Peter Hahn, a former Citigroup managing director turned PhD student at Cass, says he’s being approached by a lot of financiers who want to sound out the viability of a career change: “I’m getting regular calls from people working in the City – bankers, central bankers, regulators, you name it – who are interested in moving into academia.”
Hahn advises his callers to start by studying a PhD. He also points out that academic life doesn’t suit everyone: “You need to be able to substantially downshift your income expectations and to appreciate that you are, in effect, starting again – you may have been an MD in a bank, but as a PhD student you’ll be a junior faculty member amongst people who outrank you, but who have less experience than you do.”
Academics are paid a fraction of bankers’ pay, but they can supplement their salary with a spot of consulting on the side. Hahn puts pay for faculty at top US business schools between $200k and $300k; in Europe it’s likely to be at the $150k level.
Predictably, banking superstars favour the biggest academic jobs. Goldman’s head of US asset management has quit to become EVP of Harvard University; Frank Yeary is retiring as global head of M&A at Citigroup to become Vice Chancellor at Berkeley; and Richard Gillingwater, former chairman of European investment banking at Credit Suisse, has reinvented himself as Dean of Cass Business School.
Heather Macgregor, a visiting professor at Cass Business School and former banker at ABN AMRO, says a full-time career in academia is a good “final-stage career option”.
But she cautions against it for anyone who still enjoys the thrill of the chase: “Don’t forget that academia is about research, teaching and consulting. That means you won’t be doing deals any more. If you want to do deals and make profits, it’s not for you.”