Perhaps the most reliable way to both improve your financial modeling speed and to win the love of your parents is by optimizing your Excel quick access toolbar.
As the 2015 record holder of Training the Street’s vaunted Excel formatting challenge, you can 100% trust me on the importance of this list. July 2, 2015 is often still regarded as an important day in Evercore and Ivey history.
The Quick Access Toolbar is the customizable toolbar that sits at the top of your Excel window.
The advantage of this Quick Access Toolbar is that using it can be significantly quicker than the native shortcuts. You toggle each of the custom commands by simply pressing ALT and then a number on the keyboard:
ALT + 1 = Toggles first command…
ALT + 2 = Toggles second command…
If you aren’t already familiar, ALT keys allow you to quickly access different Microsoft Excel functions. When you press ALT, you can navigate through the Microsoft Excel interface by pressing a follow-up letter. This follow-up letter will be displayed in a black square. Yes, this is how people use Excel without using a mouse. You can learn the shortcut for each of the window panels and the subsequent commands.
If you're looking to learn the technical essentials for a career in investment banking or corporate finance, you should check out our Valuation and Finance Starter Kit.
Below, you can see that after we pressed ALT, we only need to press 2 to get to the font color change.
Editing the Quick Access Toolbar
To edit the quick access toolbar, FILE -> OPTIONS -> QUICK ACCESS TOOLBAR
Use << REMOVE to get rid of the default garbage that was clearly selected by some foolish UI designer. Use ADD >> to add commands. You may need to switch the menu from “Popular Commands” to “All Commands”.
The Optimal Quick Access Toolbar
Our goal in customizing our quick access toolbar is to select commands that a) we frequently use and b) don’t have a good native Excel shortcut.
Below are the commands that I was taught to use in my investment banking analyst training.
Here are the commands you should have:
Font Size (ALT + 1)
Font Color (ALT + 2)
Fill Color (ALT + 3)
Borders (ALT + 4)
More Borders… (ALT + 5)
I’ll make special note that the Borders commands save an absurd amount of time. Borders are the most annoying damn thing in Excel because each cell has its own Border characteristics and Excel doesn’t have an intelligent way of interpreting what you want.
My advice is to not touch borders at all until you’re done with the analysis because of how time consuming it is to re-do borders.
Size and Properties… (ALT + 6)
This command is very important if you’re editing charts, which is way more than you’d expect in banking.
Although there are Excel plug-ins that can help cut down a lot of the work, plug-ins will still always be inherently slower than native Microsoft Excel most of the time. And as you switch firms, you’ll find that not everyone uses the same plug-ins, so it’s good to have these particular commands as part of your habits.
If you're focused on becoming a better analyst, I'll also strongly recommend that you optimize your Powerpoint Quick Access Toolbar.