Anyone Regret Quitting their Investment Banking Job?

Startop's picture
Rank: Baboon | 150

My question is this: Can any of you relay any stories of monkeys who quit and wish they hadn't?

My worry is I leave, try something truly risky and wonderous, fail, and am locked out forever, being a middle class nobody until death. Its the same fear that keep a lot of people chained to miserable existences, but perhaps it is better than the alternative. Money helps in a lot of ways, I've seen both sides and all things being equal, having money is better than not.

So, once you leave, try something totally unrelated, something that does nothing to build a resume, are you locked out forever? Its nice for the people who can get out and become rockstars, but what happens if you leave banking, try and fail?

Who Regrets Quitting Wall Street?

In an industry as intense as Wall Street, the question of when / if to quit can be a difficult one. People quit for all sorts of reasons and there is definitely a lot to consider. A few of our users shared detailed experiences and thoughts below.

Disjoint - Sales and Trading Director:
  1. A friend quit to start his startup. It failed miserably, now he is back looking for a job, and can't find anything that would pay him as much as he used to earn.
  2. Another friend quit and ended up working for a startup company, he stuck it 6 months with them, now he is working for the exchange and earning much less than he used to.
  3. Another one started her shoe company, she is struggling beyond reason, and puts in way more hours for much less pay than before. That was 4 years ago, she is still struggling today.
  4. One of them quit to start a food shop - it worked out, doesn't earn him as much, but he puts in less hours and enjoys it.

The majority of these stories are happy or lying to themselves that it was the right decision to get out of banking. At the end of the day, if you can't cut it, get out, this is not for everyone. Everyone thinks about quitting all the time, in the end there is no other job that pays this much in the world. The first few years in banking might feel like shit as the pay is not that great, but once you hit VP it will all start to make sense.

If you DO quit banking, don't make it in the hope of earning more money. Because this rarely happens. Do it because you find something more interesting and realized money ain't everything, or you actually HAVE a great startup idea and have ALREADY done the ground work while working...

Matrick - Hedge Fund Investment Analyst:

I personally have never met anyone who quit and was unhappy about it. If you chose to quit, you have your reasons and most people feel a lot better afterwards. I know one guy who went back into the family business and is happy. Another went to be an Entrepreneur in Residence at an Incubator and then founded a business with Rocket. That failed, he still says that it was better than sitting in a cubicle 18 hours a day working on pitch books.

As for that, I know a few guys who actually quit IBD at 3rd year Analyst to 2nd year Associate level and did something else for a year or two (own business, Private Equity, Hedge Fund) and then came back to work for the same bank in the same position or a level higher afterwards. I don't think you're locked out forever, but if you are unsure you may wanna stay in touch with a few colleagues...

IlliniProgrammer - Hedge Fund Quant:
  1. It's better to quit if you have another job or opportunity.
  2. It's better to quit with more money saved. Hell, you've already earned 65% of your year end bonus.
  3. It's way better to quit after 18 months, maybe 24 months than after 12 months. (Makes you look like less of a flake) And if you do this for two or three years, it's easier to come back than if you've done this for 12 months or even 18 months. (This holds true for any job.)

I say stick it out for another year, or at least until February bonus. I know you really want out of there, I know you are miserable, but sticking it out for a little longer gives you access to jobs that will make you less miserable later.

Additionally, the more money you have when you quit, and the more experience you have when you quit, and the better the opportunity you have when you quit, the less likely you are to regret quitting.

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Comments (14)

Aug 10, 2013

Often people regret things they didn't do. It seems like the way you think right now, you will regret your decision either way. Regret leaving banking or regret not leaving it all together. You need to resolve this conflict. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Besides, if money isn't everything ... then why are you worried if you become "a middle class nobody"? What is wrong with that? In 100000 years, no one will remember who you are ... and then I suppose that makes you a nobody anyways even with all the $$$.

Aug 10, 2013

Why not just stick it out a year and get a less intense buyside job. Also, being a 2nd year analyst is much better than being a 1st year. I say stick it out.

There are a lot of things you can do after an analyst stint and a good portion have a better quality of life.

Aug 10, 2013

1.) It's better to quit if you have another job or opportunity.

2.) It's better to quit with more money saved. Hell, you've already earned 65% of your year end bonus.

3.) It's waay better to quit after 18 months, maybe 24 months than after 12 months. (Makes you look like less of a flake) And if you do this for two or three years, it's easier to come back than if you've done this for 12 months or even 18 months. (This holds true for any job.)

I say stick it out for another year, or at least until February bonus. I know you really want out of there, I know you are miserable, but sticking it out for a little longer gives you access to jobs that will make you less miserable later.

Even then, sometimes you can regret quitting.

I quit my job as a desk developer at a BB a little over a year ago for grad school. I thought I was making a great move- and it's ultimately turning out to be a good move as of right now. But back in February of this year, I was really scared. Nobody was hiring and nobody was getting offers.

It was pretty scary for a while, but I had some money saved up, and that made it less scary. Having five years at a bank and a network I could draw on if I really needed also made it less scary. And being in a graduate program that typically got 95-100% placements ultimately helped me land something

Moral of the story: if you quit your job, and your experience is finance, and you eventually need to make a living at some point, you've gone from being long finance to being long finance on margin.

So don't quit if you think we're going into a recession or a bad job market for finance people. And don't quit unless you have enough to get by for a few years.

Things worked out in the end. I wound up getting an internship offer and now a FT offer. But that didn't have to happen.

So the more money you have when you quit, and the more experience you have when you quit, and the better the opportunity you have when you quit, the less likely you are to regret quitting.

Aug 10, 2013

To answer the original question, and not go on a complete tangent about when and why you should quit:

1) A friend quit to start his startup. It failed miserably, now he is back looking for a job, and can't find anything that would pay him as much as he used to earn.

2) Another friend quit and ended up working for a startup company, he stuck it 6 months with them, now he is working for the exchange and earning much less than he used to.

3) Another one started her shoe company, she is struggling beyond reason, and puts in way more hours for much less pay than before. That was 4 years ago, she is still struggling today.

4) One of them quit to start a food shop - it worked out, doesn't earn him as much, but he puts in less hours and enjoys it.

I can go on and on with plenty more examples, but the majority of them are happy or lying to themselves that it was the right decision to get out of banking. At the end of the day, if you can't cut it, get out, this is not for everyone. Everyone thinks about quitting all the time, in the end there is no other job that pays this much in the world. The first few years in banking might feel like shit as the pay is not that great, but once you hit VP it will all start to make sense.

If you DO quit banking, don't make it in the hope of earning more money. Because this rarely happens. Do it because you find something more interesting and realised money ain't everything, or you actually HAVE a great startup idea and have ALREADY done the ground work while working...

Aug 10, 2013
Disjoint:

To answer the original question, and not go on a complete tangent about when and why you should quit:

1) A friend quit to start his startup. It failed miserably, now he is back looking for a job, and can't find anything that would pay him as much as he used to earn.

2) Another friend quit and ended up working for a startup company, he stuck it 6 months with them, now he is working for the exchange and earning much less than he used to.

3) Another one started her shoe company, she is struggling beyond reason, and puts in way more hours for much less pay than before. That was 4 years ago, she is still struggling today.

4) One of them quit to start a food shop - it worked out, doesn't earn him as much, but he puts in less hours and enjoys it.

I can go on and on with plenty more examples, but the majority of them are happy or lying to themselves that it was the right decision to get out of banking. At the end of the day, if you can't cut it, get out, this is not for everyone. Everyone thinks about quitting all the time, in the end there is no other job that pays this much in the world. The first few years in banking might feel like shit as the pay is not that great, but once you hit VP it will all start to make sense.

If you DO quit banking, don't make it in the hope of earning more money. Because this rarely happens. Do it because you find something more interesting and realised money ain't everything, or you actually HAVE a great startup idea and have ALREADY done the ground work while working...

This is largely accurate but lol at no other job paying as much banking, pe/hf pay a lot more, s&t pays on par with half the hours

Aug 11, 2013

PE = flush with cash and no where to invest. Also not paying well at the moment
HF = for the few that are still around great, the crisis has taken its toll and you would be happy to still be employed. There are exceptions everywhere, just like a star trader at GS might be making a lot of money, a star HF might make a lot as well. But for the vast majority, unless you are the one pocketing the 2% as its your fund, you are SOL.

Aug 10, 2013

I know a guy who quit his IB analyst position, tried entrepreneurship (unrelated to finance) for 2 years or so, then rejoined IB as an Associate at a different firm. Not sure how he did it but anything is possible.

Best Response
Aug 10, 2013

I don't know what your ambitions are, but I myself am sitting here trying to decide whether to take my full time investment banking offer or not and have the same sentiments about banking as you do.

My primary goal at this stage of my life is to build a business or create a product that can generate ~$40k a year for me, aka financial independence. This would allow me to do the things that actually fulfill me in life: swinging for the fences (like trying to break into IB from a non-target, which I did, or my lifelong vice of entrepreneurship), travelling, and trying new things. Can't say I've ever been a happy employee, in banking or in my high school jobs. I know tech startups are all the rage these days and you may be considering one yourself. Well, imagine how much easier taking all the risks you want would be if you had some form of income coming in without having to labor for it beyond the initial work it took to create and market.

I saw an interesting reply to anonymousman's Life After Banking post effectively pointing out that he opted for music rather than banking to achieve the same goal he'd hoped a career in high finance would progress him towards: money & fame, aka "success." He stated that anonymousman simply found a better route towards the same goal and that banking was not getting him there fast enough. It's clear to me from your post that money does matter from the middle class comment. It matters to me and most people on this board. Before any drastic moves, a good exercise would be to clear your mind, strip away all the nonsense of prestige and society's pressures, and figure out what it is that you truly want. You can worry about figuring out exactly how to get there afterwards.

The worst thing about banking to me is the utter lack of control over your own time. The question is: is the foregone time to build something that will bring me closer to my goal worth the nearly assured $40-50k in savings after my first year? This may be a long shot but I imagine this would be an effective way of framing your dilema.

    • 2
Aug 11, 2013

All,

I don't sign on much anymore and when I do it seems like the only posts are dickhead college kids who obviously arent in finance pretending they are hot shit. These are some quality responses and I really do appreciate them. Its fucking tough.

You leave college, your friends drift away and you then you realize you have been alone and staring at an excel screen at 4am for a week straight. No one gives a shit how much stuff you are on. Your bonus is good, more than you expected, but your college girlfriend you were crazy about 18 months ago is a stranger now. This place is like the twilight zone. We just had the summers here and they are going into their senior years and for many of them, its the best time they'll ever have but they have no idea. I mean, they know, but they dont know.

Banking is great in innumerable ways. I'm lucky and I'm thankful, but there is a lot to think about after this year. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • 1
Aug 11, 2013
Startop:

So, once you leave, try something totally unrelated, something that does nothing to build a resume, are you locked out forever? Its nice for the people who can get out and become rockstars, but what happens if you leave banking, try and fail?

I personally have never met anyone who quit and was unhappy about it. If you chose to quit, you have your reasons and most people feel a lot better afterwards. I know one guy who went back into the family business and is happy. Another went to be an Entrepreneur in Residence at an Incubator and then founded a business with Rocket. That failed, he still says that it was better than sitting in a cubicle 18 hours a day working on pitch books.

Startop:

y worry is I leave, try something truly risky and wonderous, fail, and am locked out forever, being a middle class nobody until death. Its the same fear that keep a lot of people chained to miserable existences, but perhaps it is better than the alternative. Money helps in a lot of ways, I've seen both sides and all things being equal, having money is better than not.

As for that, I know a few guys who actually quit IBD at 3rd year Analyst to 2nd year Associate level and did something else for a year or two (own business, Private Equity, Hedge Fund) and then came back to work for the same bank in the same position or a level higher afterwards. I don't think you're locked out forever, but if you are unsure you may wanna stay in touch with a few colleagues...

Aug 12, 2013

Just my two cents, but I've been in a similar position to you. I went straight from undergrad to the buy-side, but my buy-side gig had at least similar and sometimes worse hours than my friends at BB IBD jobs. Comp wasn't great first year (below BB comp), but got a HUGE raise my second year (inline with BB comp in an average year, but with much more upside in a good year). Even so, about 1 year and 6 months in I was starting to crack. At that point I was handling most of our firm's overseas investments, so I didn't have a sleep cycle. Working 80+ hours a week sucks, but doing that on other market clocks, plus having US companies to follow, really sucks.

At that point I made the decision to screw juicing my bonus, but to do the absolute minimum necessary to hang onto my job until the end of the 2 years while I focused on recruiting for something better. I did things like taking vacation days and slipping out during lunch vs. eating at my desk for interviews or leaving the office after a 12 hour day instead of my standard 15-18+ hours even if everything wasn't perfect.

At about 1 year and 6 months into your first 2 years in finance, if you're looking while you're still employed, that's when I think it becomes infinitely easier to get interviews and when head hunters start to take you seriously. I had put out feelers after about 11 months in, before I found out what my 2nd year comp was going to be, and the difference in the responses I received versus at 1 year and 6 months was like night and day (YMMV, I was at a smaller buy-side shop, since you're at a BB, I assume headhunters were talking to you during your first year for buy-side associate gigs).

After about 3 months of pounding the pavement, sleeping 4 hours a night + working 7 full days a week so I could keep the job while recruiting, and final rounds with 3 other bigger buy side shops and 1 corp dev (all with much more sustainable lifestyles), I ended up with two offers and accepted one of them.

A tip on the lifestyle, when interviewing, do your best to get a really good read on what the head (MD, Partner, Principal, etc) of the shop you are talking to is like and how much of a workaholic they are as they set the tone. A mistake I made when deciding on my last job (should never have believed the 12-14 hour day rubbish they told me).

If you're recruiting while not currently employed, from watching a number of friends that were IBD analysts, the ones that stuck out their full 2 years had a much, much, easier time. None of my friends that bounced earlier than 2 years without a job offer ended up anywhere spectacular.

I get the pain of trying to recruit while working horrendous hours. There were so many times I wanted to just say screw it and quit in those painful last 3 months at work. But right now I'm very thankful I pushed through.

That being said, if you don't want to stay in finance or corporate and don't care about the completion bonus - seriously, you have better things to do with your life, health, and sanity. And if you really don't care about doing anything related, rather than quit, get fired (as long as it's a just "this isn't working out" and not something you did that's horrible, they'll likely call it "laid-off", and you'll likely end up with some reasonable severance).

One last thing, if you are looking for other finance gigs, head hunters can be helpful but they're only one source. Only 1 of the 4 gigs I got to final rounds with came through a head hunter. The rest came from pounding the pavement on linked-in, networking with alumni (went to a semi-target), friends, and friends of friends, and (believe it or not) online resume drops (usually they won't state name of firm and % success rate for them was the lowest, but still worthwhile).

Sorry that was a bit long-winded and probably more than you have time to read (don't mean to contribute to your eye-strain and aching wrists), but if you want to stay in high finance and can grind it out just a few more months I think it'll be helpful in getting to greener pastures. This isn't to say it's impossible if you don't, just likely a much higher hill to climb.

    • 2
Aug 12, 2013
a53876:

Nicely done

Aug 12, 2013
a53876:

Enjoyed the read, +1.

Aug 12, 2013
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