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

tactikhal's picture
Rank: Neanderthal | 3,893

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?

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?

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.

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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?

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.

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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?

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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)

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

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.

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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.

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)

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

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.

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May 23, 2017

I really hope that's not the case. Lol

Best Response
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.

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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.

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?

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.

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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.

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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
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

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

If your an accountant, I can't imagine you have much trouble financial modeling. I am just an intern but from what I have been told, the CFA is close to irrelevant. I would possibly see if the bank you work at would sponsor you for your series 7. That would hold more weight than any CFA designation. I would also try to network within your bank, especially talking to HR or apply to some boutiques. But again, I am not intimately knowledgable with internal operations. Good luck good sir.

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