Why I had to leave Wall Street to fix it
“That’s not how we do things around here.”
It was my ninth day at an investment bank. My director shouted this at me as he stormed out of his office. Apparently, he didn't like how I had prepared the comps deck he'd asked for earlier.
I looked at the managing director also in the meeting. He'd hired me a couple of weeks earlier and I knew that if he responded similarly, that was it, I was done with Wall Street before I’d even really begun.
Fortunately, he didn’t.
That day was almost twenty years ago, back in Australia. Since then I've worked for some of the biggest names on the Street, rising to group head, with a career spanning three continents. Still, it was a defining moment of my career and ultimately the reason I left Wall Street. It was the only way I could fix it.
Thud. It was 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and my director had dropped a 100+ page document on my desk. “We’re working on a high-profile privatization. The client wants updates on all 189 comps across each metric. Weekly. I'm sending it to the client tomorrow evening as a weekend reading present.”
He then left for dinner.
Three thoughts came to mind:
1. I’d clearly pissed someone off. Way to go me!
2. 189 comps? Talk about a refined comp group! It was ridiculously unnecessary.
3. The data will only change once every six months1 why does this have to be produced weekly?
Once he heard about my new task, the VP covering the client concluded I’d pissed someone off. But, as any junior banker knows, there isn’t much arguing about work assignments. In fact, when I mentioned that the client may not want “weekend reading,” well, the reply isn’t something I can repeat here.
Fortunately, Australian financial reports are more standardized than those in the U.S. and are only updated semi-annually, so the scrubbing wouldn't be too tough. Also, the analyst who had been on the team just quit that morning and half of the numbers were already complete.
Still, using existing processes I figured the report would take about a day to produce. On top of my other work, this wouldn’t leave a lot of time for other things, such as eating or sleeping. I needed a better approach. I locked myself in a meeting room and white-boarded a plan of attack.
In my view, generating the report could be reduced from a day’s worth of work to five minutes.
Once I had my plan, I called in the VP and walked him through it, outlining how I would tackle data collection, analysis, and visualization—steps necessary to fulfill the report each week, but more importantly, to automate the process.
He stared blankly, shrugged, and also left for dinner. It was now 9 p.m., and I was the last one in the office.
The next 20 hours simultaneously dragged and flew—anyone who has held an IB analyst position knows what I’m talking about; I started to doubt my career choice.
At 5 p.m. the next day the director ordered me into his office. To both of our surprise, the work passed his inspection and was emailed out to the client (I was bcc’d, being too junior to be mentioned).
The following Thursday, I was again called into the director's office. He wanted the weekly update—all 189 comps—on his desk by noon the next day.
15 minutes later, once the markets had closed, I handed him the updated report using the process I’d built the previous week. Additionally, I gave him the last weekly report and a delta report to help him talk about any changes with the client.
If he was unimpressed and pissed off before, now he was livid.
About halfway through his lecture on how I couldn’t have completed the work that fast and must be screwing something up, the Managing Director walked past. Seeing a poor new analyst getting ripped a new one, he intervened.
“Why don’t you walk us through your process?” he asked. So I did, redrawing my whiteboard diagram and explaining how the engineering skills developed in my undergrad role at Bankers Trust helped me build an automated process.
This was when the director stormed out. “It's just not the way things are done. That’s not how we do things around here.”
And he was right. It wasn’t. But it should have been.
I'm glad to say the Managing Director had the opposite reaction. He saw fit to fast track my career, helping me become a Managing Director myself in under seven years.
Since then, most of my bosses have given me the freedom to explore how technology can make it easier to create pitchbooks; bringing real benefits to my employees, my teams, my banks and critically my clients.
I’ve probably presented to over 10,000 clients and been involved in even more pitchbooks. I’ve developed highly customized, client-specific presentations in minutes—something unimaginable without leveraging technology to do the heavy lifting. Throughout all these learnings and experiences, there is one thing for certain I know to be true about investment banking today:
The pitchbook process is broken, and it’s time to fix it.
This is what we do at Pellucid. We fix the pitchbook. We transform data into compelling content and work with clients to create streamlined workflows that save hours in content creation; productizing the many lessons, innovations, and improvements I developed during my twenty plus years in the industry.
We help junior analysts spend less time working mindlessly in Excel and more time developing career skills; enabling senior bankers to focus more on deals and less on data details. We’re creating new ways to visualize information to generate better insights, provide greater client value, and ultimately, become a trusted advisor.
“That’s not how we do things around here.”
A powerful statement. However, instead of taking it as the barrier in which it was intended, it’s become the drumbeat of Pellucid Analytics.
Accepting the status quo? Avoiding innovation? Doing something because “that’s what everyone else does?”
That’s not how we do things around here.
Want to know more about how content creation can be automated? Email me at email@example.com.
The U.S. is one of only a few countries where companies are required to produce reports each quarter. ↩