I was two weeks into my City career when 9/11 hit. One week later, I sat down with my new boss in Telecoms M&A who told me he was firing the whole team that day and leaving himself the next. It might be best if I started looking for a new role, he advised.
Welcome to the brutal world of finance.
I’m now a bond salesman, and therefore a pessimist – although I prefer the term ‘realist’ – and have witnessed, with morbid curiosity, numerous crises over the years. The Gulf War (part II), Enron, Japan’s tsunami, the 7/7 attacks in London, Subprime mortgages, Iceland going bust, Greek debt, the liquidity crisis (all of them). The list goes on and will continue to do so in the future.
Capitalism only survives because of this dynamism, like the brutalities of nature but without the flowers and fluffy baby animals. But no crisis threatened the very existence of the financial sector like the 2008 global financial crisis. – Thousands of jobs were lost in its wake. Nonetheless, I managed to escape.
The latest crisis, Brexit, will hit the financial sector generally. However, it’s trading floors in the City of London that face an existential threat as investment banks look to move jobs to (god forbid) Frankfurt, or another European financial centre.
It might look like the ‘red wedding’ in Game of Thrones right now, with survival seemingly both implausible and completely random. But having made it out the other side of bank restructurings throughout my career, this is how people on the trading floors of investment banks across the City can keep their heads during Brexit.
1. Get connected internally
You are in the hub of information, with live feeds into world markets. The least you can do is make sure you know what’s going on around your desk. You’ve networked your clients, make sure you have an internal network too. Eavesdrop in the canteen and at the coffee machine. Join the running club and get to know somebody in HR. Get involved in any meeting you can. The more people you know, the more you will know.
2. Know who the big swingers are, and get them to know you
Find out who your boss’s boss is and make connections all the way up the ladder. Not only that but find out about the lateral structure – which heads of teams in different areas are making ground? Who’s winning battles and making waves? Make yourself known by introducing yourself at the right time. Be seen in the right meetings. Know their hobbies and copy them.
3. Get your clients to put in a good word
Assuming you are good at your job and your clients like you, invite senior managers to client meetings and get your clients to sing your praises.
4. Rest when you can
Everyone notices the person that wanders into the trading floor late and misses the morning meeting. If you need more time to sleep, go home earlier for a ‘client meeting’.
5. Schmooze clients
If your clients are doing no trades, then go see them. If they are not having a coffee with you, then the chances are that they’re having one with me. Why would they do business with someone they never see? Fill your boss’ inbox with meeting notes.
6. Don’t be precious
Be prepared to move desks, roles or country. Stay adaptable and open-minded to what opportunities arise within the bank.
7. Don’t be too vocal about Brexit idiots
Chances are your boss and the old senior guy on the desk voted Leave. Whinging about the outcome and the stupidity of those who voted for Brexit will upset someone in the office. Keep it to your mates at home, who are a probably a bit more liberal-minded.
8. Look after your health
I love to run. A lot. Looking after yourself during a period of high stress is key to keeping your decision-making focused and your energy levels high. Sitting at your desk consuming take-away just to show what a hard-working person you are will hit your performance.
9. Leave the office
A mate of mine in NY went on holiday just before Lehman Brothers collapsed. He returned to find that he was the only person to survive the cull in this team. Don’t go on a three-week epic trip of a lifetime, but you can take time out and come back stronger. If your big clients are going away, follow suit.
10. Don’t expect a bonus.
No, not even secretly.
11. See the big picture
The City is a changing beast and there are always opportunities across the financial sector for those who are adaptable enough. If you do find yourself cast off in a difficult job market, maybe now’s the time think of doing something else. Chances are that during your time in the City you earned more than most people. Retrain, do something else, pursue your passion. It’s never the end of the world.
Max Mackin, a pseudonym, is a senior bond salesman at a large investment bank in the City who will soon be leaving the financial sector of his own free will.