10 Secrets to making VP

10 Secrets to making VP

Making VP is a big deal.

I know because I was doing cartwheels down the hallway when I made it in 2004, at age 28.

Here’s what I learnt about making VP, and how I had to change my game to make it.



1. See the big picture

The best analysts or associates I worked with, understood the bigger picture better than their peers. What this means is that you dont just update the model or the pitch book, that’s not the point.

The point is to win the business and make the client happy.


Focus on the bigger goals, the bigger needs- and do it without being told to do it.

The best analysts I ever had, would understand what the real goal is, and would do whatever it took to accomplish that, rather than just update a pitch book or model and pretend their job was done.

That kind of thinking leads to an early retirement !



2. Predict the future

The people who make VP are the ones that can anticipate business needs, the ones that know what the client or their boss is going to ask for before they ask for it.

Better yet, they provide it before it is needed


Banking is a service based industry; think about how you can serve your clients better. This is probably the most critical skill, and applies at a deal level and at a career level.

Most people inside banks work on a number of desks and do a number of different roles. Sometimes you want to be the TMT banker in Europe, sometime you want to be in ECM in Asia.

If you can anticipate the environment you can keep the momentum in your career.



3. Understand and serve the client

This is key. Your job is to serve and keep your client happy, and the bigger you define the word ‘client’ the better.

The client is everyone from your immediate boss, to the team head, to the division head, to the eventual corporate client.

The client is anyone who has a say in getting you paid. At the end of the year you want the person paying you, to hear positive things from as many people as possible.

The more people you serve, the higher your value.

Take 10 minutes every day on your way in to think about how you can add more value and serve your clients better.



4. Treat every day like an interview

A lot of people make this mistake. They think that once you are hired, the interview is over.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. You are interviewing for your job every single day. It can be your current job or your next job. Every day people are watching you, and forming judgement about you.

This is why I got head hunted at age 29, to my dream bank for 2x my last year’s comp.

You dont know who is watching, and who is going to say good or bad things about you. Impress everyone

Always be at your best all times. 



5. Get a life

It’s no longer just about grinding it out. When you are starting out its important to put in the hours, but now you need to work smarter, you need to be more social, you need to build a network, you need to get to know people.

You need people to like you


In all honesty I was pretty bad at this, and it probably cost me three to four years. 

You need to be bringing people across the firm together, be an internal networker, show your leaderships skills. 



6. Learn to think for yourself

Analysts and associates are generally told what to do. They are told what’s needed and when.

A VP comes in the morning and knows what needs to happen today.

You need to be able to make your own priorities and know what’s needed for you and the business to succeed.

Why should they promote you when you are still acting like an associate ?


This is a big psychological leap because its so different from what you are used to in the first 25 years of your life. Until age 25 you have been rewarded for doing exactly what you were told to do my your parents, professors or managers.

Most people don’t know how to get this skill going and are always looking for input from others.



7. Read and listen

Think for yourself. For the last four years you have been paid to learn. That’s great, but now you will be judged on what you know. You better figure out a way to differentiate yourself. Figure out how to learn more than the competition.

Just like every day is an interview, every day is also a test

Make sure you have studied for it.

What do you know that others don’t ? What’s your edge ? Read 3-4 books a month, read a bunch of bank research, get color from your friends on whats happening in their markets.



8. Ask for help

The biggest mistake associates make is that they don’t train their analysts properly. They don’t build the leverage below them to propel themselves higher.

Remember if you keep doing associate level work, no one is going to make you a VP.

We had a saying at the bank:

You have to do the job for a year, before they give you the title


How you treat and work with your analysts is critical to your future, a lot of people think it means you have to order them around.

This won’t be helpful over the long term. Read Drive by Daniel Pink if this is your problem.


9. Come up with some big ideas 

Think about how you can make the business better on a daily basis. Big or small it doesn’t matter. There are countless things that can be done to improve things.

Have a new idea every day


Make sure you share those ideas with others. A way to improve the process, a way to make clients happier, a way to make more money.

Take thirty minutes every day to write ideas on how to do things differently, ideas on how to help your boss, ideas on how to run the business better.



10. Get critical

Ask those around you every three months about how you are doing. This means taking 5-6 people who you work with in a room and ask them to review you.

This can be formal or informal, but nothing leads to faster improvement than regular feed back.

It’s priceless to know how others perceive you. IB’s are political places and you need to know how you are perceived before its too late.

Make sure you ask people who will feel open enough to tell you truth, and make sure you ask your boss and your analysts.


I’ll leave it at that. If you want to learn more, there are a few books worth your time.

How to Win Friends & Influence People
Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up
By Marshall Goldsmith – What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How successful people become even more successful (5/13/08)


Most of all, every weekend just take some time to evaluate how your life is going and what you can do to improve it.

I wish you good luck on your journey. 


Join thousands like you and receive our weekly email with Wall Street wisdom on how to be smarter, richer, happier.

Become a What I Learnt on Wall Street VIP

* indicates required