A Day in the Life of An Investment Banking Associate at Harris Williams
Based in Richmond, Va., Maury Nolen is a first-year associate in the Business Services Group at investment banking firm Harris Williams. Maury received his undergraduate degree from George Washington University and his MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Prior to joining Harris Williams full time, Maury interned with the firm as a summer associate in between his first and second years at Fuqua. Below is what a typical day in Maury’s life as an investment banking associate looks like.
7 a.m. Wake up and check my email on my phone for anything that came through the night before, looking for anything that might need a timely response. A member of my deal team emailed about a relevant transaction that was announced the day before, so I quickly look at the highlights and flag as something to more closely research that morning. After reviewing, I get dressed for work and have a quick bite for breakfast.
8:30 a.m. Drive to work, stopping to grab a coffee along the way. I live in a neighborhood called the Museum District, which is about a 10 minute drive from our office downtown. A number of other analysts and associates in our office live there too.
8:55 a.m. Arrive at our office on the James River and check my email to see if there’s anything that came through on the drive in. A VP on one of the pitch teams I am working with asks to walk-through our positioning themes for a services business we’ve been tracking. My teammate analyst and I refine our outline and consolidate precedent materials to structure the conversation. In the meantime, new financial data came through from a client around projections we’ll need to flow through a book we’re working on, so I coordinate via email with the deal team outlining what the impact of those changes will likely be.
9:35 a.m. Look at the day ahead and see what my schedule looks like. I also start to scan the news—Merger Market, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal—for any news related to our clients or in our clients’ industries. (I continue to monitor news throughout the day.) If anything relevant comes up, I’ll flag for our team.
9:45 a.m. An email comes through from a managing director about research on an upcoming pitch—a potential acquisition strategy we’re planning to pitch to a client. HW almost exclusively focuses on sell-side M&A mandates for our clients, which are quite diverse: we serve family-owned businesses who might be selling their business for the first time, private equity backed platforms, larger strategics, and everything in between.
10 a.m. Every two weeks the business services team hosts a meeting with the entire group to discuss ongoing engagements, any deals in the pipeline, and broader themes anyone is seeing in the market. First, our group heads typically discuss recent meetings they’ve held with our clients, and any upcoming events or meetings on the horizon. This is a great opportunity to gather first-hand market intelligence and understand what’s going through the minds of some of our clients. Following this, we’ll go around the room to provide updates on deals we’re working on and share any interesting anecdotes or highlights the broader group might benefit from. Lastly, we typically talk through upcoming team events and any group outings or social events that are on the calendar.
11 a.m. Head back to my desk and work with an analyst who’s on one of my deal teams. We’re writing a pitch book, updating some figures, brainstorming ideas on research to include, and planning out what we need to tackle to complete a draft for review.
Noon. I head out to lunch with a managing director in the Energy, Power & Infrastructure Group. He’s one of my informal mentors. At lunch, we discuss what I’m working on, what my goals are for the year, what I’m looking to accomplish. We usually meet to have lunch every few months. HW has an ingrained mentorship culture, both formal and informal, which is beneficial particularly as you’re starting a career in investment banking. Pretty much everyone has mentors within their group and outside of their group, and across all levels of the firm. Most days, I’ll walk out and grab a sandwich or salad with a few other associates, analysts, or VPs. There are a number of good food options in Downtown Richmond. We’ll typically bring our lunches back and eat together. We’ll talk about the deals we’re working on and what we did over the weekend or the night before. It’s casual and social. And if I’m in a time crunch, I’ll just grab something from the food truck that comes to the office every day and eat at my desk.
1 p.m. Attend a deal team meeting. We’re working on a pitch that’s coming up in a week. The meeting is with the entire team: an analyst, an associate (me), a VP, a director, an MD, and one of our group heads. We talk through progress on the pitch, how we’re going to position the business and what we see in terms of valuation and market activity relevant to this potential transaction. The meeting is very active, with a lot of dialogue, collaborating, and brainstorming. We all lay out our thoughts and ideas. (It’s a great opportunity for associates since you’re getting the chance to learn how senior folks think about the business, in addition to taking an active role by sharing your hands-on research and broader perspective. The senior members of your team are relying on much of the groundwork you and the analyst have already worked through.)
1:45 p.m. Head back to my desk, where I get a call from a client’s CFO on one of the deals I’m working on. We’re in the process of putting together a management presentation for a potential set of buyers. The client’s CFO wants to talk through a specific page, specifically a calculation he’s working through. (Part of the attraction of the associate role here at Harris Williams is you’re put in a position where you’re truly a go-to person for the client’s leadership team. Many times they will call you directly, providing you an opportunity to add value for them and also an ability to better understand what is top of mind for them as they run the business. These types of interactions are where my summer associate experience proves incredibly valuable. Coming in as a summer associate, following training, everyone is placed on two deals. On day four of my internship, I walked into a VP’s office to get up to speed on one of the deals, and the first thing he said was, “Book your travel for Monday, we’re heading to diligence to meet with our client’s chairman, CEO, and CFO.” This is typical of the summer experience, and the exposure helps to prepare you well for the full-time role. I also got to stand-in for a full-time associate who was on paternity leave for two weeks during my internship, another beneficial opportunity.)
3 p.m. Run out and get a coffee with one or two other associates. We walk to Shockoe Roastery for a quick break.
3:20 p.m. I regroup with the analyst I was working with before lunch, and we stop by our VP’s office to talk through a few updates. We’ve done significant research on the buyer landscape, and come into the VP’s office with what we consider to be a list of the top 50 potential buyers for this asset. We talk through rationale to help cut the list down to the most likely 20 buyers. To do so, we discuss the buyer universe and brainstorm—there’s a lot of back and forth. The VP has a lot of experience working on prior deals in this vertical and with a number of buyers in the space, which is helpful. Following this, we’ll distribute a revised list with rationale to the senior members of our team. (Getting access to these types of meetings with VPs and MDs gives you, as an associate, a good chance to gain institutional knowledge and refine how you think about buyers of specific assets.)
4 p.m. Attend a training session on debt products and the debt market. The training is run by a third-party expert—a former banker. It’s part lecture and part hands-on. (There’s a strong emphasis on a learning culture here. You learn by being in the seat, but there are also continual learning programs put on by our training committee, which are really helpful. They’re typically offered once or twice a month and are intentionally designed to address areas critical for growing in the associate role. They’re a great way to step back from your day to day and focus on refining a broad toolkit of skills. Sometimes the sessions are taught by HW bankers, and other times by folks brought in from outside.)
5:30 p.m. Scan the news again, checking on any deal activity or news in our clients’ industries. I see a few relevant items so I shoot them out to the team via email. (As an associate, you have the ability to provide as much information that you think is relevant to senior bankers about your clients—which ensures that you’re reading a lot.)
6 p.m. Check in with an analyst on one of my deal teams. We meet for a few minutes to talk through anything that’s come up on our deal and game plan for the rest of the week.
7 p.m. Head home for the day. Given the client service centric role, our hours vary from day to day—during portions of the deal cycle that are high intensity, they naturally can be longer. While we all love working together, there’s no pressure to be in the office; it’s completely fine to plug in from home during the evening.
7:30 p.m. Dinner at home tonight. If staying in the office, I’ll hop on a group order and eat dinner with the team.
8:30 p.m. I log in to my email from home. I received an email from an MD who wants me to look into a company he has a meeting with in the morning. He wants me to look into the recent transactions the company has completed—what their M&A history has been over the last couple of years. So I do some quick research, put that together, and email him back with it.
10 p.m. Pack for my trip. We have a due diligence meeting with a client in the morning. We’re going to Dallas for the day so will be back by tomorrow night. (Something I realized during my summer here is that Harris Williams brings the entire deal team to diligence sessions and pitches. There is an emphasis within the firm on bringing our full spectrum of talent to clients, particularly given the amount of future interactions they will have with our associates and analysts. So, as an associate, the expectation is that you’ll be there for every pitch, diligence session, working session, and closing event. Senior bankers are focused on giving you a ton of exposure—there are a lot of learning opportunities, and it’s up to you to step into them.)
11 p.m. Get ready for bed, then go to sleep.
This post was sponsored by Harris Williams.