Where Did You Go When You Realized Banking Wasn't For You?

WSO through and through is focused on exit ops. 

Would love to hear some stories of those who spent time in banking, realized it wasn't for them and completely jumped ship. 

Tons of people have left to start companies, join startups, etc etc but bankers are high finance real estate agents. 

So WHERE did you go after you realized banking wasn't for you? 

Not your bridgett jones diaries of epiphanies


Comments (60)

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Sep 24, 2020 - 6:25pm

When my Infrastructure and FIG colleagues (History and Music graduates, respectively) came up to me (Mathematics/CompSci MS) to warn me, (I was in Industrials), how much more technical their jobs were and that I would struggle to cope (I had asked for a secondment due to this hype about more modelling intensive teams etc).

Heard this baloney for couple of weeks before I got a secondment there. I was a bored zombie by then already and the fact that it took a week to get into their stuff was good enough to shut them up but enough for me to realise that "modelling" really needs to be renamed. Almost went to RX to shut another person up but in the end realised it wasn't worth the hassle.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 25, 2020 - 10:03am

Someone screwed something up and this VP thought it was me and called me a stupid fuck. He then realized it was someone else and refused to take back what he said.

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Sep 25, 2020 - 12:00pm

Haha I was thinking the same thing.

Left IB to work on my own venture in the DTC e-commerce world. There was just no juggling working 70+ hours each week with getting that off the ground, and all roads in terms of career moves led back to me trying something of my own so I figured I'd do it now while I'm still on the younger side of my 20s.

If this doesn't work, I don't know what the move is exactly but know I don't want to work for a large bank or PE firm. It would be either IB or PE at a tiny firm where I know the people and feel like I'd be more than another junior in a rotating seat, corporate strategy at a growing middle market company or something with a much lower bar relative to IB and PE where you can be top dog by working 50-60 hours a week while everyone else is checking out at 30-40 hours. All I know is that the intense song and dance for 70+ hours a week for thankless douchers without some real skin in the game is over - life is too short.

Saw on another thread you're trying to buy up a small company with F&F money, which is cool and what my initial plan entailed. Then I stumbled into an interesting e-commerce idea that I feel I need to try first. Could see myself giving what you're doing a try but don't know how I'll feel about personally guaranteeing an SBA loan by the time I'm ready. All depends where I am in terms of life outside my career (eg, mortgage, kids).

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  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Sep 25, 2020 - 4:39pm

I definitely wouldn't have gone straight from school to solely working on the e-commerce plan, unless of course I had been working on it throughout college and had enough traction and money coming in to where it would be foolish to go work for someone else and not focus on growth. If my venture fails, I have a nice resume pillow to fall back on if I decide to re-enter the job market. It probably won't be easy but will certainly be easier than if I'd gone from senior in college to failed entrepreneur a year out and then had to look for a job. This isn't even specific to IB. I recommend spending a couple+ of years in a job where you can build and refine some marketable skillset so that you can shop a strong resume around should your entrepreneurial plans not work out (I'm assuming you're still in college, based on the nature of your question).

IB is great because, depending on what type of firm and group you go to, you'll get to see a lot of different businesses and understand how they work within their markets from a top-down view. There's a ton of potential to discover and learn about a vertical or niche that you could one day build or buy a company in yourself, which I think is a wildly underrated benefit to IB (as well as PE and consulting) for anyone that thinks they have the entrepreneurial bug. What you don't get on the job in banking is opportunities to flex skills you'll need as a founder or operator of a business, so when it comes time to develop a marketing strategy for your product or service and allocate your first bit of marketing budget, you're going to be a bit blind relative to, say, someone that has been doing digital marketing projects for a marketing firm helping companies in the middle market since they finished college. What you learn in banking (how to make things look good, how to position, how to read and interpret financial statements and models, how to present) isn't useless but it won't be what sets up your first website or guides your first marketing strategy. On that note, I do sometimes wonder how much quicker I could be moving if I had spent a year or two in one of the functions that drives business growth, primarily sales or marketing but even product development. Granted, I would not have discovered the space I'm going into, so I am thankful for my experience and wouldn't do it differently.

One thing to consider and keep in mind is that if you go to a bank or even marketing firm where you're working with large companies, you may not get to see as much as you would at firms that work with smaller clients. I worked at two boutique firms before lateraling to a large known MM bank, and I gained more entrepreneurial inspiration at those smaller firms than at the MM simply because the clients tended to be unsophisticated founders selling small businesses that I occasionally saw myself in. Not to downplay the brains and sweat needed to build and grow any company into a multi-million dollar exit but a good percentage of founders and executives I met and worked with at those boutiques never struck me as particularly talented or privileged, meaning their success could probably be replicated by most with a little bit of capital. At the MM, the sizes of businesses and caliber of executives we worked with was far more impressive but there was little I could relate to or see myself competing in after working with them. It's much easier to convince yourself you can compete with a $10M company than a $200M company, especially when you see and believe that the founder and operator of that $10M business started with less understanding of their space than you might have today based on seeing multiple companies in the industry through your IB job. They just had the balls to roll the dice and keep iterating until it stuck vs. the executives you work with at larger MM firms which are generally C-suite mercenaries that the PE owner (your actual client) brought on.

I'm drifting off-track and going beyond what you're asking but hopefully some new points to consider if your ultimate goals are entrepreneurial. IB and then the PE route after can be a trap, because there isn't much time to work on anything on the side given job demands, and the money is really good. There are people who can juggle 70+ hour weeks and building their empire on the side until it's enough cushion to leave but I struggled to do that, especially since weeks have really been ~90 hours nonstop since the initial Covid lull leading up to my last day at work. If you have an idea and you've done some groundwork on it (proven demand to yourself without deluding yourself) and you can't juggle your high-paying, high-demanding job with getting it truly off the ground, my advice is to go for it because, again, life is too damn short. While I haven't proven out that you can re-enter IB or PE after you've left for entrepreneurship, I've heard from enough people that have left for entrepreneurship that that door does not seem closed at all years out and that actually some new interesting doors have opened along the way (product management roles at good tech companies, VC roles, VC arms within large F500 companies, other operating roles).

  • Works at CorpFinance
Sep 29, 2020 - 2:15pm

Made a move into Corporate Development after a few years in IB.

I enjoy many aspects of M&A (more so buyside than Sell-Side) but the grind of the banker's life was too much for me to handle even after a few years. I enjoyed the culture and different teams I worked with in IB but my life improved a good amount once I made the move.

Sep 29, 2020 - 11:38pm

I got fired from a bunch of finance shops (a real welcome to wall street moment for me); I ended up moving into the law field. It be funny af if I end up prosecuting wall street guys/gals. Life is what you make of it; not getting a job on wall street isn't the end of the world; there's plenty of other great industries which have as great if not greater potential than wall street. Just use your head, learn from your mistakes, play to your strengths; if you can work even 1-2 years on WS you're clearly done good work and have a lot of potential. The world's changing as we speak and if you really use your head you can ride out this chaos to the top of a new country that's imminent in happening. 

Sep 30, 2020 - 8:55pm

Hey could you elaborate on what you mean by marketing and also the rough size of the tech company you're at? Are you involved in the creative at all or is it more akin to product management and positioning products for different end markets? Also, what are rough compensation numbers for someone with your experience going into marketing after IB or PE?

Oct 1, 2020 - 10:24am

sure, company is roughly 10k+ employees so fairly large. in my role i work with creative to draft communications (we outline the intent of the comm and its spirit, creative handles actual content creation), but that's only a small part of it. a lot of my work is actually around doing analysis to size opportunities, getting PMs/eng to build capabilities to grow our business. it's a good mix of analytical skills from structured backgrounds (most coworkers are ex-consultant MBB types) and a bit of creative work too.

for context i joined right after mba my comp isn't as high as PMs on my team but package looked like 120k base, 45k sign on, 15% salary bonus per year, and my stock comp currently is valued at $100k this year (was estimating $50k/year when I joined but thx jpow). Money wasn't the reason I signed - I wanted to build out a skill set and enjoy the work I was doing but that said didn't also want to join a role where I wasn't clearing $150k and wanted to join somewhere I could clear $200k by my third year out of school. Due to bump in stonks easily clearing that but will be interesting to see how that changes when I try to change roles down the road as I think I'm paid above market now.

Oct 23, 2020 - 1:13pm

Typical IB to PE exit, but if you're looking at people who left high finance altogether, left to a start-up doing strategy. Most people probably do something similar to corporate finance or strategy or product management. 

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