Alpha female: MD promotion - a poisoned chalice?

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In difficult compensation years, banks often "promote rather than pay". 2007 may have been such a year, with apparently large numbers promoted to MD.

Years ago I heard a statistic somewhere that the highest rate of professional attrition in investment banks (other than at the end of the analyst programme) was first and second-year MDs. I have no idea if it is true, but once I got over my surprise and thought about it, it began to make sense.

The skills that will help you to succeed as an MD are not necessarily those that got you there in the first place. To get paid and promoted in an investment bank you need to generate deals and revenue. Initially, you are rewarded for your individual accomplishments. Then (often before promotion to MD) you become a 'producing manager' - essentially someone who is expected to do it all. You have to manage your team AND produce both individual and team revenue.

When the promotion to MD comes, it is generally a recognition of your prior success - what you have done, rather than what you will do. Increasingly, your professional evaluation will not depend on your individual achievements, but rather on those of your team.

Politics also play a larger part - as you are going to be rewarded on your team's performance, you need to make sure that your team is involved in high profile/high revenue transactions. You need to negotiate your way into situations.

Network more than ever before - keep your ear to the ground so that you can anticipate the trends and get your team involved in new products, exciting deals or complicated transactions. Build relationships with those you work with - you can get lots of good information and gossip from them. You especially want them to tell you of brewing problems so that you aren't blindsided when something goes wrong.

At the same time, you need to raise the profile of your team. Highlight your achievements - once your group is involved in something successful, make sure that senior management knows of your team's involvement. Essentially, you need to market yourself and your team internally.

Investment banks are notoriously bad at rewarding good managers - revenue counts more than management skills. That said, manage downward as well as upward.

If you are a good manager your reputation will spread amongst junior staff and they will want to work with you. This will enable you to recruit the talented analysts and associates that you want on to your team. As an MD, you will be looked to as a mentor and a leader.

For many, making MD is the pinnacle of success. You are now a member of an elite club. You've achieved the goal for which you have been striving for years. Investment banks are full of bright, driven people. Initially, there is a celebration. Yes! I've made it.

And then there is an emptiness. What is the next challenge? Now what do I do? Being an MD is a new job requiring a new set of skills. And therein lies the challenge.

Anneke de Boer is a former managing director of Morgan Stanley's fixed income business in London. She retired in 2006.

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