How to handle the useless MBA associate who just joined your team

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How to handle the useless MBA associate who just joined your team

It's that time of year: fresh from one or two years of intensive "management" studies, newly qualified MBA students are joining investment banking teams as first year associates. For junior bankers who've already spent three years as analysts, the new arrivals can seem peculiarly inept: they typically know comparatively little about financial modelling and pitchbooks and yet join on the same pay grade and at same level on the hierarchy as the analysts who've been there years.

Before publicly shaming the new arrivals, though, it's worth considering how thankful they'll be if you actually help them out. Generosity will be remembered. 

Take Bill Keenan, the ex-Deutsche Bank associate best known for the valedictory email he sent in January 2019 when he walked away from his associate job in Deutsche Bank's industrials group. Keenan joined Deutsche Bank in 2016 after completing an MBA at Columbia Business School. Despite his ineptitude, Keenan says people at DB went out of their way to help him. 

"There is a lot of humanity in banking, especially among the younger people," Keenan says. During his first week on the job, he was asked to create a pitchbook for a particularly "difficult and intense" MD. Keenan says that senior analyst, who'd already been there for three years but who was technically more junior than him, could see that he was out of his depth and offered to do the deck for him. "He said, 'Do this one page and I will do the rest and show you what to do,'" says Keenan. "When it came to reviewing my page, I had completely screwed up because I had no idea what I was doing." The MD came across Keenan's page and demanded to know who was responsible for the mistakes. "The kid said he did it," recalls Keenan. "He took a bullet for me. That's humanity and you don't hear about it."

Keenan left DB last year. He's written a book and now works on the 'business side' of Airmail News, a self-styled digital magazine for the 'world citizen.' "It just didn’t get me excited when I was doing it," says Keenan in reference to his time as a banker. "When a deal closed, other people had a sense of pride - they'd be high-fiving and celebrating and talking about it, but I just didn't feel that way about banking. I was almost envious of those who did." 

Keenan says banking careers get better as they mature but that once they get too mature they then worsen again. The optimal level in the banking hierarchy is vice president (VP), he suggests: you have less work to do than an analyst and associate, are less expensive than an executive director, and are under no pressure to bring in business like a managing director.  

Nonetheless, Keenan says that even being an analyst is worthwhile if you're prepared to put the effort in. "You're at the bottom of the pile but you get a lot out of it. As an analyst, you achieve an arsenal of skills from doing all the work. At the time, it seems like the worst role, but in the long run it's probably the most useful banking job of the lot."  

He adds that the hours in banking aren't universally bad ("Yes, there are times you're there all night, but there are also times you'll leave at 7pm") and the work isn't necessarily stressful ("There are moments and extended periods of incredible intensity and panic trying to get work done, but then they ease up and you can come up for a breather.")

Most of all, Keenan says a lot of people in banking are actually very nice. Remember that when you're dealing with the new MBAs.

Photo by Benjamin Rascoe on Unsplash

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available. Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

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