Wednesday, 18 January 2012

What else can Bankers do?

Having Interviewed and assessed many bankers over the years, I have often been confronted with shall I say a ‘restless’ banker wanting to switch careers and go into for example, Industry, commerce, retail etc. How easy is it once you have gained years of experience in a specialised field? There are certain ways in approaching this question. On paper there are certainly many switches you could make and naturally it depends what you were doing in the bank itself. A functional expert such as HR, IT, Finance and operations, are roles often transferable into many different industry sectors. I am more interested in front office experienced roles in Investment Banking or the business areas, such as Corporate Finance, M&A, Project, leverage, or trade finance as well as equity and debt capital markets and the financial markets. There are many different disciplines such as origination, execution, risk, syndication, sales and trading.  There is also the geographical knowledge and sector expertise of different industries and there is the size of the bank. You could be working in a small bank for example and take on all the front disciplines & sectors! Salaries are also something to take into account as some of the above roles have very high remuneration level of which other industry sectors would not be able to compete. Normally a banker will be aware of this and won’t want to get bogged down on this issue; after all if it was about the money -  just switch banks and find one that pays more!

Taking into account the above factors, it is really a case by case situation but I shall try to summarise and refer to these roles as Investment bankers.  A banker can gain a significant amount of knowledge within a certain sector. Power, renewables, energy, Logistics, aviation, media and telecommunications etc. An easy option is to move to ‘the other side of the fence’ either via one of your clients, your network, or via a third party.  Take on a C level role, Treasury & Finance or a commercial role. A banker can accumulate considerable financial product knowledge and investment expertise, why not transfer this skill set to helping other banks from an advisory or consultative capacity? There is ofcourse Private Equity, after that your options could be limited.

There really has to be strong link from your current skill set to your new position. The recruiters and HR individuals will always try to select those who fit the criteria almost perfectly. They would want to do themselves justice and not shake the cage when it comes to filling a position.  I would differ in my opinion. I believe we can be a little more ‘out of the box’ and not so rigid and too set by ticking the boxes. Hard skill set knowledge is all very well, our softer skill set is equally important. Many experienced and talented individuals will continually want to learn and know more whereby challenging themselves into new areas, in brief they want career progression.

In this difficult and tight market where open positions are less available and career progression more limited, a disguntled’ banker could take this opportunity to really do what he wants to do. In this case little should stop us. Here you need a little bit of ‘character’ the so called extra ‘inner force’ i.e. drive, conviction, desire, passion, inspiration, enterprise.. courage. If I wanted to ‘retire’ early and write a book well you can. If I wanted to leave and open a delicatessen shop or ice cream parlours in a small village in the middle of nowhere. That is ok. Or set up a funeral undertaking business in the basement of my house-  who is stopping you?  If you wanted to give up your banking career to run for Mayor or MP for your local community. Great idea. We need a few more inspirational politicians nowadays. You may need a third party or a partner to help you instill that ‘inner force’ and help bring out your ‘hidden talents’ and true character which we all have but the rest is up to you. Anything can be possible.

The dilemma is as so often the case, we are confronted by a fear. A psychological fear of losing maybe one’s job security, or a level of lifestyle we are accustomed to or feeling chained by the typical trappings of our society and environment. Maybe we have been so busy and engrossed in our work that we simply have not given ourselves time let alone the thought. Not helped by this crisis where every headline appears to be dominated by number crunching and mind boggling figures, we tend to lose sight of our ideas, goals, our strategy, our creativity….even ourselves.  In a nutshell it is that ongoing fear that we have towards change.  It would be a shame really if we went to our graves without having fulfilled one of our lifetime dreams or ambitions.

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