I’ve done my time in banking. I’ve worked in this industry nearly 20 years and I’m ready for a change. I’d say I’m pretty employable: I’ve run whole markets businesses. I know how to extract costs and how to implement a strategy that works. I’m a good catch for a hedge fund or a fund manager looking for someone to run the business while everyone else gets down to raising new funds and achieving high returns. Except that it’s almost impossible to get a look-in.
As a banker trying to move to the buy-side, I have several things against me. Firstly, I’m too senior. Secondly, I’m a woman. Thirdly, I don’t know that many people on the buy-side because my career has always been in banks (the sell-side).
If juniorization is a thing in banks, it’s an even bigger deal in funds. All the big guys – Blackrock, Fidelity – are trying really hard to reduce their senior people right now. They want to hire in juniors instead: it’s all about VP-level and below. As far as they’re concerned, the future of finance is Millennials with great grades from top schools who are prepared to work hard. Who cares that these juniors don’t have any experience of the industry?
Then, I’m a woman. If you think banks are bad at promoting women, you clearly know nothing about hedge funds. These places are almost all men. And those men almost all know each other: they hang out together; their wives hang out together; their kids have play dates. Most of them used to work in banks (together) back in the day and they look at someone like me sort of skeptically.
I’ve had a long and illustrious career in banking. I’ve proved my worth over and over in 20 years, but to these buy-side guys I’m still an outsider. In a lot of buy-side firms there’s kind of a culture of being an arrogant asshole: of only valuing the revenue earners and looking down on the people providing the support. When you’re not in the front office, the pay isn’t even that good: you’re supposed to be in it for the prestige of working for a big name, the culture and the perks.
Did I not mention the perks? Well, there are plenty of these at top funds. At the right place (any big prestigious fund) you’re going to get breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s basically going to be free food all the time. There are going to be parties – not just small parties, but renting a private jet and flying the whole staff to Jamaica with their families parties. You’re going to be living the life with all these elite guys.
It’ll be different at a smaller fund. There, there aren’t any perks. It’s all about being entrepreneurial and rolling up your sleeves, making do and problem solving. You’re supposed to buy-in to the whole idea of the, “journey.” That’s your perk.
I’m actually happy to work for either kind (yes I want to get out of banking that much). It’s not going to be easy though. I’m having to network one fund at a time. I’m gritting my teeth. I’m working these elitists. I see it as a challenge: they’re going to want to hire me. I’m just what they need.
Alice Fischer is the pseudonym of a senior banker in NYC