Ask anyone who has been in the business awhile and he'll tell you that investment banking isn't all it's cracked up to be. The hours are long, the job security for the past four or five years has been pretty shaky, and there was that whole bailout thing in 2008 that basically turned investment bankers into lepers, conveniently blamed for all of society's ills. Some days you just want to throw in the towel.
Walking away from banking isn't common by any means. Let's face it: it's hard to get paid this much anywhere else, especially when you consider what it really is a banker does for a living. But sometimes the grind just gets to be too much, and some people just quit. I know, because I was one of them. Sure, things worked out for me in a big way before I bailed, but I'd promised myself before any of that happened that I'd pump gas for a living before I spent another year of my life.
I was 29 at that point, and had been in finance in one capacity or another for about six years. I happened to be in finance at a time when the game was rapidly changing thanks to the advent of the Internet, and I watched our once healthy margins disappear almost overnight. Suddenly I was being asked to work twice as hard for the same money. It's what prompted me to move from equities to commodities, where the information contagion had yet to spread.
Fast forward to today, and there's a whole new raft of issues forcing today's bankers to question whether they should consider something else. Case in point, I came across this article the other day. Its author is a 35-year old banker who is just fed up and throwing in the towel. He tells the tale of his early zeal for the business (he started in 2000), and how he worked his way into his dream job at a hedge fund. But then 2008 came along, and he now realizes that the job will never be enjoyable again. And most of his friends felt the same way:
Most of them had completely forgotten the joy of coming in to work. Anything stimulating or interesting was relegated to the past.
In time, I came to feel the same. I realised that I too didn't 'believe' any more. Knowing that we had reached a peak of product complexity prior to the crash and that new European rules would prevent the attainment of anything similar in future, my interest in financial services simply ebbed away.
Finally, and above all, I got fed up with the constant portrayal of bankers as society's villains. I've had enough. I'm turning the page. I'm not being pilloried any more. I'm off to do something different.
It seems the majority of our time here on WSO is spent trying to figure out how to get a job in finance. I'd submit to you younger guys that you might be careful what you wish for. There's no question that the money is great, relatively speaking. And I firmly believe that some guys are just born to be bankers, and are able to disconnect from the drudgery while they're at work. On some level I probably envy those guys. But for the non-robotic among us, the job often sucks ass.
I'd love to hear from guys who quit because they were fed up, but I doubt they spend much time here anymore. What do you guys think? Is this guy weak for bailing on banking? Or have you secretly considered it yourself? I was lucky enough to hit my walkaway number, but I'd have quit even if I hadn't. Does that make me a lesser trader? Or just a guy who realizes life is too short?
mod note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from February 2011. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.