Working at a non elite botique
I have been working at a small, under 50 person boutique. Industry specific and typical LMM - MM deal size. Here are my true thoughts and comparisons to friends working at/ EB banks:
- Lifestyle: I work, maximum, 75 hours a week. Typically I'm in the office from 8:30 - 6:30. Everyone knows what large bank hours are like. Now, this probably isn't truce across the board, though in my experience most of the "no name" banks tend to have better hours. We simply turn down deals in order to provide good w/l balance for the team. No EB or BB is doing that. Basically no weekend work either.
- Compensation: More emphasis on bonus, meaning good years are above street and bad years are below street. Analyst 1: A bad year comp would be around 100-120k. Good year like this year probably expect 150-170k. So, wider range of comp compared to BB. Still less than many EB, but on an hourly rate we are much better. All other benefits (health, 401k, etc.) are equal.
- Culture: We have a much more relaxed culture. Drinks after work, co-workers are legit friends outside of work. Really tight group, plenty of nice dinners and drinks after work and on weekends. No one I know at other banks is much more than working acquittances. The guys I work with all came from 2nd and 3rd tier schools, had to grind for what they got, or came from non IB/PE backgrounds. i think that makes them much more enjoyable than a lot of the spoiled kids at other banks. I went to a semi-target and they all joke that I'm the "smart guy".
- Exit ops: Basically everyone at my bank who wants to go to a decent PE has to lateral to a MM first. Exit ops are not non-existent, I've gotten a handful of corp dev and VC reach out. But not comparable to what my friends are / will be seeing.
- Basic role: I probably work on a wider range of work than analysts at large banks. I have already been communicating with clients directly, I basically run building pitches, CIMs, and valuations. That being said, the finance work is a lot less complex and it feels more like a sales job than a finance job (which it is at the end of the day). I am fine with this as like I said I'm in IB for the long haul. So, if you are more interested in the sales aspect of IB than the finance modeling aspect, a boutique might be preferable. As a disclaimer, we have much more problems with organized databases and stuff for putting this work together than those at other banks. We simply do not have the back and middle office availability to keep that stuff organized which can lead to frustration trying to find basic info for slides, though being in the office makes that much easier as we can just ask people where they saved stuff.
This is just my personal experience compared to who I know at other banks. Every bank and group is different, but I graduated with the least "prestigious" IB gig out of school. Now, multiple friends at big name banks are in awe of my work life balance, compensation, and laid back culture. To be honest, I'm in IB for the long haul so exit ops are not particularly important to me. If that sounds like you, seriously consider smaller, "no name" boutiques with an industry focus / unique differentiator. I think people overlook these banks but they can have plenty to offer from an experience and lifestyle perspective even if they lack some of the exit ops and prestige of other banks.