The turning point for Anton Pasechnikov came in late 2008. “I had an interview with Lehman Brothers,” he says. “They’d made me an offer with a guaranteed bonus – everything. It would have been great. I was due to receive the letter, and then – nothing. They didn’t exist. I realized something had to change.”
Pasechnikov, a senior emerging markets trader from Credit Suisse and RBS, set about exploring other options: he took an MBA at London Business School. Then he went back into trading with Standard Bank, GFI Group and Renaissance Capital, but the spark had been lit.
“At the London Business School I realized that the world was less narrow than I’d thought,” says Pasechnikov. “There were people from all over the world, who didn’t just work in banking. It started the process that led me to change my life and leave the trading floor.”
Whilst he was studying at LBS, Pasechnikov started TR Data, a company he describes as an “integrated software solutions company for the financial sector, in some ways equivalent to Bloomberg and Reuters – but more regionally focused.” Nonetheless, he didn’t start ‘doing’ TR data full time until 2013, when he left his job as global head of rates and FX at RenCap. “It was a long decision process,” he admits.
Had he known what the consequences of that decision would be, Pasechnikov admits he might not have taken it. “As an entrepreneur, I’ve walked through the valley of death and now I’m out the other side. – We have big clients and we’re growing. But that development stage takes longer than you think and is enormously more stressful than any job in the front office of an investment bank.”
You change when you leave banking, says Pasechnikov. You become, more pragmatic, more value-driven, more aggressive and more focused: “You wake up in the night and wonder what will happen to you in the next month.”
To anyone else thinking of leaving finance, Pasechnikov has some firm but vague advice: prepare. You need to prepare mentally. You also need to save money – although how money is anyone’s guess: “Entrepreneurship is something that is neither predictable nor possible to budget for.”
Staying in banking isn’t such a good bet either, however. “Historically, people who worked in the front office of a bank were entrepreneurial by nature,” says Pasechnikov. “Their job was to find an opportunity and to react to that opportunity as fast as they could. But now that banks are paying these people less and putting them into confined environments, they don’t want to stick around. And banks will struggle to find people with the same level of talent in future.”