3/28/10

I'll beginning working as a FT analyst next year, and want to know what separates the top-tier analysts from the average analyst.

Who were the top analysts in your group, and how did they differentiate themselves? Did they simple never screw up the work and always get the little details right? Did they have great relationships with their bosses and co-workers? Did they log more hours than anyone else? Were they crazy modelers with phenomenal excel skills?

I am interested in hearing anecdotes or advice from those with full-time experience.

Comments (42)

3/28/10

Being a top ranked analyst comes down to three things (and trust me, its not always based on your abilities):

1) Getting your stuff done right and on time
2) Having a good attitude and not pushing back
3) Being pro-active (to at least give the impression that you are contribution to the team). What I mean by this is, if a company you are covering releases earnings, you send a summary of the release around to the team, etc.

You have a lot of smart people who can do #1 easily, but get so frustrated with the job that they refuse to do #2 and #3. That's what separates the "top tier" analysts from the rest.

Your ranking will consist of a # and a letter. 1A, 2A, 3B, etc. I forget which is which, but one represents your abilities (#1 on the list above) and the other represents contribution to the team (#2 and #3 on the list above). You will have a lot of smart kids you will get rankins like 1C -- they get their work done right and its reliable, but they have a bad attitude/pushback/take no iniative.

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Best Response
3/28/10

From my experience, the best analysts are the guys who catch on quickly and are able to grasp the "bigger picture" concept. I mean "catch on quickly" in a very broad sense -- it certainly applies to modeling and becoming efficient around Excel/Powerpoint, but those are pretty indirect -- they just help you become more efficient and produce a higher quality of work. What I really mean is getting a sense of what those above you are looking for, how they want things done, etc. All MDs/VPs/Associates have their nuances and like things done a certain way, and generally, when most of them ask for A, they're going to follow that up by asking for B. The sooner you can realize this and can provide them with what they are looking for in the manner they are looking for it, and the sooner you understand what is coming next, the better off you'll be. Those above you will appreciate it when you do things the way they want them done, in an efficient manner, the first time, without having to ask for you to re-turn it -- especially if they have asked you to do it this way numerous times. A kid in my group, after 8 months, still hasn't realized this, and I can't tell you how annoyed our MDs get when he gives it to them the wrong way -- waste of time for the MDs, waste of time for the analyst.

The "bigger picture" concept is something that is really difficult to grasp during your first six months, and it's something that generally sets you apart late in your first year and in your second year. During the first six-to-nine months, most analysts are buried so far down the learning curve that the most important thing for them to do is learn the "technicals" -- Excel and Powerpoint shortcuts, understanding the structure of filings, understanding transaction timelines, understanding the financial statements, etc. This is EXTREMELY important, and most of the bankers above you understand that for those six months, most of your time is going to be spent trekking up the very steep learning curve. But as painful as that curve can be, you eventually get to the top and there are one of two ways to go: (1) you plateau, put in no extra effort, and spend far fewer hours in the office (which sounds great, but becomes BRUTAL because it's the same thing over and over) -- in this case, your work becomes "better" by nature of doing it over and over, but that's natural), or (2) you create another learning curve for yourself and try to get the "bigger picture." This is also a broad phrase, but digging into a specific industry or a specific company, understanding the strategic direction of a client and "why" now is the right time to pursue a specific transaction are important topics that can set you apart from other analysts. It takes a bit more time, but it can be interesting and help break up the monotony of running DCF analysis through the same damn template or spreading comps day after day after day... And your bosses will really appreciate the extra effort and your ability to contribute valuable information. Really, this is where you become more than just a "number-crunching monkey" and you can set yourself apart.

Attention to detail is also key, but that's something you either get or you don't. I hope my boss isn't reading this, but I can tell you I absolutely do not triple-check my work, and I haven't one time since I started banking. I generally like to give my work a quick check through before handing it off to my boss, but I use attention to detail WHILE working as opposed to rushing through my work, finishing, then thoroughly double- or triple-checking my work. I know people who go both ways, and I can tell you that I make far fewer mistakes than those who go as fast as possible and try to employ attention to detail through their thorough checking.

Probably missed a few things, but I think the first two points are absolutely critical to becoming a top analyst, and point three is something that is critical to ensure you aren't absolutely terrible.

3/29/10
jimbrowngoU:

From my experience, the best analysts are the guys who catch on quickly and are able to grasp the "bigger picture" concept. I mean "catch on quickly" in a very broad sense -- it certainly applies to modeling and becoming efficient around Excel/Powerpoint, but those are pretty indirect -- they just help you become more efficient and produce a higher quality of work. What I really mean is getting a sense of what those above you are looking for, how they want things done, etc. All MDs/VPs/Associates have their nuances and like things done a certain way, and generally, when most of them ask for A, they're going to follow that up by asking for B. The sooner you can realize this and can provide them with what they are looking for in the manner they are looking for it, and the sooner you understand what is coming next, the better off you'll be. Those above you will appreciate it when you do things the way they want them done, in an efficient manner, the first time, without having to ask for you to re-turn it -- especially if they have asked you to do it this way numerous times. A kid in my group, after 8 months, still hasn't realized this, and I can't tell you how annoyed our MDs get when he gives it to them the wrong way -- waste of time for the MDs, waste of time for the analyst.

The "bigger picture" concept is something that is really difficult to grasp during your first six months, and it's something that generally sets you apart late in your first year and in your second year. During the first six-to-nine months, most analysts are buried so far down the learning curve that the most important thing for them to do is learn the "technicals" -- Excel and Powerpoint shortcuts, understanding the structure of filings, understanding transaction timelines, understanding the financial statements, etc. This is EXTREMELY important, and most of the bankers above you understand that for those six months, most of your time is going to be spent trekking up the very steep learning curve. But as painful as that curve can be, you eventually get to the top and there are one of two ways to go: (1) you plateau, put in no extra effort, and spend far fewer hours in the office (which sounds great, but becomes BRUTAL because it's the same thing over and over) -- in this case, your work becomes "better" by nature of doing it over and over, but that's natural), or (2) you create another learning curve for yourself and try to get the "bigger picture." This is also a broad phrase, but digging into a specific industry or a specific company, understanding the strategic direction of a client and "why" now is the right time to pursue a specific transaction are important topics that can set you apart from other analysts. It takes a bit more time, but it can be interesting and help break up the monotony of running DCF analysis through the same damn template or spreading comps day after day after day... And your bosses will really appreciate the extra effort and your ability to contribute valuable information. Really, this is where you become more than just a "number-crunching monkey" and you can set yourself apart.

Attention to detail is also key, but that's something you either get or you don't. I hope my boss isn't reading this, but I can tell you I absolutely do not triple-check my work, and I haven't one time since I started banking. I generally like to give my work a quick check through before handing it off to my boss, but I use attention to detail WHILE working as opposed to rushing through my work, finishing, then thoroughly double- or triple-checking my work. I know people who go both ways, and I can tell you that I make far fewer mistakes than those who go as fast as possible and try to employ attention to detail through their thorough checking.

Probably missed a few things, but I think the first two points are absolutely critical to becoming a top analyst, and point three is something that is critical to ensure you aren't absolutely terrible.

Great post. Have a silver banana.

3/28/10

Instead of starting another thread:

What gets you sacked within your first year? I know stuff like failing exams/training programme. But after your 4-6 week training, what can get you fired? Is it making loads of mistakes, having bad attitude, etc...

Just my 2c.

3/28/10
lorican:

Instead of starting another thread:

What gets you sacked within your first year? I know stuff like failing exams/training programme. But after your 4-6 week training, what can get you fired? Is it making loads of mistakes, having bad attitude, etc...

From my 2 years in banking, I've noticed that it is actually fairly hard to get fired as an analyst (i dont know how much this has changed since Lehman's collapse and with the flood of available talent in the marketplace now). Groups are always running lean, and to lose an asset they spent money and time on is not their top choice. Most kids who have that bad attitude, etc will end up just quitting anyway. Even with some major mistakes, the analyst is given a lot of leeway. You'd have to be really incompetent, lazy, bad attitude, etc to get the axe -- but that is just from my experience. My group hadn't fired any analysts for as long as it has been around (I'm excluding the layoffs, which seemed to disproportionally hit the analysts).

3/29/10

Some great responses. Thank you very much. Would love to hear more.

3/29/10

@jimbrowngoU - Thanks a lot!

3/29/10

In banking its all about the client; as an analyst, your client is your direct superior. Thats who you are servicing [insert gay joke here]. So the best way to be a good analyst is to make sure your direct superior has more time to do what he gets paid more than you to do.

a) You do this by being VERY organized and proactive and anticipating what his/her questions/concerns are and already have them addressed. If they need something (a document, a number, a credit term) it should always be at your fingertips.
b) The second way you do this is by making sure the quality of your work is always top notch and makes your superior look very good. Think for yourself and ask yourself "does this make sense?" if it doesn't try to clarify. You should be doing whatever they need done in addition to trying to compliment what their work... which isn't easy to do at a junior level.

4/4/10
Marcus_Halberstram:

In banking its all about the client; as an analyst, your client is your direct superior. Thats who you are servicing [insert gay joke here]. So the best way to be a good analyst is to make sure your direct superior has more time to do what he gets paid more than you to do.

a) You do this by being VERY organized and proactive and anticipating what his/her questions/concerns are and already have them addressed. If they need something (a document, a number, a credit term) it should always be at your fingertips.
b) The second way you do this is by making sure the quality of your work is always top notch and makes your superior look very good. Think for yourself and ask yourself "does this make sense?" if it doesn't try to clarify. You should be doing whatever they need done in addition to trying to compliment what their work... which isn't easy to do at a junior level.

I disagree. As an analyst, all you care about is your associate and other team members. They are the ones that determine your bonus, they are the ones that act as references for you when you're seeking a new job (in most cases), and they are also the ones who determine if you're eligible for a 3rd year / promotion. If it is between making your client happy and making your boss happy, I would always choose the boss. I understand that the idea of client services is that you "always do what the client wants," but office politics dictate that you need to make your boss happy first.

Note: Sometimes the best way to make your boss happy is to service the client, but if you have to make a choice, choose the home team.

CompBanker

4/4/10

Bump, lots of great response.
I also find out that consistent good quality of work + quick learning + an eye on bigger picture + expecting next step of your senior and client is very crucial to set you apart from your peers. It takes loads of efforts but also make your long hours in office more joyful than just sitting there crunching numbers.

Apart from all this, communication skill is also the killing bit, personaly view.

4/4/10

I think he's actually saying "your client" = "your direct superior" = your associate, vp or director, etc = your boss....so you guys are talking about the same thing.

4/4/10
lullaby0001:

I think he's actually saying "your client" = "your direct superior" = your associate, vp or director, etc = your boss....so you guys are talking about the same thing.

Just re-read what he wrote with your comment in mind -- yes, we're saying the same thing.

CompBanker

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1/7/13

bumpin' this

"After you work on Wall Street it's a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side." - David Tepper

1/7/13

I think a good summer analyst does enough to get the offer. That means things like triple checking your work for calculation and formatting errors, doing things on time and with a sense of urgency (if required), and having a good attitude.

A great summer analyst is the one who not just does the work but absorbs the material and is able to ask meaningful questions (and follow up questions). For example, we didn't have any great summer analysts last summer. One was pretty good. He came from a non-target but had done an IBD internship at a smaller bank the summer before. You could tell that he had really retained alot of what he had learned because he understand alot of financial concepts. The only problem was that he was very quiet, maybe because he was nervous. But we tended to be a rowdy bunch and you really need to come out of your shell and ask questions (and there is such a thing as stupid questions).

1/7/13

Tough to be a rockstar during the summer. You can't lose, though, if you follow a few pointers, in no particular order:

1) Be proactive and ask people if they need help. Make sure you do it right before you leave at night too, if you're not the last one there. Also, don't let analysts forget about the projects you're working on--if you tell them to go over your work, they say "later", and later comes and they still haven't checked up, stay on them about it without being a total pest. Don't let things fall through the cracks.

2) If you don't understand something, ask for help rather than do something wrong.

3) Submit flawless work product, and try to be quick about it. Don't make mistakes. Always check it one more time than you think it needs. When I first started, an associate told me to always assume something is wrong with whatever you're doing (sounds like a recipe for therapy down the road, i know), and that really helped, actually. We weren't kidding when we told you attention to detail is key.

4) Try to understand not only WHAT you're doing, but WHY you're doing it. Take the time to ask questions and get some context. Then, if you think there's a better way to do something, ask your analyst with whom you're working if they think it's a good idea, but for the sweet love, be humble about it. If you have good ideas that add value (and it will take time, and a few stubbed toes), that will really make your analyst look great, which will in turn reflect upon you. Don't just be a pair of hands and a keyboard--try to be better at whatever you do, each time you do it. This is what separates the simple, reliable analysts from the rockstars. The rockstars are also creative (and usually pretty personable).

5) Don't be a douchebag. Nobody likes arrogant or anti-social summer analysts. Try and get to know your coworkers, but don't be smarmy.

So! Do all that and you should be fine. Sounds easy, right? Lots of fine lines to walk in what i just outlined, but having worked with tons and tons of summer analysts / associates, those qualities seemed to best define the shining stars that I can remember. Good luck!

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Once more into the breach, dear friends.

1/7/13

Indeed summed it up pretty well. I would argue (and along the lines of my original post) that #1-3 is just being a "good summer analyst" and #4-5 are "great summer analyst." There are more intangibles that come with being great summer analyst, but it's difficult to put them into words.

1/7/13

Yeah, agree with GameTheory. Last two points are gravy, and will make you really stand out. First three are the essentials.

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Once more into the breach, dear friends.

1/7/13

Indeed, can you give some examples of how can SA can be creative?

1/7/13

Sure, absolutely. Just today I was working with a summer analyst on a map of the US that showed the major natural gas basins overlayed with where our client company had operations (there were a lot of locations). She had all the data to get it done, as well as a rough sketch by me to guide her. I told her, however, to use her judgement in displaying it in a way that was clear and didn't look busy, or, frankly, crappy. Sure enough, the way that I'd originally suggested looked okay (would've gotten the job done), but she'd also taken the time to re-do the map in a way that looked much better and then worked with the graphics people to make it really professional-looking. I was busy on other things all day, so if she'd plopped down the original idea on my chair and left me to judge it so-so maybe later tonight, then I would've had to tell her to take another crack, which would've been a lot of time wasted. Rather, she took the time to not only do what I told her, but she went above and beyond to make it better without me having to tell her. We got this done in a day, when it could've stretched to two. I was impressed by her proactivity and creativity.

While this is just one example, there are plenty of ways to think critically about what you're doing to try and do above and beyond what's asked of you. That's the point here.

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Once more into the breach, dear friends.

1/7/13

thanks, helpful post

1/7/13

Just a small question. If you are a bit quieter than your peers (not shy, just a bit reserved), would that be a huge detriment to converting the internship into an offer?

1/7/13

Haha I think you're the fucking tool Mark Klein. I am asking a legitimate question, because I want to make the most of my summer experience and maximize my chances of getting a full time offer in a difficult market. I have no idea who the fuck you are, but you can go fuck yourself.

To everyone who replied, I appreciate your responses. Thank you.

1/7/13

This is serious -

A good summer analyst is able to get completely hammered with the analysts in his group on a Thursday night and fit in with the team.

A great summer analyst is able to do the above, and be at least 80% productive the next day.

1/7/13

Mark Klein dropping the ether. Fall back little summer analyst bitch. Get me some coffee and make me a PIB.

1/7/13

The only thing getting dropped is the soap with you in the shower with your associate. Let's see who's getting fucked.

1/7/13

SA with 280 points for posting? I'm sure you're this annoying in your group. Let me know if you get the job. Ass clown

1/7/13

LMAO @ all the unwarranted immature teenage machismo being tossed around in this thread....

1/7/13

anybody notice the cool new WSO layout lol

1/7/13

I seriously don't get what all the hate is about. I'm just here trying to ask a legit question on how to be the best summer I can be, because I don't think that many offers are going out this time around.

I agree that this is one of those stupid ass questions that get asked in info sessions, but this is an anonymous forum, and I wouldn't ask it unless I really wanted to see what people thought.

Seems like everyone is just tense because the axe has been falling and bonuses might not be that great. We're all in this together, so chill out.

1/7/13
oasising:

I agree that this is one of those stupid ass questions that get asked in info sessions, but this is an anonymous forum, and I wouldn't ask it unless I really wanted to see what people thought.

So you ask stupid questions, even after you analyze them and categorize them as stupid?

I would say if your analyst is like mark klein, maybe you should focus on being yourself, prove to the bank they got the person they wanted to hire. If you bring fluff just to stand out, I think mark klein would grab a bat and beat you with it.

1/7/13
adehbone:
oasising:

I agree that this is one of those stupid ass questions that get asked in info sessions, but this is an anonymous forum, and I wouldn't ask it unless I really wanted to see what people thought.

So you ask stupid questions, even after you analyze them and categorize them as stupid?

I would say if your analyst is like mark klein, maybe you should focus on being yourself, prove to the bank they got the person they wanted to hire. If you bring fluff just to stand out, I think mark klein would grab a bat and beat you with it.

I meant that it's a stupid question at info sessions because people will just ask for the sake of asking a question (just like 99% of all questions during the Q&A).

But regardless of whether the question was stupid or not, thank you guys for the intelligent responses, they were really helpful.

1/7/13

Haha you can be like that if you want.

1/7/13

Mark Klein's reaction in this thread is pretty non sequitur.

1/7/13

I would say this is the difference:

A good summer analyst will get his work done accurately and on time and ask me the appropriate questions to make sure it gets done correctly. In addition, he or she will act appropriately, get to know us, and have everyone like him/her.

A great summer analyst will go beyond what is expected of him/her and actually make my life easier in ways I wouldn't have expected, as well as take on responsibilities not normally granted to summer interns. Further, he or she does this without screwing anything up in the process.

Example: I give him/her a template to work with and he/she finishes the comps, changes around the template and makes it easier for me to update in the future through some change I hadn't thought of.

Beyond just that, there's also understanding the larger picture - the whole forest vs. trees thing - and understanding not only what you're doing but why you're doing it and the role of banks in the grander scheme of things.

Many summer interns ask me about modeling, pitching, deals, etc. but I wish they would ask me more of the larger questions as well.

1/7/13

..

1/7/13

I think you'll know when you're a great analyst when directors (Ds, EDs, MDs) invite you to things that do not necessarily add direct value to the firm, but helps YOU become an even better analyst as a whole. This typically means things networking meetings, term sheet calls, presentations by your directors, etc., and other meetings and sessions that you don't really belong in as an analyst. This not only shows that your Ds are willing to have facetime with YOU, but also shows that they respect you as a successful investment and that somewhere along the line, they got the idea that you really want to learn the entire picture and to be a great banker for the firm, not just learn to do comps and make pitches all day.

Anyway, I'm still an SA as well so take my comment with a grain of salt. Somebody mentioned that interns who want to understand the big picture and to ask conceptual questions beyong those relating to his direct work are the truly successful ones. Management recognizes these things and, if they like you, I think they'll actually be more than willing to facilitate your development.

1/7/13

i think it's relatively obvious.

a great analyst is amicable enough to get along rather well with most everyone in the office, developing great relationships with a decent group of people along the way. (s)he gets the work done on time, and is there whenver needed. not only is the work done on time, but its also CORRECT. (s)he is willing to help other analysts when needed, but is not a control freak with an inflated sense of self-worth. i think these are the biggest ones. basically, do great work and don't be an asshole and you should be fine. the breakdowns for good and bad analysts just follows from the above; the worse your work and the less friendly/easy to get along with/helpful you are, the lower you will "rank." just my opinon. i'm sure there are tons of little details i left out.

1/7/13
1/7/13
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