Wealth Management Hours (Per Week)

Over the past year there's been a flurry of discussion in the financial press about the amount of hours that folks in the high finance industry are working. In particular, reports about junior investment bankers working 100 hours a week regularly caused a stir that eventually led to junior investment banking compensation rising across the board.

One question that I was rarely asked a few years ago, but am increasingly asked about today, is what kind of hours you can expect in wealth management. 

Unlike in investment banking, equity research, or sales and trading at an investment bank, it's much harder to speak about the kinds of hours you should expect in wealth management. 

This if for several reasons: it depends on the type of firm you're at, it depends on how junior you are, and it depends on you really classify "work" as it's not nearly as straight forward in wealth management as it is in investment banking.

However, in case you just want a rough approximation, here's what I would say: in wealth management you should expect to work 50-60 hours per week during your first five to ten years.

Thereafter, the amount of hours could decline to 40 to 50, although it's not unheard of for established wealth managers who don't prize having a large amount of assets under management (AUM) to be able to get away with 30 to 40 hours of work.

Wealth Management Hours: What to Expect

Many folks get into wealth management without having much of an idea about what it really is all about.

Because all large investment banks - like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, UBSMorgan Stanley, etc. - have wealth management divisions, folks think that the way in which work is conducted is similar to what you'd expect if you happened to be in the investment banking or equity research divisions.

In other words, folks expect that you come in, do the work that's been prescribed to you by more senior members of the firm (VPs and MDs), and then go home after cranking out a 12 hour day.

While it's true that junior positions will often involve supporting more senior members of the firm, especially at a more hierarchal setting like a large investment bank, this largely misses the point about what wealth management involves.

At some point as a junior wealth manager, you'll either be directly responsible for supporting the clients of a senior wealth manager or you'll be directly responsible for sourcing and supporting your own clients.

Generally this all begins to take place within your first few years. So when we speak about the hours in wealth management, it's somewhat contingent on how self motivated you are and how eager (or desperate) you are to bring new clients in and keep existing clients happy. 

There's no right or wrong answer here. There are some junior wealth managers - whether at independent shops in third-tier cities or at large investment banks in New York - who crank out eighty hours a week, while there are others in the same position who routinely do forty-five or fifty.

The Nature of the Hours Worked

The second thing we need to go over is the nature of the hours worked, because here we depart again from more traditional areas of high finance. 

Over the past year, as many in high finance have become burnt out from long hours, they've turned toward wealth management. This has been for obvious reasons: you can earn a significant amount of money while generally working quite a bit fewer hours all while still being in finance.

However, what many don't quite realize (or don't quite internalize) is that wealth management is fundamentally a sales job. It's not just a sales job, of course. But sales is a prerequisite as sales is how you get clients and a non-trivial part of how you keep your clients around.

So if a junior wealth manager is working 50-60 hours a week, that doesn't mean that they'll be sitting at a desk the entire time. In fact, most of the time they'll be talking with clients on the phone, meeting them in person, and perhaps taking them out to socialize.

For junior wealth managers just starting out this seems almost too good to be true. You are getting paid to socialize! But as with all areas of sales, the socializing is work and it will still begin to feel a bit like work as time goes on.

Especially at the junior level, a lot of this socializing (using the term quite loosely) will be in vain as you will be turned down by clients or not get as much out of them as you want. 

As a general rule, I'd say that unless you're purely in a support capacity in a large private wealth management shop, you'll be tied to your desk for 30 or 40 hours a week and talking with clients, meeting with clients, or going to events for another 20 to 30 hours a week when it's all said and done. 

Hours on the Weekend

One wonderful thing about wealth management is that your clients will - with rare exception - not want to talk shop over the weekends. Further, with markets being closed there won't be much for you to do anyway.

Weekends in wealth management - even at the junior level - generally will involve a few hours a day of either going to social events with clients, or with the hope to get clients, and doing some light "clean up" work (e.g., cleaning up your e-mail inbox, etc.). 

For this reason, there are a non-trivial number of people who have left other areas of finance purely because they see wealth management as a way to be able to actually enjoy their weekends. I'm not sure if this is a great reason, in and of itself, to get into wealth management, but there's certainly many I know who have gone into wealth management partly for this reason.

Why There's So Much Variability in Wealth Management Hours

Part of why it's so hard to talk about the hours worked in wealth management is because of the lifecycle of a wealth manager.

During your early years, you need to either start supporting the clients of a senior wealth manager or go get some clients of your own. As you likely know, the majority of people who enter into the wealth management industry are out of it within five years because they haven't been able to reach escape velocity with their own book of clients. 

However, after you reach a certain critical mass of clients (which will vary in AUM size depending on your earnings expectations, where you live, etc.) things tend to build on themselves. Clients will place more money with you, they'll tell their friends about you, etc. and getting clients becomes substantially easier.

At a certain point, usually after ten years or so, you'll be primarily concerned with keeping your clients happy and may even start to turn away people who would like to work with you. 

So for your first five years or so, you're in the mode of trying to constantly source new leads, new clients, and performing to the best of your abilities. This comes along with more hours and while the average is probably 50-60, it can be more for those who are deeply committed (although you do quickly reach a point of diminishing returns above 60 hours a week). 

After your first five years, when you're established and no longer worried about flaming out of the industry, you then have a decision to make regarding how quickly you want to keep growing and what kind of lifestyle you want to lead.

Many decide they want to get down to a more normal 40 hour work week and so stop actively sourcing clients, and focus instead on retention and execution. This leads to the proverbial wealth manager who is out golfing with clients five days a week and taking a very relaxed approach to work (while still doing very well).

So, unlike in other areas of finance, the hours once you hit a more "senior" point in your wealth management career become quite discretionary. While an MD in investment banking can't truly dictate how many hours they work - but rather have more flexibility around when they work - in wealth management you can absolutely dial down your hours to fit the kind of lifestyle you want to live.

However, to get to that more "senior" point, you will have to go through those first 3-5 years of sourcing where the longer hours are a necessity. Of course, in the end almost all who make it past those initial somewhat trying years feel that it's been entirely worth it. 

While I wish I could give greater specificity, I'd do so at the risk of now giving you a true picture of what to expect in wealth management. So hopefully this has been helpful.

If you are gearing up for wealth management interviews, I've compiled a list of wealth management interview questions on the site along with loads of other resources to try to help you get a better feel for what wealth management is really all about (including the wealth management interview guide). 

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