Confused about my career...

limitless33's picture
limitless33 - Certified Professional
Rank: Monkey | banana points 64

Hey Everyone.. I have finally joined WSO after years of lurking... hoping some of you can help put me in the right direction.

I started my career different. I saw so many friends go to university and graduate with a finance degree only to go work at some retail company making minimum wage. I didn't want that.

I went into banking as a teller and worked much way up to a relationship manager for Citi working with clients from $250k net worth to $10m net worth. I keep a close relationship with PWM and focus on investments and wealth management as well as some lending.

Anyways, I'm 23 years old and have a client book of business of approximately $125m spread across 450 clients.

I'm finishing my undergrad in finance. I am a 3rd year and will be done in 2 semesters. I focused more on work than school so I will finish with about a 3.3 gpa and it is from a public university in California (NOT A UC)

I am confused as to where my career is headed. It's natural to be confused I suppose, but I'd really appreciate some guidance. I'm considering PRIVATE Banking, but not sure how to get myself in.

Another dilemma is I have an extremely competitive base with a high bonus and earn close to 150-200k a year.

What would you do? I'm in it for the long run and want to make the best career for my self and my family. I am getting married in a year and a half and I want to make the right choices.

Any advice will be appreciated!

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Comments (40)

Dec 22, 2018

Sounds like you're locked into this position after graduating. But, with that background, you should have a good shot at a T10 MBA program with your career progression.

If you want to make the transfer, just put out a couple more years after graduating and crank out a 700-720+ on the GMAT to be competitive. You're probably going to have to get a 720+ or so with a 3.3 GPA.

Even then, you would have to put down some cash for school and might come out making a similar amount of money. So you would have to consider the opportunity cost and the needs of your family to make an appropriate decision.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

    • 1
Dec 22, 2018

Hey thanks for your advice!

Yes one option I was looking at was trying to score high on my gmat and entering UCLA business school mba program and hoping to secure an associate or senior
Analyst role at that point.

I've also applied for a boutique firm as a junior portfolio manager associate hoping that would give me more exposure since they sponsor all their employees for the CFA afterwards. What do you think?

I've also entertained going into commercial banking as I know a few firms will hire me for a commmercial Banker role and have me work my way up to a senior relationship manager. Any thoughts?

Dec 23, 2018


    • 10
Dec 23, 2018

1) as I've said I'm in retail banking and I am a Relationship Manager for clients with 200k+

2) yes my gpa is terrible as I've said as I focused on career rather than school (circumstances required me to do so)

3) private Banking is my next natural step

4) I am not a teller, I have my securities licenses and focus on portfolio management, advisory services, trust services, succession planning, etc.

5) my base isn't 150-200. As I said, my base is 90k and my commissions and bonuses bring me up to 150-200k because my goals are always exceeded 150% to goal.

6) I want to develop a career where I can see myself in a 200k+ base. I want to get into high finance, I don't find my mind stimulated in retail finance. I'm looking into pursuing either an mba or a CFA to better my education and credentials.

Dec 24, 2018

CFA won't help you as much but MBA will.

    • 1
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Jan 2, 2019

3.3 isn't trash, it's not NASA territory but come on. Fucking autists on this board

Jan 2, 2019

Kingreed, after reading your stupid comment, I had to take a look at your profile to see if you really are this stuck up. Wasn't surprised when I found these comments you made:

"Did you find it hard to date women having had no fun in college? Like, did that inhibit the things you had to talk about on dates?"

"...'ll be honest - I've been going through a lot of depression over this - I'm not going to do anything bad to myself, but I mean it's just really tough for me being alone and living that life while everyone else is out going to parties and living the "frat" life. "

Dude, friendly advice, if you stop thinking that you are better than everyone, you might actually make a few friends and be invited to things.

Jan 2, 2019


  • underscore19701
  •  Dec 22, 2018

So, your endgame is to stay on this track or go into the sell or buy side?

  • underscore19701
  •  Dec 22, 2018

Nvm. So endgame is PWM?

Dec 22, 2018

Trying to figure it out... I never had the opportunity to intern at firms and figure out what my passion is! I love everything finance but I guess yes at the very minimum I need to figure out how to break out of retail private client and go into the real PRIVATE banking group

  • underscore19701
  •  Dec 22, 2018

Yeah, interning really gives you a chance to see somewhat how things work. PWM would probably your easiest route right now. You could then go into AM/IM --> HF/PE (depending on your sector for AM/IM). I think going into IB would be difficult because it is not like what you have been doing so you will definitely start at the bottom if you can even get in (very competitive at entry level), but it is also the route with the most exit options.

Dec 22, 2018

Yeah that's what I was thinking as well.. I was considering breaking into PWM but at a boutique firm with 50 or less employees who handle 1-5 billion in assets. Try to make my way up there and become a portfolio manager, take my CFA, and go into a hedgefund or PE.


continue in citigold (the segment I am in) work my way into private banking, and grow from there to manager director role


pursue my mba at a school like USC or UCLA and see what associate level position I can get there in anysegment?

What do you think??

  • underscore19701
  •  Dec 22, 2018

You have a lot of experience and are already at a big bank so I do not think going back to get an MBA is worth it. Also, I do not think you will be able to move into an associate position without experience in an industry, even with the MBA. Option one is viable but I would say try to get into PWM from within Citi first then move to a boutique and continue from there. Also, working on getting your CFA now would be a good idea. The CFA could take you 2.5 years (depending on how you study, when you take it and if you pass the first time) and you could work FT (hard to do at a nice b-school). Thus, you apply with a lot of experience, your CFA and will still be young.

Dec 23, 2018

I have 2 semesters left to complete my degree and my school is hosting an event called meet the firms for our accounting and finance students. I think I'm going to attend the event and see if I can get to network for people to get me in.

Also I checked USC and UCLA mba employment outlook and Morgan Stanley, JPM, Citi and Wells Fargo hire as associates for their PWM/PB segment.

Do you think a CFA is more powerful than an MBA?

  • underscore19701
  •  Dec 23, 2018

Good idea! networking is always good and since you do not know exactly where you want to go events like that are perfect for you. Oh, okay. That is good. It really depends on where you want to go. MBA is always IMO going to look like the worse option because you cannot work FT in banking and complete an MBA in 2 years (I think it is just too much) and most banks will pay for their employees MBA. However, most people get MBAs if they are trying to transition or are having a hard time getting into the industry, from what I have seen. At the same time, the CFA can be very time consuming and costs a lot of money. Really, banking seems to boil down to experience and the degrees and certifications are icing on the cake. CFA is really good for AM and HF.

Dec 23, 2018

Yeah I found a course that charges 1500 per CFA level plus CFA exam fees. I'm fine with paying for that since it comes down to less than 10k total over 2.5 years compared to 95k to get an mba from usc or UCLA.

I need to utilize my network.. my job is incredible by all means just not fulfilling. I make great money and work less than 40 hours but I literally get bored lol


  • underscore19701
  •  Dec 23, 2018

Good! I would go for the CFA. Citi is a big bank and it seems like you are at a solid position in the hierarchy to seriously network. 200k on less than 40 hours a week? Sign me up!

Dec 23, 2018

My position is basicallly a licensed bankers working for both a broker dealer and a bank. By all means, not all of us are earning 150-200k. I just happen to be doing pretty well for now, and hopefully continue to do so at this pace.

Speaking to management, the exit routes are:
1) associate banker for Private Bank High Networth group
2) associate banker for private bank law firm group
3) CPC banker (cover 50-100 retail locations and high net worth clients)
4) financial advisor for pwm

  • underscore19701
  •  Dec 23, 2018

Oh, gotcha. I think options 1 and 4 are pretty good.

Dec 28, 2018

We might be attending the same school...

Everyone has different goals in life for some it's money, others a good work/life balance, self-actualization, and the list goes on.

Maybe it's time to do some reflection on what you want to be doing and where you want to be in 5, 10, 15 years.

I value spending time with friends and family, and the ability to pursue a self fulfilling hobby. I did my research and I've come to terms with the fact that several finance jobs are not going to coincide with that life style.

    • 1
Dec 28, 2018

Which school do you go to?

Dec 29, 2018

CSUDH, also taking some of the finance classes at CSULB

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Dec 23, 2018

Wait so you're already making $200k/year working less than 40 hours per week, and want to change? Assuming your comp will continue to increase, why change to something that will set you backwards and make less? You're either inflating your salary or trolling..

    • 3
Dec 23, 2018

I'm not inflating my salary. I work 35-40 hours a week. I earn 90k base and earn 20k avg a quarter in comp.

Q1 - craziest quarter, very difficult to comp (5k comp)

Q2-Q4 - ~25k avg quarter

However, each year, comp plans change toward the worst.

I'd rather have a consistent 200k salary than 90k plus bonus to earn 150 - 200k

Dec 26, 2018

I feel that given those work hours, you're making a killing.... it might be the best possible you can do out of school given your stats

thots and prayers

Dec 26, 2018

Eh guess I'll work on this and stack up until I get to a promotion. Thanks for the help guys

Most Helpful
Dec 28, 2018


you've made it in PWM, why would you want to change careers entirely? you're already past the hard part. if I were you, here's what I'd do

  1. make an assessment of how portable your book is (do you have a non-compete, are most of the clients yours versus inherited, are the investments in proprietary non transferrable products or ubiquitous mutual funds, stocks, etfs, etc.)
  2. see if any other firms would be interested in giving you a deal after you graduate (they should be lining up for a 23 year old). if your client base is portable, I think there are better firms out there than Citi
  3. focus on getting your average client size up. with that average, you're going to lose assets to robo, vanguard, fido, and schwab. develop experience (notice I didn't say expertise) in some area, be it retirement planning (401ks, other qualified plans), equity compensation, estate planning, insurance, whatever. or it could be a niche in a certain industry/company. get out there and pound pavement. your existing clients are paying the bills, your goal for the next 5y is grow your AUM but shrink your client base to a more manageable number. revamp your processes and start spending more time with the top 20% and less with the bottom 80%. I think to really do well, you need less than 200 core relationships (ideally way less), an average client size of at least $1mm, and a non-transactional practice.

maybe @sfbroker and @rickle can also opine, I know they're both in PWM and do pretty well

    • 7
Dec 28, 2018

Hey man! Thanks for the feedback! This is what I'm looking for!

So a few points.. yes I work for both citi pwm and citigroup, however I am not the PWM advisor. I am the licensed banker that sources the relationships and gets the deals in front of the PWM FA to close the deals.

The FA is paid a fee by the clients and for them it's portable to move their book. For me it's not portable as I am not the FA. I get a base salary by the bank and 1 time commissions.

What would you suggest in this case?

I also considered an MBA (part time/online @ usc) or taking my CFA

Dec 28, 2018

Congratulations on your success to date! Just had a quick read through and my initial questions are:

  1. Do you like what you do?
  2. Is there a reason you have to change anything vs. growing your book and making more money?
  3. Why the desire to change or move?
  4. What is the hierarchy / structure at your firm?
  5. How portable are your relationships (I don't mean technically or legally. I mean do they like you and trust you enough to move their money / banking to a new firm)?
  6. What type of position are you seeking long term?

Some basics. Most people who get into wealth management (and have to generate clients) fail. It's hard to do. For most it's a few yrs and they're out. For others, it takes a few yrs before they start to have consistent production. You have already weathered the storm. That said, I don't know the process at Citi. How are clients generated? Did you develop them or were they referred clients of the bank? That's important because you need to be honest with yourself about your ability to develop clients from scratch if you leave.

I have to tell you, on the surface you have a great gig going and I commend you. If you like what you do, is there room for growth? Managing other Private Bankers? Getting into the PWM side earning fees? Managing a department and getting huge bonuses? P/L?

Most people in client facing roles like PWM and PB don't leave. It's not about exit ops to other areas of the bank. It's about growing a larger book and making a ton of money along the way. You are a very valuable asset. The PB / Client relationship is key to bringing and retaining lots of assets to the bank, both interest and non interest income (which is a big fee generator these days). You're 23. Obviously very mature and accomplished for your age.

Personally I wouldn't jump at things. I might have a talk with mgmt to get a feel for how big your role can be with Citi. See what they'll do for you. I know guys 20 yrs in who run brokerage , PWM, etc for large banks and make high 6 figures essentially managing a large team of people like you. Maybe that can be you down stream.

If you do leave, it's about the book value and relationships / assets to the new firm. Know a guy who was with a regional and actually moved to a community bank as head of PB. They paid him 250k and gave him a small percentage of bank ownership. He sits in on board meetings. pretty cool. Again, however, he didn't leave PB, he just leveraged his role.

Not everything needs to be about exit ops. If you like what you're doing, figure out how to increase your role or impact and you will certainly increase your income. BTW 150-200k is pretty awesome for a 23 yr old. Keep your expenses low, invest your savings and you'll have several million when you're 55! Well done!!

    • 6
Dec 28, 2018

Hey Rickle !

Thanks man! You made me feel positive haha

Well here are some answers to your questions!

1) yes I enjoy what I do. It is a great gig and we truly help people manage their investments, reduce taxable exposure, and create generational financial plans.

2) my main reason is that I am now completely PWM. I am a licensed banker called a Relationship Manager. I work in RETAIL banking, and am not yet fully in private bank. However I manage the relationships of the private clients in the retail bank. People who's net worth's are high, but not high enough for the private bank.

3) I want to develop a career pathway where I can have a comfortable future. I'm hoping to make it as a director/md one day, and potentially branch off and open my own firm for full service wealth management/trust services one day. (If I stay in the private client, asset management route) however I have a burning passion for all things finance, and I also love LENDING! Good news is private banking offers lending (aircraft, Art, mortgage, etc) but financing commercial deals are much more interesting to me (hence why I would be open to jumping into commercial banking if given the chance)

4) the heiracrchy is as follows

1) ceo
2) international head of our segment (operates in 161 countries
3) US national head of our segment
4) market managers
5) me, the relationship manager and financial advisors
6) Relationship Manager associates
7) branch managers and other branch employees

This is for retail banking side.

A few discussions with management has told me here are the exit opps

A) become market manager (unlikely as very long term position: no movement)
B) become a Relationship Manager for more specialized clients (1mm-10mm)
C) become an associate for the private bank (takes 3-4 years of consistently being top relationship manager)
D) become a financial advisor (commission based gig, fully PWM job, lowest tier as it is in branches)

5) a lot of my relationships are portable! HOWEVER, there's 2 parts to my team. It's me, the relationship manager, and the financial advisor. It will be difficult to move them unless we both move together.

6) I see my self as very entrepreneurial and as a deal closer. Put me in front of a client and I will not just tell them but show them why I am the best choice and how I can help them hit their goals. I don't know exactly where I'll end 10 years from now, but I'm assuming either in my own independent capacity, or a director and above hopefully.

Someone mentioned consulting to me but I have no idea what that entails.

I hope this paints a clearer picture into my background? Any suggestions?

Dec 28, 2018

Tough question: What do you really like doing? When you get to do it all day long, it gives you more energy. It's actually fun (doesn't feel like work). Is it meeting with clients and solving their problems ? Or is it (or would it be) managing the corporate beast (Market Manager, Leader, etc.)? These are very different roles. Generally hard to be really good at both as they require a different skill set.

I sense you love the client facing time, having a positive impact on clients, etc. If so, that's the role. Not about exit ops to do something else. Now you can be doing that as a Commercial Banker too.

Based on your comments, I would think you'd enjoy B) Relationship Manager for more specialized clients (1M - 10M).

You may also like to get in to Commercial Banking.

Being a Market Manager is a corporate gig. You'll be further from client interaction. You may not like that. An aside, I'm 30+ yrs at this. I've played several roles including Sales VP, MD of a territory, Independent Business Owner (which essentially was my recreation of the previously mentioned roles for my own corp.) When it's all said and done, I like two things:

  1. Helping clients
  2. Helping / coaching advisors help their clients.

That's where I make my money. That's what I'm good at. That's what I enjoy doing. Anything else, and there's lot's of it in corporate, is just not for me. Now those guys make a ton. But success in their gig takes a different skill set then success in my gig.

You're young. Hard to know these things yet. As you mature, be mindful of what you like and what you want. I used to want something but I didn't like what was needed to have it. Now I just focus on those 2 key points and I don't really care what anyone else thinks or says.

You can do quite well in either lane.

    • 2
Dec 28, 2018

I would say what I love doing most is getting down to the root of the clients issue and fixing the problem!

For example, I helped a client from Mexico bring over 25m in assets to the US, set up a meeting with an attorney to create a trust and business structure in a country underneath the trust that are Mexico and US friendly and allow us to retain assets here for generational low tax transfer!

Helped client fund a 150mm corporate complex by finding the right lenders within the firm and earned their relationship.

I like negotiating deals. I like making things happen for clients! I also love leading a team. I currently oversee 15 retail branch locations and have to coach, train, and educate those bankers on how to identify leads and transition them over to so we earn ALL their business instead of just a checking. Each client has a story. It's my job to figure out all of it. They may come in for a checking but we end up being a corporate trustee for them. They may come in for a credit card but I may end up bring 15m into AUM. I like to find out all the details and their problems and solve them.

Business and high net-worth

Dec 28, 2018

So what area of the bank lets you leverage that the most? Can you add branches? Can you grow it so you're leading the ones who lead the branches (say 10 of you managing 150 branches). DO you want to do that?

I would think there is a hybrid channel at Citi that lets you work in HNW PB / PWM where you get to manage the relationships and provide both lending and asset management services. Typically, regardless of what the bank says or thinks, the client with 10M - 50M+ gets to choose who they want to work with. If you have a relationship with Mr. 50M and he wants X and wants you involved, I think that gets done. So there has to be an avenue where you can work with fewer but larger clients using more resources of the bank.

You could be a rainmaker. Sounds like that's your lane.

    • 1
Dec 28, 2018

Yeah well it seems like there isn't a hybrid at Citi as it's huge and has a department for literally every specific thing!

So I can either work my way into PRIVATE BANK as an associate and work my way into the director role which is basically a banker with a fancy title that is trained in credit/underwriting/asset management/lending/and deal making for clients that are either high net worth (10mm+) or UHNW (25mm+)

However, the lending theyxdo is very specific such as residential loans, personal, asset based lending, art financing, yacht, and aircraft financing

Commercial is split into middle market and above

Middle market is 10m - 50m yearly revenue businesses and focuses on depository relationships, Merchant services, commercial lending, etc.

Only problem is I need to decide which route to take. It seems it'll be hard for me to get into any without proper credit training.

I need to figure out how to utilize my network

Dec 28, 2018

BTW - @thebrofessor these are excellent specific suggestions. The bottom 80% drain you of all your mental space. You should be able to replicate your top 20% if you have time to focus on them and get referred in to more like them. Focus on what you can do to improve those relationships. What additional value can you bring to the table.

Somewhere between 100 and 200 clients is optimal.

    • 1
Dec 28, 2018

Dude, congrats on working while going to school. A lot of people here might crap on your GPA, but ANYBODY slinging a full time job (especially one paying +$150K) while going to school has some serious cohones. It's like playing a sport, except probably more of a time commitment. Yeah, it would be better if you had a higher GPA, but frankly, most of the undergrad nerds you are competing against in Finance haven't worked in the real world yet so you have a strong leg up in that regard.

That said, given your academic background, it's probably going to be tough sledding for you to get into Ibanking, equity research, or anything else that typically requires a top school and high GPA, unless you get an MBA first. Not saying it can't be done, just that you are fighting an uphill battle.

But, honestly, echoing what others have said, if I were you I wouldn't even think about that right now. It sounds like you are doing great as is and would do well in PWM, Private Banking, Sales, or a similar type role at either a bank or big corporate. For these, your "story" is more important than GPA and is already more impressive. And you can still make a ton of dollars.
Keep on truckin.

    • 4
Dec 28, 2018

Thanks man! I appreciate it!'

It's a 90k base but so far been earning 20k per quarter as bonus so that helps

Also i figured IB is a ways away unless I get an MBA, so still trying to figure that out

Jan 2, 2019

"We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered."

Jan 2, 2019