An investment bank’s analyst program is a prestigious first step towards a promising career. If you're fortunate enough to achieve place, you'll find a deep pool of talent, with generally three personalities circling the waters: the ones who got the job, the ones given the job, and the ones who “acquired” the job.
The ones who got it, took it; it was never anybody else’s. Graduating top of their class, they sat polished and poised throughout the entire interview process. Often handpicked, it was them interviewing the bank. These talented individuals posses a single-mindedness for hard work that gets them ahead, largely because they never cut corners. They figure it out. They do things right. From day one, they avoid peers with poor attitudes, leading by example.
In meetings, the ones who got it may not ask the first question—but when they do ask a question, it's always the right one. Confident in their abilities, they give credit to colleagues whenever it’s due. They pull others up with them—creating strong loyalties, instead of stealing the short-game glory. They admit what they don’t know. Then they learn it, explaining it simply to clients afterwards. If you want to work with anyone, you want to work with one of these.
The analysts given the job secured the interview from a relative or family friend. They landed it because they were good, without needing to be the best. Nepotism isn’t always a bad thing. It’s just people helping people, and we hopefully all do this in different ways. What's more important is how that candidate treats it. Do they abuse the privilege? Or do they work even harder? Some in this category stay smug—knowing they can get by on bare minimums, and sharp suits. But the good ones work twice as hard to repay the favor, often volunteering for the toughest assignments. They have something to prove, and not just to themselves. The bad ones settle into an easy existence, rarely raising their hand for extra work; still expecting promotions. Watch out for this poisonous gossipy type, luring fresh minds towards negativity. They get ahead by pulling others back. They’ll take credit for other people’s work—if it’s good. If bad, they point a finger.
The ones who acquired the job see a stepping stone. They were either the bank’s second choice, or vice versa. If they didn’t get their top pick, rest assured they’ll gun for it again after their first promotion. This analyst becomes an assassin—doing clean, fine work in order to leap from company to company without any emotion. They'll do whatever it takes to win. They’re not there to make friends, nor lead teams. They have a job, and they’ll do it well. But don’t expect them to go above and beyond. Or stick around after bonuses.
Banking is a tough scene, and fiercely competitive at times. But it allows for greatness. Be a brand. Decide what you want to be about, and execute it without excuses. Analyst programs are full of robust individuals—just make sure you scope the right ones out.
Mark Romeo is a former prime brokerage professional who’s worked in New York and London.