Learn More

7,548 questions across 469 investment banks. The WSO Investment Banking Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to start your career on Wall Street. Technical, Behavioral and Networking Courses + 2 Bonus Modules. Learn more.

May 23, 2017

I have a friend (non target UG, big four accounting) working for a mega fund BO / MO accounting group. He's making good money. I don't know how much but he has a nice title so I assume it's upper $100k or more. He is happy with where he's at, never heard him talk about changing jobs and he got assigned to help run a BO / MO group in the company's foreign office. I'd say he's done well for himself.

May 23, 2017

Nice! I wonder what compensation is like on different levels in MO/BO. (Junior-Senior Analysts, Associates Pre-MBA)

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 23, 2017

Analyst ==> Associate ==> BSD in Training ==> BSD I ==> BSD II == > Final form BSD

May 23, 2017

What is BSD? Been on the forum for only about 8 months but have never heard that term in IB

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 23, 2017

big swinging dick of the firm.

May 23, 2017

I wonder how many IBD people were triggered by you calling their career path "generic"

May 23, 2017

Doesn't mean it's wrong though. Those IB exit opportunities don't exist because Analysts all have a unique and exciting skillset. They exist because BB Analysts have a consistent, similar, skillset so people who need those skills know where to go in order to get them.

May 23, 2017

You sit in a drab office all day where everything is Beige. You're working on a computer from the late 1990s and you simply feed punched cards into it all day. You drink terrible coffee out of a styrofoam cup and eat a sandwich out of a brown paper bag everyday for lunch. Your salary is barely a living wage and will never increase. There is no room for advancement in any form. You do this for 40-50 years until you die.

    • 1
May 23, 2017

I really hope that's not the case. Lol

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 23, 2017

It's all about perspective.

You're asking a group of people who work FO in IB, HFs, VC, PE. Aka... the people who earn (or will earn) the 0.001% of the 0.001%. Many BO/MO jobs can/will allow you to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.....the avg. American household lives off of around $54k/year....not specific to any age group, but the entire population.

BO/MO is usually associated with "better hours," meaning 40-50 hours a week obviously depending on position/firm/department/busy season/etc. That being said, the work is also more mundane and not as 'prestigious' as FO roles....newsflash though, NOBODY ELSE IN THE WORLD knows that HF = Hedge Fund, PE = Private Equity, etc, etc.

To that point - if you tell a girl (or guy/whatever) "I work at Goldman," 9,999 out of 10,000 times - the follow up question won't be 'oh which department? Oh you work with LBOs?!?! That's so hot." No - they will associate your role (whether it's finance or M&A) with a bank. Nobody outside of this industry knows the difference between BO/MO/FO ...frankly, nor do they care.

    • 6
May 23, 2017

Good point! I understand that and knew that's how it is. My question was more what exactly these positions are, what the comp. is like as it progresses compared to FO, and what exit ops are or the highest rungs on the ladder. As a matter of fact, I never mentioned prestige or image, I just wanna know some statistics. & yes, I could google it, but the answers are very vague and i'm not getting a clear image of what the titles of these BO/MO positions are and.. like I said, progression, etc.

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 26, 2017

Edited

May 23, 2017

Thank you!
If you are able to answer this, and I understand the higher up you go the more variable these numbers become(performance based), it would be awesome: What is compensation like* all along the board*? Do you see analysts in ops going to top MBA's and coming back for FO or coming back for a higher position in ops?

And what kind of exit ops are available to you if you decide to leave? Is PE/HF still a viable option or do they strictly recruit the IB guys? And if not, where do you see your peers going? Consulting? MBA?

"It is not our circumstance that controls us, but our thoughts that control our circumstance." -James Allen

May 23, 2017

I find that's easy to lateral from BO/MO (say at a BB) to BO/MO at a HF/PE/AM/etc ...that being said, you don't see guys lateraling BO/MO to FO at a different firm. Usually, you'd network within your own firm to the FO and then lateral.

Yes - BO/MO guys can go get a great MBA but you're at a disadvantage compared to the guys with MBB and M&A under their belt.

Honestly I hate to say this but it's true. There is usually a persona for those in BO/MO. That being, they don't give a rats ass about moving to FO and are very happy with their lax hours and very very above-average paygrades. Also, a lot less stress....you don't see guys left and right busting their ass to transition from BO/MO to FO and/or MBAs, Consulting, etc. That is simply because it is not what the general populous of BO/MO wants. However - you're still going to find a handful of incredibly bright/driven individual who will bust their ass, network like hell and stop at nothing to transition to FO or pursue a top MBA.

For what it's worth - Calvin Harris made $66,000,000 as a DJ in 2014. His job before that? He stocked shelves at a grocery store.

    • 2
May 24, 2017

I was not in ops but can confirm that this would be the natural career progression for BO/MO (except Associate -> VP -> Director).

That persona is also very accurate. I worked a maximum of 35 hours a week: in at 9am and out the door the minute it turned 5pm. I had the luxury of grabbing an hour lunch with friends/co-workers/girlfriend then following that up with an hour session at my gym. The rest of my time was spent staring at my computer screen waiting for work.

Most of the exit ops I saw were lateraling to other banks at a higher level.

    • 1
May 26, 2017

Edited

May 26, 2017

Front Office or bust.

"I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others." Edgar Allen Poe

May 26, 2017

its not impossible...but it is difficult...although to be honest, its probably just as difficult getting into revenue generating roles from any other entry point.

Ops does almost nothing to prepare you to be a revenue generator. It doesn't teach you HOW TO MAKE MONEY FOR THE BANK. Maybe it gives you a work ethic, attention to detail....but not much else, and EVERYBODY is assumed to have these. What are the revenue generating roles?

Sales
Trading
Structuring (usually is grouped into Trading)
Investment Banking (which is essentially advisory / fee based work)

So, first you need to decide which of those roles you want to get into. Investment Banking has the most openings on an ongoing basis. Ibanks hire a new class of analysts EVERY year. Sales & Trading have new analyst classes every year, but the numbers are FAR fewer (if there are 200 IB analyst hires, there may be 10-20 Sales & Trading hires). Sales & Trading work less hours than IB, but those hours are more intense. These are really completely different businesses.

So, first, which part of the ibank do you want to be in: IB, or Sales & Trading?
The strategy to get into them will be different.

    • 2
May 26, 2017

Thank you for your detailed response ironchef and providing a breakdown on the roles in the front office. Honestly, I would like to break into either IB or Sales & Trading as both types of roles fascinate me.

However, as you have stated there are far less roles available in Sales and Trading I would like to target IB to increase my chances at landing a role. I understand the hours can be gruesome, but I can work long hours plus I think the upside would be the relationships I build with my co-workers.

Please let me know your thoughts ironchef, how should a back office employee such as myself begin to try to break into a front office IB role?

May 26, 2017

1) the "easiest" route would be to get an MBA (1-2 years i think). Take a financial modeling class, so you learn what the analysts learned (and you missed out on)....and then use the career services from the Business School to help you with recruiting. Your ops job will help you get into an MBA program (and you might be able to get your firm to help pay for it)

2) if you don't go the MBA route, you will still need to take the financial modeling classes (i think WSO has a decent guide/course you should check out for a little $$), and checkout the WSO --> NYSF link
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/finance-internships...
3) if you want to try to get into a 1st year IB analyst class without going the "school" route, then you will need somebody who works there to vouch for you....which means "guerrilla networking." Depending on your social skills, and your connections/network, this 3rd option will either be super easy, or incredibly hard. I have a good friend who worked in conculting for 2-3 years, and wanted to switch to IB. He had a friend who had been doing IB at JPM for 4 years, and that friend slipped his resume into the pile during recruiting season, and pushed for him to get an interview...which he nailed, got the job, and the rest is history. He got the job because of his personal connection to somebody in the inside (the JPM guy was actually the older brother of a college friend). My friend who got in, is a really smart dude, and he belonged in the role...but without the friend assist, he would not have gotten an interview without 1st going to B-school.

    • 2
May 26, 2017

Thanks again ironchef, I will try to exhaust my networking options and see if I can find someone who can help me out, although I am unsure of what results I may find.

I am willing to consider MBA, but I wanted to ask you what your opinion on what kind of school I would need to get into in order for an MBA to matter? I've heard varying opinions that it needs to be a top 20 or a 10 ten school.

I personally have been looking into Rutgers as they would be a more affordable option and have a somewhat decent reputation. What are your thoughts on this ironchef? Does the school ranking matter so much or should I just worry about getting into a program that provides modeling courses and offers a good network within IB? Also, would you recommend going full-time or part-time?

Further, please feel free to provide any suggestions on schools that provide a good MBA program to break into this field.

May 26, 2017

each B-school will keep stats on what jobs their grads get. obviously, Wharton, NYU, Columbia, MIT, etc.. have very high IB placement rates. Regardless, you need to ask the school what % of grads go straight to IB. The schools will know.

May 26, 2017

Thanks ironchef and Hillary2016, this makes me feel better about being able to make an eventual transition to a better career.

May 26, 2017

Oh sorry, one more question I had. Would you recommend going back for a MBA full-time or part-time? Would it be better to go full-time to be able to ensure I make full use of any networking resources outside of classes or going part-time would I be able to make sufficient use of networking resources in order to land an IB role?

May 26, 2017

There are many jobs and employers who comes up with a feature of sponsoring your MBA and other higher studies when you are working for them. you can find such companies incase you want ensure both jobs and studies go parallel.

May 26, 2017

1st year MBA student here: the IB recruiting is full time. I recruited consulting but haven't heard of a single person from our part time program to go into IB and we have a top20 nationwide part time program. I only know of one consultant from the part time and consulting recruiting is significantly less intense than IB. Add that to the fact that part time programs are less prestigious and that's a recipe for disaster.

Go all out (full time at top25-30) or don't go back for an MBA. As someone else noted, there are a lot of IB spots at good schools. At my mid 20s ranked program probably 12 of 15 or 16 people out of a 100+ person class who tried got banking internships. About half boutique, half BB. It's a ton of work but just make sure you know your basics, get an A in finance, pass the airport test, and you have a high likelihood. If you're really worried about cost kill the GMAT then go to a 20-30 program who places well in IB that will give you a good scholarship (I received a full ride with a 740 GMAT, no unique work experience and I'm a white male).

As I noted, I recruited consulting so take everything I said with a grain of salt since it's all secondhand, however having been on WSO for a while I did talk with my banker classmates quite a bit so there's a good chance all the above is accurate.

May 26, 2017

Rutgers isn't getting you IB. The ease of getting offers and quality of banks recruiting is largely correlated with rank, M7 plus Haas, Fuqua, Tuck, Darden, Ross, NYU and Yale, I'm sure I'm missing some, will get you entree into a BB or top MM, the next tier the UNC/Vandy/Emory types tend to place fewer and at more regional firms, I knew a lot of Ray Jay (ex-Morgan Keegan) Vandy grads and lots of UNC people at Regions type shops. Dropping out of the top 10-15, it's an up hill battle and out of the top 30 or so it'll be very difficult. Rutgers is not on our radar at my firm nor are similar MBA programs (non-top 30 flagship state schools).

May 26, 2017
ironnchef:

its not impossible...but it is difficult...although to be honest, its probably just as difficult getting into revenue generating roles from any other entry point.

Ops does almost nothing to prepare you to be a revenue generator. It doesn't teach you HOW TO MAKE MONEY FOR THE BANK. Maybe it gives you a work ethic, attention to detail....but not much else, and EVERYBODY is assumed to have these. What are the revenue generating roles?

SalesTradingStructuring (usually is grouped into Trading)Investment Banking (which is essentially advisory / fee based work)

So, first you need to decide which of those roles you want to get into. Investment Banking has the most openings on an ongoing basis. Ibanks hire a new class of analysts EVERY year. Sales & Trading have new analyst classes every year, but the numbers are FAR fewer (if there are 200 IB analyst hires, there may be 10-20 Sales & Trading hires). Sales & Trading work less hours than IB, but those hours are more intense. These are really completely different businesses.

So, first, which part of the ibank do you want to be in: IB, or Sales & Trading?The strategy to get into them will be different.

missing a few?
Also, 10-20 S&T hires per class..., what?

May 26, 2017

depends on the firm, and what area. The last ibank i worked at (i was in rates trading) i saw a 1st year on the options desk, 1 on the rates sales desk, 1 on the MBS trading desk (MIT grad), and maybe one more in FX (so, total of 4 fresh faces in fixed income trading). Could there have been a couple i missed in another area? sure i guess...but you get the point. IB hires a lot more bodies...because they have a high attrition rate. After 2-3 years, 70% of analysts leave to goto the buyside, or B-School. In Sales&Trading, people don;t voluntariliy leave at that rate. Underperformers might get fired...but if you are doing well trading, you fucking stay.

I don't know what commodities or equities looked like...but Fixed income was not hiring. These things come in waves i suppose. Years ago, Fixed income might have 20-30 new hires on its own. Sign of the times...and also, different banks have different hiring appetites.

May 26, 2017

Kind of off-topic,

But what are some common back office job titles that would come up in an Indeed/LinkedIn search?

May 26, 2017

Operations Analyst is most common. Others also use "financial analyst" if working MO/BO at an investment bank.

May 26, 2017

Well, I believe this is a bit of an investment banking unicorn: you either believe in it or you don't. For some, the middle office is simply the back office; others think a distinction needs to be made.

If they would argue that middle office role links the front and back office, providing the front office with a support function that plays a more direct role in revenue generation.

It is a netherworld; a grey area with constantly changing boundaries. For example, someone might cite operations, corporate treasury, risk management and strategic management as middle office departments.

And others would just limit it to risk, credit and strategic management. You could argue that an operational investment banker is middle office, although many would simply lump them in with the back office crew.

May 26, 2017

I did Ops -> Top 5 MBA -> Top consulting. It's very easy to get front office IB from business school, so I recommend doing that.

MBA admissions don't view ops as much worse than front office IB, especially if you have a high GMAT. I'd recommend getting more project based work though, as it has more transferrable skills and its easier to show career progression.

It's funny...it's super hard to even jump to mid-office from ops. I don't know anyone who made it to "true" front office. But if you go to business school, front office BB IB jobs are thrown at you.

May 26, 2017
Hillary2016:

I did Ops -> Top 5 MBA -> Top consulting. It's very easy to get front office IB from business school, so I recommend doing that.

MBA admissions don't view ops as much worse than front office IB, especially if you have a high GMAT. I'd recommend getting more project based work though, as it has more transferrable skills and its easier to show career progression.

It's funny...it's super hard to even jump to mid-office from ops. I don't know anyone who made it to "true" front office. But if you go to business school, front office BB IB jobs are thrown at you.

You could also try to find an ops role at a small boutique trading firm or Asset Management shop trading desk and get trading/analyst responsibilities that way. That's what I did...

May 26, 2017

Great advice! Thanks for all that replied, this also helps people like me.

Want to Lose the body fat, keep the muscles, I can help.

May 26, 2017

I am doing the networking aspect. Cold-calling and building relationships. Need to be able to sell and close within the first 1-2 phone calls. So far it has landed me about 3 interviews and possibly 1 offer for an internship at a PE Shop. Whatever you do, do what you think is best. Ironchef provided valuable insight. +1 Banana!

May 26, 2017

Forget about using middle office to transition to front office, different skill set and like back office, the work does not tie to revenue generation at all. However, make sure you know what the front office roles are (IB, S&T, and other?) and know what they do on a daily basis. As much as you want to make a lot money, that can't be the sole reason why you want to do IB for example (I know too many miserable IB people).

Might as well try to break in directly from where you are now. Two ways to go about it: MBA or relentless networking.

During MBA, do structured recruiting for IB, get that internship and work your ass off to convert that to full-time. If not MBA, first find alumni in front office to do info interview with, then get a LinkedIn premium and search for people in the business who you can relate to in any way (alumni, people from your town, share the same hobby, etc.) and ask for info interview. Info interview gives you a feel of culture of different banks and what their job is like day-to-day. Then if they think you are intelligent, hopefully they think of you for the next opening.

May 26, 2017

If you are doing trade confirmations and settlements, you should have access to the traders for the desk(s) you are supporting. That is where you should start networking. Ask them if you can shadow them for a day or two (with permission from your boss or do it as a vacation day, if needed). Ask the traders what you need to be learning to do their job and do it in a way that isn't annoying. Take them/meet them out for drinks once or twice a month. If you can impress them, that will be your quickest route from BO to FO because you already have some exposure to the people and the product. This all obviously assumes you live in the same city.

May 26, 2017

I'm in a somewhat similar situation. Why not take L3 though? You have 7 months to study on it and you can network at the same time. When people talk about the benefits of networking as opposed to studying they are usually right but I would think almost anyone would encourage you to finish strong now that you are so close. I would focus on job hunting/networking mostly for the next 3 months and then switch gears into putting all your efforts into L3 from March on. If you haven't landed a job by then put it on hold until June when you're done.

May 26, 2017
May 26, 2017
May 26, 2017
May 26, 2017