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Senior banker warns against the perils of working overseas

Working overseas as a banker

Do you really want to work elsewhere?

So you think you want to travel the world in your banking job? One ex-managing director who’s done the global rounds has one word for you: don’t.

Speaking off the record, he said his time overseas threw his career off-balance. “I went to America and I went to Asia. It was an interesting life experience, but moving across geographies is not a good thing in banking,” he told us. “-A lot of banks are nominally run on a global product basis, but underpinning that is a lot of local geographical influence. This means that if you’re working in New York for an American firm and you get sent to London, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to engineer a return home unless you have a sponsor in the New York office.”

The fluidity of banking careers means that sponsors who exist when you leave could be gone when you want to come back. “When I left New York and was sent to Asia with Citi there were two MDs who ran the business. They were both incredibly enthusiastic about my move and reassured me that there would be a place for me in London, but they were both gone within two years,” he says.

At one point, he says he moved to a British bank that was setting up a Tokyo office, only to find when he arrived that it didn’t have the right local permissions in place: “There was one row of desks and a few carpet tiles. They’d let go of everyone else.”

Eventually, he worked for J.P. Morgan in Asia. “It proved impossible to move back to London with them,” he says. “I was told there would be a new role for me in the City, but the person who’d promised that left the bank.”

“Personal experience suggests you’re better off working in your home country,” he concludes. “If you go overseas, re-entry is a messy business. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Once you’re out of the major hubs of London and New York, finding your way home is hard.”

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