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.
“I’ve found that junior people starting out in banking think of it as a springboard for other areas in finance, such as hedge funds, private equity or venture capital,” Laughter said.
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.
Here are some investment banking career changes that will leave you scratching your head.
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 is 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.
Agent assistants are on the bottom rung of the agency’s hierarchy. They join an agent’s training program when they show promise as a revenue-generator for the firm.
“That path can be anywhere from two-to-five years until you own you own book of business,” Levande said. “This guy wound up being successful and moving up in the TV department.
“Now he has a book of clients on the TV writing and production sides,” he said.
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.
One of these things is not like the other: Natixis, Lehman, Nomura, Merrill, 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 IBD to TBD
Starting at the bottom rung as an analyst, which is how pretty much everyone gets into investment banking, is a great training ground for whichever director your career ends up going, either within or outside of financial services.
“Working in investment banking, you get a lot of skills – quantitative, analytical, organizational skills, problem-solving technique – that can be applied to any area,” Levande said. “After you manage projects all the way up to VP, where you’re expected to bring in your own business, you can apply that experience to starting a business form the ground level.
A significant number of professionals who have creative pursuits or outside interests can get burned out by investment banking.
“Some people get a business idea or pick up hobbies while they’re doing it that they want to pursue full time,” Levande said. “Once you rise up to a certain level, in theory you’ve managed to make some money and you can channel some of that into whatever your new venture is.”
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