In the summer of July 2008, just as the financial crisis began ramping up to a whole new level, Dave McGeady, was surfing on the south west coast of France. “I bought a camper van and I drove down to Biarritz for the summer,” he tells us. “I rented out my room in London and just got away from the banking scene.”
One month earlier, McGeady had been working for Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London, as an M&A analyst on the healthcare team.
“I really didn’t know much about banking when I went into it,” McGeady says. “There’s no one my family who worked in banking and I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for.
“It was a massive shock in the first week when it came to 6pm and I found out that no one was going home,” McGeady continues. “I certainly didn’t expect to be staying until midnight looking through a pitchbook on my first day. It was a baptism of fire. I knew that bankers worked hard, but I didn’t know that they worked all the time.”
Today McGeady has moved back to Dublin and runs Wyldsson, an elite nutrition company which provides balanced, natural foods to top athletes. In 2006, he had just moved to London and was expecting to make new friends. He didn’t – except for those he met at work. “They’re like missing years really,” he says. “I can’t remember what I did except for work. I certainly didn’t meet anyone – I was in the office the whole time.”
Banks have introduced restrictions on working hours since McGeady left the industry in 2008. However, questions linger over their effectiveness and McGeady’s description of life in IBD will be familiar to anyone working in the industry today. “To begin with I thought we were just working crazily hard because we were on a live deal and it was all hands on deck, which was fair enough,” he says. “But then I started to realize that even when you’re not working on a live deal you’re working on pitches and that the pitches have a rhythm which is very similar to live deals.”
The problem with pitches was pitchbook mark-ups, says McGeady. “You get this ridiculous amount of mark-ups from a managing director at 6pm or 7pm and they want a turnaround for the next morning even though they’re not going to look at it until the next day.”
McGeady’s sense of pointlessness with the endless pitching came to a head one Friday evening. “The weekend was looking pretty good for once, and then suddenly I was called in and told there was a chance our MD might be able to pitch to a client. They didn’t know when that pitch would be or what it might be about, but they’d decided we should work all weekend to cover everything we possibly could in terms of what might go into this pitch book.”
He snapped: “I said, hang on – why don’t you go back to the relationship guy who knows the client and get a sense of what they might want to talk about.”
This didn’t go down well. “I was kind of stared at,” says McGeady. “And a couple of weeks later I was let go.”
Seven years on, McGeady says he still has some of the friendships forged in the heat of the BAML IBD division. “I formed some really strong bonds with the other analysts. It was a bit like being in the army or something – you’ll all going through the same very intense experience.”
Most his ex-colleagues are now in private equity or venture capital, but a few have stayed in banking. In retrospect, McGeady says the junior bankers who succeed are those who are prepared to do as they’re told. “Banks want you to be a submissive machine. They don’t want someone putting their hand up and suggesting something’s done differently.” Some juniors took submission to the point of servility: “There was one junior analyst on our team who would walk around taking dinner orders and distributing them to team members. When he came to the MD’s desk, he would lay everything out for him. It was very strange.”
Today McGeady counts his exit from banking as a lucky break. “It’s hard to get into banking, but it’s almost harder get out again. Once I was there, I had no time to think through what I wanted to do next. Losing my job was the push I needed to get out of that rut. I felt liberated.”
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