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Strange investment banking career changes and how they worked out

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Stop me if you’ve hear this one before: A bright-eyed economics major graduates magna cum laude from an Ivy League university, works two years at a prestigious investment bank on Wall Street, followed by a two-year stint at a top-tier private equity firm before entering an impossible-to-get-into business school to get their MBA.

Yawn. How typical. Sure, that’s a tried-and-tested formula for success, but shouldn’t highly intelligent people be able to get a little creative and do things their own way? Some burnt-out investment bankers leave their job for the buy side – another well-worn career path – or go into professional services, management consulting or even headhunting. None of those is too shocking.

“A client of ours had a strong trading career but recognized the instability of that space,” said Peter Laughter, CEO of Wall Street Services. “She didn’t want to have the majority of her income be at risk because someone made a bad trade in late December which depleted the bonus pool.

“She took her experience and became a management consultant, teaching firms how to optimize their trading desks and strategies,” he said.

Few professionals think of any job as a lifetime career choice anymore, Career changes are becoming more common.

Many investment bankers also join fintech startups, but that’s not all ping pong, healthy snacks and mediation rooms, even if you know how to code, and working long stressful hours is the norm there too.

But what about bolder moves? Many ex-bankers have started their own businesses, for example, become a wine broker.

Bulge-bracket coverage banking analyst turns Hollywood talent agency trainee

You may have seen Entourage. If so, you probably have a certain affection for profane super-agent Ari Gold. That said, would you want to work for him as a trainee?

After serving as an investment banking analyst for a couple of years, one disgruntled young man decided to go west, exchanging Wall Street for Hollywood to pursue a career as a talent agent.

“To be a Hollywood talent agent, you have to be business-minded, but it’s not financial services,” says Mark Levande, recruitment consultant in the front office buy-side division at Michael Page.

“You can use some of the same skills depending on what side of the business you’re on, although it’s taking your career in polar-opposite directions, on the one side doing M&A deals, on the other [doing deals in] the media and entertainment industry,” he said.

This former IBD analyst is still in the business in L.A. and slowly but surely moving up the ranks, says Levande, so it’s safe to say he doesn’t regret his unorthodox career choice.

“For the Hollywood agent, it’s worked out great,” Levande said. “In the same way that there is a dues-paying period for investment bankers as they come up as analysts and associates, it’s similar in [a talent] agency.

Investment banker leaves financial services industry to start craft brewery

“A former colleague at a bulge-bracket investment bank had risen from analyst all the way through to VP,” Levande says. “He decided it was no longer for him and went off, left the firm and started a craft brewery.”

That business is currently profitable, and he’s reportedly much happier than he was in the IBD, so that bold move can be counted as a success.

Experienced investment banker to pastry chef

After three trips to the emergency room caused by stress and exhaustion, a well-compensated 10-year veteran of J.P. Morgan, Mark Franczyk, quit without having another job lined up. He eventually became a pastry chef.

From Morgan Stanley to robot manufacturing

Shintaro Maeda, who was an executive director within Morgan Stanley’s structuring business, departed the bank to join a household robot manufacturer, Groove X. It was founded in 2015 and is aiming to develop the “next generation household robot” that “truly touches people’s hearts and inspires real affection” by 2019.

From banking to swimwear designer

Lyn Sia Rosmarin worked her way up from an entry-level position at Natixis to Lehman Brothers, jumping to Nomura after the Lehman folded, hired as a VP at Merrill Lynch and even promoted to director there before quitting to start her own line of swimsuits. Fashion seems to be a common vocation for former investment bankers. Heidy Rehman, a former Citigroup director, now runs her own ‘ethical’ fashion label Rose & Willard, while former Deutsche Bank VP Libby Hart now dedicates herself to styling women for the office.

From Merrill Lynch to social ecommerce startup

Janny Kul left his bond trading job at Bank of America Merrill Lynch this year to kick-start what he calls the “Instagram of fashion,” Stylezz, which he says is “clothing inspiration, delivered.” It essentially allows users to see examples of people’s outfits and then go on to buy the products if they feel inspired to do so.

From IBD to PE to Big Four professional services to social media startup

Neha Jain completed Bank of America’s investment banking analyst program and then went to grad school and landed an internship at a small private equity shop, which turned into a full-time gig. She would go on to work as a senior consultant at EY for three years before joining JLL, an investment management firm focused on commercial real estate, and eventually Milofy, a social networking platform backed by the venture capital firm Accel.

Photo credit: g-stockstudio/iStock/Thinkstock

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