November 30, 2023

Investment Banking

Let Your Investment Banking Do The Walking

Junior Bankers Are Working Poolside, Playing Xbox As Deals Plummet

  • I’m a TMT investment-banking analyst. I worked 100 hours a week on average last year.
  • The recent deals slowdown has been a rare chance for analysts like me to leave NYC and just chill.
  • I still do some work, but now I’m traveling out of state, sitting by the pool, and playing Xbox.
  • This is an as-told-to first-person account shared with Insider finance reporter Reed Alexander.

This first-person, as-told-to story is based on an interview conducted in late May with a first-year investment-banking analyst who works in New York City. Insider has verified this person’s identity and employment, but is obscuring those details due to the person’s fear of reprisal. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

When I showed up at my parents’ house in mid-May for the first time in months, my family’s immediate reaction was that I basically looked “dead.”

Big black circles rimmed my eyes, and the color had drained from my face. I was much worse for wear than when I left home after graduating college in the summer of 2021 to start my job.

This time, I had returned from the frontlines of Wall Street, and the results weren’t pretty.

I’m an investment-banking analyst in my mid-20s at a bulge-bracket bank in New York City. Since I joined the firm in August, I’ve sat on my bank’s technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) team. It’s among the most grueling roles for junior bankers starting their careers, but there are upsides that make the painstaking two years worth it — like solid exit opportunities and getting to work on deals for killer tech clients.

Our work weeks on average range from 80 to 100 hours. But recently, it’s swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. Now I’m clocking 20 hours a week max, thanks to a slowdown in tech mergers and public offerings that has hit my bank hard.

Granted, we do worry that the drop-off in business could result in layoffs or hiring freezes. But we’ll worry about that tomorrow.

For now, we all have a lot more free time. Some of us are even sneaking out of the city to actually enjoy the start of summer. I’m one of them.

Unbearable boredom has taken hold

We started noticing the slowdown in our business pipeline around March.

By the beginning of May, unbearable boredom had set in on my team. I found myself pacing around my office building one afternoon a few weeks ago, just trying to waste time with so little to do.

Usually, I can’t wait to get out of the office because I’m exhausted and want to go home. Now I can’t wait to get out because the monotony is causing me to go out of my mind. 

At that point, it became clear that there’s little value in coming into the office aside from satisfying my bank’s hybrid work requirements. So, at the beginning of last month, I made a decision to get out of town. I booked two tickets for my girlfriend and me to visit my family out of state in a warm-weather spot, where there are cloudless skies and a picture-perfect pool in our backyard.

Since I got here, I’ve literally spent more time chilling than doing actual work. Of course, I make sure that my phone and computer are nearby 24/7, and I quickly respond to emails from my bosses. When I get back to New York City, I plan to go into the office every day starting in mid-June, in order to keep suspicions down.

But for now, what’s the hurry? Why waste time staring at a blank computer screen when I could be playing tennis with my dad or enjoying my mom’s cooking? I’ve sat by the pool most afternoons I’ve been here. I pass most of my free time by


“Succession” on


, or playing video games like Madden NFL 21 football and FIFA 22 soccer on Xbox. I’ve gotten pretty good, too.

It’s not like my being here is hurting anybody or has somehow mortally wounded any of the remaining clients calling us to do work. Think about how crazy all of this sounds: A Wall Street investment-banking analyst sitting by the pool or playing Xbox on a weekday.

How do I do it? Well, that’s my secret. My bosses have no idea where I am right now.

No one seems to have noticed my absence

The reason this is all working out so well is that my bank has a hybrid policy that tracks our office attendance on a monthly basis.

When I booked my travel a few weeks ago, I didn’t tell anybody. I just made sure to front-load the month of May by coming in every day for two weeks — gotta get those ID swipes in, after all — and then stopped coming in for the rest of the month once I left town. The numbers should ultimately even themselves out.

I’m pretty sure my bosses think I’m just home at my apartment in the city. That’s assuming they even notice my presence in the office — or lack thereof — at all. But who’s to say they’re even in the office themselves to notice anything?

When I get emails from senior people on my team, like our managing director or vice president, I still spring to answer them. I haven’t officially taken any vacation time, so I don’t want to get called out over appearing to be unavailable. I’m just doing my work poolside while slathering on my sunscreen.

It’s the same me who would be reporting for duty on any normal day at the office. But, instead of suits and sportcoats, I’m chilling in sweatpants or my bathing suit on one of my parents’ lounge chairs in the backyard.

The reason work has slowed to such a crawl is because the deals market is facing serious logjams. No one is quite sure whether now is a good moment to do a purchase or sale, and public offerings have essentially been ruled out by most clients.

In spite of the stock market gains we’ve seen in the last few days, it’s anybody’s guess what could happen next. Clients worry that their big moment going public on the NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange could fall on a day when the indices nosedive by hundreds of points.

It’s a messy situation, and the result is that we’re all bored. A friend of mine recently said he was able to finish working at noon one day, leave the office, run some errands, go for a walk around Central Park, and then take an early afternoon nap. That’s unheard of.

Another buddy of mine, also an analyst at my bank, has been crashing at a beach house on Fire Island for the past few weeks. He parks his cell phone and computer by the pool and gets out of the water every 30 minutes to see if he’s received any messages from work. If not, he gets right back in the water.

We do worry about layoffs and hiring freezes, though

As great as all this sounds, I’ll readily admit there are pros and cons.

On one hand, I’ve slept more over the past few weeks than the preceding nine months. My girlfriend tells me I’m looking way better physically — rejuvenated, she says, like I’m slowly coming back to life. The sharp, lingering pain that’s been racking both sides of my chest for months is dissipating. I blame the stress of this job for causing that pain in the first place.

That said, our bank’s analyst bonus pool will very likely dry up this year. Fewer deals will probably mean substantially pared-back comp when we get our bonus payouts later this summer.

Then, there’s the possibility of layoffs and hiring freezes. A few teams at my firm have quietly told their analysts that they’re not planning to onboard new people right now. Others have said they’re pausing all new hiring plans until they’ve had a chance to see how things develop.

Naturally, I’m hoping to avoid cullings should they happen. Analysts are relatively cheap for the big banks, and I figure that that will probably spare me. If the banks want to save real money, they should start by sending overpaid MDs — many of whom who produce little — to the guillotine before turning their sights to us.

By next summer, I’ll be able to ditch this place anyway and join the private-equity firm that gave me an associate offer earlier this year. 

No apologies

Of course, I hope that the deals market will rebound soon, if only because it would be an indicator that the economy is regaining some health.

But here’s what you’ve got to understand about being an investment banker. Everybody always talks about “working smart,” meaning making a lot of money without having to actually put in a lot of hours. Consumer goods manufacturers seem to have figured out that concept. But, in practice, it doesn’t really apply on Wall Street.

In our line of work, for all the intelligence and big brains that people in this industry claim to have, we still make money the old-fashioned way: pulling all-nighters, popping Adderall, and grinding the work out at all costs. Even when that means doing menial tasks, like reformatting a pitch deck logo simply because your MD wants it slightly smaller and shifted a quarter inch to the left.

But finally, for this brief period, I feel like I’m actually working “smart.” I mean, I’m still doing my job, right? I’m just doing it poolside. I’m on calls. I just happen to be running a scrimmage at the same time in Madden NFL football on Xbox Live. I might never get to do these things simultaneously again.

So you won’t hear my fellow junior bankers and me apologize for getting extra rest or enjoying some rare quality time with friends and family. We’ve all done our time over the past year of wild dealmaking, fielding midnight emails, or 2 a.m. phone calls from managing directors or staffers telling us to haul ass on some insignificant assignment that has to be completed without delay.

There’s a time and a place for that, but it isn’t now. And if my girlfriend is telling me I look better, my parents are making me dinner, and I’m crushing Madden football on my Xbox in the middle of the workday — well, I guess you can safely call that a touchdown.

Are you a junior investment banker on Wall Street? How are evolving market conditions affecting your business? Contact this reporter to share your experience. Reed Alexander can be reached via email at [email protected], or SMS/the encrypted app Signal at (561) 247-5758.