Every once in a while, some ex-banker somewhere is profiled in a glossy magazine under the headline “I escaped the City”. Almost invariably, they have been made redundant (although this is not mentioned) from some drab finance job, taken most of their pinstriped suits to Oxfam, and sunk their bonuses into a new and quirky business.
The archetypal escapee story is full of trite clichés about how, in their new lives, ex-bankers “work longer, for less” but are “excited to get up for work each day”.
Even eFinancialCareers is guilty of this: “I’ve worked at Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs. Now I run a bar. I have no regrets” The Financial Times had a go at it last weekend, with rather more truthfulness and rather less success.
Read these ‘escape the City’ articles carefully, however, and you’ll see that mostly, these guys were unsuited to finance in the first place. They came into the City under the misguided notion that it’s an exciting and glamorous place to be, but ended up advising Belgian pension funds or writing high yield bond legal documentation.
Ex-bankers’ business plans are almost all a variation on one theme: selling over-priced services or premium goods to people who are bankers still. Since they know the lifestyle well, they understand how to extract money from the wallets of former colleagues. Who wants to spend all day on derivatives documentation that when you could be selling premium-priced Burritos at Spitalfields market?
In some cases, these ex-banker-business will be a success. But we don’t hear when they aren’t. The media is oh-so-keen to publicise people turning their backs on the cutthroat City, but less so in following their stories through to the bitter end.
Well, I don’t wish to sound bitter, or pompous, but long hours, difficult bosses, and tough markets not withstanding, I like my job. I don’t want to set up my own business. Nor do I want a lot of sanctimonious preaching from ex-bankers who have.
The author is in no danger of leaving his job in asset management to set up a juice bar