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Late Lunchtime Links: Regretful senior banker writes heart-rending article about life wasted on work

Erin Callan

With last Friday being International Women’s Day, this is the time of the year for wondering why there are so few women in working in banking. Financial News pointed out last month that only 18% of people occupying controlled functions at banks in London are female, a proportion that’s remained unchanged for the past decade. Helpfully, therefore, Erin Callan, the female former CFO of Lehman Brothers, has written an article for the New York Times, explaining why women might not want to work in senior jobs in banks.

Callan’s article is as much a warning to all workaholics as to female bankers specifically, but is made all the more poignant because – as a woman – she spent her most fertile years working seven day weeks and is now finding it difficult to conceive.

For those unfamiliar with her story, Callan was formerly a high flyer in every sense. The daughter of a New York police officer, she graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and joined law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York before leaving for Lehman Brothers in 1995. By 2000, Callan was an MD at Lehman. In 2006 she was made head of the bank’s hedge fund coverage group. In 2007 she was made Lehman CFO – until she left in June 2008. Now aged 47, Callan has one failed marriage behind her. She was married again to Anthony Montella, a childhood friend and firefighter, in January 2012.  Callan now has nothing whatsoever to do with Wall Street, and appears to have purchased a modest house in Florida. 

The most memorable and moving excerpts from Callan’s regretful article are as follows:

Work dominated her life:  

“When I wasn’t catching up on work, I spent my weekends recharging my batteries for the coming week. Work always came first, before my family, friends and marriage — which ended just a few years later.”

Work took over her life gradually:

“I didn’t start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time. Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal. First I spent a half-hour on Sunday organizing my e-mail, to-do list and calendar to make Monday morning easier. Then I was working a few hours on Sunday, then all day. My boundaries slipped away until work was all that was left.”

When she was made redundant from Lehman, she was devastated:

“I couldn’t just rally and move on. I did not know how to value who I was versus what I did. What I did was who I was.”

Callan’s living a new life now, but you can’t get back what you’ve lost:

“I have spent several years now living a different version of my life, where I try to apply my energy to my new husband, Anthony, and the people whom I love and care about. But I can’t make up for lost time. Most important, although I now have stepchildren, I missed having a child of my own. I am 47 years old, and Anthony and I have been trying in vitro fertilization for several years. We are still hoping.”

If you’re a woman in banking, don’t think you can work hard for 20 years and then kick back:

“Sometimes young women tell me they admire what I’ve done. As they see it, I worked hard for 20 years and can now spend the next 20 focused on other things. But that is not balance. I do not wish that for anyone.”

Meanwhile:

Rich Ricci, head of the investment bank at Barclays, has a race horse called ‘Fat Cat in the Hat’. (Mirror) 

This is not a good time to be working as a commodity trader in an investment bank. (Reuters) 

Former equities traders, salespeople and research staff made redundant when Royal Bank of Scotland shut its equities business just over a year ago face having part of their bonuses clawed back. (Financial News) 

Wolfang Schauble says the British can be forgiven for protesting against the bonus cap when finance generates 10% of their GDP. (eFinancialCareers.de) 

The higher you get in banking, the more it becomes pure sales. (Epicurean Dealmaker)  

Two thirds of bankers in London think they were underpaid last year. Half think they were treated unfairly. (Telegraph) 

The more money people make the more they think they deserve it. (Financial Times) 

There were 2,583 new jobs on offer in the City last month, apparently. (Financial Times) 

Handsome men earn 22% more than less handsome ones. (SundayTimes)  

Lessons in negotiation from KKR. (Forbes)

Both men and women are looking for something increasingly rare: the partner who will support their career. (Harvard Business Review) 

Lose your job, find new work with a specialist golfing retailer. (Telegraph)  

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