With banking careers no longer what they were, moving into academia is increasingly appealing. Greg Fleming’s done it, and lots of other bankers apparently want to do it. Trouble is, becoming an academic isn’t very easy.
Greg isn’t the only banker to have the idea. There’s also Scott Moeller, a former Deutsche and Morgan Stanley banker turned CEO and director of executive education at Cass Business School; Simon Taylor, an ex-equity analyst at JPMorgan, turned director of the Master in Finance Programme at Judge Business School; or Duncan Angwin, a former corporate financier at Hambros Bank who’s now associate professor of strategic management at Warwick Business School.
Unfortunately, ex-bankers say academia is almost as difficult to get into as banking itself. “In many ways it is more competitive than banking because the achievement process is opaque, the measurements are almost exclusively subjective,” says Peter Hahn, a former banker at Citigroup and academic fellow at Cass.
Would-be banking academics are also multiplying. Ever since he left Deutsche for Cass in 2001, Moeller says he’s received at least one call a month from ex-colleagues or friends who want to do the same kind of thing. In the past couple of months that’s gone up to one or two a week.
If this doesn’t phase you, Moeller says your best bet is to market yourself to business schools as a ‘practitioner’ and become a visiting lecturer rather than to go down the more onerous research route to becoming a full professor. Whilst still at Deutsche, he gave guest lectures at Said Business School and Imperial.
However, Angwin warns that you’re unlikely to pick up a full time role this way: “Often it just results in an adjunct role for teaching executive and MBA courses,” he warns.
Taylor agrees: “There are various teaching-only positions that use people on the basis of professional experience only, but they are not full members of faculty and not usually on the payroll,” he says.
Being on the payroll (ie. earning 22-28k as lecturer and 51k plus as a researcher) necessitates a PhD, which takes time. The transition may also prove hard to stomach.
“It is very important not to underestimate the financial pain, the loss of status, and the feeling of being lost intellectually and socially,” says Angwin. “These feelings can persist for many years.”