December 3, 2023

Investment Banking

Let Your Investment Banking Do The Walking

How Junior Bankers Rank Their Experience at Goldman, JPMorgan, Evercore.

  • Insider obtained recruitment firm Odyssey Search Partners’ survey of first-year banking analysts.
  • The results show that boutique banks — not bulge brackets — provide the best work experience.
  • Results also show that “top tier” boutique banks attract graduates with the highest GPAs.

When people think of Wall Street, they think of Goldman Sachs.

The century-and-a-half-old investment bank is known for being the hottest adviser for mergers and acquisitions — it has held the top spot for dealmaking for five years. But a survey of more than 1,000 junior analysts obtained by Insider reveals the firm, along with the other comparable bulge brackets who have all traditionally reigned supreme on Wall Street, are not necessarily the hottest choice for junior talent. 

Odyssey Search Partners, a recruitment firm that nabs talent from investment banks for clients in hedge funds, private equity, and family practices, surveys hundreds of fresh-faced investment banking analysts each year on everything from job satisfaction to pay.

Insider obtained a copy of the 2021 results report, which was shared with Odyssey clientele in early 2022 by the recruitment firm but has not been made public until now. The survey collected data from over 1,000 first-year investment banking analysts between November 2021 and January 2022, when they were only a few months into their first Wall Street jobs. The 21-page document provides unique insights into this talent pool, their backgrounds, and their job preferences.

Anthony Keizner, a managing partner at Odyssey, said the 2021 survey was especially notable because it took place in the midst of a  post-COVID hiring frenzy, which sparked an overflow of job opportunities as well as “unprecedented increases” in base salaries.

The analyst class of 2021 was “shaped by a record demand for talent, all-time high compensation, and low levels of in-person office time,” which “combined to yield some interesting effects,” said the survey introduction.

Odyssey collects this data, which surveys people found online as well as “friends of the firm,” to provide clients insight and identify candidates for buy-side recruitment. But the survey results, which the firm has been gathering since 2018, also offer a larger portrait of junior talent hiring trends over time.

pie chart showing the various banks where Odyssey Search Partners' survey participants work

Odyssey Search Partners

One thing the survey reveals is that Wall Street — or at least this analyst class — is still mostly white, straight, and male.

Most of the survey respondents (53%) work at bulge bracket firms like Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Citi, and Bank of America — yet in several ways, the boutiques reign supreme.

Top-tier boutiques, which in the survey include firms like Lazard, PJT, and Evercore, not only received higher scores in the experience rating section, but also appear to be attracting the most academically successful young bankers. First-year analysts at “top-tier” boutiques also graduated with higher GPAs than their counterparts at bulge brackets for a third year running. 

“The very best candidates, the very best seniors in college looking to enter investment banking will continue to have a preference for the boutiques because of the deal experience, responsibility, and, frankly, exit opportunities that they’ve seen from those that have joined those banks in prior years,” said Keizner. “Even given the efforts of some of the bulge bracket banks to attract and retain people, I think that overall pattern will likely remain.”

Of course, the investment banking landscape has changed dramatically since this survey was conducted. And Keizner plans to release a new survey “in the next couple weeks” that will reveal how the 2022 class of investment banking analysts feels about working for Wall Street during a downturn. 


Odyssey Search Partners

He predicts the survey will show base salaries have flatlined following increases of as much as 40% at some firms during the pandemic. Keizner also predicts more analysts will be anchored to their current jobs than they have been in recent years, including last year when 52% said they would be willing to leave for new opportunities before their investment banking programs officially ended.

“I think we’ll find that bankers value stability more than they had done a year ago and are more likely to want to stay through their investment banking program or fulfill their commitment to two or three years versus leaving to some startup fund or some tech firm, because there are fewer of those opportunities and those are seen as riskier,” said Keizner. 

Wall Street’s return-to-office efforts could also prove helpful to retention of junior bankers, he said. “People have returned to the office, have met colleagues and feel more part of the fabric of their organizations than they had a year ago. It’s a lot harder to look your boss in the eye and resign than it is to do it over Zoom.”

Insider pulled 13 of the most compelling elements of the 21-page survey results. See them here: