I've worked on the buy-side for many years now. As I've complained here before, they pay isn't enough (it never is), but there's one area in which they make it up to me: hotels.
Long years ago, when I was touring business schools, figuring out where to study, I stayed at Super 8s. Were they clean? No. Did they feel safe? Not really. Were they cheap? Definitely! Did I mind? Not at all.
Nor did I mind when, as a lowly associate on the sell-side, I stayed at cheap corporate hotels too. Now that I work for a Large Hedge Fund, however, I always go five star. This isn't my choice - if I had it my way, I'd pocket the money and stay in the cheapest room I could find, but these things are always prepaid.
When you work on the buy-side, conference hotels are a major perk. The buy-side loves a conference, and when your life is spent following breaking news and working out how it impacts your positions, a conference can be a rare chance to unwind. In my previous life as an engineer, I got to take long breaks after projects were completed. These days, I don't have projects and I don't really have long breaks. Earnings have a set schedule, but there's no time period for breaking news. If you're on the beach and a company announces a change in management, you have to pack-up and your nice relaxing day is ruined.
This is partly why I've only ever take a week off at a time on the buy-side. When I joined, I was told there are only two times when you're allowed to take two consecutive weeks off. One is for your honeymoon (not sure if this counts for second or third marriages). The second is for a funeral, and it better be yours. With only a week off, it's hard to visit a far-off country, especially when you can lose two days just from the travel
Conferences trips therefore are a small pleasure. They don't last long, but they're time out of the routine in a luxury hotel where everything is paid. Sometimes they are even overseas.
The temptation when you're an analyst who works long hours with limited respite is take your spouse on these trips. One word: don't. If you take your spouse to a hedge fund conference, your life will never be the same again. Believe me: I have made this mistake on your behalf.
Firstly, once your spouse gets a taste for these trips, you will never get to travel solo on them again. Secondly, you will not be holidaying together to make up for any holidays curtailed by market movements - you personally will be sitting in an air-conditioned conference room while your spouse is living it up in the five star hotel, probably at your own expense. And lastly - and this is the key point - your spouse will get a taste for luxurious amenities and high-end service which will mean you can never holiday together in a budget hotel again.
Because of my mistake, I am now forced to pay-up whenever we go on vacation! You have been warned. Save yourself while you still can.
Margin of Saving was created by an analyst at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund to help others learn how to invest and save.
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