Every successful investment bank (and quite a few unsuccessful ones) has in their pay a banking superstar. He or she might be a wildly profitable trader, a rain-making M&A kingpin or a research analyst with a knack for predicting industry trends and market behaviour.
I haven’t mentioned sales people, for the simple reason that on some level, all of the above will have excellent selling skills. It’s a sine qua non, even if, as in the case of the trader, those sales skills only come to the fore once or twice a year at the key review meetings and strategic get-togethers which determine bonuses.
If you’re lucky, you’ll come into the orbit of one of these hotshots at some point in our career. One way or another, you’re bound to learn a lot from them. And especially in the junior ranks of the City, learning from the few people who make or break a bank’s success is worth more than its weight in gold.
I was reminded of this a few months ago when news broke that Ian Hannam, one of JPMorgan’s key M&A bankers resigned his post to fight allegations of market abuse by Britain's Financial Services Authority.
There’s an interesting profile of Hannam from Fortune’s website here by the way, which was written before the scandal happened.
It’s not for me to comment on this news, however I have had some contact with the man, and I can definitely say that he’s a good banker. He’s smart, very good at his job and is a very charismatic guy. Hannam has certainly earned huge sums in fees for the bank and I’m sure his departure leaves a huge gap in their deal pipeline.
As well as Hannam, I have worked for one or two other Über-bankers in my life, and I have reaped the benefits of being exposed to them. Clearly, there’s no one better to learn the trade from. You’ll bathe in their halo of success and reputation. But what’s the flipside?
There’s no such thing as unreasonable
Don’t feel like running thousands of valuation scenarios on that financial model, or sifting through an 80-page prospectus making obscure grammatical checks that Word can’t do for itself? Do it, and get used to it, since this is the deal of your boss’ (and quite possibly the bank’s) lifetime.
Wave sayonara to your personal life
You will spend so much time in contact communication with your boss that your friends and family will start to wonder if they have become a sort of surrogate partner. You will be on tap for them whenever they feel like calling you. I’ve been pulled out of the cinema, family occasions, even a holiday abroad to carry out requests for my boss. Sometimes, it’ll be just to fix a piece of formatting on a PowerPoint slide (see 1) above). Those are the chips I’m afraid.
Effectively, it’ll be like you are in a relationship with them
Notonly that, but it’ll be the most high maintenance relationship you’ve ever experienced.
In practice, this means that although a job in finance was hard enough in the first place - with long hours, stress, difficult personalities and constantly elevated expectations - it just got even tougher. On the upside, you’ll get to work on a lot of deals and you will learn a lot about client seduction.
Essentially, it’s a trade-off. Big bankers know you stand a lot to gain by working for them. And they will squeeze you hard as a result.
The author has worked in bulge-bracket M&A since graduating from university a long time ago.