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Why investment bankers never really retire

You probably haven’t heard of Christian Brodie, but if you work in investment banking you really should have. He’s a UBS lifer, who worked at the Swiss bank for over 28 years, before retiring seemingly without ceremony or publicity in July last year, aged 56.

Brodie was no long-term salary-man, happy to sit it out in a director role and bring in a decent salary before retiring early with a comfortable sum in the bank, however. He was head of investment banking for Europe, the Middle East and Africa until 2004 when he became deputy chairman of UBS’s investment bank, a board member and a member of its global management committee. He officially left the bank – or the FSA register – last week.

In short, he was kind of a big deal in the City’s investment banking fraternity and his retirement, after years of late nights and Blackberry hugging, should have been an opportunity to tend his garden and spend more time with his family.

Except that he seems as busy as ever. Brodie has his own real estate investment firm, Greensage, is a consultant to Intelligent Engineering Holdings Limited, chair of the University of Sussex, chairman of the Chelsea and Westminster Health Committee – which aims to integrate art into a hospital setting – as well as The Wates Committee, a philanthropic grant body of the Wates Family.

Brodie is indicative of a number of investment bankers with the financial firepower to take early retirement - they do not simply switch off and relax, believes Nell Montgomery, a former Goldman Sachs banker who left in 2004 to start a pork pie business in Norfolk before becoming an executive coach and psychotherapist at The Preston Associates.

"The sort of person that investment banking attracts, and who does well in that environment, is competitive and continually seeking affirmation through their achievements," she says. "This makes them valuable employees, but it means that retirement is unlikely to change their nature. They will act the same at 21 or 58. If they leave the industry to run, say, a farm, they will make sure it's a really big farm."

People who work in investment banking often have "insecure attachment" issues, where they're continually striving for approval through achievement, she says.

The need to keep working may also be down to the fact that retirement is an ever-more elusive goal for those working in the industry. 'The number' - namely the amount you'll need to have in the bank in order to comfortably retire without working again - is getting larger, particularly if you want to maintain a luxurious lifestyle.

Randall Dillard was the head of investment banking at Nomura and also headed up their private equity division, something he describes as the "one of the roughest businesses out there" in terms of working hours. After years of working 90-hour weeks, he retired aged 49, but said recently that he managed to sit still "for about ten minutes" before looking for a new challenge. He founded hedge fund Liongate Capital Management.

Ultimately, continuing to work until you really want to kick back is a good investment, he says: “If I don’t die, then investing a little bit of time up front and accumulating savings to buy it back in the back end of my life, it’s not a bad proposition,” said Gillard. “If you die unexpectedly, it’s a very bad proposition.”


AUTHORPaul Clarke
  • Ge
    4 February 2014

    Dear Paul,
    I wrote a serious article last year titled "On investment bankers and bird excrement" in which I dwell on the truly positive effect of working at an investment bank for the person's career afterwards. The analogy is with seeds that go through the digestive tracks of birds - which increases the likelihood of germination four-fold. Here is the original:

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