What Is Grunt Work?

Grunt work is an expression used to describe thankless and menial work. Grunt work can also refer to jobs that lack glamour and prestige or are boring and repetitive. On Wall Street, grunt work could entail combing through a company's financial records, looking for positive and negative developments or analyzing historical trading data in the hope of finding the perfect stop-limit order points.

The Need for Grunt Work

Grunt work, despite its lowly status, is often an essential component of climbing the career ladder. Some banks have their own hierarchies, but financial careers on Wall Street typically follow a path similar to the following:

  • Analyst
  • Associate
  • Vice President
  • Director
  • Managing Director.

Grunt work often includes coordinating presentations, compiling analytical data and administrative duties. For example, an analyst will likely be responsible for coordinating the publication of pitch books and marketing presentations for existing and prospective clients. Analytical work is Excel-heavy, including financial modeling and valuation and credit analysis. Administrative work likely includes scheduling, coordinating meetings and making travel arrangements. 

Moving on Up

The next step in the progression is to associate, who are recruited directly out of MBA programs or analysts that have been promoted after two years at the firm. The associate’s role is similar to the analyst’s role, with the additional responsibility of serving as a liaison between junior- and senior-level personnel. In some instances, they may have opportunities to work directly with clients as well. Associates work closely with analysts, given their familiarity with and expectations for the role. Associates review the work of analysts, particularly with what they do with any client-facing materials and analytical work.

The Corner Office

Senior-level personnel, starting with Vice Presidents and moving on to Directors and Managing Directors, assume additional responsibilities as they climb the career ladder and become decision-makers. Seniors prospect for deals and maintain client relationships, in addition to knowing how economic shifts and market dynamics can affect their industry at an expert level. The longer their tenure at the firm, the more institutional knowledge, or access to pertinent institutional knowledge, that can help them navigate that particular phase of their careers.

The Pace of Promotion

Grunt work has become a big topic of discussion for finance. In an effort to attract and retain top talent, which has become a challenge in recent years, many firms have been quickening the pace of promotion. Also, firms have been utilizing technology to reduce some of the labor-intensive grunt work typically associated with analyst- and associate-level positions, which often include long hours under deadline pressure.