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“I was managing a $100m hedge fund, and then I became an alcoholic. Is my career over?”

Will an admission of alcoholism kill your career?

Will an admission of alcoholism kill your career?

“I’m a prop trader. I have around nine years’ experience of managing small absolute funds worth between $80m and $100m and I can say – with some degree of pride – that the funds I managed never had a negative month. Between 2006 and 2012, we returned an average of 15% annually.

Unfortunately, however, I was compelled to take time away from the industry. For various reasons, I started drinking drinking heavily in 2012 and found it difficult to concentrate on the markets. Rather than continue in that state, I took time out and got well. I’m sober now, but I have no job.

I want to get back into the industry, ideally in Asia – probably in Singapore or Hong Kong. I’ve already started learning C# and plan to start learning Python soon. I’d like to work on a prop desk at a medium-sized hedge fund, where I can contribute both to idea generation and trade execution – but in reality I’d be happy to work anywhere where I have the opportunity to grow. I can work across multiple asset classes and I’ve learned from my mistakes.

So, what are my chances? Does anyone have any advice? Have I blown my career in finance? Should I mention my previous drinking problem to prospective employers? I’m a humble, able guy – not some cocky trader with delusions of grandeur. Any help would be much appreciated.”

*Saul Gorman is a pseudonym. Leave your advice for him below. Get in touch at Editor@eFinancialCareers.com if you have questions you’d like to put to the eFinancialCareers community. 

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Comments (7)

  1. Saul, It sounds like you have perfect control of the markets and of yourself to pull yourself away from trading when you did. You deserve a pat on the back. If I were you I wouldn’t worry, you’ve created 22 to 27 million of performance fee over your career (assuming 2&20), you can always trade your share happily for yourself. Unless your drinking was so bad you spent it all!

  2. hi
    why dont you set up yourself – 9 years as a prop trader – you have amazing experience -why go back to making money for someone else. I wouldnt call the fund size you managed as small.
    As for the drinking – who cares – there is no reason you have to mention that – as long as you do your job and dont drink on the job -it is nothing to mention

  3. Start networking – take the plunge and call up some of the bigger firms that have offices in HK, and telling them not what you have done but what you can do. You’d be surprised how much a little gumption goes a long way.

  4. As a former drinker, happily re-employed let me say, you got off the booze hou can get a job. If someone asks wnere you’ve been you say “learning python, c++, and cleaning up the liver”
    If the future hiring manager actually cares you don’t drink/recovering alcoholic
    A: the manager should grow up and finish his 20’s
    B: the hiring manager is a loser

    Never forget, you can get off the booze but if you’re ugly, you’re stuck with it. How about an Arab/Malay/Indo bank? Maybe your ex boozing coupled with 9 years prop experience makes you a messiah ;-)

  5. Basically, don’t be honest and lie about it.

    just say you have taken a year off to do some charity work in the forests of Brazil or something like David Beckham did.

    If anything it will enhance your CV and career.

    Nobody needs to know you have been an alcoholic

  6. As a prop trader myself I recognise the same patterns. I also went through a period of what people call heavy drinking, in fact I did that for many years. The drinking didn’t impact my performance in trading, although it did cause behavioural issues. I went through a period of being dry, after attending AA meetings, and traded sober for some time. But thats when I found trading and market focus harder, not easier or better. So I took a hard look at my past drinking and concluded, so what? My drinking harmed nobody. Just because I drink heavily does that mean I am evil? So I returned to drinking, I enjoy it, it calms ny nerves. In the movie Flight, the pilot landed a plane and saved lives whereas had he been sober the plane would have crashed. Don’t let the self righteous anti drinking brigade ruin your life.

  7. Hi Saul,

    I would not come out and tell any prospective employer that your an Alcoholic. First its a personal battle you will need to work on the rest of your life. Alcoholism killed both my parents and I too put down the drink. I’m in between jobs and have been clean for 2 years.
    Besides being personal, if you offer up to a prospective employer what you went through he or she will most likely commend you for being honest, but your not g oing to get the job. No matter how good your track record was in the past, any one who knows a thing or two about alcoholics is the track record of them to staying clean the rest of their life is 5 to 10%.
    Back in 2003 I had a personal friend who was an out standing prop trader in FX. She was with a mid-size U.S. commercial bank and always exceeded her annual budget by 25%. She took two week vacation time to get sober and checked in to a treatment center. The company found out through the insurance company and they laid her off 6 months after coming back, staying clean and producing. Back then the state she was in could relay info of her treatment to her employer. I hope I was helpful and good luck mate.


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