Last week, I wrote an article about what it’s like to be an investment banking analyst. Most of my friends who are still in the industry said the article told their story well. The ones who have left banking told me the article induced Vietnam-style PTSD flashbacks, and for that, I apologize. While I had no intention of writing on this subject matter again, there was one person who felt I missed a crucial component of the analyst’s story. My girlfriend from when I was an analyst sent me a text saying she loved the article, but that as a follow up, I should tell the story of the analyst’s girlfriend. She felt that if I was going to debunk the glamor of being an investment banking analyst, I should also debunk the glamor of dating one.
Before we return to the story of Bill, our budding analyst, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that relationships are hard at all levels of the investment bank, not just the analyst level (DISCLAIMER: as with the last article, I am discussing corporate investment banking, not sales and trading, etc.). Being a significant other in the world of investment banking is a thankless job. Most wives of senior investment bankers rarely see their husbands, because they’re constantly on the road and often have to travel at a moment’s notice. Even when they are home, they rarely leave their work at the office, and it’s normal for them to comment on documents and take phone calls late into the evening and on weekends. I won’t even go into the toll it takes on the children who are essentially raised without a male influence in their lives.
At first, this may sound surprising, given that the general rule of thumb in America is that as you rise in the ranks of an organization, you gain more control of your life. We’ve also been tricked into believing that all senior finance professionals are “big swinging dicks” and “masters of the universe” (thanks Michael Lewis and Tom Wolfe). What most people don’t realize is that investment banking, at its core, is a part of the service industry, and as the popular saying goes, “the customer is always right.” In this case, though, the customer (or client) isn’t just right, the client is Christian Grey making the senior investment banker his own personal bitch. I have seen grown ass men do everything short of get down on their knees and suck off the client’s CEO just to make sure he’s happy. No banker wants to lose that multimillion dollar transaction fee, so you can understand why these senior investment bankers aren’t exactly masters of their own schedule. Personally, I’ve never understood why the families put up with it, but I guess the kids don’t really have a choice, and the wives enjoy the fat spending account (sexist, I know, but also true).
But the girlfriend of the investment banking analyst enjoys no such perks. She gets to date a guy who sleeps in a living room, works more than 100 hours a week, and blacks out harder than Rip Van Winkle whenever he actually gets out of the office. Many male analysts graduate college still in a serious relationship that they intend to continue into their first year of banking. One hundred percent of those relationships end in the first six to 12 months. I don’t know a single friend or colleague who was able to make a relationship last. The only successful relationships I saw were those started amongst investment banking analysts. It’s just too hard to date outside of the banking world, because 99 percent of people don’t understand what it’s like.
So what causes these relationships to inevitably end? Let’s spend another day with our analyst, Bill, as he exchanges text messages with his girlfriend:
Thus ends a tumultuous day for Bill and his girlfriend. While this was just one day in the life of the relationship, these sorts of conversations are a daily occurrence. The investment banking analyst is the king of canceling plans. Eventually, he will get to a point where he just stops trying to make plans with anyone. The problem isn’t the 100+ hour work week–it’s the uncertainty of those hours. You have zero control of your schedule. Want to work a 19-hour Friday to assure yourself that you can go to that concert on Saturday? Sorry. Something else will come up on Saturday afternoon. Want to grab a quick lunch on a Tuesday with your friend who’s in town visiting? Expect to have something blow up at work midway through lunch. You’ll have to leave $20 on the table and just tell your friend it was good to see him. Over time, the analyst slowly drifts away from friends, family, and loved ones until his only relationships are with other analysts, a bottle of vodka, and that girl standing at the bar at 3 a.m. who is normally a five, but looks like a 10 tonight.