COMMENT: I’m a junior banker in Asia. I don’t need to work till 4am, I WANT to
I’m a front-office first-year analyst at a US investment bank in Hong Kong who grew up in China and recently finished a degree in London. You’ll also know that I’ve been leaving the office at 4am recently and that I work most weekends. I have no social life as a result, but that doesn’t worry me.
What you don’t know is that I largely brought these long hours on myself. My bank is actually known for having a comparatively good working culture and for not forcing juniors to regularly work into the small hours.
But across the industry in Hong Kong there’s a lot of pressure to get ahead as a young banker. If you don’t push yourself harder and harder in terms of your workload, you won’t stand out from the hundreds of other analysts at US and European firms here. Everyone is very ambitious, so you have to be too.
I may have a degree from a prestigious university and I may have started my job competently enough, but so have almost all my counterparts – i.e. the people I’ll be competing against in three years if I decide to move to another firm.
Earlier this year, just a few months into my job, it dawned on me that I had already fallen into a comfort zone at work. My early days at the bank had gone very smoothly. When my manager gave me business-as-usual work, there was always enough time for detailed instructions, and everyone in my team was happy to answer any questions I had.
So I decided: I needed more work! I had to prevent myself falling behind other juniors at my bank (and beyond) who were taking on more (and more complicated) transactions. When I asked for work, I got it – I’ve recently been assigned to help on two live deals that I would otherwise have been overlooked for.
These have added several hours to my days (I was previously leaving work at 9am or 10pm). But it’s been worth it. When you perform well on an additional project, people start to trust you and your ability to perform under pressure. You build stronger relationships at the bank, and you get more (and more interesting) work as a result. It’s a virtuous circle.
As a young analyst, you need to proactively look for extra work – people will value you for it. But this approach does come with risks. I have friends my age at other banks in Hong Kong who have taken on too much work and have not been able to perform well. They’re now seen as underperformers – the opposite of what they’d hoped for. You need to get the balance right.
Nancy Hwang (not her real name) is a first-year analyst working in the IBD division of a US bank in Hong Kong.Photo by Caspar Camille Rubin on Unsplash
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