I’m a former investment banking analyst for 3 years. Thought it may be of interest to some of you to provide an hour-by-hour breakdown of a good day vs. a bad day in banking.
This is just based on my own personal experience and every day was pretty different so treat this as a bit of a general overview.
A Good Day
Here’s what a good day would look like and I’ll assume I’m mainly working on a few marketing books which means we haven’t signed on the client yet and we’re just trying to win business
- 8:30AM: Wake up around and scroll through ~20 emails and see that nothing requires immediate attention so snooze for another 15 minutes. Luckily, I live super close to the office (a must-do if you’re a banker) so I get ready and get to the office around 9:30 AM
- 10:00AM: I get my desk set up and answer a few emails but given that my projects are pretty quiet, I ask my analyst buddy if he’d like to go get a breakfast burrito with me
- 10:30AM: I hurry back to my desk for a conference call for a potential IPO that we’re working on. Luckily as an analyst, you don’t ever have to say anything so I quietly eat my burrito and take notes I can send to my team
- 10:30AM – 12:30PM: For the next few hours, I start working on spreading trading comps which is one of the ways to value a company for a marketing book I’m working on. Trading comps entails going through financial statements, looking up financial metrics, and copy pasting them into an excel spreadsheet. At first it was fun, but now that I’ve done this hundreds of times, it’s a little boring.
- 12:30PM: It’s now around lunchtime and I go out with a few analysts and associates to grab a sandwich to eat back at the desk.
- 1230PM – 3:00PM: I scarf the sandwich down and get back to work on the trading comps and start double checking all my numbers. I then create a nice chart to showcase all the numbers and print it out for my associate. Since I got my pages done, now I can relax a bit for my associate to check over the work. I check on my phone, start texting my friends to see what plans they have for the weekend, etc.
- 5:00PM: My associate is done checking over the page and says the numbers look good but want a few formatting changes, so I quickly make those and send the full presentation to our team for their review. We now play the waiting game again, and this is often why bankers stay late into the night. Even though we finished our pages by 5PM, our Managing Director is out there having a life and responding ASAP to some analysts still in the office isn’t exactly his number one priority
- 7:00PM: I go back to surfing the web and grab dinner to bring back to the office and finally get our comments at 7PM. Our MD gives us a list of 15 changes, which isn’t too bad since they’re all pretty quick fixes.
- 7:00PM – 9:30PM: For the next few hours, I finish up all the changes and send it over to my associate and VP, who are both at home now. They both check over everything and give me a few more comments. I make those changes and send them back the revised version.
- 10:00PM: Team gets back to me saying the presentation is good to go. I send it to our printing office who creates prints and binds the books into professional-looking booklets
- 11:30PM: I pick up the books from the printing office and drop them off at my MD’s desk and call an Uber home
- 12:15AM: I take a quick shower and crawl into bed, watch a show and crash
- Commentary: This is a relatively easy day even though I didn’t necessarily leave the office early (sometimes I would leave from 8PM-10PM on some really really good days). But the work wasn’t intense and there was some waiting around which feels a little more like free time.
A Bad Day
Next up is a bad day, and here, I’ll be assuming I’m on an intense live M&A deal
- 7:00AM: The worst start to a bad day is that you haven’t slept much the day before so let’s say I slept at 3AM and am now waking up at 7AM
- Not only did I not get much sleep, sometimes, my seniors or clients might be overseas, which means I have to wake up early since I worked on the other side of earth.
- I wake up to 50 emails and slightly panic because 10 minutes ago, my MD asked for some changes to the presentation I sent out last night in advance of our 9AM call
- I email my associate that I am working on the changes on my phone and boot up my computer which is just a few feet away from my bed
- I work like a madman for an hour turning comments and send it to my associate and while waiting for comments, I brush my teeth and put on my suit
- 8:30AM: By the time I’m in the office, my associate has provided me a few comments and after making them, I send it off to the client
- 9:00AM: I have a short breather for about 5 minutes before jumping on a conference call with a client. Let’s say that we’re in the beginning stages of an M&A deal and the call is about valuation
- For the next 30 minutes, I take notes on the call and at the end, I learn that the client has finished making changes to its management model and will be sending it to us right after the call so we can build financial models based on their figures
- 9:30AM: Right after the call, the model is sent to us, and my associate and I each take the next 2 hours going through the model and trying to understand how everything flows (any reputable company will have an internal financial model it uses to project its next few years). Bankers use this model to build out valuation materials but these models can often be really hairy, confusing, and unorganized
- Usually, it takes more than 2 hours to dissect a management model if it’s really complicated, but let’s just say for our purposes it takes 2 hours to briefly look through all the tabs
- 11:30AM: My associate and I discuss the questions we have in the model and set up a call with the client at 12PM
- In the meantime, my Managing Director wants the latest information about the company, so I compile the latest equity research reports of our client and send it to him
- 12:00PM: My associate leads the call and asks our questions about the model while I take notes and during this time, my co-worker drops off a salad at my desk since I won’t have any time to grab lunch myself
- 1:00PM: My associate and I run into a meeting in our MD’s office to discuss what we need to do.
- Our MD lays out to us the presentation materials he wants page by page, referencing old materials we can recycle and update and laying out the financial analysis that we need to do
- During this meeting, my associate and I are furiously taking down notes so that we don’t miss anything
- 2:00PM: I scarf down my salad which is the first thing I’ve eaten all day and then get working on the model first while my associate puts together a shell of the presentation
- Over the next 5 hours, I’m using the management’s model to create a discounted cash flow analysis which is one of the ways to value a company
- 7:00PM: I send over the model to my associate who starts checking over it while I work on the rest of the presentation which involves updating market overview slides and spreading trading and transaction comps. I also hop on a Grab food order with my colleagues for dinner during this time
- 8:00PM: My associate gives me changes to make to the model which I refocus my attention to and work on for the next 4 hours
- 12:00AM: I’m finally done with the next draft of the model, which I send to my associate, who tells me to work on the other parts of the presentation and focus on the model tomorrow
- 4:00AM: I finish making updates to the market overview pages, finish spreading the trading and transaction comps, and send all of these materials to my associate and then head home to crash
Commentary: It’s certainly possible to have 1-4 weeks of many 2AM-4AM nights in a row. Usually, an intense live deal also meant working 20+ hours on the weekends (though you could sleep in a bit). I’d say about 20% of my days were bad days, 20% good, and 60% in between.