Tuesday 29 October 2013

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! (albeit you may not necessarily be the lead arranger) 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, infrastructure, transportation, 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.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Are the Bank recruiters changing tact?

Last weekend I was offering some career advice to a young student who wanted to go into banking once he graduated. He was studying Mechanical Engineering at a well-known University in the UK. What struck me was the feedback I was able to get in how some of the banks were approaching young up and coming talent. The young man mentioned that Barclays whilst on their milk round were offering insights in how they were changing and not only were they asking their feedback, they went as far as asking ideas from the applicants in how they could change and improve. Blackrock were onto a similar approach and openly advertising amongst their divisions that they want people and graduates to innovate what their tasks are and how they execute and implement. This was even pushed by executives.

This approach struck me, that instead of selling themselves and just seeking the highest IQ; they actually went to the students asking their opinions on how they could change themselves. This must also be a way of really testing the true character of the person.

Is this an eye opener in how other banks such as Goldman’s, JP Morgan, HSBC or Citi could follow suit?

Thursday 17 October 2013

Are our imperfections running wild?

Poor old Britain! Selling arms to the Middle East, demeaning sex in the music industry, child abuse amongst TV celebrities. Greed in the banking sector combined with the aggressive culture in business. Not to mention our horrendous debt and consumer culture.  So bereft of ideas and identity that we have to go begging for money in China for our so called ‘race for growth.’  Hardly a model for others to follow. If it makes you feel any better other parts of Europe are not much different. Corruption in the French and Spanish government, selling of our industries to foreign players. Sleaze amongst our leaders and leadership. Bizarre laws being passed on same-sex marriage and strange debates on transgender identity. Poor old Europe so focused on short term wealth and resources but so weak in character, ideas and moral fibre that it really has lost its sense of direction.  So many imperfections that cause so much harm to the other with the big three: power, money and sex. It is little wonder there is such little integrity and trust everywhere.

Some of us who have found or took a while a journey to find their common sense of decency, who are educated or well balanced and talented from the bottom of the food chain to the top are not easily taken in as fools, may find most part of our leadership, culture, economic direction and laws just simply weird, unsustainable, and beyond our natural principle in humanity.

Just recently I attended a conference that was promoting Judea-Christian values in our business culture and institutions. Unfortunately it was interfered brutally by a group of women that demonstrated on stage with graffiti written over their half-naked bodies and throwing a cake in the face at one of the Bishops.  What is difficult to fathom is whilst we were trying to promote the common good that there can exist so much anger and hatred. It is as if Love, one of the Christian Faiths greatest virtue, can so easily become the enemy.

I don’t hate the women that demonstrated but they certainly showed hatred toward us as if life was a continuous dejas vu of some warning shot that something biblical might occur where all too often the battle lines are drawn between good and evil, the flesh and the spirit, or right and wrong.  And it was up to each of us through free will to decide which side of the coin you were on. Unless you might be one of those by no fault of your own that abstain by remaining comfortably in a ‘muddle’ ahem I mean in the middle.
As imperfect as we are, in this far from perfect world and regardless which side you might come from, we do know however that trial and errors will often happen in our lives. For those who may commit errors or are confronted by trial and may lack understanding or guidance, will often find the door to life’s fulfilment firmly closed to the point that we may feel trapped, alone, victimised, insecure let alone burdened by fear, hatred, anger, despair or suffering. This can often sadly lead us to take the easy or superficial route or make an impulsive approach toward an even more difficult path. Nonetheless it is also an opportunity or our challenge to search and discover the key to that door, so that we can open it and get through. After which it is our duty as responsible citizens to fulfil our destiny, so we can proudly pass on the reigns to our children and if need be by helping others in doing so to reach their goals where there is a place for everyone.

I later discovered that these women were part of a feminist group standing up for lesbian rights. I have no problem with lesbians and I never did as people as I am sure many of them can be extremely kind. But on the recent debate on same sex marriage and transgender rights for example I cannot see how it is justifiable nor humanely possible that governments of all the institutions can get themselves in such an awkward position, and let alone, to decide laws that encourage not just sexual activity but our imperfections between two women or two men or on the point of gender orientation for that matter as if it has become the norms of our society.
It goes beyond the purpose on what a law is. I cannot begin to imagine how to explain to our children who are in my view the best examples of common sense, that may start asking questions once they see their school friends who have either two mothers or two fathers or even transgender orientation. To think that divorced parents are already a difficult enough challenge as it is! Once they see this as social convention what will become of them?  Just like we cannot marginalise nor treat the LGBT community inhumanely nor differently nor with ridicule for that matter which is equally deplorable. Let him who without sin cast the first stone and why group people in such a way? There are some things in life that are best left untouched. In an ideal world we must all learn to revert from publically and shamelessly justifying our faults or worse still publically legalising them in so as to simply satisfy  our inner selfish wants, cravings or desires and try to reverse this disastrous trend from an ever increasing conflicting individual self-interest, and obsession with self.

Indeed as my Professor in coaching likes to point out, we are all so wonderfully imperfect. Therefore surely the best alternative is for each of us to acknowledge our imperfections via our own conscience quietly in ourselves or with those we trust and to do the best we can to overcome them or to change, to attain our own peace of mind and peace with others.
Our concience is our peacemaker