If you’ve left university and achieved a job at a top investment bank, you obviously know how to jump through hoops. You clearly got some good grades, went to some kind of big university, did all the right things. You probably feel like you’re special. But what if you’re not? What if you’re just an over-confident Millennial who’s passing through?
I don’t want to burst your bubble, but if you’re an analyst in an investment bank, you’re cannon-fodder. You’re there to do the crappy jobs that will soon be automated away anyway. Sure, they’ll tell you you’re special, you’re the future etc. But open your eyes: they’ll bring in a whole new set of people just like you in a year’s time. By that point around 33% of your class will probably have left – voluntarily or otherwise.
Feeling less confident yet? Good. Because there’s nothing worse than a first year analyst who’s full of it. If that’s you, you’re a huge accident waiting to happen.
If you’re going to get ahead in this industry, you need to spend your years as a baby banker being detail-oriented, totally reliable and totally committed. You don’t know anything: you need to be ready to learn about this industry. You need to be professional and you need to be accepting of the fact that to begin with you’re unlikely to see much of the top people whose cost per hour is huge and who don’t expect you to last long anyway.
You need to prove yourself. You can’t come into banking thinking you’re special. You’re not: you’re as replaceable as they come.
Survival is all about patience and diligence. The big bankers will only start giving you better work when they start trusting you. – When they can see that you’ve been involved in transactions and haven’t made mistakes. You want big money and big responsibility? You’re going have to work your ass up the ladder.
Maybe you didn’t expect this? Maybe you thought you’d get to see some clients sooner. Think for a moment though: why would a junior like you be unleashed on a client who’s paying $10m in fees? The risk is too big. Clients aren’t there for you to practice on.
So, learn some humility. Learn how to work efficiently under incredibly stressed conditions. Learn everything you can about financial modelling and Excel. Become an expert in fault-free pitch-books. If you’re in capital markets, learn about financial instruments and funding vehicles – how do they work, when are they used?
Most of all, and for all banks’ talk about giving juniors time off, accept that a client might call on a Saturday morning asking for a $1bn deal to be executed on the Monday open. You want to work 40 hours a week? Clients don’t care about your working hours. They pay. They want it and they need it. Forget your holidays; forget your weekend. That deal will make the bank $$$$ – and you too. And if you’re not totally reliable when a top client needs the bank? Then you are history – you just don’t know it yet.
Philippe Ersatz is the pseudonym of a senior equity capital markets banker, now retired