A Day in the Life of an Investment Banking Analyst at Willia

by Derek Loosvelt | January 11, 2011

In our ongoing series of new Days in the Life, here's a typical 16-hour period in the life of a first-year, corporate finance generalist who has worked with health care companies, tech companies and consumer companies. He's worked on large deals (between $500 million and $2 billion), small deals (between $50 million and $70 million) and many deals in William Blair's "sweet spot" -- about $200 million in value. He works in Chicago.

8:00 a.m.  Get up. There's no exact time you need to get in to the office in the morning -- unless you have a meeting -- but most people get in by 9:30. It takes me exactly one hour from the time I wake up to the time I'm at my desk. I've timed it perfectly. So, if I have to be in at 8 for a conference call, I get up at 7. But on average I get up at 8 to get in by 9.

8:15 a.m.  Walk my dog.

8:40 a.m.  Walk to work. It's a huge plus to live close to the office, especially on late nights. On the way to work I grab breakfast at one of two spots. I rotate them every other day. Of course, both places know my orders.

9:00 a.m.  From the time I get in until about 4 p.m. my day consists of a series of back-to-back meetings and conference calls. Calls typically involve your whole deal team but can also involve just a few people on the team depending on what the call's for. Today I have a call with the entire deal team for a deal involving a South American firm we're selling. There's been a lot of interest from strategic buyers in the U.S. for the firm. On the call we talk about setting up meetings with many of these buyers, which want to tour the client's stores and get more familiar with their operations. On our end, the MD does most of the talking; I mainly take notes. (After the call, one of things I'll have to do is organize the buyers' trips to the client's stores in South America, setting up and confirming times for meetings. This will involve me sending out a bunch of emails.)

10:00 a.m.  An associate and I call a client's CFO concerning another deal I'm working on. The CFO walks us through his company's financials and answers our questions to the model I'm working on. (Speaking of modeling, nine times out of ten it's the associate or VP who'll tell you what you need to do with regards to the model; the MD isn't going to be doing much in this respect, other than expecting the model to be perfect -- and work. A good associate will give you specific and clear guidelines. But sometimes you'll get an associate who will ask for ridiculous shit -- various scenarios that you know you won't really need to show. That's why experienced analysts are usually staffed with newer associates, and experienced associates with newer analysts.)

11:00 a.m.  I have a flip-through of a management presentation. Everyone on the deal team (me, an associate, a VP and an MD) is present and we all have a copy. As we flip through page by page, the MD says, 'Take this out' and 'Add this' and 'How come this bar chart's blue? I want it green.' People freak out about the smallest things. (With regards to the number of people on a deal team, it varies from deal to deal. If a deal's well staffed, there'll be at least one analyst, an associate, a VP and an MD. And for work like a management presentation -- a book to be presented to a client -- the associate will typically create the structure, then he [or she] will draft slides and tell you what to do to get them done. The associate is the orchestrator and you're the executioner. Sometimes, presentations will be reviewed many times before going to print. A presentation could be changed literally every night for two weeks. When I'm done with the latest round of changes I'll leave the book on the MD's chair and he [or she] will go through it and make comments. Or, I'll leave it on the associate's chair and he [or she] will go through it and make comments. Usually we'll go through 40 to 50 versions until getting it right. But there have been times when we'll have gone through 90 or 100 versions.)

12:00 p.m.  Run downstairs and grab a sandwich. Eat in time for my next conference call. (Even though you're in all these meetings all day, a lot of the senior people don't realize it and they keep emailing you things to do. Right now, I have a few days of work backed up.)

1:00 p.m.  Work on a presentation that an MD needs for a conference he's going to in a few days. Even though the MD knew he had this conference two weeks ago, he just told me today that he needed this done right away. But I don't mind, because I wouldn't have been able to get to it until today anyway. I put a few pages together. It's a marketing presentation so most of it is pretty standard -- boiler pages that you just have to slot in, pages that get updated every 15 days. (Presentations that need to be largely customized take a lot longer, of course. Books that need valuations, comps, DCF analyses, etc., those take a lot longer. No matter what the presentation, though, there's an obsession with perfection here. Right on down to the little footers and headers in the corner of the pages. Very small, minute things have to be perfect. The books do have your bio in them, so it is a reflection of your work.)

3:00 p.m.  Conference call with another client about another deal. Take notes while MD chimes in every few minutes.

4:30 p.m.  Catch up on emails/other work I haven't been able to get to while on calls and in meetings.

5:30 p.m.  Another analyst orders dinner for everyone at P.F. Chang's -- there's a lot of camaraderie here -- but I don't eat with them. Ordinarily I would, but I promised my girlfriend I'd sneak out and eat with her later. Meanwhile, a couple of other analysts and associates go to the gym. I can't go with them because I'm busy but also because I canceled my gym membership last month when I figured out I was paying $50 a workout; my membership cost $100 a month and I was only able to go about twice a month.

5:35 p.m.  Continue catching up on other work: part of a management presentation and a "racetrack," which is what we call the status report for the various potential buyers who've received a CIM (confidential information memorandum). The process is so standardized we call it a racetrack. The report shows how far along each potential buyer is: did they decline, did they sign and receive the CIM, did they make an initial bid, etc. I have to note where everyone is in the process. Usually, the associate will then check my work. He'll go through it and see if I misspelled someone's name, etc. We're not that anal about these logs as we are presentations that go to clients.

8:00 p.m.  Dinner with my girlfriend.

10:00 p.m.  Back in the office. Continue to catch up on work I wasn't able to get to earlier in the day.

11:40 p.m.  Leave. Walk home.

12:00 a.m.  Get home. Usually I get home between 12 and 1. Sometimes I'll get home at 11 p.m., which is early; other times I'll get home at 9 p.m., which is extremely early (and rare). Some weeks I'll work until 2 a.m. every night. I've even gotten home at 5 a.m. and woken up at 8 a.m a few times. But that's not often. And Fridays we'll get out at 8 or 9 p.m., sometimes even 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, although I have to work, I don't have to put in full days. Still, Monday to Friday, my life is work -- except for those few minutes each morning when I walk my dog.

Filed Under: Finance


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