More and more banking professionals, both here in Asia and globally, are taking on new roles in completely different sectors. But I’m not talking about the old trend of people quitting banking altogether; I’m referring to those who are staying in the sector and doing at least one additional job on the side.
You may have read on this site about Matt Huang, for example, the banker who wrote a novel about his dramatic experiences in the Chinese business world. There’s also Anthony Solimini, a veteran UBS banker in Hong Kong by day, and a stand-up comedian by night. These aren’t just hobbies – they’re proper (and often profitable) second careers.
I now run my own training institute and teach at universities, but during my time as a senior banker I too had a career involving speaking, lecturing and writing. Why did I do this? Why might you want to consider having a second or third job yourself? And how can you make a success of a side career? Let me explain.
Your skills won’t be wasted
If you work in the banking, you’re in an industry that hires some of the brightest people in Asia and globally. In my view, it’s a pity that you only use your intelligence and skills within one sector.
You get fulfilment
Banking is a cutthroat and political business, especially since the financial crisis when a lot of the ‘fun’ was taken out of the industry and redundancies became more commonplace. You may get a high salary and bonus, but you probably don’t get fulfilment from your job. Having a side gig – in an area you’re passionate about – allows you to get some more meaning in your life.
You mix with different people
One of the main advantages of an additional career is that you get to talk to people who you wouldn’t come across in banking. I always found it fascinating to have conversations about non-finance topics – for example, I would frequently mix with marketing people to talk about digital marketing.
Your banking career improves
Your side gig can help you become a better banker. Because of my work at Renmin University, clients regarded me not just as a banker but as an educator, which is a respected position in China. Some of my students even referred their bosses to me. Your second job can get you a foot in the door with people who would otherwise be tricky to meet. If you own a restaurant on the side, for example, host special meals for potential clients. I’ve met with people who wanted to know more about LinkedIn marketing, and over time they got to trust me and eventually became my clients.
It shouldn’t be your primary objective, but some additional income is always welcome.
Try it at your bank first
Your colleagues are a great testing ground for your second-job idea. If they don’t like what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t go ahead. If you want to set up a baking business, see if your workmates actually enjoy eating your cakes. If you’re interested in public speaking, take advantage of speaking opportunities at your bank. If you’re a budding singer, find out if your bank runs an annual talent show.
Brand yourself on social media
I’ve learned from experience that the more effort you put into social media marketing, the better. It will increase the chances of business opportunities coming to you. And remember, you’re no longer just a banker. LinkedIn has been effective for me. I’ve branded myself there as a “speaker” and “lecturer” and organisations such as the CFA Institute and NUS have contacted me about speaking and teaching gigs as a result.
Get your boss to be supportive
It’s essential to have a good relationship with your boss, otherwise they might use your new job against you. You want your boss to be thinking: “you perform so well here that it’s good that you’re doing something else as well”. I was very lucky that all my bosses (except for one, who thought I was moonlighting) have been very supportive.
Ensure your banking job always takes priority
It’s possible that your side gig could eventually become your full-time career, but while you’re still employed, under no circumstance should the bank think that you’re not performing well because of outside commitments. I used much of my own annual leave to teach and speak, which further ensured that my bosses couldn’t fault my commitment to the bank.
Charge a fee and declare it
If you get paid, you know it’s a proper side job and not just a hobby. When I first started lecturing, I was tempted to tell the university not to pay me, to avoid the hassle of declaring my fee to compliance and HR. But I decided to charge, and my costs were approved by the bank. The fee proved to myself that I could cut it as a lecturer – I was good enough to be rewarded for my services.
Improve your time management
Before you start your new role, you must do all you can to improve the way you manage your time. I’ve written a separate article about this (click here for time-saving tips).
Eric Sim is a former UBS managing director who’s now the founder of career training school Institute of Life in Hong Kong. He’s also a guest lecturer at Renmin University.