Many young undergraduates harbour dreams of becoming an investment banker when they finish university, but few know what the job entails.
Those who know the reality have probably done an internship in the sector, be it in ECM, DCM or M&A. Some of these people have continued to bite the bullet and become full-fledged analysts, but many interns I know have decided that banking is not for them.
So it was with this rather mixed knowledge that I chose to take up contract work in the investment banking division of a bank. I was first alerted to this opportunity by a friend who informed me that the team needed a junior person for a short period. So I sent in my resume, went for an interview, and got the job. I then had to decide whether I should actually take up the offer.
I’ve long heard about the inhumane hours that IB juniors put in, and that alone was enough to make me think twice. Nonetheless, after several consultations with friends and senior finance professionals, I decided to say yes, whilst still looking for a full-time role.
More than a month has passed since my first day in the job. In fairness, things could be worse. I go home before 10pm everyday and I get weekends off. Not too bad, considering a fellow analyst in a tier-one bank wrote “finally going home” on his Facebook page at 6am one Saturday morning recently. Scary…I don’t think I could do that.
Work-wise, however, it's not great. My life involves PowerPoints, PowerPoints and more PowerPoints. According to a banker friend in Hong Kong, doing slides takes up 80 per cent of the average analyst’s time. So, if you’re good at it, congratulations: you’re a top analyst. I thought I would spend more time building financial models on Excel; apparently not.
Apart from the PowerPoints, I seem to spend time on execution stuff like updating financial statements when earnings season hits, and updating market figures to send to clients and internal capital-markets professionals. Sometimes I buy breakfast, lunch and coffee for those higher up the food chain.
The biggest surprise for me though is the huge amount of legal work involved in M&A. It’s no wonder that many lawyers become bankers later on in their careers. Consider things like defining contract terms, minute nuances in sentence structures in the term sheet – all work of a junior lawyer. Not my kind of thing really.
Such is the life of an investment banking junior. It's not glamorous, but I guess everybody has to start from the bottom. The good thing is that you get paid a lot by graduate standards and your prospects are tremendous. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
A version of this article first appeared on our Asian sites.