A Case for the Underpaid Investment Banker

by Derek Loosvelt | January 25, 2011

Let's take a time out from the bash-the-bankers-because-they-make-tons-of-dough-and-that's-F'd-because-they-almost-killed-the-economy-and-as-a-result-all-of-us-red-blooded-American-taxpayers-were-forced-to-bail-them-out game.

And, while we're on the sidelines, let's consider this: the average investment banking corporate finance or M&A analyst on Wall Street works, at the very least, about 80 hours per week (in fact, the number is closer to 100, but let's round down to make this fair). Of course, 80 hours per week is double the average American workweek of 40.

Keep in mind that these analysts (recent college graduates, one to two years out of school) work every weekend, must be available via BlackBerry at any time of the day or night, and can not make plans ahead of time for anything (not a dinner with friends, not a vacation with family, not even a wedding -- unless, perhaps, it's their own, and even than it's not a layup they'll be allowed to attend; sure, there are exceptions to this rule, but they only happen at middle-market banks).

This is no exaggeration.

Then, let's consider that all day, every day, these analysts are, for the most part, working under pressure to deliver a report or analysis that's partly responsible for potentially making (or losing) their firm several million dollars. That is, there's much more than a fair amount of stress to the job.

Now (I realize the time out is almost over so I'll make this quick), let's set aside any preconceived notions about the evil empire of investment banking and think about the salaries and, that dirty other word, bonuses of these bankers: All in, with salary and bonus, one of these analysts make, on average, $70,000 in annual salary with a $45,000 incentive bonus. That's $115,000 a year and, yes, at a glance, pretty phenomenal for one or even two years out of college.

But let's look deeper.

Calculating the hourly rate taking $115,000 dividing by 4,000 hours (80 hours * 50 weeks) gives us $28.75/hour. Which is certainly a respectable hourly salary, but, to be sure, nothing to write home to the parents about.

Also, it's actually below, or not much higher, than the hourly salaries of a few other professions, including registered nurse ($30.71/hr), first-year lawyer ($29.95/hr) and U.S. Postal Service clerk ($24.13/hr).

However, an investment banking analyst's hourly rate still beats the pants out of at least a couple other professions, including first-year staff accountant ($17.10/hr) and restaurant manager at McDonald's ($9.69/hr).

Okay, game on.

(All salary info taken from vault.com and payscale.com)

(Related: A Day in the Life of an Investment Banking Analyst at UBS, A Day in the Life of an M&A Analyst RBC Capital Markets)

Filed Under: Finance


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