Many young undergraduates harbour dreams of becoming an investment banker when they finish university, but few know what the job entails, except that it pays a lot of money and the words “investment banking” sound sexy and cool.
Those who know the reality have probably done an internship in the sector, be it in ECM, DCM or M&A. Some of these people have continued to bite the bullet and become full-fledged analysts, but many interns I know have decided that banking is not for them.
So it was with this rather mixed knowledge that I chose to take up contract work in the investment banking division of a bank. I was first alerted to this opportunity by a friend who informed me that the team needed a junior person for a short period. So I sent in my resume, went for an interview, and got the job. I then had to decide whether I should actually take up the offer.
I’ve long heard about the inhumane hours that IB juniors put in, and that alone was enough to make me think twice. Nonetheless, after several consultations with friends and senior finance professionals, I decided to say yes, while still looking for a full-time role.
Well, I can now safely say I’ve been IB, done IB, and I’m not interested to go down that path. More than a month has passed since my first day in the job. In fairness, things could be worse. I go home before 10pm everyday and I get weekends off. Not too bad, considering a fellow analyst in a tier-one bank wrote “finally going home” on his Facebook page at 6am one Saturday morning recently. Scary…I don’t think I could do that.
Did someone say slides?
Work-wise, it’s: PowerPoints, PowerPoints and more PowerPoints. According to a banker friend in Hong Kong, doing slides takes up 80 per cent of the average analyst’s time. So, if you’re good at that, congratulations because you’re a top analyst. That surprised me as I thought I would spend more time building financial models on Excel, but apparently not.
Apart from PowerPoint formatting, a junior is expected to do execution stuff like updating financial statements when earnings season hits, and updating market figures to send to clients and internal capital-markets professionals. And of course we cannot escape the occasional buying of breakfast, lunch and coffee for those higher up the food chain.
Perhaps what surprised me about investment banking is the huge amount of legal work that goes into it. It’s no wonder that many lawyers become bankers later on in their careers. Consider things like defining contract terms, minute nuances in sentence structures in the term sheet – all work of a junior lawyer. Not my kind of thing really; I still prefer numbers and charts.
If you’re a student thinking of what course to take during college, I would recommend law. It’s a professional degree and it gives you tremendous flexibility between law and banking.
Such is the life of an investment banking junior. Not really glamourous, but hey, everybody has to start from the bottom. The good thing is that you get paid a lot by graduate standards and your prospects are tremendous. And doing corporate finance work opens a lot of other doors for you, should you not choose to stay in the sector.