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How to stay (or at least look) busy

What do you do when there’s nothing to do, but you need to a) retain your bonus and b) keep your job?

Reuters last week reported that (shock, horror) M&A bankers have actually begun leaving work at 5.30pm, attending social events, and putting their children to bed. M&A types’ presence in the home is probably a pretty good lead indicator of market activity – the Financial Times today quotes Dealogic data suggesting global M&A dropped 42% in the third quarter.

If M&A types can leave the office at 5.30pm, leveraged financiers and structured credit salespeople and structurers might as well not bother coming in at all. Sadly this isn’t an option – unless you plan to quit.

Here are a few constructive suggestions for what you could be getting on with instead:

Internal presentations

External clients staying at home? Try publicising yourself internally instead. “2007 is all about keeping a job,” says an associate in structured credit. “This is a sink-or-swim industry and you need to be self-motivated. I am spending an awful lot of time on internal presentations, running numbers for senior management to tell them what’s going on and how we see our business going forward – basically, justifying my existence.”

Sniffing out opportunities

While there aren’t many (any) live deals to work on, an associate in M&A who survived the downturn of 2002-03 says it’s a good idea to do a bit of housework and revisit opportunities that were neglected back in the day when no one had time to sleep, let alone think about that little pharmaceutical company in Belarus that was looking for a partner. “Use the time wisely – you’re going to be at your desk anyway, so you might as well do something,” he says.

Opening files on your computer

Even if you’re not doing anything useful, it will help to pretend. “Most people have one or two Excel and Powerpoint files open all the time,” says an associate at another house. “If a senior guy walks past, it looks like you’re doing something.”

Comments (6)

Comments
  1. If you have extensive experience of structured credit products, have the scar tissue to prove the risks of structured products and have a passion for teaching others what you know, do drop me a line. While there may be a lull in the market, credit risk transfer as a financial tool is here to stay. We are in it for the long run and financial training works well countercyclically.

    chiara rustici Reply
     
  2. Looking busy is not difficult for the legions of lazy office jockeys who may be facing an uncertain future. They should’ve equipped themselves with transferable skills. We’re due for a good ‘clean-out’.

  3. I’m in a top5 real estate team in Europe and the bank is actively adding new guys in the team. In the last 2 months it has added 6 with 3-12 years experience. The senior managemnet is seeing it as a correction rather than a recession and it’s good also given that margins will be healthy again for the banks. As the yields are moving upwards in property market the newly appointed MD is seeing it as an opportunity to invest in property.

    Though I hear all gloom around, internally in the banking sector I hear more optismistic sounds at top level.

    Real Estate Structured Finance Reply
     
  4. Doesn’t this bring into question the entire Investment Banking culture, where work required is unnecessarily expanded to fill as many hours per day as possible, to propagate a variety of delusions?

    Don’t get me wrong, I work in M&A myself, but I sleep well.

  5. If anyone has friends that work in the public sector, ask them how their coleagues get away with it. You’ll be mightly impressed at the lengths and ingenuity required to make doing sweet nothing appear like you are doing next to nothing.

  6. I work in leverage finance in HK, and over the past few weeks, headhunters are calling me for leverage finance positions in London, I am quite surprised given the current market situation.

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