Small firm vs Big Firm, Experience vs Compensation

Hi All,

This is something I’ve been chewing on for a few months now and I still haven’t come to a conclusion yet, so I’d be interested to canvas the views of AF for an answer…

Is it better to work for a small investment house and garner experience from all aspects of the business, but be poorly compensated, or would it be better to join up with one of the big hitters, be handsomely compensated, but have a slower skilling up period, (relatively speaking of course!)? What would be better for your career in the long run - the over-arching experience or the seal of approval from Goldman Sachs et al? This is the predicament that I’m in (well, sort of - I have no offers from GS!). Perhaps somebody has some advice for me?

I’d also be interested to hear what other analysts/associates are being paid working for boutiques in London (even better Edinburgh). I work for a small investment house and earning £27k + £7k and I consider myself very lucky to have landed my job as I never made it to university, due to sporting commitments for 8 years, but now I’m 28, 1.5 years into my job and I think I’m grossly underpaid given my responsibilities. Chatting to friends around town, I feel I could be getting paid much more at a big institution, but I’m worried the work won’t be as exciting. I’ve done my IMC, CISI Corporate Finance and scored 740 in GMAT (so business school is another option) - planning on completing CFA in next 18 months, so I’m no slouch. It really pains me to read on AF about how much younger analysts, with similar experience and aptitude, are getting salaries in the region of £50k - £80k base.

Any advice would be great…thanks in advance


always be long term greedy. think about where you be in 20 years and go to a place that will allow you to learn and experiment. salary and prestige don’t mean much at this stage…you want to set yourself up for bigger things down the road. if the PM at your small shop is the real deal then it’s better to stay put. IMHO, it’s better to be employee #1 at a small but growing shop than employee #10293 at a large established shop.

being poor when you’re young also has its upsides. less distractions…plus you will be that much more hungrier to prove the naysayers (and people who are “better” than you) wrong.

Point taken but then it comes down to the time value of money. Do I accept potentially more lucrative ventures now or do I forego that income stream for an uncertain big cash gain in the future? No doubt the work I’m doing is interesting…it’s in the alternative asset indurstry and I’ve just built my first fund from scratch - still lots to learn, but I would have never have had that opportunity at this stage for a larger shop. Hmmmmmm…

I wonder if anyone else started off in a small house and has had similar concerns?

Early on I’d side with working at a well respect firm. It’s all about building the resume. If you have GS on there that’ll attract way more interest down the line than anything you can put under “skills and attributes.”

That said, if you like the small shop you’re working at and think it’s going places then that’s different.

Work for the most reputable employer. It an attention grabber to those looking at your resume.

Work for the most reputatable boss to learn, experiment, and create. You can create your own path and become the brand yourself. No need to borrow the “prestige” or reputation of a former employer if you are a producer yourself (unless you’re not, then you want to work for a big shop so you can affiliate yourself with the “brand”).