The genuinely worst front office job in banking
So, your job is hard work? Welcome to banking. M&A bankers complain about the hours. Salespeople complain about client entertainment. Traders complain about the mornings. But no one in finance has more right to complain that an equity capital markets (ECM) banker on a deal in Asia.
When you’re an ECM banker in Asia, you will pitch. And you will pitch. And you will pitch. And almost all of those pitches you will lose. There are countries in Asia where the confidential Request for Proposal (RFP) document is sent to 10 banks, maybe more. 10 fat pitch books loaded with comprehensive but irrelevant detail. Nine will fail. Most of what you do have no purpose whatsoever.
When you’re an ECM banker in Asia you will be expected to wake up in the middle of the night and participate in conference calls with international colleagues. The waking hours of colleagues in New York and London always seem to be far more valuable than your own. They will think nothing of rousing you at 2am or 3am, or both.
When you’re an ECM banker in Asia, you will travel. A lot. Asia is a big and varied continent and the more senior you are, the more you travel – especially if you have the misfortune to be one a two man origination team. You don’t sleep in your own bed. You don’t eat at your own table. The plane is your permanent address.
When you’re an ECM banker in Asia your best friend is your PA. In my case, Magic Donna was the problem solver. – Meeting changed, plane delayed, typhoon at the destination? – Donna would solve it.
When you’re an ECM banker in Asia, you will be expected to party, hard. “These guys are animals,” noted one of my colleagues in M&A. As an analyst I was invited to a mid-week ECM dinner; it started at 7.30pm with cocktails shots. It ended at 5am in a club. At 8.30am the next morning everyone was back at their desks. If you don’t drink, don’t come to Asia.
When you’re an ECM banker in Asia you will barely sleep. What with all the travel, and the late night calls, and the partying, sleep is hard to come by. As you tackle your second conference call at 2am, you’ll congratulate yourself for those 4 hours sleep you secured on the plane…
When you’re an ECM banker in Asia, you will barely eat proper food. The airline lounge is your restaurant and the food you eat there will be whatever you can grab as you’re passing through. The motto is eat what you can, not what you want.
When you're an ECM banker in Asia you will dread the government mandates. A big government mandate might be great for you league table standing, it might impress other fee paying clients, but it will suck your life and deliver almost no fees in return. Government mandates are a pain to execute and the fees are minuscule.
When you're an ECM banker in Asia you will master the art of stabbing rivals in the back. Government mandates are a case in point. In most cases, you'll be a co-lead with another bank. In this case, it's all about demonstrating flawless, top quality execution with excellent teamwork whilst doing everything you can to undermine the "partner" so that you're appointed sole lead for the next deal.
When you're an ECM banker in Asia, you'll dream of the world outside. As a case in point, as we were enjoying our dinner (pizza) at 10pm one evening in a meeting room, my colleague came in looking like the walking dead. I suggested he sleep, but he simply ate a slice of pizza, went home, showered, and came back to work. "I should probably engineer a minor injury so that I get sent to hospital," he reflected. " - It's the only way I'm going to get more than four hours sleep in one go."
Maragold D'Orac is the pseudonym of a recently retired senior ECM banker in Asia