Working in investment banking isn’t easy. The money may be good but the hours are long, the politics pernicious and the travelling arduous. Time-poor finance professionals end up feeling pulled in different directions, with no time for themselves. “On the Street, you always feel like you are shortchanging someone or something that you care about; your family, your firm, your clients, your health,” says veteran equity researcher Brad Hintz. “There is never enough time to do everything for everyone and everything.”
In the circumstances, most people in the industry have methods of making things run more smoothly. We asked 13 finance professionals, of different ages and ranks, for their advice on dealing with life when you work in the banking industry. Most spoke off the record. Their top 20 tips are below.
1. Get someone to iron your shirts
Ironing your own shirts is out of the question when you work in banking. So is the hassle of asking a spouse to do it. Several of the bankers we spoke to have cleaners who also ironed. Others use laundering services. “My wife hasn’t washed a shirt since 1990,” said one senior equity researcher. “I’ve got dozens and dozens of shirts and I like them nicely laundered and folded. I get them cleaned and they come back folded and in cellophane – like new – which is incredibly easy when you’re travelling a lot.”
Even junior bankers get their shirts laundered, often by providers within the banks themselves. If you don’t want to pay to have your shirts ironed, one junior in debt capital markets (DCM) advised using non-iron shirts: “You just wash them and hang them on the rail.”
2. Use Uber
“Uber has been on the of the big game changers for a lot of people,” says a trader turned hedge fund manager. “Everyone I know uses it to get around and they rave about how easy and cheap it is.”
3. Hire a flat with a concierge
While doormen might be commonplace in New York City, they’re less established in London. However, the DCM banker said a flat with a concierge will make all the difference. “They’ll pick up your dry cleaning for you and and collect all your deliveries.”
4. Hire a concierge
You could also simply hire a concierge company. Alex Cheetle, CEO of concierge service Ten Group, says finance professionals are his biggest customers. “They use us for organizing everything from their travel, to eating out, tickets for events and arranging for plumbers to visit. At Christmas, we’ve purchased, wrapped and couriered presents to finance clients.”
5. Walk to meetings
If you have meetings in the City or in the vicinity of Wall Street, walk between them. “If you have time, walking is good exercise and will give you thinking time,” says Andrew McNally, former head of Berenberg in the UK.
6. Walk to work
Several of the finance professionals we spoke to also advocated living near to work and walking in. “You need to keep it simple,” says the London-based senior equity researcher. “I have a small flat near work and a house in the country.”
“I always chose to live near work so that I didn’t have to commute in,” says ex-Goldman executive director Rahul Parekh. “I walked into work in about 10 minutes and it made a big difference to me. When you’re working long hours, the last thing you want to do is to commute for an hour or so.”
7. Drive to work alone, playing loud music
If you do have to commute in, you could try driving and listening to music on your in-car sound system. One MD in high yield said he always starts his day this way.
8. Get yourself a partner who works in finance, or someone who understands
“You need to be with someone who can appreciate where you’re coming from,” says the DCM banker. “They need to understand your lifestyle and your limitations, otherwise you’ll end up having some difficult issues.”
9. Get yourself a non-working spouse
As you become more senior, it can help to have a spouse who’s at home. “There’s no doubt that having a non-working spouse has been a benefit,” says the senior equity researcher. “She was always there for our daughter – although after 10 years of it she was a bit bored. She’s now created a life for herself raising money for charity.”
10. Give up on relationships while you’re a junior
“As a Wall Street professional, it’s difficult keeping a house plant alive, much less a personal relationship,” says Brad Hintz.
“You can keep a relationship going if you’re working 60-70 hours a week,” says one ex-M&A junior. “But if you’re in a group that’s working 80-90 hours a week, there’s no time for anything.”
11. Travel to your country home by train, alone
Once you’ve made enough to have two homes and to visit your country place at weekends, travel becomes an issue. Avoid driving, advises the equity researcher. “I get the train on a Friday evening and relax with a G&T or a half bottle of wine. My preferred journey back is the same on Sunday evening. I like to travel alone and then I can do some work or read.”
12. Fake busyness
If you’re a junior who can’t carve out any time for yourself, finance blogger ‘The ibanker’ advises running and looking busy (RALBY) whilst holding a printout of charts and talking into your mobile phone. If you do this and leave the office, he says that it will seem that you’re going to a meeting, even if you’re just meeting a friend for lunch.
13. Hire in help
You may earn more money in finance than elsewhere, but you will need to spend some of that making your life easier. “The only way you can survive is to keep life simple and to spend money making things happen,” says the equity researcher. Think cleaners, people to do the laundry, food deliveries, childcare….
14. Use the gym in golden hour at the end of work
One Goldman Sachs saleswoman says the firm’s gym keeps her sane. “I usually go in the afternoon – in that hour when I’ve finished all my non-urgent work and have a few more things to tie up before I leave.”
Manya Klempner, a former derivatives marketer at BAML now runs Moose-X Training, which provides personal trainers who come to you. “Our USP is convenience,” she says. “We offer fitness when you want it – we can come to your home, to the office, or the garden square near you. It’s your choice – you can book online simply by writing in your location.”
15. Always fly with the same airline
Frequent fliers in banking advocate flying with the same carrier. “Once you start flying a lot with one company they start really caring about you,” says a senior derivatives trader.. “You can get priority seating and you won’t get messed around. You need to fly long haul with the same carrier at least once a month and you’ll get onto their gold card list.”
16. Be impeccably pleasant to your assistant
If you’re senior enough to have an assistant, or a ‘shared resource’, be incredibly nice to her (or him). “This person will make as much difference to your life as your spouse will,” says the senior derivatives trader. “You need to make sure they have access to your entire schedule and that they understand what matters to you. If your assistant isn’t diligent and capable, get rid of them. When you find someone who is diligent and capable, make sure they really, really like you. They can transform your life.”
17. Don’t cook
18. Find a sweetspot
If you’re a junior banker, particularly in M&A, it’s all about the team you’re in. “How busy you are will be specific to the team and the firm you work for,” says Matan Feldman, ex-J.P. Morgan associate and founder of Wall Street Prep. “If an investment bank has a strong healthcare practice, that group will get a lot of work and you’ll be working long hours. – Elsewhere, healthcare will be pretty cushy.” The trick is to find the M&A team which is busy, but not too busy.
19. Stay sane
Everyone we spoke to said that if you work in finance, you need to enjoy it. Don’t take yourself too seriously. “One needs a sense of humor and a appreciation of the absurdity of a 45-year-old pulling an ‘all nighter’ to finish an equity research piece or close a DCM issue,” says Hintz.
And if you don’t enjoy it? “Quit” was the life hack advised by one ex-J.P. Morgan banker and McKinsey consultant who now runs his own start-up.