What Do Investment Banking Analysts Really Do All Day (and Night)?

by Vault Careers | August 01, 2016

  • My Vault

It's no secret that entry-level investment banking analysts work a lot of hours. In fact, according to Vault's latest Banking Survey, 65 percent of first- and second-year analysts work between 70 and 90 hours per week on a regular basis, and 7 percent work more than 90 hours per week. So what are these young analysts doing all day and night at work? To find out, below we bring you the day in the life of an analyst at one of the largest Wall Street banks, from the 8 a.m. login to the 2 a.m. logout.

8:00 a.m.: This is a good time to start for first-year analysts; everyone else comes in a half-hour or hour later.

8:05 a.m.: Get hot coffee or tea to help me wake up.

8:10 a.m.: Check e-mail. Receive a bunch of transaction announcements from all over the world, as well as some newsletter relevant to your industry/group sent out by another analyst to everyone. Unless you’re into the latest news on, say, regulatory decisions on telecoms or the roofing equipment industry, it’s safe to delete and go on with the remainder of e-mails. E-mails might contain information requests by others in the firm, asking for case studies, connections with certain personnel at client firms, etc. As an analyst, you won’t know most of this stuff anyway, so you hit delete.

9:00 a.m.: Office/floor officially running, phones ringing, workday starts. Greet the assistants. Don’t call them secretaries. Make sure they like you—so that you can avoid a short-lived career.

9:15 a.m.: After waiting for five minutes for the slow network to load, find your files and continue working on research/modeling—whatever you didn’t finish the night before because you knew you still had this morning.

9:17 a.m.: Phone rings. Director/associate calls you for status on the one thing you haven’t finished yet. Hold him off until you can finish it and curse yourself for not finishing up last night.

9:30 a.m.: Phone rings again. You know what director/associate is going to say so right off the bat you say, “I’m almost done.” Then in between a lot of “oks” you curse your computer for being so slow.

10:00 a.m.: Conference call with deal team, which may include people from other product and industry groups who work in conjunction on a project with you. The managing director is likely to read over material that you were 90 percent responsible for—but only your associate and the director know this. Pray nothing’s wrong with the numbers and grammar.

11:10 a.m.: Too early for lunch but you’re already hungry. What to do before lunch? Put together a few public information books (PIBs), work on a pitch book, or still try to balance your financial model, which won’t happen because you’re too hungry to concentrate.

12:30 p.m.: You’re really hungry but you must print out some files for your associate/director before you leave, so nobody will come around looking for you when they need the printouts. E-mail only if they ask for it. They’ll forget it’s there anyway.

12:45 p.m.: Lunch across the street or, if you feel rich, pick up food from some fancy sandwich place a few miles away as a sign of your protest to the cafeteria’s overpriced salads. Always keep your smartphone with you.

1:45 p.m.: Return to work and hope nobody cared that you were gone for an hour. Hope the firm is truly “European” and understands your need for long lunches.

2:00 p.m.: Try not to fall asleep because of the heavy wrap or potatoes you had for lunch. Drink lots of water. Sit down with an associate to talk about some preliminary research he needs you to pull from all kinds of sources. He tells you a few other things and leaves you alone. Take notes so as not to forget a single thing. Best excuse later: “I only did what you told me to.” This works only if you really did exactly that. Wait for presentations department to turn around a job you sent with the director’s changes. There are always changes.

3:00 p.m.: New business comes in through another managing director. Your task, should you accept (and you will), is to fill out the first in a long series of forms that will be submitted to one committee after another for review. Essentially, every form looks the same and involves a “company overview.” If this is a form for a credit approval committee for a “risky” company, be prepared to write 75 to 100 pages worth of memo, the contents of which are virtually identical with the company’s 10-K (annual report). But, it has to be in company format, so you can’t just pass along the 10-K. You will agonize over the outline and dig through countless sources to extract information and dump it, re-formatted, into your growing file. This will take the rest of the week if your managing director planned ahead. Otherwise, the loan commitment is due in two days and you will not sleep.

4:30 p.m.: It’s fair game that anyone, anywhere, anyplace can walk by or call you up during this time for tasks/chores, like putting together a set of trading/transaction comparables, making more PIBs, doing extra research, fetching a few industry reports, downloading files accessible to everyone on the Internet, making printouts, putting together working group lists for deal teams on a transaction, etc. I help out other analysts calling for some files or work I’ve done on something so they don’t have to start from scratch on their related project. Sometimes a managing director calls and asks you something you could not possibly know. Sound as smart as possible and then defer the question to your associate.

6:30 p.m.: Order dinner. At my company, any dinner ordered before this time is not eligible for refund. Adjust stomach and eating habits accordingly from day one, or suffer irritability and lack of concentration going forward. Everyone asks you to put it on your corporate Amex card.

Make sure you have enough on your personal bank balance to pay the full amount when the bill is due later, since your refund through the ubiquitous company expense system will take a month to process. Run around with list of who wants what, don’t make suggestions, don’t write down the wrong thing, and get on with it.

6:35 p.m.: Wait for dinner. An alternative to waiting might be: A managing director/executive director gives a director a call. The director calls an associate. The associate calls you, and you’re evening/week/weekend is ruined because a client wants presentation and model X by the end of next week. The managing director assured the client we’d deliver model X by Monday, “no problem at all.” He also said, “While we’re at it, we’ll also supply Y, Z, and A and the reverse of X for two other companies” to further elucidate the issue for the client, who said he really doesn’t need all this. But after gentle insistence by the managing director, the client consents, and is glad he went with your ambitious firm. After the director gives last instructions to an associate or you, you wait for dinner.

7:45 p.m.: Eat dinner, chat with other analysts.

8:35 p.m.: Return to work. Call up internal library for some research you don’t have access to and hope someone’s still there, or it will be a tight morning tomorrow.

10:00 p.m.: Associate leaves, giving you a couple more things to do on way out. “Take your time, no rush,” he assures and thanks you for the good job you’ve been doing in advance. You appreciate his gratitude but would also like to go home at some point.

11:00 p.m.: Discounted cash flow model inputs take very long and the model still doesn’t balance. It will be a long night.

2:00 a.m.: You check your e-mail one more time (in fact, you never close it in the first place, as this is the first rule of survival for anyone in investment banking), then you make sure everything is saved, and log off the computer. Head home to get some sleep.

This post was adapted from the new Vault Career Guide to Investment Banking.

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Filed Under: Finance | Workplace Issues

Tags: day in the life | financial analyst | investment banking | wall street | work/life balance

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