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“I quit the City for Wall Street and I’ve never looked back”

new york city aerial view of the downtown

Two years ago, I moved to New York after nearly a decade in the City of London and let me tell you – it’s the best move I ever made.

Wall Street could benefit from Brexit, and those investment bankers in the UK used to long boozy lunches, plenty of vacation time and, uh, sick days are in for a shock if they move to NYC? Maybe so, but the benefits far outweigh the downsides.

For a start, you’re at the centre of the action. Part of the hard work culture comes down to the fact that most big deals are sourced out of the U.S. market. Europe is tiny when compared to Wall Street for investment banking deals and this means that people here are both more cut-throat and more inclined to keep working regardless of hurdles stand in their way.

I might sound like I’m drinking the corporate Kool-Aid, but why would you want to leave the office in these circumstances?

Because of this, the job market also offers many more opportunities and this means that employees hold more power in NY than in London. And it means you get paid more – even accounting for the recent slide in the British pound. Also, want to move into fintech or switch to the buy-side? There’s more of that here too.

Let’s talk sick days. The whole thing about London managers sending people home at the first sign of a sniffle is true. But in New York, there’s a kind of self-imposed exile. You’re sick and contagious – stay at home, but just make sure that you’re contactable at all times. Easy, right?

Then there are vacations. It seems pathetic for anyone used to five weeks off a year in London (assuming you take it) to have to make do with a standard ten days off in New York.

But, the paranoia over holidays in the U.S. is really simply a fear of missing out. Actually, the last two weeks of August are when everyone flies off for their main holiday, and these are supplemented with a lot more bank holidays than the UK. Think Veterans’ day, Presidents’ day, Independence day etc etc – if everyone is out of the office at the same time, there’s less chance you’ll miss out on the action.

New York is more competitive than London and people are cut-throat. But if you’re used to working in the snake pit of the London analyst programmes, and working until the early hours every day, it’s not a huge step up.

There’s one big problem getting a job in New York though – visas are very hard to get. While the UK’s financial sector has (until now) enjoyed the free flow of skilled labour into the City, Wall Street heavily favours local candidates or those who have been resident in the U.S. since graduation.

By far the easiest way to get on to Wall Street is to transfer internally and let your employer do all the necessary paperwork about why you’re the best person for the job. Or you can rely on the H1-B visa system. These are snapped up, but Donald Trump’s move to increase the salary threshold could favour highly-paid finance jobs over other sectors.

The point is that the balance of power in banking has shifted even more towards the U.S. Come over here by all means, but step up your game.

Clive Stevens (a pseudonym) moved to New York as a VP in IBD at a bulge bracket bank in early 2015. Suffice to say, he has no plans to return just yet. 

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