Leaving one job in banking for another has rarely been more difficult - especially if you're senior. In London, recruitment firm Morgan McKinley estimates that there were two new candidates (along with all the existing candidates) for every job in January and recruitment firm Robert Half says the average finance and accounting firm reviews 21 CVs before extending a job offer.
In the circumstances, you might be inclined to stay in the same job forever. Especially if you're senior. Once you've amassed more than ten years' deferred bonuses, headhunters say it's become almost impossible to get your stock bought out when you move to a new role. As a result, super-senior bankers like Chris Yoshida, Deutsche's global head of rates distribution, are said to be 'negotiating' exits - arranging to quit after bonuses are paid, with last year's bonus as intact as possible and all their stock 'unlocked' if they go to work for a rival.
But what if you're junior and are tempted to try your hand at something else? We spoke to the most stylish ex-IBD associate in the world: Rameet Chawla, formerly of Merrill Lynch and Oppenheimer, now 'mobile architect', renowned dandy, and owner of the Manhattan-based mobile app-development company Fueled.
Chawla left banking nearly a decade ago - just before the financial crisis. And he didn't follow any of the established methods of making an exit.
In a hierarchical environment like IBD, you're supposed to follow the edicts of the person above you. Chawla didn't. "I’d say that [the exit] conversation was fairly untraditional," he tells us. "Essentially I started showing up late for work. I’d usually arrive around 9:30/10am, which was not appreciated. She [his boss] called me into her office to try to find a solution. I was fairly obstinate about how the net amount of work I did was equal to everyone else because, while I showed up late, I usually stayed later than everyone else." This didn't go down well: "She wasn’t buying it. So she attempted to call my bluff, and insinuated that if I didn’t come on time I’d be let go. I told her that was alright with me. It got awkward pretty fast after that, and my resignation was solidified shortly thereafter."
Nor did Chawla stick to the contractual restrictions which said he had to avoid the banks' clients after he quit. "I started exploring my options and planning my exit before it all officially went down," he says. "I began getting my own clients on the side, despite how that may have breached my existing employment agreement. I started doing that about six months before I left the industry, so I had some money to float me while I re-established myself. Granted what I was making on the side was a fraction of my original salary."
Chawla says deciding to quit banking was "the right choice for me." However, he also says that starting his career in banking was a great thing: "I absolutely would do choose to do banking over again. I needed to be in a corporate environment in order to build the business and workspace I’ve built today."
If you leave banking, you will have less money - at least to begin with. "When I started my company, the first three years sucked," says Chawla. "I eliminated all luxuries from my life. I didn’t go out, I never bought wine or booze, and cheap home cooked meals were my shtick."
Today, Chawla's company, Fueled, is worth up to $30m. His Instagram page depicts an eclectic life spent in beautiful locations with attractive women whilst wearing stylish outfits. "I am lucky to have succeeded," says Chawla. "When we hear about a startup failing, we rarely talk about the people inside that company. On the flip side, when a company succeeds we become obsessed with talking about the founders who made it happen. We all focus on the successes, which are far less than the failures. It’s something to keep in mind.
"If you want to leave banking because you’re unhappy, definitely do it," he concludes, "but also be smart about timing and where you’re headed next."
Photo credit: Rameet Chawla, Instagram