When I worked in M&A, there were two topics that persistently occupied my junior colleague and me during the brief period from 19:15 to 19:35, whilst we quickly ate dinner before getting straight back to work.
[Most of us had spent the past ten hours chained to our desks and had just received the dreaded “desk drop”, whereby the senior banker drops a large pile of marked-up PowerPoint slides on your desk and tells you to finish it all up before you go home, meaning you’ll be there until the small hours.]
Firstly: we used to try to calculate whether we were managing to earn the minimum wage, due to the inhumane number of hours we put in every week. Secondly: we also used to devise cruel and unusual punishments for the most hated VP’s in our teams.
The junior VP is stuck in M&A purgatory: safe from the hell of being an analyst or associate but not quite at the nirvana of being a managing director. Most are therefore a kind of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – nice to the boss, nasty to everyone else.
They’ve been through their very own hazing, years ago, and rather than break the cycle, they would much rather inflict it on further generations of juniors.
Often, young bankers quit because they can’t face dealing with these misanthropic, insecure, mid-level bankers. It takes all the enjoyment - if I can use that term about M&A, out of the job.
With M&A volumes down and cuts possibly coming, banks have a chance to break the cycle: fire the idiots sowing the seeds of so much misery. Ditch the VPs; keep the analysts.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There simply aren't that many mid-ranking bankers with six or seven years' M&A experience. So if you're junior, grin and bear it. Try and find someone pleasant to work with: a good VP can bring some fun into your life; a bad one can make it hell.
The author is a banker who has been there.