Working for a boutique investment bank on Wall Street has its benefits over a 'bulge bracket' firm. For a start, a smaller organisation means a flatter hierarchy and therefore junior bankers are given greater access to clients, which is incredibly important for moving up later in your career.
However, there's another unexpected bonus of working for a boutique - you'll get paid more. New figures from finance forum Wall Street Oasis suggest that smaller banks pay their junior and mid-ranking bankers more than large investment banks. From the outset, analysts in boutiques earn more than their counterparts in large investment banks, it says - a first year analyst on Wall Street brings in $124k working for a boutique, according to the survey, while entry level bankers in bulge brackets can earn $102k. This advantage continues through analyst and associate ranks and, by the time you reach VP, boutiques pay you over $100k more per year on average.
This is important, largely because VP is the rank when a lot of investment bankers hit career stasis. Moving from VP to director is notoriously tough, and getting up to MD is even harder. It therefore helps that smaller banks offer more money. Even better, boutique investment banks have been grabbing market share off their larger competitors. Boutiques seem an attractive option.
But, there are downsides.
For a start, there's the thorny issue of taking some degree of pleasure in your job. WSO's survey suggests that, relatively speaking, those in larger banks are happier with their lot. For example, the top bank on Wall Street for employee satisfaction is Well Fargo, with close to 99% saying that they were happy in their roles, followed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan. The top ranking smaller firm was Evercore, which came in 12th. Similarly, the big banks topped the rankings for career opportunities and advancement, suggesting that the extra money makes up for a lack of promotion opportunities.
Boutiques are also much harder to get into on average than bigger banks. Centerview Partners, PJT Partners, Greenhill, Evercore, and Moelis and Company were all deemed to have a tougher interview process than any of the larger investment banks.
The figures below across show an average for ranks across the different groups, but on a more subjective level you may be better off going into a bigger bank. J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo were voted the banks with the 'best' pay - how their employees felt their pay compared with their peers. Houlihan Lokey was the only bank to break up the dominance of the large banks on this criteria (coming in third), while BAML and Goldman rounded out the top five.
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