There are plenty of people who have, at one time, worked for Goldman Sachs. There are fewer who having worked in a client facing role for Goldman Sachs have decided to make it their mission to offer a combination of coaching and psychotherapy to the investment banking community.
Nell Montgomery, a former sales trader at Goldman and onetime head of sales at Investec is that person. After leaving the City in 2004, Montgomery began training as a therapist in 2007. She’s now ready to put that training into practice.
Last year, Patrick Watt, head of wellness at Goldman Sachs said the bank’s biggest problem was mental health issues. We asked Montgomery about her career and what she thinks is ailing the investment banking industry. This is what she said.
Q: How did you come to work investment banking?
I graduated from university and went straight into Goldman to work in equity sales and sales trading. It was the early 1990s and Goldman was looking for Oxbridge graduates to hire straight into associate roles. It was a brilliant opportunity – we went to work in New York for the first nine months. My timing was amazing.
Q: How long did you stay in banking?
Around a decade. I went from Goldman to run sales for Investec. Then I had a family and my partner - who’s a scriptwriter - got a big break in Hollywood, so it seemed a good time to take a career break.
Q: So, do you specialize in any particular kind of psychoanalysis?
I trained in the methods of John Bowlby who’s an exponent of attachment theory. He looks at the attachment styles of the care-givers you have during childhood and how they have an enduring effect upon your life.
Q: Can you give an example of attachment theory in practice?
If you have a secure early attachment with your main caregiver, you can hold down a one to one relationship with someone in a secure way. However, if you have an insecure attachment to your main caregiver in childhood, you will find it much harder to form stable relationships as an adult.
Q: Is this relevant to investment banking?
You could argue that working in the City requires people to have a degree of insecure attachment in their past. To be successful in an investment bank you need to be very driven – you may have been one of five children competing for a parent’s love. However, if you have secure attachments you may not be very driven and will find it harder to succeed.
Q: What’s wrong with being an insecurely attached person?
In an organizational context, it can make you quite difficult to manage. Insecurely attached people are necessarily insecure – they are very good at competing, but they can be quite needy and attention seeking. They need a lot of reassurance and they can cause problems in teams – particularly if they’re put in a position of being a co-head.
Q: What can be done about this?
In many cases, simply having a relationship with a therapist where they can be completely honest and share how they really feel is a help. I work as both a psychotherapist and a coach, so I can also help with communication issues and help identify the things that are creating the grit in the oyster at work.
Q: Insecure attachment aside, what are the other big mental health issues in the City?
There’s a lot of stress and anxiety. People are very insecure about their positions – they may have had a boss for some time who leaves because things are restructured. That can be a big worry: you’ve lost your sponsor.
Anxiety at work has repercussions outside the office. You see marriages breaking up, or substance abuse. People who are bipolar or depressed and have been able to manage their condition may find it harder to do so.
Q: What are the warning signs?
There are a few. Problems sleeping, irrational panics, relationship issues at home, drinking too much are all indications that anxiety is an issue.
Q: Do you only work with bankers with mental health issues?
No. I’m also a coach, so I work with high performing MDs who might be transitioning into a new role too. I can deal with the whole spectrum.
Q: What kind of issues are faced by high performers?
They might be moving into a new role with more responsibility, or working with new colleagues. I help with the transition.
Nell Montgomery offers coaching services though Preston Associates.