If you’re an MBA student who wants to work in investment banking, J.P. Morgan’s IBD business looks like a good place to be: JPM ranks top in investment banking globally and is either the market leader, or ranks second in most key sectors. Nonetheless, just because you’ve got a job in J.P.M.’s IBD associate program, that doesn’t mean you’ll want to keep it.
Akin Onal and Cameron Miller both joined J.P. Morgan’s London-based investment banking business in 2012 after completing MBAs at Wharton and London Business School respectively. Two years later, both quit. Instead of building financial models and assembling pitch books, Onal and Miller now run MORI, an e-commerce company that sells baby clothing.
“Leaving banking wasn’t about not enjoying working in the banking industry,” says Onal. “It was more about having different aspirations for the future. We both wanted to build something that solved real people’s problems. We had good experiences at J.P. Morgan, but we both wanted to be entrepreneurs.”
Joining J.P. Morgan’s associate program as a newly-minted MBA may have been a ‘good experience’, but it was also hard work. Banks in London have less tradition of hiring MBAs than their counterparts on Wall Street, and as a result Onal and Miller say there is a sense in which MBAs hired at associate level have to prove themselves. Finishing at 3am is not uncommon, nor is working weekends. Effectively, MBAs hired as associates need to learn all the modelling and finance skills of an analyst in the first six months. “Banks have big expectations of their MBA associate hires,” says Miller. “You don’t have the practice that associates who’ve been analysts have had, and you have to work slightly harder because of that.”
J.P. Morgan introduced its policy of protected weekends while Onal and Miller were working there. It made little difference: “The attitude is that if you need to get something done, you’ll get it done,” says Onal.
As entrepreneurs the two men are – predictably, still working hard. But they’re also working differently. “We spend a lot of time working over the weekends and in the evenings,” says Miller, “but it’s a different kind of work – it’s more varied.”
“In banking, you end up focused on a few tasks that require a high level of skill,” adds Cameron. “As entrepreneurs, we’re spread much more widely – we’re responsible for everything from PR to manufacturing to managing investors. It’s more satisfying.”
Does all this mean that MBAs should steer clear of bank’ associate programs? Not at all. “Having come from an engineering background before my MBA, I’m much more comfortable with financial modelling and accounting after spending time in banking,” says Cameron.
Although the two men have so far resisted tapping former colleagues as investors, time spent in banking is also a valuable networking opportunity. If MORI thrives, Onal and Miller may yet need the services of former colleagues to help grow the company.