Telling people to leave finance
I used to work in finance, and now I don’t. I haven’t regretted leaving for a moment, even when I’ve been unemployed and confused about what to do next.
Lots of my friends that I made in finance are still there, though, and a majority of them are miserable. They feel trapped and they feel like they have few options. And they’re addicted to the cash flow and often have families to support, or a way of life.
It helps that my husband has a steady job, but it’s not only that I’m married to a man with tenure that I’m different. First, we have three kids so I actually do have to work, and second, there are opportunities to leave that these people just don’t consider.
First, I want to say it’s frustrating how risk-averse the culture in finance is. I know, it’s strange to hear that, but compared to working in a start-up, I found the culture and people in finance to be way more risk-averse in the sense of personal risk, not in the sense of “putting other people’s money at risk”.
People in start-ups are optimistic about the future, ready for the big pay-out that may never come, whereas the people in finance are ready for the world to melt down and are trying to collect enough food before it happens. I don’t know which is more accurate but it’s definitely more fun to be around optimists. Young people get old quickly in finance.
Second the money is just crazy. People seriously get caught up in a world where they can’t see themselves accepting less than $400K per year. I don’t think they could wean themselves off the finance teat unless the milk dried up.
So I was interested in this article from Reuters which was focused on lowering bankers’ bonuses and telling people to leave if they aren’t happy about it.
On the one hand, as a commenter points out, giving out smaller bonuses won’t magically fix the banks- they are taking massive risks, at least at the too-big-to-fail banks, because there is no personal risk to themselves, and the taxpayer has their back. On the other hand, if we take away the incentive to take huge risks, then I do think we’d see way less of it.
Just as a thought experiment, what would happen if the bonuses at banks really went way down? Let’s say nobody earns more than $250K, just as a stab in the arm of reality.
First, some people would leave for the few places that are willing to pay a lot more, so hedge funds and other small players with big money. To some extent this has already been happening.
Second, some people would just stay in a much-less-exciting job. Actually, there are plenty of people who have boring jobs already in these banks, and who don’t make huge money, so it wouldn’t be different for them.
Finally, a bunch of people would leave finance and find something else to do. Their drug dealer of choice would be gone. After some weeks or months of detox and withdrawal, they’d learn to translate their salesmanship and computer skills into other industries.
I’m not too worried that they’d not find jobs, because these men and women are generally very smart and competent. In fact, some of them are downright brilliant and might go on to help solve some important problems or build important technology. There’s like an army of engineers in finance that could be putting their skills to use with actual innovation rather than so-called financial innovation.