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The now-famous article suggesting banking is a sad, sorry, sapping career, full of fantasists pretending otherwise

Stephen Ridley, ex-banker

Stephen Ridley, ex-banker

It may not be what you want to hear at the start of the week, but you may be deluding yourself if you think banking is a glamorous and interesting career. You may be deluding yourself if you think you work long hours. Maybe you’re telling yourself tales if you think you’re really on a path to wealth-inspired nirvana. According to one former M&A banker and one external auditor who’s worked with an investment bank, you’re not.

The M&A banker’s rant, published on the website Wall Street Oasis, has commanded  most attention.

Stephen Ridley, a Durham graduate and former M&A banker at a ‘European Bank’ has left the industry and become a musician. It’s much better than banking, he says. Specifically, nowadays:

“I’ve travelled around the world, I’ve got an album on iTunes… I’ve played to literally tens of thousands of people. I’ve felt all the love and beauty of the world. I’ve laughed until I’ve cried. I’ve enjoyed more female attention than I thought a guy with my face could get! This is the most alive I’ve ever felt.”

Whereas when he was a banker, Ridley recalls:

“I used to do something I hated all day everyday, I used to hate myself for doing that. I was bad company around people and nobody really liked me. Now I do something that I love, that makes me bubble with excitement daily. In return for doing the thing I love the most, people are made happy, people are overhwelmingly kind to me, people open their hearts to me, and I do the same.”

Most bankers are just office automatons, Ridley claims:

 “…a sad middle class bland people, with unexciting lives, and unexciting prospects.  A bunch of nerds who got caught up in a cage made of money and dreams and greed, and never got out.”

They don’t even have much money:

 “You’ll be above average, but still pretty average. Sure, you can buy an macbook air without really thinking about it, and you can take taxis instead of the bus. But that’s it.”

And they give up everything for it:

“ I worked around 2 out of every 4 weekends in some form. I was never free, I always had my blackberry with me, and thus I could never truly detach myself from the job. These are the objective facts, contrary to what any ‘baller’ wants to tell you. The only models were excel models, the only bottles were coca cola, which I drank a lot of to stay awake.”

Having decided that M&A is a sorry career for mediocre members of the middle classes, Ridley is on a mission to evangelise bankers into doing something else:

“I just wanted to reach out to all those people who are in banking and miserable but too scared to leave, I want to reach out to all the nerdy kids with the great CVs who want to go into banking, I want to reach out to everyone who has got this far reading and I’m telling you to take a leap and do something you love.”

Separately, less zealously, but along similar lines, is a testimony from an external auditor in the Guardian. He says he’s worked with investment banks and that people are exactly the same calibre as in all other white collar industries, but paid 20-30% more.

The anonymous auditor also claims that most people in banking exaggerate when they say they work very long hours:

“They like to show off how important they are and working long hours must be a part of that. There’s no busier time around Canary Wharf, or Bank station [both home to a number of major banks] than around 6pm. People are going home! Stay on till 9pm and there’s no one there, relatively speaking. We have had to stay late a few times in one of those big banks. At 10.30 I wouldn’t see anybody else in the building.”

Comments (4)

Comments
  1. Come on guys, get a grip. Respect to Stephen for making a sensible decision, but just remember that he was what used to be called a Graduate trainee with Uge Bank Swiss – with effectively just ONE year’s experience at the very bottom of the pile. Well done, Stephen, follow your heart, and be true to yourself. (We’ll ask you about the reality of the Music business, when you’ve also been there for a year, “Piano Man” – as Billy Joel would have said).

    Banking isn’t a bowl of cherries. Nobody thought it ever was. But if you want to get real perspective, let’s listen to people who have really worked in it.

  2. Also, sloppy research EFC. “Stephen Ridley, an Oxford gradate” – correction: a Durham graduate.

  3. Sloppy posting by myself. It takes rather a while to see what you’ve written here.

  4. Guys, guys, cut to the chase: he’s a guy with musical talent (maybe). You have what you have. Not all of us get the whole outside the banking world, erm, world schtick. We’re good at something. Not warbling. So, you go with what you have. Pay off the mortgage sooner, get a bigger one, get a partner who enjoys lifestyle and spending your dosh. Preferably one who adds to it. Bankers are not unhappy. They are simply too busy to enjoy the fruits of their 18-hour days. It’s not a tragedy. Is it?

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