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Traveling in Investment Banking

I maintain the belief that work travel tends to be pretty bad.

Some people like it because you get to live in nice accommodations and spend absurd amounts of money on planes, but in my experience, you’re almost always going to be busy during work travel.

If you’re asked to go on the road, it’s because you’ll have to attend a meeting for the deal. This could be something like meeting with potential clients for a pitch or meeting with an engaged client to work on a CIM.

The thing is, if you’re working on a deal, you’re more than likely going to be preparing materials for an upcoming meeting. That means that there’s a high chance that you’ll be turning comments on the flight, which almost instantaneously sucks the fun out of traveling. Depending on which office you're based out of, the amount you travel can fluctuate wildly.

Plus, your other deals also won’t suddenly become quiet just because you need to travel. You’ll have to deal with all of your other workstreams even if you’re traveling for a different deal. Hours in investment banking are already tough, so adding the element of travel often makes things altogether more complicated. I’ve virtually never had the chance to explore a city I’ve visited for work because my schedule is always too jammed.

Traveling as an Investment Banking Analyst

As an investment banking analyst, I actually did not travel very much.

I find that most analysts generally only have to travel for live deals (IPO road show, sell-side process, etc.), which I would estimate happens on average once per quarter for each analyst. Analysts will work and support a number of different early-stage meetings, but oftentimes, it’s the Associate who will talk through the analysis at the meeting.

I think this is the way it is for a number of reasons:

  • Minimize # of Presenters: An investment banking deal team could consist of a Partner, MD, VP, Associate and Analyst. If it’s an important deal, it could be multiple Partners or MDs and multiple mid-level people. It can be clunky and awkward to bring 6-7 people to a meeting if the counterparty only has 2-3 top management people. Even when I was at an elite boutique, which are supposed to run leaner deal teams, I often found that analysts get excluded from meetings. If you’re pitching a private equity firm or hedge fund, you’re often just pitching the Partner and maybe one or two mid-level people.

  • Analysts are Generally Less Polished: Although analysts could very well have the highest academic rigor out of the entire deal team, there’s a certain degree of polish and maturity that takes time for people to develop. Client-facing skills aren’t taught in school and if you’re solving to hire the smartest university students out there, there’s a decent chance they aren’t ultra-presentable yet.

  • Analysts Contribute More by Being in the Office: An analyst’s highest utility and contribution to a team is going to be in preparing materials or putting together analyses. You can maximize your collective group’s utility by keeping the analyst at their desk and having the analyst produce materials for other projects.

  • Banks Don’t Necessarily Care about Analyst Development: Analysts often have relatively short lifespans at banks, so banks don’t always need to invest in personnel development. You don’t necessarily need to give your analyst client exposure if they’re going to peace out to a PE firm in a year or two. Banks typically want to start building continuity and people skills at the associate level.

For deal-specific work (i.e. excluding firm events, conferences and for on-campus recruiting), I personally only traveled outside of New York a handful of times. By virtue of being in New York, I was typically staffed on deals and companies primarily in Manhattan, which meant for me that most meetings were accessible by subway. Almost all of my clients either had an office in the NY area or would choose to hold meetings at my investment bank’s office.

At most, you might be expected to walk through a model or answer questions about a particular analysis, but that sort of work is often relegated to calls. As an analyst, you might also help with administrative tasks like organizing rooms, making sure the Powerpoint is running properly, and physically carrying the decks to the meeting.

I’m sure this tends to vary between different firms and groups, with smaller deal teams and firms leading to more client facing opportunities. But I think my experience was pretty representative of most elite boutiques and bulge brackets.

Deal Team Traveling

As you scale up the investment banking hierarchy, you’ll spend more and more of your time going to meetings. The business model of investment banking is inherently sales oriented.

A Partner’s job is to go out and win business, which is accomplished by meeting with clients, pitching them on potential transactions, and helping them through the deal process. Face to face contact goes a long way when it comes to schmoozing clients. So Partners need to constantly be meeting with potential clients in order to fill the top of their deal pipeline.

I would estimate that most Partners probably traveled once per week and that most Associates probably traveled once per month.