Remember Brad Hintz? He's the ex-Lehman CFO and ex-bank top-ranked Bernstein banks researcher who quit to become and adjunct professor of finance at New York University in 2014. What not many people know is that Hintz isn't just a professor: he's also a student, studying a bachelors degree at the University of Arizona at the same time. Now we can disclose that one of London's most seasoned equity researchers, Chris Wheeler at Atlantic equities, is leaving to do something similar.
After a 45 year career in banking, Wheeler's leaving the City of London this week. He's not off to the golf course. He's not off to do some gardening at his house in the Cotswolds. He's off to read history as an undergraduate at Oxford University, aged 63.
"I didn't go to university," says Wheeler, who's worked for Barclays, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers. Fox Pitt-Kelton and Mediobanca during his long career. "I left school at 18 and trained as a chartered accountant. Now I am going to Harris Manchester College - a smallish Oxford college for mature students over 21. Mrs Wheeler insists that I live out."
Wheeler has been breaking the news of his departure to his clients, many of whom are impressed by his move. "They're all terribly jealous," he says. "Everyone wants to study economic history."
Wheeler says he's always been interested in history and academia and that his family finally badgered him into doing something about it. Hintz, meanwhile, says years in equity research convinced him that he needed to supplement his existing science and finance education with something in the liberal arts. "I have three degrees, a bachelor of science, a masters of science and an MBA, but for a liberal arts major I'm an uneducated coal miner."
The longer you work in equity research, the more you come to see that it's not just about financial models, says Hintz. "You start to realize that the interaction of many different forces determines what's going on with an industry and an economy - it's as much about "soft" forces as science and math." In his new career, Hintz spends half his time as a professor on the MBA program at NYU and half as a student in Arizona: "On one coast I'm a professor, on the other I'm just an old guy going to class," he says.
Wheeler is revving up to study the Venerable Bede when his course begins in October. Monday is the last day of his City career which began in 1972. He's already had a big party attended by many of the people he's ever worked with.
Other bookish senior equity analysts may well be inspired to go back to university too. However, Wheeler cautions that making the switch into academia isn't that easy: "To get an offer, I had to sit a history aptitude test and write an essay on a subject I'd done a lot of research in [he chose Mussolini]. I also had to complete a certificate of higher education with the Open University." This had to be done alongside his day job, with the result that Wheeler describes autumn 2016 as slightly overwhelming: "I'd started the Open University Course and I was going through the Oxford application process and I was working 12-14 hours a day. It didn't feel that bad at the time, but in retrospect it was a bit of a nightmare."
He will at least be prepared for the infamous Oxford "essay crisis."