“C.B.R EMERGENCY RATE HIKE 300BPS.” The big red letters flashed over my Reuters screen as I pondered the consequences for my book. Wasn’t I long in both the 1mth and 3mth buckets? A quick check of my risk confirmed that not only was I long the 1mth and 3mth buckets, but that I was long Russian rates in every maturity up to and including the two year point. I had just lost the best part of USD 1.5 million.
Except that I hadn’t. Courtesy of a contract I had signed just 24 hours hence, I was no longer an employee of this fine establishment, meaning that the rightful owner of said losses was now the bank and not my compensation package. Returning to my Wikipedia article on the Falklands war I ruminated over that old trading dictum, what was it they said? Ah yes: “Better lucky than good.”
In 2009, I had been trading fixed income derivatives for the best part of 5 years, but what had started off as an interesting job with a myriad of new things to learn was now pedestrian and routine. Everyday I would price up the same interest rate derivatives for the same thankless hedge funds, like some kind of high-end supermarket checkout worker, but subject to the ‘winner’s curse’ that came with executing a trade. Worse still, the hours had become longer, bonuses were down and stress was up; there was every likelihood that this wasn’t some ephemeral aberration, but rather the convulsions that signified a fundamental change in the industry was coming.
It would however be disingenuous of me to claim that the impetus for my leaving lay solely in the job itself. For I had also changed: dramatically. I wanted to see more of the world than the 10-day breaks (any longer would be frowned upon) would afford me, I wanted to learn another language, to spend more time on my hobbies and possibly turn them into a career. I couldn’t keep rolling over these personal ambitions into that box labelled “things to do when we retire” (even if it is 40), in fact, the very nature of my ambitions and interests meant they could only be fulfilled in my twenties.
Very few people attain their ‘dream’ job after leaving university, and even fewer find that it meets their expectations. I was lucky in achieving the former, but back in 2009 it seemed the latter was out of reach.
And now? I’ve been traveling and living overseas for the past two years. Newly returned to the UK, I now survey a banking industry that is severely emasculated. Yet even in this much diminished form the allure remains. There’s something compelling about the financial services industry, but do I really want to get back in?