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How much do you travel in Investment Banking?

Some people, especially the new ones, can’t wait to go on business trips. You get to fly business class, earn frequent flyer miles, stay at nice hotels and expense lavish restaurants together with the client – all while discovering new and exciting places. At least, that’s the myth.

Unlike Management Consulting, where you consistently travel Monday through Thursday, Investment Bankers only travel for meetings. This could be anything from a pitch to win a new client, a kick-off meeting for a new deal, a meeting to work on the Information Memo or meetings to introduce the client to potential investors. Usually, we try to fly in and fly out on the same day.

M&A is about deal-making and not working on a client problem on-site together with them. You will never see a deal team disappear for 4 months at the client’s office, just to come in on Fridays. If you want that kind of Monday through Thursday traveling schedule, you are better off in Consulting.

How often do Investment Bankers travel?

Ok, Investment Bankers travel less than Management Consultants. But there are a lot of bankers who travel. Yes, that’s true. In short, the more senior you get, the more you need to travel. Juniors don’t get to travel that often.

Here is how it plays out in real life:

Managing Directors, Directors and Vice Presidents – As a Senior Banker, you would be traveling anywhere from once per week to 2-3 days a week. These would be mostly day trips or evening arrival, meeting the next day with the return flight. Depending on where your deals and potential investors are located, you might spend one day in Paris and one day in Munich during a week. All while being based in Frankfurt or London. Senior Bankers travel to meet with existing clients or win new mandates. Face-to-face contact helps with building relationships, particularly when we are talking about multimillion-dollar transactions.

For example, we used to have a Partner who would be in Munich 2-3 days a week trying to pitch new ideas for private equity. On the other hand, another Partner traveled a lot internationally from Europe to the United States. We had a hot cross-border deal in due diligence. Many management meetings and site visits had to be coordinated and led by the Investment Bankers. By the end of that deal, that Partner became a Lufthansa Senator. Traveling depends a lot on where your deals are located.

Associates travel when the deal requires it, but they travel a lot less compared to Senior Bankers. We would say around once or three times per month if you don’t have a special deal that requires constant attention. Associates play a supporting role when traveling. Senior Bankers are busy with client relationship management. Associates are busy with presenting the analysis and documents. Associates travel to real pitch meetings and not sounding meet-and-greets. Traveling ramps up during due diligence on the sell-side, which requires management meetings and site visits. This is where the potential investor meets the management team and sees the production facilities.

One Associate got to travel quite frequently. We once had a deal in Switzerland and no VP was staffed on that project – more common at smaller boutiques. So, he got to do a lot of the client-facing work early on with the Partner. That meant a couple of visits to Switzerland to work on the business plan, information memorandum, management meetings and site visits. Since the target company’s offices were not in a major Swiss city, you had to fly to the nearest airport and do the last mile with a rental car.

Analysts don’t get to travel a lot. We would say maybe once a month at max. You will spend most of your time at the office. Exceptions can happen if an Associate is busy with another deal and you have to jump in and travel together with a Partner. But that’s the exception and not the rule. A day in a life of an Analyst will involve more desk work and less traveling.

Analysts will prepare and support meetings with their analytical work. But often, it’s the Associate who gets the client exposure and talks through the analysis during the meeting. The Analyst can answer more detailed questions but is usually just on standby via calls. If you get to travel as an Analyst, expect a lot of administrative work, like carrying 15x printed decks to the meeting or making sure the beamer works properly. Don’t expect a lot of airtime, though.

Traveling in Investment Banking depends on your seniority and where your deals are at. The more senior you are, the more you travel. You want to have face-to-face meetings with your existing clients and potential clients. This is the best way to build relationships, as Investment Banking is inherently sales oriented. You primarily make day trips to have meetings and then fly out in the evening on the same day.

However, if all your clients are within the same city or just upstate, you might not be flying anywhere. If all your clients have an office in London or frequent London often, you don’t need to travel. You will just take the metro, a taxi or a rental car to get to your client.

Traveling also varies between different firms and groups. At smaller boutiques, where teams are smaller, you may get client exposure earlier and thus might get to travel earlier. On the other hand, at larger institutions, there might be an Associate eager for some client exposure. The message is the same, though. You won’t be traveling a lot as an Analyst.

Why don’t Investment Banking Analyst get to travel?

Analysts don’t travel very much. Everyone else gets to travel. Why is that the case?

Here are three reasons why Investment Banking Analysts usually don’t travel that often:

Analysts don’t manage the client relationship. It’s the Senior Bankers who the client trusts and who are the face of the bank towards the client. Yes, all the Analysts do all the work in the background. But the client trusts the bank’s brand and then the Senior Banker. Junior Bankers usually don’t do a lot of client relationship management. Even if you graduate top of your class, you are more book smart than a representable Investment Banker. Corporates and entrepreneurs will not trust some green young professional with one of their most important decisions in their career. One wrong comment and you might blow up the entire deal on which the bank has been working on for years. Client relationship management is not taught in business school. You will gradually learn it as you progress in your career.

Showing up with too many people will irritate your client. M&A Investment Banking is a highly confidential matter. You are not going around your company screaming that you want to sell your company to some big corporate or private equity. So, on the client-side, you will be talking to 2-3 people entrusted with the matter. It’s usually the CEO, CFO and a representative of the shareholders. For private equity deals, it’s the same. It’s just the Partner and an Investment Manager. Showing up with a deal team of 6-7 people will be awkward and irritate your client. That’s why you try to match the number of people on the other side. So, usually, it’s a Managing Director and a VP doing those meetings. A high-profile deal might even involve more Managing Directors, which means even fewer spots for an Associate to join.

Analysts are more useful in the office. Senior Bankers are better at client relationship management. Analysts are better at doing the analytical work and preparing all those PowerPoint and Excel content. So, the most efficient division of labor is Senior Bankers do the traveling and talking to the clients, whereas Analysts remain at their desk producing materials for other deals. Because, once the Senior Bankers get back to the office, the next deal is already waiting. You need somebody at the office preparing the other deals. If you travel, you cannot do the analytical heavy lifting at the same time.

Myths about business travel

To be honest, we don’t think you are missing out a lot for not traveling and being on the road. Traveling for business is only exciting for those who haven’t done it very often.

Yes, it’s exciting to talk to CEOs, CFOs and shareholders of multiple companies – especially the shareholders. That’s the first time you get to meet a rich person and see how they think. And yes, you do get to stay at nice hotels and go to nice restaurants. There is something very immersive. You get to experience the industry with all your senses. You walk through a production facility and see how the assembly line churns out new machinery. You can hear the noise while they are assembling hoist cranes. You get a better feeling for that industry than just drafting company profiles with website pictures.

That’s about as cool as it gets.

Now onto the downsides:

Business traveling is very tiring. You travel according to your client’s schedule, which means a lot of red-eye flights. Taking the 6AM flight so that you can start the day at 10AM at your client’s site is not fun. You will be flying economy for short to medium-haul flights – just like everyone else. Business class is for transcontinental flights only. And that is if your client has airport access. In Europe, it may mean taking a long train or car ride to the countryside. In the US, it may mean taking regional flights to remote cities and a rental car for the last mile. And you will not find a fancy five-star hotel in the countryside. There will not be a lot of sightseeing. You are there to get the deal done and manage the client relationship, not to enjoy yourself.

Traveling does not equal downtime. You are still expected to keep up with all the work despite being on the road. A business trip is not an excuse for downtime – especially as an Analyst or Associate. You may end up researching last-minute facts for the meeting. Plus, your other deals will not just suddenly disappear. You still have to deal with your other workstreams regardless of traveling or not. This means you’ll end up working off your laptop in a tiny airplane seat, taxis, hotel rooms or at the foyer of law firms. This will suck out all the fun out of traveling. Once you get off the plane, you will be going back straight to the office. You already work long hours in Investment Banking. Business traveling only makes things more complicated.

Where does it leave us?

Compared to Management Consulting, Investment Bankers only travel for meetings. We don’t travel to work on-site with the client for months. The trips are usually quick fly-in and fly-outs. Investment Bankers travel to manage the client relationship face to face. You travel to a potential new client for a pitch meeting to build trust. Traveling also ramps up during due diligence, where Investment Bankers coordinate management meetings and site visits with the potential investors.

Traveling is usually reserved for Senior Bankers as they primarily manage the client relationship. They travel to win new clients and take care of existing clients. You don’t want to show up with a team of 7 people only to talk to 2-3 people on the client-side. That’s a bit awkward for such a confidential matter. Plus, Analysts are more useful in the office for preparing material for the next meetings.

But to be honest, you are not missing out on much. Yeah, you don’t get to meet the management team and the production facility. But on the flip side, you don’t have to take red-eye flights. Traveling for business can be very tiring. And you are still expected to keep up with your other workstreams on top of that. Working off your laptop in a tiny airplane seat or hotel room will suck the fun out of traveling. And once you get off the plane, you’ll be going straight to the office. With that said, you might as well work the long hours at the office and get to sleep in your own bed.

Additional resources

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