Investment banking analyst: what will you really do

A day in the life of an investment banking analyst

What does an investment banking analyst really do?

You decided you are prepared. For 100 hour work week, multiple all-nighters and shower in the office. Good for you. Now that you’ve accepted the harsh truth about banker’s lifestyle let’s get to what is waiting for you work-wise. What do investment banking analysts do behind the shiny doors of top banks?

As an investment banking analyst, your array of responsibilities will be quite wide. That is, ranging from industry research and slides drafting to number crunching and a huge pile of administrative tasks (think collecting biographies for a pitch book or booking restaurant for a team dinner).

The exact work will depend on the company, the division and the team you are in. Generally, you will work on the following activities:

1. Research

Be prepared to spend hours diving into market reports, googling numbers on stock performance, and arguing with support staff in India. Your typical tasks will include gathering information from various databases and reports on the industry, reading annual reports to find company’s financial information, building company’s profiles (business description, ownership, financial information, share price, products etc.). The work will range from really interesting (studying the latest technology trends in consumer appliances sector) to utterly boring (finding the size of oil fields in Nigeria).

2. Pitches and PowerPoint

Preparing pitches and drafting presentations will take most of your time as a first-year investment banking analyst.

What is a pitch? It is an extensive offer (in presentation format) that aims to sell a potential client a project (like arranging financing or buying a competitor). Your pitch is a large presentation file outlining industry landscape, current competition and ultimately laying out your proposal, together with corresponding benefits, risks, timelines etc.

Your job as an analyst will be to draft most of the slides, and do majority of work from creation to the point when the pitch finalised, including processing all the comments and markups from seniors and printing / sending the document around. If you are working on a live deal – instead of pitching you will be doing presentation updates. Essentially – it is the same kind of work.

3. Excel and number crunching

Here comes the part everyone is so scared of. Financial modelling, company valuations, Excel formulas. In reality number crunching you do as an investment banking analyst is pretty basic. Usually you have to find the right numbers and make sense of them. That is, input in Excel financial statements. Based on historical metrics try to forecast company’s future performance. Compare basic ratios across the industry. Calculate certain values based on a number of fixed formulas. Before you start as an analyst you will get extensive training on how to do this. So don’t be afraid – you will learn everything in no time.

4. Administrative crap

All kind of tedious and boring tasks. Sending updates to the team, taking notes in meetings, scheduling conference calls, checking spelling, printing copies. You got the point.

Generally research and pitching is something you will do most of your time. Real work on the deals is what you should be doing.

Why working on deals is so important? Because ultimately this is what really counts on your resume. No one wants to hear how you prepared hundreds of beautiful presentations during your time in investment bank. They want to hear how you sold companies. This is why working on deals is what any investment banking analyst is striving for. As with everything else, how many you manage to work on in a year is a matter of pure luck (and sometimes your relationships with the senior members of the team). I knew people who were working on 5 deals in a year, and others who didn’t manage to work even on one in the 1.5 years of investment banking.

Now, you should be clear on what kind of tasks you will face as an investment banking analyst. What will your typical day look like? The answer is – you never know. There might be periods when you can spend the whole day lazily reading news. And there will be a lot of others when you will barely have time to go to the bathroom.

Your typical day as an investment banking analyst

8.30am. Wake up in a horror. You just had a dream of screwing up at important meeting at work. And that was after a few hours dreaming about your Excel model.

8.31am. Instantly grab the blackberry. Sh*t, red light – 12 unread emails. Few from your VP – the work done is ok, but few slides need to be changed. Another section added in. “Let’s discuss later today”. An email from the staffer (evil man in the bank deciding how many and which projects you can take on). “Urgent help needed on a new project. Won’t take more than a few hours” (sure!). Lets talk in the morning (of course).

Life of an investment banking analyst: walking to the meeting

9.15am. Reach the office, grab a coffee and morning snack from the office canteen. Start the day by scanning emails and replying to the most urgent ones.

10.00am. Start working on the comments received the night before. Quick fixes to a few slides, some changes in the text. Done.

10.30am. Need to start working on the Excel model. It’s not urgent (only expected by end of the week). But you never know how much work you’ll get these days. Open Excel document, stare at it for a few seconds and smoothly shift to reading news online.

11.00am. A quick meeting with an associate to discuss the work done. All ok – few changes and it’s ready to be sent to VP. One project down. At least for now. Friday dinner and movie plans now looking much brighter.

11.30am. Meeting with the staffer. About that one small project that was not supposed to take more than a few hours. Apparently the bank wants to advise a huge energy conglomerate on acquiring a small specialised oil-drilling company in Norway. The client expects a pitch in two days. Will take you a few seconds to go through the painful realisation that a) the next few days are going to be crazy, b) Friday dinner and movie plans are now under serious risk.

Investment banking analyst working on laptop in the office

12.00am. Joining a conference call for a live transaction that is going on. As usual, seniors are talking. Scribbling down notes (VP will definitely ask later) while trying to quickly read-up on that stupid oil-drilling company in Norway.

12.30pm. Meeting with VP and associate on the new project. VP explains the background of the deal and work to be done in the next few days. As expected – it is a lot. Market slides on global energy market, multiples valuation of peers in the industry, company profiles and benchmarking, strategy and so on. At least he has already drafted the outline of future pitch and printed out some example slides from recent presentations. That should save some time. Once VP leaves – recoup with associate on work and deadlines.

13.15pm. Considering options for lunch. It’s either grabbing something from downstairs and eating at the desk – or going with a few other analysts to office canteen. Time-wise lunch at the desk is preferred. But it’s Wednesday, and they serve Mexican burritos in the canteen. Burritos win.

13.30pm. Stuffing in burrito while bitching with others about working hours and stupid clients. Usual stuff.

14.00pm. Start working on a new pitch book. Going through the usual cycle: outlining the the structure, creating a skeleton of the presentation, researching information, re-using slides from the previous deals. Sending a few urgent requests to support offices for energy market data. Digging into reports and financials. Building graphs and charts. Emailing people for their biographies to construct the team slide.

16.00pm. Short recharge – a trip to Starbucks. Venti coffee and 10 minutes to chat with your analyst friend about the asshole of an associate you have to work with.

Investment bankign analyst at work - coffee break

17.15pm. Sending initial draft to associate to discuss. Still a lot of blanks but overall the document is in ok shape.

17.30pm. Getting back to the work on live transaction. After the call there is a need to run a few minor modifications to the model. Meeting up with VP to discuss the changes and starting to work on altering the model.

19.00pm. Sending the updated model to VP. For today this one is done. VP already left the office – so comments won’t arrive until next morning.

19.10pm. Associate comes back with changes to the oil-drilling pitch. Some comments are good, other pointless as usual. Most are about changing font, reshuffling text and adding comas. Discussion for 10 minutes. He goes off to the gym while you are left with your pile of work.

21.00pm. Quick break to order dinner. Blankly staring at the long list of restaurants. Italian, French, Chinese?..Probably should order sushi. Time to get healthier and lose those few extra kilograms gained in the last months. After minutes of hesitation ordering a large pepperoni pizza.

23.00pm. Final discussion and checks with associate. “Few more changes and that’s ok for today. Tomorrow is going to be a long night, so better get some sleep today”.

23.15pm. Printing a final copy of the document. Ready to go. Oh, wait. You notice one mistake on the slide. Cross check. Something doesn’t match. Spend the next half an hour correcting the graph and updating the slide.

Investment banking analyst working on a graph

23.45pm. Forcing yourself to re-check the whole document again. By now you already know it by heart – but still try to carefully read into every detail.

00.30am. Sending the revised document to VP. Printing a hard copy to put on his desk. For now, that’s all.

00.45pm. Starting the work on a huge pile of side tasks you didn’t have time to do before. 6 company profiles for an upcoming pitch on gas industry. Setting up conference calls and sending invites for a few meetings on the live deal. Responding to emails and replying to a few requests from other offices.

1.30am. Ordering a cab. Upcoming days are looking quite intense, so better to get some sleep while you still can.

2.00am. The most desirable and pleasant moment in the whole day. Sleep.

Investment banking analyst sitting tired near the office

Your typical bad day as an investment banking analyst

The morning and afternoon are probably quite similar to your usual day. Maybe a bit more intense – you have lunch at your desk and take fewer breaks. What differs is the evening. This is when you realise there is no way to finish all that work until 2am. The tasks have been piling up for a while now, and seniors expect the deck to be finalised by the morning. Surviving on coffee and snacks you monotonously work for the whole night. A few chats near the coffee machine with similarly unlucky guys stuck with their pitches and Excel models. You hope to be done by 4am and catch a few hours of sleep. In reality, you finish around 6am – just in time to send the updated docs to your associate and VP. Order a cab. Take shower, change. 10 minute nap while the cab is waiting for you. Back to the office. At least today you have time for a proper breakfast in the office canteen.

Are you doomed forever?

Of course not. As you progress your hours will get better. Just read up on it here. In the investment banking analyst role you will spend most of your time at your desk – but once you reach associate or VP level there will be some travelling and actual communication with the clients. Your hours will depend a lot on the team and deal flow. But your typical day won’t change much. After all (you might already know this) – a life of an investment banking analyst is a tough one. If you decided to give it a shot nonetheless – just make sure to check the full guide to application process and download a perfect investment banking resume template.

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