Prime Brokerage Stories: Expect No Favors

This is the fourth in a series called "Prime Brokerage Stories," real life experiences from a close family member who worked in this area of the Street for 30 years. For an introduction to PB so it all makes sense, see here: //

Back when jobs were much more plentiful on Wall Street, I decided to take a common course of action: jump ship and try working for another firm that offered an increase in total comp to boot.

First of all, let's dispense with 'career opportunity'. There is no such thing. It's all about the comp and what you are worth to your bosses.

You are also in competition with your co-workers. If you like them, that's great, but respect would be better. When the compensation pool is divvied up, the powers that be will be looking to reward those that they perceive as the key to making more money, either in terms of actual deals or in making them look good - which means a bigger budget for next year. Just the way it is.

A couple of key people left my firm at the time, so I made the jump too.

Fortunately as I stated earlier, jobs were plentiful (early to mid 2000's). And even more importantly, they were GOOD jobs! Knowledgeable, enlightened and ambitious people were needed - and there was a shortage of these people, so we could command a premium.

Today it is completely different, of course. Good opportunities are fewer in today's environment (and companies know this), making it more difficult to negotiate. But one day it will change again. And all I have to say to those big financial firms when it changes again, is that payback is a bitch.

My advice to you all is this: when that time comes, I'm telling you, make the bastards pay. You are worth every cent.

We are hunter-gatherers right? When the hunting is good, gorge yourself and gather fruits and berries until you can carry no more. This is not being greedy; it's being smart. To the extent you can negotiate your compensation, get as much as you can. It is, as the politically correct would say, "appropriate".

It's about survival, taking care of yourself, maybe your family and eventually, even others. This should be your motivation, because guess what? When your boss doesn't need you any more, you're gone. No give backs, no compromises--they may not even let you clean out your desk!

If you left anything or need anything - forget about favors - they will be real dicks.

Maybe you really love your firm. Maybe you love its culture and its attitude towards business or life, or maybe it's one of those trendy "corporate social responsibility" type of places. "My boss would NEVER do that to me!" you might be thinking.

Here's another one for you, and it's gonna be a bit harsh: Don't be fooled by how much your company gives back to society or how much they seem to care, or even if you really get along with your boss (you might not, and one day he or she might be gone too).

It's funny how companies can claim to be so compassionate. The new firm that I moved to was another non-US investment bank in New York that had a policy that officers at the firm (directors and above) had to "give back."

This was news to me, because none of my previous employers ever required it. It was mandatory or compensation would be reduced. So much for the spirit of volunteerism.

One of these wonderful opportunities we were presented was to clean up the parks (Bring your rake! It's fun!) in a part of NYC on the weekend... a part that I frankly did not want to be anywhere near, and quite inconvenient to get to. And if I don't do this, they are threatening my compensation!

Might it ever occur to these corporate overseers that we, the employees and managers already do good things on the weekend? We volunteer, we take care of our families, we give to charities of OUR choice among countless other things.

The answer is no. The only thing they care about is their own PR. The compassion is quite absent when they decide to get rid of you.

I've never regretted a decision to leave a firm (on my own terms, that is). In my experience, it has always been the right move. There may be better options out there.

So, enticed back to my previous firm with a very nice offer, I quit.

PB Story 1: "Big Mack and the Phantom Pricing" //
PB Story 2: "Thank You, Nick Leeson" //
PB Story 3: "Mentally Fired" //

Comments (9)

Aug 20, 2013

it's just business, nothing personal.

Aug 20, 2013

^ Which cuts both ways. That should be your personal attitude as well as that of the firm.

Metal. Music. Life.

Aug 20, 2013

My 'family member' has a completely different value. In fact, I was woken up this morning by his angry call that I should work for the same employer for the rest of my life... speechless.

The Auto Show

Aug 20, 2013
Aug 26, 2013

Yup. No loyalty anymore, and this is why so many employers simply don't know what to do with our generation!

Metal. Music. Life.

Aug 21, 2013

Not really a story though.

Aug 26, 2013

More advice-oriented this time around. Fear not...the stories will be back soon!

Metal. Music. Life.

Aug 27, 2013

Cool. Always like reading stories.

Aug 21, 2013