Dear Diary: Today, I Worked – Investment Banker

| Boston Magazine |

What people in three quintessentially Boston jobs do during a typical day at the office. And why (according to Harvard labor economist Edward Glaeser) they earn what they do.

2. The Investment Banker


Bob Berstein, vice president, Needham & Company
Salary: Estimated $150,000 plus annual bonus of $500,00 to $700,000 [Source: Options Group]

Berstein helps technology firms with major business deals—raising capital, acquiring other companies, going public, selling themselves off—worth between $25 million and $500 million. His company receives a percentage of the money made during these transactions, but his salary is not directly tied to it (though how well he executes them can help determine his year-end bonus).

6:30 a.m. I arrive in Boston via a redeye from San Francisco. I’m raising capital for a public company out there, which means frequent trips back and forth. I get three hours of sleep, courtesy of Tylenol PM and Bose noise-canceling headphones.

8:55 a.m. I get into the office, check my calendar and a few e-mails.

9 a.m. I join in on our weekly internal conference call, where my colleagues and I discuss a few companies we know are in the market—one’s looking to be bought, another wants to go public—and how we can get their business.

9:45 a.m. In 15 minutes, I have a call with the CEO and CFO of a company we’ve been hired to sell. Before it happens, I discuss potential buyers with one of the associates here, so we’re synced up when we talk with our clients.

10 a.m. Conference call with the clients. Still too early to make any decisions on the sale.

11 a.m. I meet with an analyst here to review a presentation. A company in the suburbs is considering going public, and we’ll be going there later to compete for their business.

12:30 p.m. Lunch with a CEO of a local company at the Harvard Club. We’re not working on a deal with him now, but much of my job involves building relationships so that in the event that a company needs help, it turns to us. The Harvard Club is an ideal, quiet place to talk business. My firm picks up the tab.

2:15 p.m. Drive with a colleague to the company in the suburbs, where we’ll be presenting our plan for taking it public.

3 p.m. Begin presentation at the company in the suburbs. It’s exactly like you’d picture it: We’re at a long boardroom table surrounded by the company’s CEO, CFO, and some board members. My colleague and I talk while everyone flips through a printout of our PowerPoint presentation.

5:30 p.m. Back at office. I order dinner and make phone calls to our West Coast offices, checking on projects out there.

7 p.m. Dinner in the conference room with colleagues. We ordered Legal Sea Foods, and anyone in the office gathers around to shoot the shit. Sometimes dinner is the highlight of the day—or at least the most relaxing.

7:30 p.m. Back at my desk, I read news and respond to e-mails. I’m almost always working late—it’s the nature of the business, doing lots of fast, expensive transactions—so you catch a breath when you can. It’s a killer on the social life; Internet dating has been a huge blessing.

9 p.m. Meet with associates to discuss some meetings later this week.

10 p.m. Review market data for upcoming meeting, study industry reports, update my ever changing “to-do” list.

11:30 p.m. I drive home. With so few hours of sleep in me, hopefully not too many lives are at risk. I did once get into a car accident after a redeye.

Edward Glaeser Says: Why put in such insane hours? One reason is that his firm pays him with bonuses that create strong incentives for him to produce. But the bonus system also provides insurance for his employer. When times are tough (and an industry like this does have ups and downs), the firm can pay people less. Earnings are rarely this volatile for lower-paying jobs; all that risk would make employees’ lives intolerably unpredictable.

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