The pros and cons of working for bulge bracket banks vs. boutiques

Deciding that you want to work at a bank simply isn't enough—now, job seekers have to decide which kind of bank they want to work for. 

For graduating MBA's who think banking jobs are the finance careers best suited for them, a major dilemma often follows: should I work in a bulge bracket bank, or at a boutique location? It's a tough decision for any postgraduate, and the first step is understanding the difference between the two locations. 

Boutiques are small banks, although how small can vary greatly. Some boutique locations may sport an employee count approaching 10,000. Larger banks may advise and work on multi-billion dollar deals and acquisitions, but a boutique bank would likely deal with much smaller corporate transactions, such as those that concern less than $1 billion.

Bulge bracket banks are the bigger firms, such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan that advise and work on multi-billion dollar transactions. These are the brand names of the banking world. So what are the pros and cons of going to work for a bulge bracket firm after you've completed your education?

Pro: Bulge bracket banks will likely offer more technical and financial work
Smaller boutique banking firms have to focus more on client relations—if you work at one of these locations, you'll likely find yourself working with clients and engaging in customer service-style communications. However, at a bulge bracket bank, odds are much higher that you'd spend your whole day on financial and technical tasks, allowing you to reach the full potential created by your education and training.  

Con: A larger institution may offer weaker job security
Larger financial institutions are more susceptible to significant shifts in budgets and finances than boutique locations are. That means there's a greater chance that a bulge bracket bank would need to cut costs en masse while you're working there than a boutique bank would. 

Pro: The contacts you'll make
Working at a bulge bracket bank, you'll constantly be running into new faces. Unlike a boutique agency, where you'll likely get to know a large percentage of your co-workers personally, bulge bracket banks have massive staffs that often have to operate independently of one another. The large workforce will put you in contact with numerous industry leaders, great thinkings and valuable new friends. 

Con: Your working hours will vary greatly
Working at a boutique or a bulge bracket bank, odds are that you'll work long hours and maybe even weekends. However, at a boutique location, there's a higher chance that these working hours will be easily anticipated – you'll know when there's a big deal coming through that requires overtime and you're in close enough contact with enough of your co-workers to know where there's a backlog of work that needs to be finished. There's a much higher chance of being burdened with time-consuming assignments without warning at a bulge bracket bank. So if working hours are a concern, you may want to consider working at a boutique.

Pro: The brand name – and what it can lead to
At the end of the day, the brand name of bulge bracket banks can offer you many upsides—best of all, a priceless boost on your resume. So always accept a job offer from the largest firm you possibly can, because the experience will undoubtedly pay dividends. 

Overall, bulge banks and boutiques have different advantages, and those with MBAs who are eager to start working at a bank who consider researching which option best fits their unique needs, as well as their ambitions for the future.

2 Replies to “The pros and cons of working for bulge bracket banks vs. boutiques”

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