Posts tagged with investment bankers

Consultants: NOT investment bankers.

May 3rd, 2010

The more I think about what to write in these updates the more I realise that much of what I have to rant about is borne from the fact that most people think consultants and investment bankers are the same thing.
This can make me (even more) mildly irate in my day to day dealings with people as I continually have to reaffirm the truth – yes, we do both fall into that ambiguous guise of “professional services” and yes, most of us work in really big offices. That’s where the similarities start and finish. It’s like saying that because you and funeral directors both wear suits to work that you both bury dead people on a day to day basis. Never fear, though. I’m here to educate you all.

Contrary to what it often sounds like, I don’t hate investment bankers. It’s just that most people hate consultants and consultants need someone to vent against and investment bankers are fair game. They knew that before they got into the profession. So without further ado – the truth: Consultants are not investment bankers.

“WOW, you must earn MILLIONS”
Wrong. I think most of you would be shocked by how little I earn. Ok, I appreciate that it’s much more than other grad entry level salaries but it’s not like the upper echelons of the five figure sums that trainee bankers get. We also don’t get bonuses. Well, we do, but at junior levels they are all under a four figure sum and you have to get consistently high grades (yes, we are marked like we are in school) and unless you get the equivalent of nine straight A’s and a respected manager fighting your corner, you ain’t getting’ none.

“Do you go to strip clubs at the weekend and take coke?”
I have been asked this (or something similar) at least three times. I blame Confessions of a City Girl– which is an epic read by the way, I devoured in during a depressing day in new joiners training all the while carving “keep thinking of the money” into the table -who IS and investment baker and who DOES hang out in strip clubs. I don’t, and I don’t know any consultants who do. There’s two reasons:
One – we are obliged to remain clean and pristine because of the caliber of the clients we work for. Investment bankers don’t actually work for clients in the same way we do hence when they get in trouble it’s only their own name they bring into disrepute.
Two – most consultants are only too happy to get home at the weekend and would rather see their friends and families than go and see strippers. We’re all really a rather sedate bunch at heart and although we can give the average Joe a run for their drinking money, we would prefer to put our feet up and watch Come Dine with Me whilst looking for new leather gloves on ebay.

“What are the trading floors really like?”
I don’t know. Ask a banker. We tend to advise investment banks and financial institutions (ha, take that bankers!) as oppose to do any trading. We could, for example, advise a financial institution on their IT strategy, or maybe a restructure or on mergers and acquisitions. We don’t advise on what to buy, sell or stockpile. Our work is mush less volatile and hence less risky. As I keep saying, consultants tend to be meeker and milder than bankers and don’t want big scary on the spot decisions to be made without backup deliverables. How would we possibly make a trade without involving all stakeholders and ensuring that the client is fully engaged? How can you POSSIBLY do all your work off spreadsheets. Do you want a data warehouse for that?
People can move on to be investment bankers though. What tends to happens is that we spend a long term spell consulting to an investment bank and the cocky alpha male and female types realise that consulting is rather boring in many ways and it’s much more fun shouting SELL SELL SELL down a wired telephone. So we skim these guys off to the banks leaving behind – you guessed it – the meek and mild types aforementioned.

“You have to be well connected to get in”
This was a strange one. I know that in the past, investment banking had a bit of the old boys network about it. Not just anyone got to be a banker and wear the braces and smoke expensive cigars. It was very much an Oxbridge/Ivy League pursuit. Best keep the money in the family and all that. I don’t think consulting was ever like that. As a relatively new profession (evolving about the same time as the expansion of the public sector) it tended to just want friendly, mentally stable, smart people who could communicate with other people. Your family ties are irrelevent. Now that graduate recruitment has been standardised and all those poor working class people can come in and steal a good education I think employers are pretty ambivalent about a recruit’s Alma Mater. Besides which, I’ve harped on before about consulting selling itself on the back of “understanding” the client and very often, that includes the common touch.

There we go. I hope this had made things clearer. Bankers – risky, highly paid, big bonuses and promotions on the backs of dodgy deals. They spend their days buying and selling stuff. Less honest (remember the great big economic death of 2008?) and more prone to sex in hotels with strippers.
Consultants – less risky, less well paid, appraisal based on performance. We spend our day suggesting the best approach to a difficult situation. More honest and more prone to a weekend in the park with the kids.

So don’t ever compare me to an investment banker again.