Investment Banking Analyst: A Day in the Life vs. Consulting

Investment banking is an industry infamous for its notoriously long hours. When I was looking into how to become an investment banker, I first asked, “What is investment banking?” Then, I remember asking – “Why on Earth do investment banking analysts need to be in the office for so long?” It all came down to my read on what the investment banking analyst lifestyle should be. Couldn’t they just give out more investment banking analyst jobs? Couldn’t they spread out the work so that everyone could leave at a reasonable hour? If only life were that simple! Here’s a look at what a day in the life of an Investment Banking Analyst really looks like.

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Why Do Investment Banking Analysts Work Such Long Hours?

Reason #1 – The Deals in the Industry

Perhaps the biggest contributing factor for long hours is the nature of transactions in the investment banking industry. I’ll always remember the time my Managing Director explained to me that “when companies come to an investment bank for a deal, that deal is usually one of the most important moments in that company’s entire history.” What he meant was that when a company wants to buy another company, sell itself, or go from private to public through an initial public offering, these are huge and pivotal transactions. Investment banking transactions have the potential to not only transform the company but the industry as well.

Due to the critical importance of these deals, these transactions are high stakes. C-Suite executives expect large quantities of complex qualitative and financial advice to ensure a successful transaction. As a result, there is an incredible amount of work for an investment banking analyst or associate to produce in a short amount of time.

Reason #2 – Multiple Projects

On top of an incredibly large amount of work to accomplish for each transaction, investment banking analysts & associates have multiple projects going at once. During my time at J.P. Morgan, I would have anywhere between three to nine projects going at any point in time. Not every project would require my immediate attention all the time. However, there were definitely points where multiple deals were firing on all cylinders, leading to many long nights. At times, even one transaction would be enough to cause me to work until the early morning hours.

Reason #3 – Bad Bosses

Regardless of the industry, every job can have a bad boss that negatively impacts your quality of life. In investment banking, bad bosses demand unnecessarily extensive amounts of analysis and constant revisions. They also don’t give a *&X^ about what time of day it is.

Put together a lack of empathy for what it’s like to be an investment banking analyst (if they ever were one) along with a desire to please clients to ensure future engagements, and bad bosses are heartless when it comes to demanding work. To be fair, there are many senior investment bankers who do their best to make their analysts’ lives as bearable as possible by not demanding excessive amounts of work and responding quickly to required changes. Those are the bosses investment banking analysts love to work for.

However, the reality is that most seniors prioritize pleasing the client over everything else, leading to large quantities of work.

What Investment Banking Analysts Work On

So what does an investment banking analyst actually do? Though there are a wide variety of responsibilities, they can be broadly broken down into five main categories.

#1 – Meetings and Calls

Per what I said before, transactions in investment banking are high stakes and require a large amount of due diligence. As a result, there are usually many parties involved in any deal, including multiple investment banks, the client’s teams, and lawyers. Therefore, there are several meetings and calls that are required with both clients and internal teams to plan out various work streams.

Though it may sound trivial, meetings and calls required for each transaction are a large part of an investment banking analyst’s day. Analysts may have their entire day booked with meetings and calls, leaving only the night to get any “real work” done.

#2 – Research

There are two kinds of research that an investment banking analyst primarily works on: company and industry.

For companies, investment banking analysts may need to pour through websites to extract the core products and services that are provided. Other times, especially when the companies are public, analysts read equity research reports to see how equity research groups from various banks view the future of the respective company.

The other type of research involves digging into an industry to identify key trends that support a pitchbook (investment banking lingo for presentations to clients). Because senior investment bankers have been in the industry for so long and have seen how industries have been transformed with mergers and acquisitions, clients trust that bankers provide valuable industry insight. Investment banking analysts are therefore tasked with looking through industry research reports to supplement their seniors’ thoughts about an industry with factual data.

#3 – Financial Modeling

The investment banking analyst positions are highly coveted due to the opportunity to build a strong technical financial modeling skillset. Though there are some groups within investment banking that don’t involve modeling, most groups will require it.

Financial models can get complex – after all, financial expertise and advice are what clients are primarily paying for. A bulk of an investment banking analyst’s time is spent on understanding a client’s financial model. In addition, he or she will perform various valuation methodologies or financial analyses that are required for each deal.

#4 – PowerPoint Pitchbooks

To tie all of the aforementioned three responsibilities together, investment banking analysts & associate need to build pitchbooks for client meetings. The most time consuming aspect of this is the refinement phase, which is why analysts build reputations for having incredible attention to detail. Perfection is required. If any small detail is overlooked (i.e. incorrect spelling or grammar) and the client notices it, the client gets spooked. He or she may then question any other part of the analysis, and ultimately the expensive advice they are paying for. As a result, investment banking analysts and their teams spend copious amounts of time constantly reviewing presentations to ensure that there are no mistakes.

In addition, building pitchbooks just takes time. For banks to properly do their jobs, each page needs to be thoughtful and cater to the client’s needs. As a result, while thought templates may be used for some pages, most pitchbooks require new pages with new kinds of analyses. As a result, investment banking analysts need to put in vast amounts of work when putting together these pages.

#5 – Miscellaneous

At the end of the day, an investment banking analyst’s job is to make their team’s life easier. Therefore, whether it’s getting coffee for seniors or printing pitchbooks, analysts support their deal teams through various miscellaneous responsibilities.

In addition, there are usually opportunities at banks for analysts to contribute to the firm. The most common ways include recruiting, diversity programs, and internal committees. Because an analyst is usually busy to start, these extra activities are not insignificant additions to an investment banking analyst’s schedule.

A Day in the Life of an Investment Banking Analyst

There is a spectrum when it comes to a day in the life of an investment banking associate or analyst. See below for an hourly breakdown of what a good and bad a day might look like.

A Good Day – Morning

9:00 AM – I only have a few deals going on and none of them have immediate deadlines, so I know I can sleep in a bit today. I wake up and immediately check my email to see if I need to come into the office soon. Seeing nothing, I slowly get out of bed and plan to answer some emails on my walk to work.

10:00 AM – I stroll into my cubicle and boot up my computer to answer a few longer emails that I didn’t get to on my way to work. Given that I don’t have much going, I ask my co-workers if any want to grab breakfast burritos. A few tag along with me.

11:00 AM – I scarf down the burrito and start getting to work. I was recently put on a deal that’s just getting started but there isn’t much work yet. My senior wants to know more about the company, so I download various reports to put together a “Public Information Book.” I print it and put it on his desk since he’s not there.

12:00 PM – Lunch time! I ask my colleagues if any of them want to grab lunch and a few come along. On the way, we talk about the latest deals our group is working on. We add in any interesting gossip about bankers leaving the firm.

A Good Day – Afternoon

1:00 PM – Back in my cube and with lunch in my stomach, I jump on a conference call for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) that our team is working on. There are a lot of senior bankers, clients, and lawyers on the phone so I just listen and don’t say a word.

2:00 PM – After the call is over, my associate calls me over to discuss some pages we need to put together for the IPO. They involve various pages about the company and a financial overview. I also need to coordinate with my Equity Capital Markets team and make sure we get pages on the financial markets as well. I know this is going to take me a few hours, but most of it isn’t too hard so it seems like it’s going to be an easy day.

A Good Day – Evening

5:00 PM – After working on my pages, I print a draft and review them to check for errors. No matter how many times I view presentations on my computer, I always seem to find errors when seeing the pages on paper. I make some changes to the PowerPoint and print a copy for my investment banking associate for her to review. For the next few hours, I have nothing to do while I wait for comments, so I just browse the Internet and check what’s happening in today’s NBA games.

7:00 PM – Luckily, I’m working with a good investment banking associate who checks things quickly so I can leave the office as early as possible. She provides a few reasonable comments to the pages, which I make and send out to the team. Afterwards, I grab a long dinner with a friend who works near my building.

9:00 PM – During dinner, I constantly check my email for any messages from my team in case anything is needed, but my inbox remains quiet. I get back to my cube, pack up, and head home for an early night. I check my email every hour or so before heading to bed.

A Bad Day – Morning

7:00 AM – Because we’re working with a team on the East Coast, I wake up early (I’m on the West Coast) to make a call. I slept at 2AM last night so I take the call drowsily on my bed and take notes on my phone. When the call finishes, we jump on another internal call. The senior bankers want to see how our numbers change when we tweak some assumptions.

7:30 AM – I boot up my computer at home to rapidly make some changes to the model and output the pages to PowerPoint. I send the pages to my associate and wait for him to check them as I brush my teeth and rush to the office.

8:15 AM – I don’t mind staying at the office too late but getting in early kills me inside. My i-banking associate emails me with some changes to make. After making them, I send the revised pages to our internal team and wait for their reply.

I’m working on an intense M&A sell-side deal and we’re at a critical point in the transaction. There are multiple potential buyers – each have their own set of banks. We’re in charge of coordinating the entire process in addition to working on valuation materials for our client. We’re working towards an important client deliverable so I’m in what’s known as “fire drill” mode. There is literally nothing more important to me right now than work.

9:00 AM – I know I’m not eating breakfast today. My associate comes into the office and we immediately group up to discuss what’s on the to-do list. Earlier in the morning, the client told us they made a huge error in their projections, which is what we based our entire valuation on. We need to receive the revised model and make changes to the majority of our deliverable, which is due by tomorrow.

9:30 AM – I have my headphones on blasting music. I’ve just received the revised financial figures and spend the next few hours madly making changes to our valuation model in Excel and outputting the pages into PowerPoint.

A Bad Day – Afternoon

12:00 PM – Though everything isn’t yet perfect, I print two drafts and check through it quickly with my associates. After a few more tweaks, we print the drafts and walk to our Managing Director’s office to huddle up and see how these changes affect the transaction. It turns out that the client wasn’t accounting for enough operating expenses, artificially inflating their operating income. The mistake isn’t a dealbreaker, but it definitely looks bad to potential buyers who will now be incentivized to lower their offers. Luckily, this isn’t the first time this has happened, and the senior bankers give us instructions on how to revise the pitchbook. We get back to work.

2:00 PM – In the middle of updating the model, my J.P. Morgan colleague brings me a sandwich that he picked up for me. I thank him and set it aside for now.

3:00 PM – We get an email from our client that we need to immediately jump on the phone. Uh oh.

3:15 PM – The client says that there’s another mistake in their projections and asks for another hour to send revised figures. Inside our cubicles, my investment banking associate and I fume with frustration at the client’s incompetence. Well, at least I can have my lunch now while I wait.

4:30 PM – For an hour and a half, I work on setting up the model and pages. That way, we can make the required changes as quickly as possible. We finally get the revised projections from the client, which we work on implementing.

A Bad Day – Evening

6:00 PM – The pages are revised and are sent to the senior bankers. Now, we play an investment banking analyst’s least favorite game – the waiting game. Depending on whether or not our seniors are busy, we can expect comments either right away or in a few hours. Given how stressful the day has been, I decide to take a breather and grab dinner with my associate.

8:00 PM – We finally get our comments. Our seniors decide that given the changes to the projections, two new pages of analysis are needed. Two doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the investment banking world, that can mean many additional hours of work. That’s unfortunately the case this time, so I brace myself for a long night.

11:00 PM – I’m done with the first draft of the pitchbook, with only a rough outline of the new pages. I send the pages to the senior bankers and immediately jump on a call to discuss any further changes. Luckily, they say everything looks pretty good and only suggest a few more changes. My seniors say they’re going to sleep and ask that we send the presentation to them for review first thing in the morning.

3:00 AM – More of the same thing. Continuous revisions to the model and presentation while my associate works on his own pages and also checks over mine. We finally get the pitchbook to the point where it’s ready to be sent to the seniors. During our final check, I notice that two of the text boxes aren’t aligned and tell my associate. He says to fix it in the morning, so I send off the presentation.

4:00 AM – Given that this one deal has taken up my whole day, I have some work piled up from my other transactions. I spend some time working until I start to periodically pass out in my chair. Then, I send my deal teams notices that I’ve made progress but will send them revised pages tomorrow. I know that they’ll see the timestamp in the email and understand.

How Does a Day in Investment Banking Compare to Management Consulting?

The 3 Major Similarities

  • Deadline-driven, demanding projects / transactions. Bankers and consultants are at the will of their clients, who are sure to get their money’s worth in advice. To do that, they ask for large quantities of insightful analysis in short periods of time.
  • Lots of coordination and people management. Bankers and consultants work with multiple parties while driving their projects, leading to lots of time on calls and meetings.
  • Overlaps in types of work. Investment bankers and consultants both spend much of their time doing research, working with numbers in Excel, and building PowerPoint presentations.

The 3 Major Differences

  • Work hours – Consultants work fewer hours. Though there are challenging projects that require consistent long nights, consultants can expect to head home before midnight on most days.
  • Focus – Consultants focus on one project at a time. Investment bankers usually have multiple deals going on at once. They can be jumping from project to project throughout any given day.
  • Client interaction – Consultants interface with clients more often. Though senior bankers often meet with clients, investment banking analysts usually don’t attend meetings. Instead, they spend most of the day on calls and working in their cubicles.

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