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When the MBA managing you is incompetent


Sometime over the next two months, the recently-graduated MBAs who recently joined banks’ associate programs will get into their stride. That may cause problems – especially for the analysts working beneath them.

“The analyst is the associate’s right hand,” says Mark Hatz, a former Goldman Sachs and Perella Weinberg Associate who now coaches people on how to get through banking interviews. “You work together on the presentations. It’s a joint effort.”

The problem is that associates who are straight out of an MBA course don’t necessarily know much about banking beyond what they’ve learned at school and in the induction programme. In some cases, therefore, highly experienced analysts who’ve spent three years working in an actual bank find themselves being told what to do by recent graduates who are out of their depth.

“The real problem is when the new associates don’t have very good modelling skills,” says Heather Katsonga-Woodward, a former Goldman Sachs M&A analyst who’s also turned her hand to helping people get into the industry.  “The associates are supposed to help you with some of the modelling that’s required to put the presentations together, but when they’ve just done an MBA they can lack confidence and be over-reliant on you.

“It’s very frustrating,” she adds. “Analysts can get very irritable. You’ve got all this experience and suddenly you’re being managed by someone above you who doesn’t really know anything.”

One former Morgan Stanley VP, who asked not to be named, says problems with recently-graduated MBAs aren’t always visible to the most junior analysts, who are still learning themselves. However, she suggests they’re usually clear to the VPs above them. “I had a few problems with attitude,” she claims. “Associates would behave as if they were still students – they’d be very passive, or refuse to take responsibility for problems that arose.”

How to resolve the incompetent MBA associate issue 

If you believe your recently-graduated-MBA associate to be substandard, you should work together to get through it, suggests Hatz. “You both need to remain professional, or you’ll get a warning,” he cautions.

Katsonga-Woodward is a bit more forthright. If you think you’re working with an inept associate, she suggests that you complain to your VP, or your MD, or your staffer. But not if you’re just a first year analyst. “Once they’ve mastered the system, analysts can actually have a lot of power,” she claims. “But it usually takes at least two years until you’re in that position.”

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Comments (1)

  1. Ridiculous advice for analysts. It just shows ignorance on what the rol of the Anaylst acutally is. Analysts are hired for their number crunching skills. The profile sought is almost exclusively quantitatively oriented. MBA’s are hired because of their more rounded profiles which the bank will eventually develop into a client facing rol.

    This difference in competencies is exactly why Analysts programs exist! It is 3 to 4 years of hard quantitative labor before the Analysts are shipped out to an MBA, where they seldom return because their skillset and competencies are simply not what is needed higher up the investment banking corporate ladder. (Sometimes, Analysts with more rounded personalities are promoted into Associate positions, but onlly when they demostrate the competency set.)

    An analyst who complains about an Associate’s Excel skills is just showing he does not understand what his rol is in the organization, that he is probably arrogant, and that he is lacking in emotional intelligence. Any VP or MD would black ball an Analyst who came with such a complaint. Proper complaints on Associates should center on their ability to visualize client needs, prioritize workloads, or manage internal relationships. Why? Because those are the competencies that a successful Associate should develop.


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