Investment Banking hours – are they really that bad?


On average an investment banker can expect to be working 70–80 hour weeks, which averages at about 16 hours per day with some work appearing on the weekend. However, analysts are generally on-call all day every day, even if there are several hours of downtime in between.

It is easy to dismiss the hours and lifestyle sacrifice of working as an investment banker so I share my perspective on what you can expect by combining what others have told me, the common threads of what people share online and my own experiences.

What the hours are like on average

70-80 hours average per week is a commonly quoted figure for investment banking, but this gives the false impression that there is a go-home time in the industry. When 7pm feels like early afternoon on some days, it is difficult for full-time professionals to answer the question ‘when are you usually out of the office?’.

The truth is that bankers are on call 24/7 and although that may average out at 16 hours per day during the week, this might include staying up till early hours of the morning on some days, followed by downtime during ‘normal’ working hours and then cancelling Saturday night plans to complete work ahead of Monday. This irregularity in structure is why being precise about hours is challenging.

Being on call rather than clocking out at a certain time

The biggest drag on the hours is the completely different dynamic of not clocking out at a certain time or even knowing which days will require a late shift. As mentioned above, it is the constant attentiveness to newly given work that extends the working day to your entire waking hours.

On the one hand, this ‘always being on-call’ dynamic can be beneficial as there may be some hours of lower-intensity work, especially for interns. The fluctuations of going from intense workloads to downtime contrasts the sales and trading teams which are tied to market hours and usually see a more intense workflow during those prescribed times, as well as having much earlier starts.

On the other hand, the unpredictability of the working schedule can be a barrier to maintaining relationships with people or planning life outside of work. It is a common joke that if you go out with some friends, you’ll need to take your laptop along and your friends will probably mock you for this.

Why the working hours are the way they are

Here are four reasons why the working hours are the way they are, which is important for when making the mental adjustment.

[1] You are supporting clients with some of the most important parts of their business growth cycle, especially if you’re helping a company IPO or double in size through an acquisition.

Alongside the importance of the project to your client comes the intensity of getting the work done efficiently and implementing U-turns quickly e.g. in an investment memorandum deck your client no longer likes. When the client is paying such a large sum of money, you are expected to put in the overtime for them.

[2] You are working around inevitable bottlenecks and unpredictable work demands.

The MDs, Directors and VPs steer the deal to fruition, and may have various meetings throughout the day on a particular deal they’re working on, so it is common for an analyst’s workload to drop midday or in the afternoon, only to pick up quickly in the evening from 6pm when the senior investment bankers begin delegating work to be completed.

As well as MDs requesting changes, there are factors completely outside your control, such as investors dropping out and the bidding dynamic crumbling that require more hours from the team.

[3] You can’t just hire more people to get the job done in less time.

Completing a CIM (confidential investor memorandum) as part of the process of helping prepare for a deal means tying components together and having too many people working on this can overcomplicate the process or introduce inconsistencies in approach. The work undertaken by analysts can’t just be broken down and delegated to x-number of people to finish by the end of the week, it is a dynamic set of documents that require quick changes and turnaround times.

[4] Senior bankers went through the same thing in their time, and it is expected that current juniors fulfil their duty too.

Senior bankers have high standards, and they expect the people working under them to uphold the same standards, so it’s understandable that they expect the ‘being on-call’ protocol and responding to emails or messages quickly regardless the time or day of the week.

Work comes in waves so prepare for varying levels of intensity

Something that took me time to get used to as an intern was getting used to the fluctuating intensity of work. Sometimes you would have a lot more time to complete a particular task and sometimes you might be juggling two deadlines at once in the early hours of the morning.

Many people may argue that this is an inefficient way of working, but this comes back to the nature and purpose of the work being undertaken. These projects are demanding tasks that require very close collaboration, senior-banker approval and iterations before sending off to the client. It is the dynamic and demanding nature of the work that leads to such wave-like intensities throughout the week.

Is it worth it?

Personally, I think it is irrational to think that a higher salary or any money can compensate for the extreme sacrifice in lifestyle, so compensation-wise, probably not worth-it. Why? Because you’re striving for more of something that can’t even contribute to a ‘nicer’ life since you’re working all the time – this only makes sense if you are trying to make x amount in a given timeframe… and there are probably much better ways to do this if that’s your aim.

In my opinion, it is the experience you gain and the knowledge you acquire that makes the hours worth-it. The way this expertise makes you an asset to future clients and opens many doors, even if you don’t want to pursue investment banking long-term is invaluable – there is a high changeover rate each year as many people leave and many join.

Not all banks are equal

As a final note and without naming names, some banks extend extreme hours to inhumane hours. I was lucky, since there is no face-time policy at Torch Partners, where I did my internship, meaning that you only stayed up very late when it was necessary. The best way to find out this information is through talking with someone that has experienced the firm and networking is the best way to do that.

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