What's Your Five Year (IBD) Plan? A VP Reflects and Looks Forward.

I don't approve of this as an interview question, but it is something that everyone should try to think about. When I was an MBA candidate, it was more about just getting my foot in the door. I was lucky enough to get into a good bank as an IBD Associate.

The first few years were focused on just getting transaction experience: learning to block and tackle and just trying to stay afloat. I would like to think that if someone asked me that question and I was being honest (not just giving a "recruiting" answer) I would have answered: "In five years, I want to develop in this career, build a strong skill set and eventually become a well established VP."


No one wants to be a "junior" banker and the VP role is where people stop calling you that. We put up with being an Analyst or Associate for good exit ops: whether that is outside of IBD or "exiting" to more senior levels. IBD is a marathon and the first few years was just that: Not about winning Olympic gold, but more about just getting to the finish.

But now as a VP, the game has changed. Rather than just grinding in the office, you are now officially in the middle: senior enough that you need to start thinking about relationships, but junior enough you have to make sure the work still gets done (well). This is also when you get a hunting license: time to go out and start getting deals. While you don't have revenue responsibility yet, it's clear your expectations are more than putting together materials: you need to start sourcing the meetings, generating ideas and originating business.

Looking Forward

Time to recalibrate: So now as an established VP, what's the new five year plan looking forward? Well, to be honest, I'm looking at MD. I want to be in a position where I have good solid relationships with my clients, am able to translate my Associate/VP years of grinding analysis into useful advice for clients: "Oh yeah, I've seen a similar scenario before, this is what you should consider / this would be really helpful and insightful for you."

My business card has the name of a good firm on it, and I'll be leveraging existing knowledge and relationships built on previous deal experiences to try to be valuable to my clients.

See you out there. Happy hunting.

Comments (7)

Aug 19, 2016

Very helpful post and great to hear your perspective. Could you maybe comment a bit on some considerations around EB vs BB at the VP and above levels? I know there are older threads but there's been conflicting thoughts around where is best to build your career. There are also product groups at BBs where relationship management isn't as important

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Best Response
Aug 19, 2016

To my point about the name on the business card, it feels like if you are a newly minted MD who is looking for white space / green fields (whatever you want to call it) that BB name really matters. If your last name was Taubman, Greenhill, or Moelis etc. or if one of those guys knew you on a first name basis, you were probably better off going the EB route (usually more senior MDs).

I think it just goes back to the old adage: "Eat what you kill". If you are comfortable with your ability to win business on your own name / reputation / skill, EBs (and boutiques in general) are usually structured to bring you closer to the fees (for better or worse: the volatility gets multiplied).

It also goes to style: BBs have capital markets platforms and often have more "flow" banking. Maybe you don't hit home runs all the time, but if you consistently get good positions (and economics) on capital markets transactions, the fees add up.

Also, don't sell product groups short. Our product guys are in close contact with clients and are very integrated into our relationships.

This is clearly the biased view of someone at a BB. Anyone with insight or counter points from EB please feel free to contribute. I'll happily give SB's for any insight.

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Aug 20, 2016

What's your plan for covering your market? I suppose I don't have a good understanding of how VPs can start obtaining their own clients because they are either 1) executing on their MD's/Directors clients (and thus the only way you are getting the account is if they retire) or 2) up against well covered public companies by other banks MD's.

In the middle market it makes sense to me because there are just so many companies and rarely is there complete coverage, but from the outside I struggle to see how a VP in a BB can get the attention of a Board/CEO on their own. Is it a matter of meeting the slightly more junior people early on and hoping they become CEO? Any thoughts on this?

Aug 20, 2016

To your points: 1. Execution helps you develop relationships with "junior" people and you are right, part if it is you grow with your clients (today's VP/Director could be tomorrow's CFO). Sometimes its obvious who's being groomed, sometimes not. And they may end up taking a more senior role at another firm and may "take you with them" if they like and trust you.

  1. Also, I think there is a push by banks to keep headcount tight. As a result, the coverage/MD ratio is spiking. This is giving junior guys more opportunities to step up and take leadership roles with clients (a double edged sword).

To your MM point, a MM area is not a bad place for white space for a VP. If a company is high growth or acquisitive, it might not be long before they become sizable. The cautions with this strategy are 1. Small clients must have potential, most firms have minimum deal sizes, and 2. You need to marshal your time well. Even more so than when you were junior, your time becomes incredibly valuable. In the same way as a junior banker it is better to do a good job for a small group than a mediocre job for everyone so is it more so for VP+.

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Aug 22, 2016

Interesting Thread. Thanks for doing this.

Aug 23, 2016

A valuable post to ponder upon. Thanks for sharing!!

Aug 26, 2016
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