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Do Investment Bankers Get Sick?

A few years back I was sitting at an investment banking panel interview for a student conference when someone raised their hand to ask a ridiculous question.

So behind hundreds of students with cheap suits from Tip Top Tailors that fit poorly and the slightly more astute ones that got trendier, $300 jackets from Zara that rip after 5 uses, some pipsqueak at the back chimes in.

“I was just wondering, given that the hours are so long and the deadlines are non-negotiable, what happens when you get sick?”

At this moment, one of the four-eyed investment banking on the panel (also wearing a Zara suit and not having ventured to Harry Rosen) decides to deliver a soundbite.

“Investment bankers don’t get sick.”

There is some muffled laughter in the room and a couple of worried faces as the students reevaluate their career choices.

But let’s be frank, the investment banker in question looked like he had never been to the gym in his life – hardly one of those Div II athlete-cum-bankers – and probably has a compromised immune system. He is probably hospitalized at the time of writing. He is also a moron who gives other bankers a bad name.

Anyways, investment bankers absolutely get sick. And they are sick all the time. I recently spoke to a VP who claims that he has been sick for the last 5 years. I do not mean having a cold regularly because of forgetting a coat – I mean chronic and terrible illnesses such as GERD and mono.

Why Do Investment Bankers Get Sick

Think about this combination – frequent lack of sleep, spending most of your waking hours in a cesspool (the analyst/associate pit) with plenty of leftover food and drink that festers in the open, larger than normal work stress, unhealthy eating habits, coping mechanisms that involve excessive alcohol consumption and worse vices, lack of sunlight, being put into the jungle with other similarly unhealthy peers.

Well naturally, you would expect investment bankers to get sick all the time. Not the Managing Directors running triathalons or out and about, but half of the junior staff look like they have a foot in the grave.

Deadlines do still have to be met and many groups are still averse to “working from home”. This means that analysts and associates are generally in when they have a cold/flu or whatever when there is an imminent deadline, and sure enough everyone gets infected.

Then you have half of the investment banking team at death’s door trying to push a book across the line, rapidly diminishing the quality of life.

Now this is not unique to investment banking – corporate lawyers, consultants and other corporate finance professionals also tend to push through sickness. I have seen a Director work through kidney failure in a non-banking role.

What Do You Do When Sick

The honest answer is – go home. Unless you are on an all important deal, you really do not need to be at the office suffering. You certainly should not be there for a go-nowhere pitch or internal deadline and you can communicate this to the staffer and whoever you are working with. If you get real pushback, this is not an ideal group and you should evaluate whether or not you want to work with people who lack compassion and empathy.

Now if you get sick all the time because you drink and party more than you should, you should be at work.

Here’s a quick guide.

Cold – Go to work if needed
Flu – Go to work if you are a key member of the team and the deal will fall apart without you (by flu I mean real influenza where you are bedridden and cannot move with a terrible fever)
Anything Worse – Quit your job

The reality is that sometimes you do have to push through because yes the deadlines are real and the work quality cannot be compromised in this profession. However, to the extent that this can be avoided – avoid it.

Sickness Prevention in the Workplace

Sleep Deprivation from Burning the Midnight Oil

Getting enough sleep is probably the most important factor in staying healthy in investment banking. This means that after you get home at 2AM, go straight to bed and try not to “unwind” over Netflix. Sleep is essential in recovery and maintaining a strong immune system.

Not ideal, but weekends can be used to catch up on sleep debt – not sure if that is faulty pseudoscience but it has worked for me in the past. Be attuned with your body so that you know that you will not oversleep and distort your schedule for the rest of the week.

Also, after a long week going to the bar and getting blasted before sauntering out without a coat is a recipe for disaster.

Healthy Eating for Investment Banking

This is also key – it is extremely tempting to load up on comfort food after the initial stress of investment banking, especially with a seemingly limitless meal allowance budget.

Many investment bankers have blown up in their first few years to unhealthy levels which will have serious health repercussions in the future.

Lunch should be salad with lean protein and dinner should be the same – although mix it up, otherwise you will find that you can never eat at iQ again. From time to time, indulge in a cheat meal and participate in a large dinner order for nachos and ramen but do not make it a regular occurence.

There are always a few analysts who just get junk food every day. Some of them stay skinny but have a bunch of abdominal fat and are otherwise just disgusting human beings. Do not be this analyst.

There was this Korean analyst who had a family restaurant and would use his entire meal allowance on his restaurant every day (Foodora/Grubhub) – this was $20-40 every day and $50-$100 every Saturday and Sunday. Every once in a while the pit would feel Korean and get in on a $250 group order. This ended up being an extra $20,000 for his restaurant. He ended up customizing the menu so that he could get all of his nutrition. This is so smart but not recommended. Meal allowances kept ambiguous so you cannot figure out the bank.

Taking Your Vitamins

Multivitamins should not be a substitute for full meals but if you are ignoring the healthy eating component may as well pop some pills. They are also a good placebo and anything you do not absorb you generally pee out for Vitamin C. Do not overdose on vitamin gummies or non-vitamin C as this can damage your kidney/liver.

Exercise to Avoid the Banker 15

Any spare time should be devoted to 45 minutes of physical activity. The more streneuous the exercise, the less time you need. Ideally a quick burn with heavy lifts and HIIT cardio is more than enough. Generally speaking, you do not need an elite gym that is over $100 per month unless your corporate subsidizes it substantially with a health allowance.

Go in, shower and get out. This makes you feel far more refreshed at work. Going in the morning is ideal, but otherwise night time is fine before settling in and doing more work.


For new hires from more temperate climates, the barren East can be somewhat dry. This means acne and peeling skin. When I first started in Toronto I felt like I had some sort of terminal disease, but in reality it was just dry and cold air. Get a humidifier and see your life improve.

Flu Shot

No anti-vaxxers in investment banking! Get your flu shot, it is free and it has positive externalities beyond your health.

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ex investment banking associate

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