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A Day in the Life of a Senior Finance Manager (within a Global Investment Bank)

An attractive alternative to the hard-charging, pressure-filled investment banking path (M&A, Corporate Finance Advisory, Sales & Trading) is a career in finance management within that same investment bank. Roles that roll up to the Chief Financial Officer function can be equally fulfilling and challenging, and will not require a pound of flesh in addition to sacrificing your social and family lives (120-hour weeks are certainly the exception and NOT the norm). Granted, these roles will never pay the excesses that you hear about in the news, but over time, a senior finance manager who reaches the Managing Director level at a major bulge bracket bank is pulling in a solid six figure salary with a more than reasonable bonus, especially in good years. So what does someone on a “CFO-track” within a large investment bank do on a typical day? One of my closest clients was the Global Financial Controller of a $300M business unit on Wall Street, and here is a summary of what he said.

 

  • 7:30 am – Wake Up, check e-mail/voicemail on iPhone, make sure no one in Asia is staying late on my account. 
  • 7:45 am  – Shower, kiss spouse goodbye.
  • 8:15 am – Commute across mid-town to the office. If it’s a nice day, walk; otherwise the M50 it is.
  • 8:35 am – Arrive in the office, check in with the Head of Finance who sits in office adjacent to his who also just arrived. Exchange pleasantries and quickly discuss any pressing questions lingering from last night.
  • 8:45 am – Grab breakfast from downstairs and take it back to eat at the desk.
  • 9:00 am – First meeting of the day with the team in New York and the production team in Mumbai, India. The monthly close is underway, and the P&L results for the month need to be uploaded to the firm’s systems. Before that happens, every variance on the business’ income statement is compared to plan (budget) and explained in plain English to the CFO. He was responsible for ensuring that the numbers made sense and any unusual items were found, catalogued, and understood completely.
  • 10:30 am – Second meeting of the day with the associate and analyst on his team to discuss the Transfer Pricing project they were asked to solve by a senior-level stakeholder in Corporate Tax. Who knew that transfer pricing for a business operating in 65 countries in just as many currencies can be such a pain to automate?
  • 12:00 pm – Lunch outside with best friend in the firm who is a Business Manager also in the Investment Bank.
  • 12:45 pm – Get back to the desk and quickly look at email until first meeting of the afternoon.
  • 1:30 pm – First meeting of the afternoon with the Internal Auditor checking the control processes and reporting procedures. Provide auditor with the latest operating model he was in charge of writing.
  • 3:00 pm – Obtain confirmation from his team in Mumbai that the numbers were fully vetted and finally loaded into the system. Feel bad that the team had to stay late on their end, but it’s the monthly close and that’s what they have to do to get the job done.
  • 4:00 pm – Team coffee break. His group kept morale up by promising to grab coffee together with each other every day. The head of the group who usually came along encouraged this practice. Many problems were solved on the 15-minute walk to and from the coffee shop when they stepped out together.
  • 5:00 pm – Check e-mail again and respond to outstanding inquiries from the Corporate Strategy team who has requested several times for commentary on the business’ numbers for the next investor meeting coming up in two week’s time.
  • 6:00 pm – Determine if analyst needs to stay late to finish a close-related analysis needed for a meeting the following day. Realize all is well and she can go.
  • 6:15-7:00 pm – Wrap up loose ends and remaining questions from finance teams in Asia and EMEA who need input to solve a discrepancy found in a high profile expense account.
  • 7:30 pm – Close up shop for the day and head out. It’s still light outside so maybe he will hit happy hour at Grand Central with his old clique from business school.

 

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An attractive alternative to the hard-charging, pressure-filled investment banking path (M&A, Corporate Finance Advisory, Sales & Trading) is a career in finance management within that same investment bank. Roles that roll up to the Chief Financial Officer function can be equally fulfilling and challenging, and will not require a pound of flesh in addition to sacrificing your social and family lives (120-hour weeks are certainly the exception and NOT the norm). Granted, these roles will never pay the excesses that you hear about in the news, but over time, a senior finance manager who reaches the Managing Director level at a major bulge bracket bank is pulling in a solid six figure salary with a more than reasonable bonus, especially in good years. So what does someone on a “CFO-track” within a large investment bank do on a typical day? One of my closest clients was the Global Financial Controller of a $300M business unit on Wall Street, and here is a summary of what he said.

 

  • 7:30 am – Wake Up, check e-mail/voicemail on iPhone, make sure no one in Asia is staying late on my account. 
  • 7:45 am  – Shower, kiss spouse goodbye.
  • 8:15 am – Commute across mid-town to the office. If it’s a nice day, walk; otherwise the M50 it is.
  • 8:35 am – Arrive in the office, check in with the Head of Finance who sits in office adjacent to his who also just arrived. Exchange pleasantries and quickly discuss any pressing questions lingering from last night.
  • 8:45 am – Grab breakfast from downstairs and take it back to eat at the desk.
  • 9:00 am – First meeting of the day with the team in New York and the production team in Mumbai, India. The monthly close is underway, and the P&L results for the month need to be uploaded to the firm’s systems. Before that happens, every variance on the business’ income statement is compared to plan (budget) and explained in plain English to the CFO. He was responsible for ensuring that the numbers made sense and any unusual items were found, catalogued, and understood completely.
  • 10:30 am – Second meeting of the day with the associate and analyst on his team to discuss the Transfer Pricing project they were asked to solve by a senior-level stakeholder in Corporate Tax. Who knew that transfer pricing for a business operating in 65 countries in just as many currencies can be such a pain to automate?
  • 12:00 pm – Lunch outside with best friend in the firm who is a Business Manager also in the Investment Bank.
  • 12:45 pm – Get back to the desk and quickly look at email until first meeting of the afternoon.
  • 1:30 pm – First meeting of the afternoon with the Internal Auditor checking the control processes and reporting procedures. Provide auditor with the latest operating model he was in charge of writing.
  • 3:00 pm – Obtain confirmation from his team in Mumbai that the numbers were fully vetted and finally loaded into the system. Feel bad that the team had to stay late on their end, but it’s the monthly close and that’s what they have to do to get the job done.
  • 4:00 pm – Team coffee break. His group kept morale up by promising to grab coffee together with each other every day. The head of the group who usually came along encouraged this practice. Many problems were solved on the 15-minute walk to and from the coffee shop when they stepped out together.
  • 5:00 pm – Check e-mail again and respond to outstanding inquiries from the Corporate Strategy team who has requested several times for commentary on the business’ numbers for the next investor meeting coming up in two week’s time.
  • 6:00 pm – Determine if analyst needs to stay late to finish a close-related analysis needed for a meeting the following day. Realize all is well and she can go.
  • 6:15-7:00 pm – Wrap up loose ends and remaining questions from finance teams in Asia and EMEA who need input to solve a discrepancy found in a high profile expense account.
  • 7:30 pm – Close up shop for the day and head out. It’s still light outside so maybe he will hit happy hour at Grand Central with his old clique from business school.

 

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