Restructuring Summer Analyst and Associate Advice

A little over a year ago I put out the Restructuring Interviews course, because it's what I wish I had when interviewing for my summer analyst stint (plus I had some free time to write it between the sell-side and buy-side). 

I wasn't sure how many people were ever really going to find this site, because I had no intention of really promoting it, but it turns out to have become quite popular. More importantly, it's turned out to become very helpful. 

Hearing from people who aced their interviews and got jobs as a result of what I've put together has been incredibly rewarding. This summer alone there are six restructuring summer associates that I did little mock interviews with that are at top shops (which is probably ~30% of all the restructuring summer associate class on the street).

Anyway, a few weeks ago I meant to do up a post going over some little things to keep in mind during a summer analyst or associate stint to be as productive as possible and take the most that you can out of your time at the firm. 

#1: Go Through Shared Drives

When you begin at a firm you'll be given access to shared drives. These are just folders that everyone on the team has access to where all the past deals and pitches are stored.

You should go through this drive to check out what deals have been done in the past, what was successfully or unsuccessfully pitched, and generally just poke around to familiarize yourself with what's been going on at the firm.

Each folder in the drive - that will be dedicated to some pitch or deal - will have separate folders for the decks (PowerPoint slides) and models / cap tables (Excel sheets).

So, if you've been assigned to do some cap tables in the retail space, for example, it's a good idea to go look at past pitches for retail companies that the firm has done so you can see how they like things formatted and what they footnoted for retail companies (so you can keep that in the back of your mind).

Note: If you're doing a cap table from scratch, you can also look at the industry screens that have been done in the past (which will just be a series of cap tables and illustrate the formatting / what types of things are often footnoted).

Note: Whatever you do, when you open up the latest version of an old file do not change anything and save it again! 

Note: You should also take notice of the formatting of the slides. Pay attention to what size font is used where, what color is used for sub-headings, etc. You'll probably be given a one-pager when you begin laying out the color scheme the bank uses, but it's good to see what all the formatting is like in action. Nothing irritates senior members quite like inconsistent formatting, so try not to do that!

#2: Always Respond to E-mails Right Away

There are many oddities about banking. One of them is how much young analysts and associates are judged implicitly by their e-mail response time.

Personally, I always hated having to respond to e-mails as they came in because it precluded being able to not look at your e-mail while trying to get serious work done.

But the realities are what they are. Especially for summer analysts or associates. When any little request comes in, respond as soon as possible by saying "Will do" or whatever the verbiage of choice appears to be within the firm.

The only exception would be if the request is some small change you can do in under five minutes. Then you can just e-mail back when it's done. Otherwise, always make it clear to the individual that wrote the e-mail that you've read it and will do it. 

Note: When given a request, you should also give an approximate time frame for doing it if you feel comfortable doing that. Always overestimate a bit.

#3: Know Past Iterations of What You're Working on

Chances are you'll be placed on a pitch or deal that is already ongoing during your summer stint. 

The chances are definitely not that you'll be placed on a pitch with an analyst that abruptly leaves and then you'll become the go-to person for said pitch with only a VP and MD on it (although this happened to me and it was not fun). 

So, the first thing you should do whenever you're placed on something that is already ongoing is to just go spend some time poking around past iterations of the thing in the shared drive. In the folders for the deal or pitch every past iteration will be "saved down" so when you look in the folder you'll see pitch v4, v5,..., v66. 

Read through some of the latest iterations and then spin back to one of the first iterations to see what the initial pitch / deal deck looked like. 

If, when you have some spare time with a more senior member of the firm, you ask a question like, "I was poking around past iterations of this pitch and I see a bond refi was proposed that involved new 2L money being raised. I was just curious why that was ultimately taken out of the pitch as a potential solution?"

This is a phenomenal question that maybe has an interesting answer, but will most definitely earn you points for being a "smart" question to ask and showing that you've been proactive in looking at past iterations of the pitch. The key to this question is that it can't make you look dumb, because they had it in the pitch initially for a reason!

#4: Look for Template Slides

Every deck - for deals, but in particular for pitches - will have a set of common slides. These will be biography pages, past deals done, disclaimers, short case studies of past deals, etc.

Often there will be some folder in the shared drive - for reasons unknown to me, often hidden away somewhere that's impossible to find when you need to - that will contain these "template" slides.

One of the tasks of summer analysts and associates - because it's hard to totally mess up - is just grabbing these slides and putting them into the deck. So you'll be told to go grab the precedent transactions slide for past oil and gas restructurings, for example. 

It's a good idea to know where this template folder is and poke around to just get a feel for what's included in there. This way when you inevitably get asked to insert something, you can do it quickly and it won't be your first time seeing them.

#5: Give Time Estimates

Let's say you've been given a task, and you've been told it'll take you around three hours to do. If after a few hours in you think for sure it'll end up taking a bit more time, then it's always best to give an update that it'll take you twenty minutes more.

This is never ideal to do, of course. You'd love for work to be delivered on the timeline given to you. However, no one can predict how long slightly more complex things can take. So, it's always best practice to over communicate rather than under communicate.

With that being said, don't e-mail about a three hour task likely taking you four hours after only working on it for thirty minutes! You don't have that good of a concept of how long things will take once you get going and people will think maybe you got distracted by something else so are lowering the priority of their request.

#6: Anytime You're in Excel Save a New Copy

If you are asked to do something in Excel, open up the latest iteration (so, for example, v56) and then immediately save a new copy (labeled v57 in the case).

This way if you majorly mess something up you haven't destroyed the latest iteration of the model! Because, if you did, this would require going back to v55 and then trying to remember what you did to get to v56 (but, of course, you don't have a working copy of v56). Nearly every analyst or associate will make this mistake at some point and it's always something that someone will get iritated about.

#7: Print Anything You Do

For whatever reason reading something on paper illuminates the errors you glaze over when reading something you've done on the computer. 

As a general best practice, print out everything you do and read it over again. If you've been given a mark up, try to print it out and put it side-by-side with your corrections and make sure the two now align. 

#8: Don't Take Anything Personally

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, try never to take anything personally. One of the hardest things to realize in the moment in banking is that senior members of the firm think about what they say far less than you realize.

If someone makes a comment in an e-mail that seems a bit negative, don't take that as a reflection on you personally. It's not a calculated comment, it's one that was written in 15 seconds when they were probably already busy thinking of something else. 

Further, if you unequivocally mess something up, don't be hard on yourself. The person who recognized the error will have forgotten about it by the next day. It's only if you get upset because of the error, or how you were spoken to about it, that the individual will remember it (because they remember your emotional reaction, not the action that led to it).

As you no doubt already know, banking has a penchant for attracting people who are miserable to deal with, or who enjoy making other people miserable. This isn't universally true, of course! But chances are you've seen some of the unhinged e-mails that VPs have sent to juniors floating around online. Nearly every firm has an example of one of these e-mails and disgruntled, miserable Senior Associates / VPs / MDs are at every firm no matter what a firm says about their rock solid culture.

With all that being said, if you're going to over analyze every comment made to you and take it all personally, it's going to be a very long and unenjoyable slog in banking. Instead, whenever you deal with someone who's difficult, miserable, etc. just try to not think about any of their comments too deeply (which I know is hard when inexperienced). Just recognize that they almost certainly hate their lives for whatever reason and being unpleasant to young analysts and associates is a form of cathartic release for them.

On the flip side, when someone takes the time to help you, make sure to tell them you really appreciate it. You want to be someone that people want to help succeed, not someone who is treated just as a workhorse. 

I think this is it for my little summer analyst and associate tips. Honestly if you just have a relatively strong understanding of RX, are good at moving around Excel/Powerpoint, have attention to detail, and follow the tips above you'll be head and shoulders above everyone else during your summer analyst or associate stint.

As always, best of luck!

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