The Insider: Making it as an associate

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Promoted from analyst to associate this year? Our resident banking insider and author, Hugh Karseras, offers some pointers on how to get ahead in your new position.

I'm in the fortunate (or not) position of having two director-level friends who manage the analyst and associate pools at different investment banks. I asked them what it takes to progress as a newly appointed associate - and guess what? They came up with identical answers.

According to my buddies, being a good associate is all down to coaching and managing analysts. The message is clear: you may have just graduated from being an analyst and you may have been worked to death by a whip-cracking associate in the process, but now that you're an associate yourself, if you treat your analysts like dirt, and spend little time with them, it will hurt you. Look after them, help them and they will make you look good.

An example from my own career shows what can happen when an associate gets it right. In my first three months as an analyst, I had to run a comp analysis of European companies to present to an MD at 9am the next morning. 11pm rolled by and I had finished, or so I thought. I showed my analysis to an associate (I got that much right) and he pointed out error after error after error - embarrassing errors that I could not even explain. At 1am, with his help, I got there, and when I sat down in the morning the analysis was flawless, and all those odd-looking numbers that the MD points to and asks "Is that right?" I was able to explain. That associate saved my bacon and I can tell you he had my loyalty for as long as he wanted it.

Smart associates realise that by taking the time to help struggling analysts, they are also helping themselves. From a practical perspective, by coaching me on the comps, the associate I worked with was able to hand off his own comps and other work to me going forwards with confidence that I'd do a decent job - he gained leverage. Had he been unhelpful, I would have looked bad and would probably still be weak at comps. He would not have felt confident to leverage me, I would not have felt so inclined to help, and we would both have been worse off.

So the one lesson for aspiring associates is, even if it seems the norm for associates to treat analysts badly, having your turn when you become an associate - while mildly, if somewhat sadistically, satisfying - is just not the way to go. If you can manage and train the analysts properly, if you can leverage them and keep them happy, then you'll you be effective in your new role. If not - well, you have been warned.

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