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The Insider: The whips are coming out

Times are tough, but they are going to get tougher, particularly for junior staff, says Hugh Karseras, author and senior banker.

In case you hadn’t noticed, there has been a torrent of bad news in recent months. Banks’ bonus pools are down and hiring plans for the next year across the Street are being reined in.

One consolation is that it does not, for now, look like we are going to see the kind of across-the-board cuts that we saw in 2001-02. What this means for juniors, in particular, is that you are still relatively safe in your jobs. The question though is: will you be able to handle the pain?

When markets are tough, it is harder to generate revenue. Senior bankers live off their P&L and the pressure for them to find and win mandates and keep their clients happy is enormous: if they don’t get the mandates, or if they mess them up, they are gone along with their once big bonuses.

If you’re a junior, this is bad news. Think you worked hard in 2007? Wait until 2008 gets under way. If senior bankers break out into a canter in an effort to secure revenues, juniors will be whipped into a gallop. Expect more pitches, tighter deadlines, greater scrutiny on quality and process, more temper tantrums over typos and even less hesitation to call you first thing on a Sunday morning to get your hung-over (if you managed to make it out the night before) body back into the office.

To make matters worse, lower hiring rates mean less new blood to pick up the strain – you can expect to carry more of the load until the markets improve.

What can you do? There is no magic bullet – just more of the same, but the game just got tougher.

The old rules apply: you need to get your work done, on time and well, with no excuses, just a broad smile showing that you are loving life, even if you are not. Try and find your air cover, your jungle guide, or your mentor to take you under their wing and provide some protection from the predatory horde of senior bankers.

The silver lining is that if you make it through this cycle, you will truly have earned your spurs, and the credibility that comes with that is invaluable.

Comments (6)

  1. Some excellent survival tips for young bankers at the randombanker blog.No need to cower and be afraid.Chill out.It’s only a job!

  2. Very true. In 2001/02, the dead wood and underperformers were sacked and, given juniors are typically to go first, workload increased immensely. A rough time but one can develop critical skills quickly and accelerate your career when markets pick up again. Obviously, provided you’re up for this …

  3. juniors really should be ok in my opinion. Just that they are very cheap, and especially juniors in IB departments who have little proof that they actually generate money or not for a bank, cuts will come at the upper levels.
    The second to last paragraph applies above always – market condition doesn’t matter

  4. agree with anon, but I’m afraid to confirm that senior bankers are pushing young one to work more hard in this tougher period

  5. whip ’em, i say…and whip ’em hard.

  6. This is typical, any credulous graduate dumb enough to buy the banks’ line about excellence, excitement and work/life balance to join the capital markets deserves every 100 hour week he gets. Honestly, of what interest is compiling endless models and powerpoint presentations for meaningless pitches on your weekends for clients who aren’t going to do any business and senior bankers who simply don’t care about your welfare (“yeah, I want that presentation on Sunday morning cos I’ll read it”) – what kind of sadistic, pointless exercise is this? Hit VP level and then you may be doing some client schmoozing, but is 6-8 years of your youth really worth it? Good luck to all those juniors, maybe look at going to the buyside if you can, at least they’ll make some money in this climate.

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