COMMENT: Don’t wait until after you’ve left banking to live your life

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This year, I stepped back from my career in banking. After 22 years in the finance industry, I am taking time out, taking stock, and working on my personal projects.

I am no longer in finance, but I am working harder than ever. In the past five months, I have completed two paintings and exhibited in Europe and the U.S. It has been phenomenal. I am ready to move on to the next stage of my life. I am also ready to move into private equity if a role becomes available.

In this sense, I think I am fortunate. Too many people leave finance and wonder what to do next. Finance can be a very financially rewarding career, but it can also be all-consuming. When you leave, you to discover what you really want to do.

For me, the particular job I did in finance (M&A) was never my passion. My passion was always to work in private equity, or maybe a hedge fund.

But the nature of finance, particularly in London, is that you become siloed. The longer you work in one role for, and the better you are at it, the harder it becomes to move on. I decided not to move out of M&A as an analyst or associate and continued to work my way up as an advisor. I became extremely well known in my sector – and this defined my career.

However, all the time I was working in M&A, I never gave up painting. I am a creative person. Although I was in finance, I always pursued my hobbies in such a way that they could have turned into a full time profession. For example, every night after work, I would paint for an hour instead of watching TV or relaxing in other ways.

It took ferocious determination. Everyone can start something, not everyone can finish it. My paintings are large and require a lot of work. The first took me three years. It’s easy took put these things on hold when you work in finance, but my approach has always been that this is my life now – and these things were what I wanted to do. If you want a chance to be creative, you have to make it yourself.

Because of this, I have the potential to make my hobbies pay. I already have the interest of dealers. If I am successful, I could make far more than I ever made in banking.

I am going into this with my eyes open. I know that becoming a successful artist is like winning the lottery and requires luck as well as hard work. If necessary, I will go back into finance – but on the buy-side. Either way, I am done with M&A. After ensuring that I didn’t postpone all my other interests while I worked in banking, I now have several routes to go down. Don’t let your siloed finance career take over your life.

David Falkenberg is the pseudonym of a senior banker who's taking some time out

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