Junior employees in investment banking are increasingly questioning whether the long hours and high pressure of the job are really worth it, or if it’s better to dedicate their energy elsewhere.
For Marcin Olechowski, who left his job in structuring at Morgan Stanley and SocGen to launch his own start-up in September, it was a simple mathematical calculation that led him to quit the industry.
“It’s an equation – how much am I learning? Plus how exciting the role is, plus the financial side of things against the investment of time,” he says. “I realised that the financial potential was lower, and structuring in particular is not as interesting as it used to be. So if I was going to dedicate 12-14 hours a day on something, I’d rather it was on something I was more passionate about.”
Olechowski has launched a new app called Mesh, alongside former Marshall Wace quant researcher Borja Rivier. It uses a Tinder-style swipe-left-swipe-right interface combined with machine learning to connect professionals with people in other industries whose expertise could eventually help you either switch careers or get a start-up off the ground.
Both Olechowski and Rivier decided that it was worth quitting their finance jobs to focus on the start-up full-time. Combining a demanding financial services job with a side-project just wasn’t feasible, they said.
“I started working four days a week, so I could focus on Mesh, but I couldn’t dedicate the necessary time,” says Rivier. “It made sense to take the risk, while I’m still 25.”
“I was in a job that required at least 12 hours' work a day,” adds Olechowski. “To come home, switch off for a while and then try to start coding for your start-up idea is too much – at least if you want to sleep. You really need to focus full-time on your start-up idea.”
It’s not unusual for juniors to leave banking, but Rivier battled to a highly-sought after quant role in a hedge fund. Unusually, he doesn’t have a PhD and secured his first job through a chance encounter during a university networking event. So, why leave?
“It’s hard to get into a hedge fund, but a lot of algorithmic trading is basically data science,” he says. “What I’m doing now is not a huge step away from a quant role in a hedge fund. There’s a lot of statistical modelling and coding – the skills overlap. It means I could go back into finance if I decided to. Generally, there will be a lot more movement between finance roles and start-ups in the future.”
Rivier’s attitude is indicative of millennials who view no longer view their career as a linear path. But one of the reasons for Mesh is that a lot of jobs are under threat – either through the onslaught of technology, or simply because businesses are downsizing or offshoring – and people need to reinvent themselves. Other industries might be interested in your skills, but you just don’t know it.
“If you look at what’s happening on the trading floor, there are a lot of talented guys whose career options are less stable, and they’re sort of stuck because money is still good and they've never worked outside of finance,” says Olechowski. “But they have skills that might work elsewhere.”
Rivier says that “people need to start thinking about their lives like a start-up.”
“It’s unlikely you’ll be in the same industry for 30 years, or even the same job for more than five,” he says. “Skills are changing, industries are shifting and you need to connect with the right people to allow you to make the right move.”
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