According to popular prejudice, people who work in banking are one-dimensional and money-obsessed. As with all stereotypes, however, this isn’t the whole truth. Yes, people who work in banking are interested in money. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
We spoke to a selection of junior, mid-ranking, and senior people working in the City of London about their life philosophies. This is what they told us, speaking on condition of anonymity.
1. Contentment comes from being immersed in the work
“I’ve been in the office at 5.30am several days this week,” said a senior equities analyst, “And I’ll be in the office again at 5.30am several days next week – leaving at 7pm. When you’re working these kinds of hours under this kind of pressure, you have to be totally engaged with the job otherwise you can’t do it. You can’t survive in this industry if you’re just in it for the money.”
2. Life is about being in control and debt-free
We spoke to a private equity professional who got out of a bulge bracket bank several years ago and says he’d never go back to working for a large firm.
“I want to work on my own terms. Junior people in investment banks don’t work on their own terms – it’s just the opposite. However, in order to work on your own terms you need to have money and a manageable level of debt. A lot of people are only living well because they are borrowing money – they’re not really self-sufficient.”
3. It’s more nuanced than making as much money as possible
“It’s wrong to base your life around making as much money as possible,” said the private equity professional. “What you need to do is to work out how much you need to live a life that is modest enough for you. Then work that out as a yield on an investment. If you’ve want £20k ($31k) a year and you’ve got a return of 4%, you’ll need £500k. Work towards that, not towards earning as much as possible.”
4. It’s become about working to live, rather than working to retire
“When I got into this industry, it was still possible to make a lot of money and retire at 39-40 to go off and do something else,” one rates strategist told us. “A lot of people decided to forego other careers in medicine or engineering and just to make as much money as possible.”
Since the financial crisis, he said people his age have had to rethink their life philosophies: “You can’t accumulate vast wealth as quickly as you could before – it’s no good just doing this for the money any more.
“Personally, I want to earn enough to buy a decent property in a decent part of London. I also want to experience a lot of different things and the only way I can do that is by holding down one of these jobs in the financial sector. If I wasn’t doing this job, I wouldn’t be able to travel and go to these different places in may free time – it’s a trade off. I know that with money, I can do so much more when I’m not working.”