This year, I’ve decided: I’m stopping. And it’s not just another empty New Year’s resolution. My decision is final.
No, I’m not retiring – unfortunately. However, after more than 10 years working on the buyside, I’m throwing in the towel. I’m leaving for a hotter continent to launch my own business, thousands of miles from anything to do with financial services.
Before you question the motives behind my decision, a little backtracking is necessary.
After graduating in maths and finance, I started my career in 2000. Over the next five years I occupied various ‘junior’ positions. They weren’t prestigious, but they allowed me to learn. My determination paid off: in 2005 I got the kind of role I aspired to, quantitative analyst in a well known hedge fund.
Until that point, everything went well. I’d opted to work in finance for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted a stimulating job which required technical expertise and an ability to produce innovative solutions for clients. Secondly, I’m not pretending the remuneration wasn’t attractive; I liked the fact that there was an agreeable salary and a performance related bonus to keep me motivated.
Initially, I was a believer. I took pleasure in explaining to my friends what I did and educating them on the role of banking and finance in real life.
Then came the cataclysm of September 2008. I fell nastily down from my cloud. Almost immediately, I had nothing to do. Yes, I still had a job, but there was nothing going on. I was powerless to prevent the collapse of a world – my world.
Ultimately, I lost all intellectual interest in my role. There was nothing to do and nothing to pique my interest. I filled my days reading celebrity gossip. If this weren’t bad enough, I also had to wave goodbye to my bonus. The previous year, I ‘d received a comfortable bonus and a double digit percentage increase in my salary.
I spent most of 2009 trying to convince myself that my services would still be required to re-launch the machine and hoping that I’d receive at least a small bonus as encouragement. I was wrong. If I’d lost hope, so had my bosses.
Eventually, I decided to get out. I left the excitement of a full time role and became a consultant. It was a temporary move, and allowed me keep a foot on the trading floor.
While I became a consultant, my former colleagues and friends remained in the eye of the storm. They were bored and frustrated: one was a market risk manager responsible for developing new all-purpose risk metrics which were too complex to be understood by their intended users; another was an actuary who was questioning whether there was really any point spending his life creating endless intricate formulas which no longer applied in the new financial paradigm.
Most of them had completely forgotten the joy of coming in to work. Anything stimulating or interesting was relegated to the past.
In time, I came to feel the same. I realised that I too didn’t ‘believe’ any more. Knowing that we had reached a peak of product complexity prior to the crash and that new European rules would prevent the attainment of anything similar in future, my interest in financial services simply ebbed away.
Finally, and above all, I got fed up with the constant portrayal of bankers as society’s villains. I’ve had enough. I’m turning the page. I’m not being pilloried any more. I’m off to do something different.