Where is the compensation in banking? Is it worth taking a pay cut for the long-term prospects?

Moneykee's picture
Rank: Monkey | banana points 57

I'm a little confused about compensation potential in IB. I always planned on going into the field given how much you learn and the exit ops, but as I research more into the pay I'm starting to wonder if it's worth it. As background, I'm an analyst for a long-only equity shop ($1-3B AUM) right out of college in a very low cost of living city (Midwest). I've determined pay for the average analyst here is around $150ish base and bonus of ~100-250k depending on the fund's performance. So, I figure in a low cost of living state I could make around 300k on average working roughly 50 hour weeks (at most). For reference, first year analyst right out of college I'm expecting about $100k cash comp all in (so clearly the progression is painfully slow here, but the starting number is decent).

I'm reading about what bankers working ~80 hours a week make, and I'm starting to wonder if I'm crazy to leave. My issue is that my current firm probably maxes out around $450k on the absolute best years, and I don't like my potential earnings capped around $400k.

My questions are these:
1) Is banking pay comparable to these figures (maybe not associate level, but longer term)? I've looked at the compensation reports, and it doesn't seem much better than these levels, and I know the cost of living is much higher pretty much anywhere outside of where I live.
2) Would it be a bad career choice to leave my current role to go get an MBA and try to get into Banking? I like the fact that the upside to banking seems much higher if you get into f500 management or maybe PE somewhere rather than knowing I'll get ~400k at the peak of my career in my current role. Yes, it's a nice living, but I don't want to limit myself. Although it'll probably be a pay cut when I enter, I'm thinking banking will improve my long term earnings potential... is that somewhat accurate?

I'd appreciate any thoughts. Also, I'm not going to solely make my decision on money, but I feel I should consider it before I leave a cushy job (if it, in fact, is). One more piece of background: I interned in Big4 audit, so I handled 80+ hour weeks for months at a time, so I'm not super concerned about the lifestyle change in banking. And also I saw partners at that firm make probably over $500k, so I kind of feel like I need to get at least that to make up for leaving.

Thanks!

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Comments (54)

Oct 21, 2017

A super star pm will earn more. Don't be content with being an analyst, go for pm. And if that's not enough, start your own fund. Hire college grad monkeys (like myself) and take in the money.

If my office were any closer to the front, I'd be a doorman instead of a receptionist

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Oct 21, 2017

Wow stay where you are.

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Oct 21, 2017

I'm pretty sure PMs at my firm make no more than 500k on the best years. It's still very good, but I kind of think I might want to end up in c-suite some day. The pay ceiling is much higher, and frankly I think it would be more fun to maybe help actually run a business. But if ~400k is in line with the bulk of IB exit opps maybe its a dumb idea unless I'm above average (probably not the case)

Oct 21, 2017

Y'all hiring?

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Oct 21, 2017

Commenting to follow. Best of luck.

I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol, and wild women. The other half I wasted.

Oct 21, 2017

Rough banking comp scheme (for top BBs and EBs with consistently strong dealflow):

1st year analyst - 85k base, bonus pools range a lot but at most bulges it would be between 40-80k. At some of the elite independent advisory firms you're talking more like 100 and some of them start at 95 base (Evercore, Moelis)

1st year associate - Typically 125 base, bonuses are typically between 100-150 so all-in you're talking mid 200s

VP - Varies more, but bases are usually between 150-250 and bonuses are typically at least 100% of base, so 150-300 and an all-in of between 300-500. There are a few rainmaker VPs who can make more, but it almost never happens with the exception of one who originated/did god's work on a huge fee deal.

MD - All-in comp bottoms at 500. Few make 8 figures though. A lot of successful MDs are in the 2-5m range.

MBA hires come in as associates so you'd be making mid 200s if you went that route. Definitely more upside and more comp for sure. But NY is expensive, you'll work double what you're working now, and you may not like it.

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Oct 22, 2017

Very helpful; thanks for laying that out. I'm willing to accept the lifestyle change if my COL adjusted upside is higher.

Out of curiousity, at what point do firms usually require you to bring in business?

Oct 22, 2017

you start making the transition as a VP and are definitely expected as a Director.

Oct 22, 2017

daenkbro is right. Below VPs have none of these responsibilities. If you're on a lean team you'll interact with clients every day and you may go to pitches and what not, but the seniors will be responsible for getting clients.

VP is the gateway to big money and responsibility in banking. It's an in between role. You'll be helping run the processess for juniors and doing some of that work, but you'll also be expected to do a ton of client facing, and most of the time, you'll be expected to help land clients if not do it yourself. Many people get stuck at VP for long periods of time because they can't effectively do this and can't effectively play office politics. If you make it out of VP, you usually do so quickly, and if you do then almost every Director (many firms don't have these or many) and every MD will be expected to contribute to the process of winning mandates. However, at some very top-heavy firms, you'll not be on your own here for a while. I've seen a lot of client pitches get at least a junior MD as well as a more senior one.

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Oct 23, 2017

Very helpful. Is there a way to figure out if you'll be good at this or do you just hope for the best and cross that bridge when you get there?

Oct 24, 2017

Inaccurate numbers. 1st year associates are 150k base, VP typically start at 250k base, no MD in any respectable IB will make 500k all-in as base alone is 500-600k.

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Oct 24, 2017
alreadyrich:

Inaccurate numbers. 1st year associates are 150k base, VP typically start at 250k base, no MD in any respectable IB will make 500k all-in as base alone is 500-600k.

Incorrect. Base salary for MD is generally 400k.

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Oct 24, 2017

I'd just chime in, @Moneykee, that the above posters are probably talking about bulge/elite boutique (just my guess). Many boutiques will have an "eat what you kill" policy for senior bankers - so you'll keep a very significant portion of the fees you bring in. That is, there is no bottom base and the sky is the limit.

In my opinion, you are already off to a great career. Do you enjoy the investment research? Making that kind of money on a 50-hour work week is fantastic. IB can be a real sweat shop with stress/frustration/etc - probably more so than in Asset Management. To each their own, but I think you're in the better position now. You're probably saving more right now as well and are probably being trained to make better investments (if you are permitted to make your own investments). Maybe you would make more than the average banker with your job income + investment income? Just my two cents..

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Oct 24, 2017

Interesting to hear about the MM's, since I'd probably want to end up there if I were to stay in banking long term.

It certainly can be interesting, but sometimes I worry I'll just get bored since there isn't really anything to work towards. We can make personal investments, but it's a bit of a pain with all the paperwork we have to do, so I don't do a lot. I clearly need to give this a little more thought.

Oct 24, 2017

"If there isn't really anything to work towards" - this confuses me a little, because there is definitely a hierarchy in your company or industry, right? Same as banking. As someone else said, you could always start your own firm once you build upon your experience and build your network. And, as another stated, maybe you just need more outside hobbies? Learn guitar or another language or something - life isn't all about work. Having some hobbies where you can work toward something might fulfill your need there.

    • 2
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Oct 22, 2017

I would encourage you to choose what you think you would enjoy doing. I genuinely believe that the money in banking is a red herring, which attracts the best and brightest into the industry. But the reality is that most people don't achieve it and either voluntarily or involuntarily drop out before making MD. For most of them (many of my ex-colleagues), it wasn't at all a matter of will, intellect, or skill. It was because many realized that the money is not worth all of the sacrifices that they would continue to make, especially as they all got older and started families, etc. The people who do make it to MD are the people who genuinely enjoy being a banker, whether it's the money, the prestige, the thrill of doing deals, etc. So that's just something to think about.

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Oct 23, 2017

That's definitely a good thought. Part of my thinking is the concern that I might get bored in equity research, but I suppose that could happen in any job. I also don't ever want to feel like I'm stopping to learn/grow as a person, and if there is continual opportunity for advancement in IB, it makes me think there will always be a new challenge (or a new industry to try to get into and tackle, like PE or even f500). Though perhaps I'm wrong in that thinking too.. Asset Management feels like the growth really slows down quickly though and it get repetitive.

Oct 24, 2017

IB gets repetitive as well. Sure, there is always something new to learn, but the majority of tasks are repeated as well. The bulk of learning, in my opinion, is from a new industry/company, etc., which you could just as easily pick up in equity research.

You can also get into corp dev from an ER background. ER guys know industries well.

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Oct 24, 2017

I suppose most jobs are repetitive after awhile. From what I have heard around here is exit ops are really only HF or another AM firm. Can you get into corp dev from buyside ER? (Again, not sure I'd want to, but I like the option at some point)

Oct 24, 2017

I've met people who have made it into CorpDev and into PE from ER.

I'm not speaking from experience here, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but you'll know industries well if you cover it, you'll have significant experience in valuations and modeling - probably the big area that you won't have as opposed to banking is the execution experience, but there is a chance you could start under or alongside someone (other corpdev director, board member, or legal counsel, etc.) who does have that experience and you can pick it up.

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Oct 24, 2017

lol if you went and got an mba, you'd be making way less than you are now for prob 8 years? Idk how long it takes to go from post mba associate to MD generally

Oct 24, 2017

if you are cool with the midwest...I would stay where you are.

Best Response
Oct 24, 2017

If I was you, I would stop worrying about banking period and sit down and re-evaluate your whole life....

If you don't think that you can be happy with $400K per year working 50 hours per week, you really need to sort out what's wrong with you on the inside that makes you feel that way. And look, I'm not against being ambitious, but saying that I won't be happy unless I hit $X dollar amount just sounds really unhealthy.

Go hiking, read some good books, read some spiritual texts, whatever it is that you need to do, but I would get my mind right and my priorities straight before I made any decision on banking versus Asset Management etc.

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Oct 24, 2017

+SB'd at $400k you're making 8x the median American income and you don't want to be limited by that? It sounds like Gmonster is right, you need to reevaluate your life, man.

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Oct 30, 2017

+SB

If you live in a lower cost of living area (relative to NY/LA/DC) and can reach ~250K in a few years and then onto 400K after why would you do anything? Gmonster could not be more accurate. I think you are missing out on the point of life. With 200K+ in a low cost of living area, you actually have the opportunity to vacation. That word is foreign on this website but it's this thing you do when you want to go somewhere and just do whatever you feel like doing..

On a serious note if you can get 400K+ and are complaining about it @ 50 hours a week then I am beyond jealous, and you are beyond needing help.. (No offense I am sure you are actually a pretty cool normal person)

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Oct 24, 2017

I spent most of my weekend reflecting on this, and what I came up with is the 'long term compensation potential' is really a proxy for long term excitement and opportunities to grow/learn/try new things. I think I will get bored in Asset Management and need to always be striving for new goals to accomplish, which after PM don't really exist in AM other than just getting good performance. I also realize if I meet a wife and decide to have kids soon, my current role will be perfect for that, and that's okay too. But in leu of that outcome, I don't want to 'settle down' yet and need new goals to strive for.

Then again, you all might think I'm full of it, but I truly do appreciate the input and thoughts, nonetheless. I do consider myself a spiritual person and am committed to my family, and when I travel I like to go to more developing countries to get a better sense of the reality for others to better appreciate what I have.

Oct 24, 2017

You're making a huge mistake, but whatever. If you want the chance to have a family, travel, be spiritual, and pursue hobbies, you won't switch into banking.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
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Oct 24, 2017

For someone who is a long-only analyst you are kind of thinking short-term and small picture. Short-term because although bankers might be making more within the first 3-5 year time frame, AM have significantly more upside down the road, especially with carry. Small picture because AM is the end game for a reason my friend - it has the highest upside in finance. You see any bankers make billions (that's with a B) in one day?

My advice: You need to switch firms once you have gained enough experience (1-2 years). Other firms will have higher 'caps'.

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Oct 24, 2017

Why do you think that you are capped at "only" $500k/year in Asset Management because that's what the top guys at your current firm make? Do you know who has done ok in AM? Warren Buffet. I would view him as the ceiling to your potential earnings if you are shooting for the stars.

Starting over in banking from where you are now seems like way too big of a risk. How do you know that you will even like it? People leave banking to get into AM. Also, making $500k/year in a low COL area is incredibly good and will provide you with the option to do almost anything that you want.

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Oct 24, 2017

I think the issue is that the more I think about it, the more I realize I'm bored. Since passing Level III this summer, I haven't had anything major that I'm working toward (other than just doing well at work), and it's kind of killed my motivation in all aspects of life. Obviously this is a personality issue I need to work through, but IB is attractive to me seeing as there are more other option I could pursue (to keep me striving to new goals/learning).

Am I wrong in my thinking that banking might be more exciting than long-only equity analysis? I'm also thinking it might give me more chances to eventually go into f500 (maybe a corp dev role) or something else like PE if I want to (whereas current role seems like it only really has one option -PM- which I'm not sure I'll enjoy).

Whitebeard, I was actually thinking the opposite: that it may be a short term pay cut (and a bunch of MBA debt) for longer term earnings/career development potential. But maybe that's the wrong way to think of it?

TechBanking, You're right that as far as compensation cap goes, I'm not considering outside my current firm. I completely agree with that opinion, though given the nature of my firm, I'm not confident I could lateral to another firm without a bit more pedigree. Either way it's more a buyside vs IB for me at this point.

Worst case, I assume if I hate IB after this 'experiment' I could probably get rehired in the buyside.

Oct 24, 2017
Moneykee:

I think the issue is that the more I think about it, the more I realize I'm bored. Since passing Level III this summer, I haven't had anything major that I'm working toward (other than just doing well at work), and it's kind of killed my motivation in all aspects of life. Obviously this is a personality issue I need to work through, but IB is attractive to me seeing as there are more other option I could pursue (to keep me striving to new goals/learning).

Am I wrong in my thinking that banking might be more exciting than long-only equity analysis? I'm also thinking it might give me more chances to eventually go into f500 (maybe a corp dev role) or something else like PE if I want to (whereas current role seems like it only really has one option -PM- which I'm not sure I'll enjoy).

Whitebeard, I was actually thinking the opposite: that it may be a short term pay cut (and a bunch of MBA debt) for longer term earnings/career development potential. But maybe that's the wrong way to think of it?

TechBanking, You're right that as far as compensation cap goes, I'm not considering outside my current firm. I completely agree with that opinion, though given the nature of my firm, I'm not confident I could lateral to another firm without a bit more pedigree. Either way it's more a buyside vs IB for me at this point.

Worst case, I assume if I hate IB after this 'experiment' I could probably get rehired in the buyside.

Yes, you are wrong that banking would be more exciting. If you want more 'excitement' move to a hedge fund. It would be a sensible move from long only AM.

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Oct 24, 2017

Fair enough. Given the no name nature of my firm, lack of pedigree (extreme non-target), and lack of experience, is there really a reasonable chance I could make that jump without either a target MBA, experience at a bigger name firm, or both?

Oct 24, 2017

If the pay potential is so good where you are, I struggle to believe it's a 'no name' place. What is AUM at your current firm?

Oct 24, 2017

$1-3B. It sounds like my expectations were just a little out of sync with reality regarding what (average/non-superstars) make in finance. If my expectations about comp for the more senior members of my team are correct, then maybe I should be a little more content for awhile.

Oct 24, 2017

Yes, you are wrong that banking would be more exciting. Really difficult to move back to buyside afterwards, maybe impossible, and it will waste time and money in the interim.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
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Oct 24, 2017

I'm at a MM in the Midwest. Let's switch jobs.

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Oct 24, 2017

It's not just the money. Post-college banking at a top BB or EB opens so many doors and sets you up for so many opportunities afterwards. Banking has become the de facto requirement for most cool lucrative jobs in finance.

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Oct 24, 2017

That was kind of my understanding too (and reasoning for considering making the jump), but the previous comments would suggest either I'm wrong or it's just not worth leaving what I have.

Oct 24, 2017

Banking exit opps (the cool lucrative jobs I assume @Rufus1234" is referring to) are Corp Dev,
AM, HF, and PE. You are already in AM, an AM research analyst is more qualified to move to a HF than an IB analyst.... that just leaves PE. You would basically be signing up for garbage hours in a high CoL area in order to move to PE, which this board says is extremely difficult to exit to as an IB associate. This is classic "the grass is greener" mentality. If you quit go ahead and PM me the name of your firm so I can apply. Congrats on finishing level III.

p.s. I forgot Corp Dev, it is even less lucrative than banking and people exit there to get out of the banking lifestyle that you seem to want to jump into

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Oct 24, 2017

Interesting, It seems like I see a lot of people on this site talking about exiting IB to HF.

Deep down I know this is 'grass is greener' situation, but I think I need to hear all you who know more about the industry tell me and set me straight in my thinking.

Out of curiousity, if you can't break into PE from IB, where do they come from? Or is it that you can only exit as an analyst?

Oct 24, 2017

If you perform at a top bank, you can exit to literally anything. You're not wrong in assuming that it might be difficult to end up at a large HF or PE megafund coming from a small regional AM firm. And yes, a top IB junior can get those exits much more easily with the experience and the name brand of a top bank atop their resume. However, if you move to IB, those exit opportunities only exist for a select few who make it to a top bank in a good group, and then perform at or near the top of their class.

I think the crucial variable most people here seem to omitting vis a vis IB exits is how good at the job you'll be. If you can get a top firm and you can kill it, nothing is out of reach. However, not sure how likely that is. Given your background and hesitancy about banking, seems unlikely to me. Just be honest with yourself and try to come up with a reasonable approximation of your banking skillset before you make any assumptions about exits.

My take:

I get that you're bored and thinking about your long-term options and life trajectory, but:

Do you want a comfortable, low-stress, low-risk existence in your low CoL city? If yes, stay where you are.

Or do you want to sign yourself up for high-stakes poker, sweatshop hours, and a fuckton of stress in New York grinding it out in banking? Do you want the big-lights, bright city, and are you willing to bet some of your short-term happiness on the chance that you'll be able to excel in one of the most competitive and cutthroat jobs in the world? If the answer isn't 100% yes to either, stay in AM and consider moving to a bigger firm with more upside and more going on.

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Oct 25, 2017

I really appreciate your thoughts here.

Not to be cocky or anything, but my judgement is clouded, because for my entire life I kind of have been the best and the top of my class in everything (example: I had one of the best matrixes on analyst forum for level 3 this year), but I really don't mean that in a braggy way; I know IB is some of the best of the best, and it takes more than work ethic and luck to succeed (and I've grown up around admittedly probably pretty average people, not ivy league graduates). I like to think I could figure out how to be successful in banking, but I really have no idea until I try it if I'm cut out for it or not.

At the same time, I'm not sure if I do want a low-stress life; I'm a bit of a type A that feeds off stress and 'not happy unless i'm miserable' type person. Either way, it's certainly a lot to consider before making a rash decision, and I appreciate how well you laid out the choices and exit opps.

Oct 24, 2017

99.9% of the time is only as an analyst. The IB Associate exit opps, even from EB/BB, are to like lower MM PE funds, that will pay you less than your opportunity cost to take on 1000% more compensation risk.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
Oct 25, 2017

Are lower MM funds that risky?

Oct 24, 2017

I am a little confused about your current age and salary. Can you clarify?

I think most ppl are under the impression that you have a few years of experience and already making 300k+. Rereading the OP makes me think you might be fresh out of undergrad and making closer to 100k all in.

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Oct 25, 2017

That's probably a good thing to clarify. You are correct; I'm currently a first year analyst expecting about $100k all in ($60-70k base). My best estimate is that the $150 base/$300k all in figures I'm looking at won't come for ~12 more years. My rough estimate doesn't have me hitting $100k base for another 7ish years.

I think it's been lost in the post at this point, but the opportunity cost of leaving in a few years isn't anywhere near $300k, it's much lower around $100-150k. I'm not sure if it would change anyone's views, but it certainly means those $400k best case estimates need to be discounted back quite a few years.

Oct 25, 2017

Most of this thread is irrelevant then because everyone assumes you will be making ~300k in your mid to late 20s.

If I were in your shoes, I would focus entirely on killing it at my job for my first two years. Who knows maybe your firm doesn't think you have what it takes to move up into the ~300k range? Or maybe you crush it and move up faster?

Keep B-School in the back of your mind. If after two years the work sucks and the money isnt as good as you are projecting, put yourself in a position to go to school with 3-5 years of experience while deciding if banking is the route you want. A few years working will definitely change your disposition and thought process so you may decide you want to do consulting or corporate etc which a top MBA can help with.

You may also come across some sweet gig you can lateral to by networking with a bunch of people.

IMO its good to think about what to do down the road but you are way too detailed given you have almost zero experience. I know in my first year working I just tried to not fuck anything up too bad and it wasnt until my second year I felt I was actually learning and contributing at a high level. Then I was able to decide what I wanted my next career steps to be. I think you are getting a little ahead of yourself.

Oct 25, 2017

The problem you have is one of self-mastery. Some people call this 'internal regulation' versus 'external regulation'. Psychologically, this is termed 'self-determination theory'.

Everything you write screams loudly an external locus of control. You're concerned about the outcome and the reward, so of all the branches of extrinsic motivation, you're the most extreme: 'externally regulated behavior'.

Giving advice based on who you seem to be and everything you've said so far, I'd say a move to banking is a major career mistake.

First, your projected earnings of $300k a year are dramatically better than what a banking analyst is going to get in either of his first two years. Same goes for those in their third or fourth year out of school in their first PE role but not on the elite route (MF or strong upper MM).

Even further, your low-COL geography makes this point doubly strong. You are right now effectively taking home what people five or six years out of school hope to.

Third, you're working 50 hours a week, not 90. On a time-adjusted basis you're absolutely killing it.

Fourth, you don't have to get an MBA. That would be an $850k ticket for you (two years of foregone income of $300k, $250k in loan value). Dodging this cost is huge.

Separate from all that, let's go back to where we started. You will be a much happier person when you start asking yourself what brings you fulfillment, not where your best earning potential lies.

When people say "Find something you love and you'll never work a day in your life," or "It's not work if you love what you're doing," or "If you make your passion your work you'll end up way wealthier than working an average job," the paragraph of Terms & Conditions they're omitting is the hugely important thing that [after years of reflection and self-study on what you love, where your abilities lie, and what your lifelong areas for growth will be, you now know what makes you get out of bed in the morning and are now willing to dedicate your waking hours to that thing].

You seem to genuinely like stock-picking, at least as evidenced by your lack of a single negative comment about the work you actually do. Maybe that's not your thing. Maybe it is. Regardless, I suggest you find out where the intersection of your interest and ability is and then optimize your life around that.

If for now you're able to mentally commit to equity analysis being better work for who you are than banking, you need to figure out how to improve your career prospects as an equity analyst.

This means work as hard as you can in your current role to get promoted to senior analyst or PM (whatever title they offer there). If there isn't a clear promotion opportunity, find a way to lateral. There is literally always a bigger firm with more money to spend. Performance lets you claim more of the pie.

I met a guy two years ago who is now the CEO of a long-only shop in a Southwestern city with over a billion in AUM. It is a lean team, and off of management fee income alone this guy is printing seven figures in annual comp before we even talk about performance income. He was not the founder, just grew in the business over more than a decade.

If you're okay with not being in New York (and there's a strong case to be made for that to be a better lifestyle when you're out of your 20s), the formula of high comp, low taxes, low COL, clean air, and easy hours is really hard to beat.

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Oct 25, 2017

Wish I could give this more than one SB. Excellent advice all around, and as a non-NYC finance person I agree.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
Oct 30, 2017

Don't worry I SB'd him too.

Oct 25, 2017

Apparently people are not reading that he won't be making 300K all in for 12 years. Regardless, your opportunity cost is already too high for B-school, especially if you can't do H/W/S.

However, I think you're being a little short sighted on your estimates for the high end salaries on the buy-side, even in smaller long only shops, but especially in larger long only shops. I started my career at a long only shop running over $100B, and we had 20+ PMs all making $2-5M - remember 75 bps with no carry doesn't sound sexy, but on a $5B fund that's $37.5M/year run by a max of 6 people plus back office. Plenty of analysts making mid 6 figures as well. If you have the ability to work into a larger shop, you could go for that.

In addition, staying at a small shop can give you good insights into the entire workings of an AM firm, which could enable you to start your own firm one day. My guess is your firm has 2-4 partners, each of which are making 7 figures. This is the goal of basically everyone I know in the long only AM business, especially those not already at giant shops.

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Oct 25, 2017

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