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Successful strategies for escaping the back office

Don't let this be you

“I’ve always been interested in financial markets, but like a lot of people I was slow to appreciate the careers on offer in the industry. I only became aware of investment banks in my second year at university, and then I only secured an internship in the back office of a blue-chip firm.

Having spent a summer working in an operations job, I figured that I definitely wanted to work somewhere else in banking – either on the trading floor or in capital markets.

Recruiters, however, were no help. Everyone I spoke to – whether they were banks’ own recruiters, external recruiters, or university careers staff, told me that making the transition out of the back office and into a front-office banking job was impossible.

I didn’t listen.

Instead, I set about doing everything I could to make the move from away someone labeled as a ‘back-office worker’ into someone who’d be desirable for the more interesting jobs on offer in the front office.

Networking was my main focus. I got in touch with everyone I knew in the bank I’d interned in. I used LinkedIn. I contacted university alumni. I contacted friends. I let them know that I was interested in front-office roles.

I also participated in charity events run by banks in the City of London. A word of advice: these are great opportunities to meet front-office bankers, and they increased my exposure even more.

Needless to say, most banks rejected my overtures – I didn’t attend a top-tier university and my experience was only in the back office. However, I didn’t give up.

I continued to apply for every opportunity and make sure I didn't lose my momentum and enthusiasm.

It paid off. After six months, I was headhunted by recruitment firms working on behalf of several different investment banks in London. I was offered back office positions - which I respectfully declined, middle office positions – which I respectfully declined, and one front office job working in capital markets, which I accepted. I now work in the capital markets team of a major bank in the City. None of these job offers came to me as a result of applications. All of them came to me as a result of my networking efforts and increased exposure to the industry.

If you want to escape the back office and move into a front office role, networking will be imperative. However, don’t overwork individual contacts – use them judiciously and don’t rely on any one person.

You’ll also need tenacity. And you’ll need to be interested in the job itself – not just in the monetary rewards. You will be knocked back a lot. Unless you’re really determined that this is the career for you, you’ll give up too soon.

Good luck.”

*Adam Badini is a pseudonym. 

Article comments

[Please leave your own comment either on Twitter (- in which case add the link to this article!), or in the box below.) 

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AUTHORAdam Badini Insider Comment
  • Re
    5 November 2013

    How things have changed over the past 35 years!!! Back in my day you only got into the dealing room from the Back Office. It is why we took all that rubbish from all those drunken bums.

  • Fr
    Fred the med
    5 November 2013

    I interned in trade support and applied for a job in trading. I got a few interviews, but was rejected outright. It took a few years and eventually I made the move internaly within the bank that hired me.

  • du
    5 November 2013

    Sorry but I find this a bit silly. The OP only interned in a back office role and he was pigeon-holed because he ONLY had back office experience?? Surely he could have just not put his back office internship down on his cv if that was such a major hindrance? Besides, a summer internship be it in the back or front office hardly counts as experience a bank should rely on as a gauge of your capabilities. A summer in the back office does not mean a lifetime career stuck there. Something is amiss in this story.

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