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A day in a life of an Investment Banking Analyst

No doubt, Investment Banking Analyst roles are still one of the most coveted jobs straight out of college. You work hard and get handsomely rewarded. Pay is good. You learn a lot and exit options are excellent. But what do you actually do as an Analyst all day long? How does a typical look like on an Investment Banking floor?

What does an Investment Banking Analyst do?

As an Investment Banking Analyst, it’s your job to support the deal machinery of the bank – in fact, you are the deal machine. You try to help win deals and execute deals. It’s a lot more like an execution funnel, where you try to push potential transactions to the next level. That’s why Investment Banking is often referred to as the sell-side. You are trying to make deals happen. You make money when deals are completed – just like a real estate broker.

Ok, so what do you do on a task level? Your tasks will be mainly divided into Excel, PowerPoint and administrative tasks. As an Investment Banking Analyst, you will spend slightly more time in Excel vs. PowerPoint. The more senior you get, the more PowerPoint work you do because this is what gets sent to the client. But for a Junior Banker, this is how your split roughly looks like:

  • 40% Excel work: This includes everything from research work, compiling lists and data processing. These are your basic tasks. Next are valuation and spreading comps. Then, you have financial modeling. But contrarily to popular belief, you don’t spend a lot of time financial modeling, even as a full-timer. You spent about 10% to 20% of your total time with actual financial modeling. The majority of your Excel work will be compiling and sorting data

  • 30% PowerPoint work: This is where you synthesize your Excel work into presentable slides. Everything from copywriting to aligning boxes to make pretty slides. This includes drafting slides for pitch books, information memorandum, management presentations or other marketing material

  • 30% admin tasks: Everything that is not productive Excel or PowerPoint work falls into admin tasks. These are either briefing and staffing meetings, calls or waiting for markups. This is where you are getting told what to do or where you present what you have done. If you are lucky, you may even get to sit silently in a client meeting

Yes, it’s no secret that this involves a lot of grunt work. These are all manual and labor-intensive tasks. It’s a lot of data crunching, compiling and sorting. You will spend many late lights plugging away, putting on finishing touches on Excel and PowerPoint work. The hours are long because of many iterations, nitty-gritty fixes and a zero-error tolerance. You can’t have a typo in a CEO’s name or mess up currencies. That’s all not very glamorous. But it’s not what Investment Banking jobs are sought after. It’s short-term pain for long-term gain.

A day in a life

09:30 am — The morning shift

You arrive at work. Emails already checked on the way. You get yourself a coffee, fire up your laptop and get back to business. On a slower day, you might get some time to chat with your fellow Analysts. There is a sense of camaraderie. You all have similar educational backgrounds are now in the trenches together.

Your Associate drops by and hands you some markups regarding the pitch you worked on last night. “That’s a good enough draft for our internal discussion with the MDs later today. Just update the remaining comments and circulate the draft to everyone.” — You are relieved!

You start to work your way through the comments – one after another. Pro tip: You mark every comment given to you with a highlighter to never miss any item. Final flip through the deck. Draft the email and hit SEND! Dear all, please find attached…

12:30 pm — Lunchtime!

Pro tip: You go to lunch alone! You stand up and walk out the door! If anyone wants to stop you, you say “Naw, I don’t want no burger!” or “I’m already meeting someone.” Once you are established, you don’t need to do group lunches anymore. This is the only time when you are truly alone and have peace of mind. You’re going to see your colleagues until midnight anyway! There will be enough opportunities to chat throughout the day.

On a slower day, you might get away with 1h30 lunch. Since your office is downtown, you can include a walk and get some sun during lunch. On hectic days, you either get 30 minutes to grab a quick sandwich. If there is a fire drill, there is no lunch at all. Gotta make those deals happen.

01:30pm — The afternoon shift

You get back from lunch. Your Associate waves you into the conference room! The MDs want to have the meeting NOW. You grab them printouts and distribute them. Pro tip: Always prepare extra printouts ahead of time! The Senior Bankers want to see a higher valuation to better convince the shareholders. You added a smart comment by suggesting to include Company XYZ into the peer group to increase the valuation. It will barely fit the rationale, but everyone nodes in agreement. Your Associate compliments you: “Good job!” Pro tip: Document your research results and rationale in a neat place for those smart comments!

The meeting went on until 3 pm. Intense stuff. It’s an important pitch. The MDs were eying for this mandate for quite some time. Better not mess anything up! Time for a coffee break. Once done, you brief your Intern about the changes. It’s an Excel drill. The Intern has proven himself. You trust him. Probably not going to fuck up.

Next, a call with the Management of a promising sell-side deal at 04:30 pm. The business plan is up for discussion. It’s about the assumptions and whether the projections are too aggressive. Your Associate leads the call. You note down EVERY single change Management requests regarding the Excel model. After the call, you double-check with your Associate.

Your Associate needs to head to the airport with a VP. They are executing a site visit tomorrow with a potential private equity investors regarding another sell-side. This one is already in due diligence. Your Associate wants the updates to be completed by close of business (COB) so that he can check the progress tomorrow first thing in the morning.

07:00 pm — Dinner time!

The Interns are already making their rounds asking whether people need dinner tonight. Today it’s sushi (thank god no pasta or pizza!). Pro tip: to not get fat keep things simple: (1) cut carbs, (2) cut sugar and (3) drink only water! The worst thing that can happen is you think you get off early and don’t order food. Then you figure out it takes way longer, but it’s too late to order food… Pro tip: Have protein bars stocked at your desk for those emergencies.

This is a good time to enjoy the camaraderie, chat with other Analysts and see what they are up to. We all need to vent, but don’t overdo it with the gossiping. You are still co-workers and you are still competing for the same promotion spots. Pro tip: Never say anything negative about anyone at the firm and never overtly complain about another person.

08:00 pm — The late-night stretch

Things start to wind down. The Senior Bankers are making their final calls and are preparing to leave. Time to catch up on all the work you were distracted from during the day...

Ok, you have to update the financial model and the pitch. Thankfully the Intern has been working on the pitch since the afternoon. You check his progress. All good. Just a bunch of clarifying questions, but things are progressing. Pro tip: Collect minor questions and ask them all at once!

You finalize the model. The balance sheet balances — a sigh of relief! You take a short break. Double-check all linked cells and output sheets. Pro tip: Use macros to trace your precedent cells for checking your links. Double-check all currencies and thousands vs. millions denominators. Can’t afford a careless error here.

It’s around 9:30 pm. The other Associates are getting ready to leave. Your fellow Analyst receives a couple of more things on the way out. “Take your time. We need that item tomorrow afternoon.” Your fellow Analyst is relieved.

You check on the Intern. Pro tip: He says give me a little bit more time to proofread everything. He submits his items around at 10 pm. You check it. Looks fine because he checked everything...!! No careless errors.

You submit the pitch and model at 10:30 pm to your Associate. Pro tip: Include 1-3 summary bullets for each item you submit. You wait 30 minutes. "Thx. I'll have a look at it tomorrow morning". We're all good!

Your Intern was waiting around just in case last-minute changes were needed. Pro tip: Never leave just like that! You debrief him. You tell him he did a good job and send him home. You take a look at your notes, sort all your items you need to tackle for the next day (Pro tip: Always think 2-3 turns ahead!). You clean up your desk and take a taxi home. It's 11:50 pm when you get home.

Time to get some sleep.

A week in the Life of an Investment Banker

How does this add up in a workweek? Well, you will not have a lot of free time on weekdays. You will work around 60 to 80 hours a week on average. Work will be your number one priority if you wish to survive on the street. Many Investment Banking Analysts are in the office from 9 am to anything between 10 pm to 2 am. Fridays are usually a bit slower and you get to leave at around 7 pm to 9 pm. The weekends are off most of the time but don’t be surprised to be working on a weekend for a couple of hours. If you were wondering how to fit in the gym or social life, it’s rather “when you can”. This often means late at night, on weekends or not at all. As they say: Work, sleep, fitness, friends or family – pick three.

Why would anyone do this?

Now, you might ask yourself who would want to do this type of job with these sacrifices? Most of the work is boring and you work 60 to 80 hours per week. Who would want to do that?

Good question.

First off, a lot of people. Applications for Interns and first-year Analysts are always filled. There is no shortage of fresh recruits every year. The bank always finds some overachiever willing to do the job.

Most Investment Banking Analysts are in it because:

Money and the good life – Investment Banking offers higher entry-level salaries than other alternatives for business school students. Remember, these are not quant or programming roles. Every mildly talented person with a high work ethic and high pain tolerance can break into.

Exit options – You do Investment Banking for 2-3 years and then make a move. Either you move into more senior IB roles or you move to the buy-side. Most Investment Banking Analysts will either stay in IB or move into Private Equity or Corporate Development. The idea is short-term pain for long-term gains. All of these roles require a minimum of 2 years of Investment Banking.

Buying yourself some time – Some aren’t sure what they are good at and what they enjoy long-term. Investment Banking is a great learning opportunity. You get access to private information and learn how a company actually works, all while keeping your options open.

You scarify your early years straight out of college to give yourself more attractive long-term career options with high salaries and interesting tasks. That’s the deal.

Additional resources

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