Has anyone regretted going back to IB from a Corp role?

I left IB last year after feeling fairly burned out, driven by the false perception that the grass would be greener in a more relaxed or work-life-balance-friendly corporate role. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation has now sunk in, and I'm quite unhappy with the significantly lower compensation, more mundane work, and general lack of excitement in my current job.

I understand that part of the issue lies in finding activities to fill my time outside of work, and that one's enjoyment shouldn't solely depend on their profession. However, I do believe it's important to be stimulated by what occupies the majority of one's day.

I'm also concerned that, after leaving IB, one may start to forget the more challenging aspects of the job and only reminisce about the positive aspects. It's undeniable that some of the absurdity inherent in the role adds to its appeal and creates memorable moments. While there were many frustrations at the time, I can now look back on those memories fondly. In contrast, my new corporate role (in strategy at a tech company) is rather dull, with few memorable moments to reflect upon.

Has anyone left IB for a more relaxed corporate job, only to return to IB and regret their decision? In the current market, I find it challenging to explain to headhunters that I want to leave my corporate role to pursue opportunities on the buy-side. Therefore, I feel that returning to IB would offer more excitement in the short term and potentially open up more buy-side roles in the long term.

 
Controversial

As someone who went from corporate to IB I honestly have no sympathy for your situation. You said you were “Driven by the perception that the grass is greener” - so how the fuck did you not know you would be paid less, for more mundane work? Any person who was in the role or something similar could’ve told you this. I get it that IB is a fucking slug fest and it sucks but at the same time you either stay in higher finance or you move on to something else with better WLB and to (hopefully) find meaning in the work. Use your role as an opportunity to find the next best thing for you, but don’t bitch about your own decision to move on to something more relaxing. People would literally kill to have your role (both your ex-banking role and current corporate role).

 

I’m sure OP thought they were making a good move at the time and sounds like they’re now seeking outside advice to make a better decision - not seeking sympathy. Don’t be a dick.

 

OP here

Thank you for this - you're exactly right. Honestly, I was a little burned out after two years and saw some of my friends loving life in Tech, so I was really convinced that it would be a good move that I would be happy with. I think I made a pretty hasty decision based on moving away from banking, rather than towards something else. Unlike banking, where it's pretty transparent and most people are aware of the realities of the job, it's quite hard to do due diligence on a new role that you haven't worked in before. I'm trying to avoid that mistake again by being very deliberate and honest with myself in my next decision.

 

Fair that it was a bit harsh. But in the same vain, OP the grass will always be greener. If you were burnt out in IB the first go around, think it’s safe to assume it would happen again if you came back (especially in this macro). To me it sounds like growth would be the best middle ground of a slightly better WLB but still doing higher finance work.

I’m a firm believer there’s 3 primary pillars to jobs that everyone should look out for: enjoyment of what you’re doing / opportunity to learn and move up the ladder, the pay, and WLB. In a job, it is difficult to find 2 of these pillars and even more uncommon to find all 3. OP should take some time to truly reflect on what matters to him the most (as you said) before he pivots to his next role

 

OP here

It's not a F500, but a fairly late stage tech firm that could be expected to IPO in the next few years. Indeed, maybe moving to a smaller early stage startup in more of a finance (e.g. corp dev) role would be a good alternative. With that being said, I'm not so sure if that will scratch the itch of wanting to move back to banking / higher finance. I think I first need to really weigh the lifestyle implications. 

 
Most Helpful

I won't clown you as I think you're actually being pretty thoughtful, particularly about the rosy aspects of banking (in hindsight).  I find it easy to romanticize the grind and completely disregard that there were times I wanted to throw myself into the hudson.  You can, and should, do whatever you want but, to make an informed decision that you won't waffle on in 10 months, try to be objective about ALL the aspects of IB.  Recall the weeks of 4-5 hours of sleep, the never being able to commit to plans, the periods where you couldn't take a walk in the park on a Saturday without checking your phone every 5 minutes, the firedrill pitches that always seemed to pop up around major holidays, the stacked staffings, etc. 

I enjoyed doing the job, it made me better, but the volume killed me.  By the end I was no longer interested in being mindless drone pursuing banking as a means to satisfy my insatiable ego.  I wanted time to pursue my many hobbies, be with my friends, and generally have more ownership over my life.  That was a personal decision that worked for me.  YOU have to figure out what works for YOU. 

 

OP here

Thank you for this; that's really helpful and a much-appreciated perspective. You're right in that it's very easy to look back on the experience and romanticize the good experiences while disregarding all of the negative things throughout that were so pervasive. Honestly, I think long-term, a role in LMM PE or some sort of public markets investing role would probably be best for me, blending intellectual stimulation and work-life balance aspects for the future. With that being said, as I mentioned, I'm finding it hard to get much traction with headhunters given my pivot to Strategy in Tech. I can't help but feel that moving back to banking will allow me to make the transition more easily in the future.

Out of interest, what did you end up moving to?

 

Replying to both.  I joined the management team of a professional services business.  They were a client that we had sold to PE and I got friendly with the management team and new investors during the process.  Despite what I said about wanting more ownership over my time, the ego thing is real.  I did not want to just be a rank and file 9-5er and this opportunity provided the ability to have a seat at the table and be in the mix (what I enjoyed about banking). 

I like to believe that those opportunities exist and you don't need to completely give up your ambition/drive to achieve a level of balance.  One thing I've seen Smoke say, which I completely agree with, is there is no free lunch.  You still have to work hard in whatever industry if you want to make money and climb the ladder, but 55-65 hour weeks are much more palatable for me than 80-90...

 

In similar boat. Joined tech in hopes of having more family time and hobbies. I dreamed about how much I can achieve in my personal life with a cushy job. Although I'm healthier and less stressed now, I can't help but to have FOMO moments against my low(er) comp and mundane work. Sometimes I say to myself "Man, maybe I shouldn't have quit banking. At least I get paid and bull pen is fun". Truth to be told, the well-trodden IB-PE-HF path gives me something to look forward to, knowing that I will do well no matter what. Getting off that path and losing the visibility is scary to me.

Whenever this happens, I think about the alternative version of myself that stayed in banking. I'm sure I will kick myself in the ass for not joining tech. The point is, the FOMO works both ways and I'm glad I moved on to a different spot. Thinking about the positive side, I do appreciate the fact that now I can go to gym every morning, cook my own meals and keep all the weekends to myself and my family. I'm thinking that I will spend some time in the current role and eventually 1) join a firm with a more interesting product, or 2) pivot into a more interesting role. (strat ops/consulting type of work seems interesting to me)

For those who asks "how did you not know this" - I guess you just don't know until you live through it. Same logic as people who joined banking knowing it was bad, but didn't realize it was THAT bad. Writing all these down as a way for myself to organize my own thoughts. Hope OP will come back and update us in the near future.

 

OP here

Thanks a lot for this - I think you've really managed to hit the nail on the head. While I was in banking, I had major FOMO due to the lack of any free time, canceled plans, etc. As was the case with you, I was convinced that moving to a cushier job would be the solution to all my problems, only to be faced with FOMO regarding banking.

Unfortunately, we can't have it both ways, and we just have to figure out for ourselves what makes us happiest among all the various imperfect options and be content with that decision. Everything has benefits and drawbacks, and it just seems to be a case of figuring out which ones you can and cannot accept.

The point you raised about "knowing that I will do well no matter what" is probably the most significant for me. I'm certainly struggling with career uncertainty (lack of clear progression in a corporate vs. high finance) and the comp ceiling. In IB, even amidst all the struggles and BS, there was comfort in knowing that if I don't change anything, I'll be making significant moves forward every year (both in comp and progression). Losing that has made me feel quite uneasy

As you mentioned, you don't really know what a role is like until you've done it. I also think, as you were alluding to and as was the case for me, when you're in a position where you aren't entirely happy, it's easy to glorify something new to yourself.

Are you in Corp Dev? FWIW, I'm in more of a Strat Ops/consulting-type role (mostly ex-consultants as opposed to ex-bankers), and I definitely miss the corporate finance angle. Perhaps I'm still just getting used to it, but my impression is that work done by consultants is quite fluffy and not very tangible.

 

For reference, I moved c.6 months ago from IB to Corporate Strategy and I've gone through exactly the same thoughts as you've outlined and came to similar conclusions. Echoing some of what others have said already but:

Strongly agree with your takes that 1) at least in the world of IB or Corporate there is no perfect option (but perhaps there is that dream credit/VC/MM PE exit with good WLB and pay?), 2) the career uncertainty that you describe is always on my mind as whilst the discount may be minimal now (-20% or so), it'd certainly increase over time as we hit our ceiling faster.

On (1), as you've done so by having your stint in IB, by having a go at Strategy, you'll now understand more what trade-offs you're willing to accept. For example, I know now that by having experienced my evenings being completely free (post-7pm), and having protected weekends, that whilst the latter is important to me, I'd probably be willing to accept working more weekday hours if it meant my comp ceiling increased. 

On (2), it's easy to extrapolate your earnings in IB/buyside but recall that it's not a linear career and ultimately is still a pyramid - not everyone who wants to make it to MD/D will be able to do so and ultimately the ones that do, have a competitive advantage in that they just love the game and will put the extra 1-2 hours/day. In contrast, corporate advancement whilst slower, has far less downside risk (particularly when Strategy are the ones deciding lay offs...)

I wouldn't disregard the fact that there's still a lot of money still to be made in Corporate with all the cushy Director-level roles but from what I've seen, to get there at a young age requires hard work somewhat comparable to IB/buyside (albeit, more flexible and on your own schedule), and in that case, the risk-adjusted payoff for you may be to go back

Have a look at the concept of a Good Time Journal, it's a helpful objective way to evaluate your experiences in IB and Corporate to better understand what you'd like to do next, and what you're truly interested in (which would be where your competitive advantage is).

Re: mundane work/general lack of excitement - depending on the remit of your team and if it's possible, I'd push hard in trying to get some involvement in M&A. I've recently started work on evaluating potential sales of our BUs after doing a stint in Ops and enjoy it far more now. The optionality and freedom a politically strong Strategy team is powerful!

rubiomn9's point re: looking at your superiors and evaluating your priorities against their roles is one of the best ways to figure out if X opportunity is for you. On a personal level, I know now that it doesn't make sense for me to go back to IB

 

As someone who left 'the Path' earlier than intended - my advice is to reflect on what a perfect job looks like for you, and filter from there.

Sounds like you are motivated by comp (to a degree). We all are (otherwise wouldn't be on this site), but what differs is what we are willing to give up for that comp. The occasional weekend? Weekends every month? Two Holidays per year? Etc. 

For me, I was tired of not being able to plan things or take trips my friends were doing. Also had a relationship fall apart due to my job. I was comfortable working 60+ hours a week, but wanted more proactivity than banking / PE provided. Sure I feel like I am not being paid enough, but it's important to me to have enough time to enjoy the weekends, volunteer, plan weekends and dates, and catch up on missed time from banking / PE days.

Long way of saying (which was mentioned earlier), you need to figure out what you are willing to be comfortable doing in order to maximize comp / WLB. I still have some positive memories of banking but I certainly don't romanticize it. Do you want the lives your superiors had? Think about their WLB and if that is comfortable for you. For me, I didn't want the lives of my banking or PE VPs, which helped me carve out what I did want. At the end of the day, it's a personal decision and requires some critical thinking and reflecting.

 

OP here

Thanks for this - that's a helpful perspective. I'll spend some time asking myself these questions and hopefully will come up with some honest answers that will help me move forward. I think it will be a bit of a mixture, and like you, the goal will eventually be to land a role somewhere in the middle (both in terms of growth, pay and WLB). 

 

Your comments are always killer for advice - recall reading an older comment that you still enjoyed the investing/strategic aspect of PE but ultimately the tradeoffs weren't worthwhile for you. How did you think about rolling the dice again to find a shop with better WLB vs going for your current role? What are your current thoughts on your future path - potentially keeping this door open, or comfortable at your current place?

 

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