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GUEST COMMENT: Why I’m giving up my financial services career aged 35

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.

Comments (25)

  1. Next

  2. good for you.

  3. Translation – unable to get a job after searching for well over a year so telling me they are quiting finance.

  4. You did the right thing. I also left when I no longer believed in what I was doing.

  5. I think anyone left on a trading floor who ‘believes’ in what they do is probably a bit mental. Or a socio path. Or both.

  6. ..I think anyone left on a trading floor who ‘believes’ in what they do is probably a bit mental. Or a socio path. Or both.

  7. ..lost your bonus and double digit pay rise.Boo hoo. If i strain, i can just hear a violin playing…

  8. @iq300+

    if you left why are you still hanging out on this website – u freak

  9. can i have your old job?

  10. ..So if you are leaving why are you visiting efinancialCAREERS?

  11. I did not enter bankig for money. I hate my job but decided to stick to it as long as possible. I am in the industry to serve the society by creating better financial products. Money is irrelevant for me.

  12. Good for you, i wish you luck There is more t lfe than finaca arrtsandsilly money

  13. I have gone through the same experience. Also started in 2000 and have stopped to ‘believe’. Part of me wants to ‘turn the page’. But, the difference between you and me is that I’m still in the ‘eye of the storm’ and earning more than ever. That is the only reason I go to the office every day. So, the other part of me wants to ‘hang in there’ and continue the ride. One day I will wake up, knowing that I wasted my life, my health, my love – for a lot of money.

    In-it-not-better Reply
  14. i think you made mistake mate because you quit right when you started going somewhere. if you said that you were starting your own fund because you’re smarter than the rest of us with say derivatives and various investment products, fair enough. unless you are in australia, your business will have a tough time because you will be dealing with a lot of corruption and pretty soon you will run out of money to keep your business going. besides if Oz was so good, most of us who are from there wouldn’t be trying so hard to stay in the uk.

  15. perhaps the model’s you built hat no-one could understand was the reason everything went pear shaped in the first place????

    What is so boring about vanilla banking? Suck it up or get out!

  16. @iq80 Because I enjoy reading about bankers having a hard time.

  17. @iq300 you have just confirmed to me that you are a freak. Get a life.

  18. I did a simular thing back @ 34 its the best decision I had made and to be fair I lost my edge back in 1999 LOL after only working two years as a grad. But stuck with it for 13 years, then left!
    Seen too many people older and more experienced than I leave about 35-45 without a gold watch or a decent send off. “just thanks bye!”

  19. Anyone who said they didn’t enter banking for the money is fooling themselves! Leaving uni with debts back in the late 90’s or even coming from a middle class family making thousands of pounds a month, more money than their parents ever saw, did go into banking for the money!
    Most would say now the honeymoon is over and lets face it people depended on those bonuses regardless if it was 1K or 100K.
    The big question is why should I do four jobs for less pay?
    Those who say suck it up and get on with it! well have a look at what your company has got you with? How was your perfomance rating? Poor when you work your a$$ off?
    Going to endless meetings where its your back covered in daggers?
    Working on large projects then they are scraped after a year so many late nights and early mornings WHY?

  20. 2009 was the most profitable year for people who know what they are doing

  21. This is not a criticism but unless by your age you are earning serious money from financial services the risk : reward ratio is just not worth it You are getting older, your position will be threatened, your commute longer, all the ‘keeping up with’ gets more expensive.Don’t get stuck in the middle ‘no mans land’. Up or out. you are doing the right thing. Who wants to be 50 and on the central line

  22. You did the right thing.
    If you lost your drive and your intellectual passion, get out. Finance is not the right place to be for someone without motivation.
    I love finance, financial theory and financial markets. But that doesn’t mean it has to be for everyone, all their life.

    You have done what your schoolmates and parents expected, now you are 35 and you can make your own decisions.

  23. I wish there were more to quit. Certainly less competition

  24. You’re a great writer for a career quant. Almost…professional.

  25. So there was a forrest fire in 2008. It was not the first and will not be the last. At some point the eager green shoots of another frenetic boom will poke their way through the turf and a new generation will ride a wave of renumeration. And then there will be another fire. Tis the nature of the beast.

    ConstantGardener Reply

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