We spoke to Manya Klempner. An MBA graduate from Columbia Business School, Manya spent eight years working in investment banking as a derivatives marketing professional at the likes of JPMorgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML). Manya quit her role as director of CEEMEA business solutions at Merrill Lynch in November 2011 and now runs Moose X-Training. This is what she says banking can do to your physique.
“Banking is an industry of extremes. When it comes to exercise, there’s really not a lot of middle-of-the-road people. It’s binary. You either get the hardcore types who work out at ungodly hours of the morning or evening (even after getting off a red-eye flight before the meeting), or you get the people who want to work out, intend to work out, even plan to work out but in reality just let it slide. Before they realize it, a lot of people have just let things go, and once you’re out of shape, it’s very hard to get it back again. Getting fit requires a huge commitment, a lot of energy and a lot of time.
There often aren’t enough hours in the day to work in finance and stay fit – especially if you’re travelling to meet clients three days a week, and especially if you’ve got children… whether you are a man or a woman. It’s always difficult to find the time to go to the gym, but once you’ve got kids you often just give up. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Sure, there’s the corporate gym – but who’s got time to do that during the day?… Most of us in the front office eat all 3 meals at our desks over our keyboards. And, the few people that do take advantage of the corporate gym do tend to be men as it’s just not practical for women to redo their hair and makeup after working out.
However, if you’re not exercising and you’re working in a senior role in a bank you’re probably going to gain weight. Let’s face it, you spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, on a plane, or in a car. Furthermore, at the more senior levels, banking often requires client entertainment. If you’re taking a client out, it’s about building rapport. It all depends on the client, of course, but the likelihood is that you will go to a restaurant with lovely food and drink, which often translates into rich food and lots of drink. You might have a productive conversation over a goats cheese salad and a San Pellegrino, but are you really going to bond over that raw carrot and boiled egg?
The great irony is that most people in banking spend a lot on their appearance. There’s a lot of money spent on clothes, ties, shoes, haircuts, manicures, pedicures and various products that will make you look attractive on the outside. People tend to spend heavily on this kind of thing, but it’s a false economy in the long term.
Does it matter if you’re out of shape in banking? Not really. In my experience, it’s not the hardest working nor smartest people who get ahead, never mind the fittest – it’s the best at politics. You don’t need to be fit to get promoted to MD. Looking after your body isn’t for your career, it’s for yourself. If you work out regularly, you might be better equipped to work the long hours, sleep better, and stay mentally sharp. But again, if you’ve ingratiated yourself with the right person, that’s the most effective way to guarantee success. At least politics don’t discriminate.
This doesn't mean that you don't need to watch out. The danger is that if you don’t put the effort in to looking after yourself in an industry like banking, you’ll age more quickly than you would otherwise. I have a set of friends who are twins. They’re both men, and they’re both in their early 40s. However, one works in banking and the other has a different sort of career in finance. Both have children and both try to work out, but you can see the twin who doesn’t work in banking is able to fit in the workout on a much more regular basis. The twin in banking is a greyer, his skin is more sallow, and he just looks tired. Ok, that’s not just a result of his fitness levels – it’s also because he’s working very long hours and is perpetually jet-lagged. Yet, despite his best efforts at staying fit, the job has taken its toll.
Ultimately, banking forces you to make a choice. When your work dominates your life, there aren’t enough hours in the day for work, personal stuff, kids, fitness and other responsibilities. When you’ve been in banking for long enough it becomes ingrained that you put work first. Even when you’re no longer a banker, it’s second nature to prioritize work… unfortunately.
Moose X-Training strives to take the chore out of fitness by prioritizing convenience.