Tuesday, 7 May 2013


Investment banking attracts a certain kind of people - ambitious, highly motivated, driven and of course extremely sharp individuals. What's interesting is as the years progress, they  begin to drop by the dozens - analysts classes become smaller, associate pool starts to shrink as  many of those same individuals decide they want to pursue something else. Apart from going to PE - which is largely similar to the environment they have previously left, I am curious to know how they adjust back to the real world.

For e.g. - in my current role, I have a lot to be thankful for and have no complaints- I have good hours, ample vacation time and non-working weekends. What I was unprepared for was the sheer amount of time, one has to spend navigating the treacherous waters of politics and wading the murky realms of subtle manipulations and human interaction.

When you are in investment banking - the cut-throat directness and ruthlessness leaves little room for subtlety. When your MD wants a " book" by tomorrow or a client needs a deliverable, you deliver it - there is no room for interpretation, he doesn't care whether you like it or not - there is no " stakeholder engagement" , no negotiations, no buy-ins needed. Even as an Associate or a VP - you may have a team of analysts under you but one doesn't really " manage" them apart from direct/review their work like a drill-sergeant. Your appraisal process is a formality and your bonus number gives you an indication of whether you go up or out. One doesn't really learn how to deal with people.
It seems even the politics at the senior level of an investment bank are more direct. The razor sharp intellect and the pointedness which makes for great bankers don't necessarily make for great politicians.  As a result, you see so many investment bankers make major media faux pas, and then multiple town-halls and apologies later, they are sometimes redeemed (remember Lloyd Blankfein's - " we are doing God's work").
Furthermore, confrontation in an I-bank is more of a lion-gazelle encounter, where authority is clearly established and eventually you as the gazelle (after a few protests) quietly submit. The threat is visible and palpable. However, what is more insidious is when you are softly grazing in the grasslands and suddenly get stung in your backside by a giant and dangerous honey-bee.

So, what is interesting to see is how extremely bright and smart people surrounded by rather average people get blind-sided. Now, logically - one would shine and stand out and put everyone to shame. Not True - the same diligence and professionalism that you earlier prided is no longer well-regarded, intellect is termed as arrogance, fast decision-making is considered reckless and brash. Mediocrity is beautifully camouflaged by meaningless words, lack of intellect is compensated by machiavellian scheming, inaction is explained as patient and thoughtful analysis, incompetence is claimed to be  measured effort and efficiency is over-rated.
Now, I see a lot of ex-bankers and consultants around and they seem to grapple with all of the above issues, some previously left and went back to the old way of life claiming " politics consumed them" ...however, what we need to learn is how to re-wire and un-learn certain skills and learn the art of "people management" ... a skill we lost or never learnt in the race to deliver pitchbooks and close deals .... 

5 comments:

  1. Hey there, am enjoying reading your blog. I was an investment banking analyst for two years in the city. I left late last year to go travelling and am now looking for a new job. Reading your blog brings back a lot of bad memories!!! I am just wondering what is your current job? Corporate finance at a company? Looks like you have found a nice job after your time in banking which is really great.

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  2. Hey! Well cant answer that question without revealing too much- still in the general industry! But very glad to hear that you came across my blog and enjoy reading it - very encouraging ... if u want to walk down memory lane and share any absurdly funny yet not so painful stories - that would be great! I am sure the year spent travelling gave u further perspective on ur previous banking life!

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  3. May I know why you have not blogged for more than a year now? I love reading your posts. Keep on blogging.

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  4. This blog is very informative. Investment banking is very important for every business. Thanks for sharing us.

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  5. Looking back, I find this article so true. You don't really need any people management skill in banking, people will deliver because they value deadline automatically, and you can trust a colleague's work qualify confidently. It's from outside banking where I start to learn the importance of people skill, that you really need to invest in colleague relationship beforehand, in order to get the data you want in time. The way banking operates, is it a good thing or a bad thing, hard to tell.

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