I have a friend called Ken. Ken was once a prop trader, but he has been shifted to the flow desk at a big bank. He wants a new job but is struggling to find one. This is Ken’s story. Read it, and weep.
Ken got an offer from a second-tier bank in April. He declined as he couldn’t get comfortable with the team. The desk head was a notorious boozer and womaniser, but Ken likes the quiet life and declines the invitations he gets to go out drinking with brokers. He also didn’t like the idea of having a weaker brand on his CV. Nor was he too happy that they were only willing to match his existing bonus and deferral schedule. “If they had offered a better package with more cash up front, that might have swung it for me,” I remember he arrogantly explained at the time.
Looking back, poor Ken missed his chance. He hasn’t been able to find anything close since. He’s endured many interviews, with several other second-tier banks, but the processes are getting so drawn out that he’s started being interviewed by the same people all over again. It has been such a long time since he first met them that they can’t remember which candidate he was.
Each time Ken thought he had got the job, the HR managers backed out at the last minute. He’d love to trade for his own account, and he’s previously worked on the buyside so he knows the pressures of running his own P&L, but he’s scared about not having a regular income.
Because he’s been working on a flow desk with no discretionary trading, Ken doesn’t have a recent audited track record. He knows it’s a Catch-22 situation – a move to the buyside needs proof you can actually make money.
Ken doesn’t mind working for a low base at the start. But his expectations of the kind of minimum infrastructure and profit-share he needs before he’s willing to leave a big bank for a small hedge fund are as unrealistic as Libya winning “Mediterranean holiday destination of 2011”.
In the current environment. He’s stuck. Either things improve, or Ken reduces his expectations. Personally, I am not expecting either to happen soon.
The author works in Asset Management in London.