Sell Side vs Buy Side

The answer is obvious–buy-side. That’s the goal if you want to make the most amount of money possible. So why does this question continuously pop up?

The only rational reason is that people simply don’t understand the difference. Working for the “sell-side” means you work for a bank or for a financial services company that is selling something. For example, an investment banker is a sell-side job because investment bankers are selling advice on raising capital and making acquisitions.

A “buy-side” job refers to a financial services firm that deploys capital or “takes risk.” For example a hedge fund raises money from investors and then deploys that capital (i.e. takes risk) in order to generate a return. Buy-side jobs generally make more money, as they are taking the risk. 

Typically, the further out on the risk spectrum you go, the more possible upside you have. One case where people might want to stay on the sell-side and not go to the buy-side is if they don’t have the personality to take risk. For example, some people may enjoy studying a company or industry and then writing a report on their findings, much more than risking their job on the outcome of that report.

That being said, because they are less far out on the risk spectrum, they should expect to make less money. Investment bankers typically have the most upside on the sell-side, but it takes an incredible amount of hours spent to get the level where you are making 7 digits no matter how good you are. On the flip side, there are plenty of 25/26/27 year-olds making 7 digits working for hedge funds.

So the real answer to the question lies in how far out on the risk spectrum you want to go while still being able to sleep at night.

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