Discover your dream Career
For Recruiters

This is why you need to change your banking job every five years

Beware pleasantly tepid water.

In the past few weeks, several long-serving, highly-settled bankers who had become part of the fabric at the firms they'd worked for moved on. Take Blythe Masters, who spent 27 years at JPMorgan before quitting four days ago. Take Phil Allison, the UBS veteran, who quit the bank after 18 years for destinations unknown (but thought to be KCG Holdings). Take Ewen Stevenson, who's left Credit Suisse after 25 years to become CFO of Royal Bank of Scotland. Each of them had spent their entire working life to date with one firm. Is this really such a good idea?

No, according to the experts.

"As a rule you need to be moving jobs at least every five years," says Michael Moran at careers consulting service 10Eighty. "Generally, you will learn a lot but contribute nothing for the first 18 months and you will pay back that learning time in the next 18 months. After that, if you're not learning anything new you must move on.

"If you've worked for one company for 15 years, there are two things I can guarantee you of," adds Moran ominously. "Firstly, you will be paid 10-15% less than the market rate. Secondly, you will be less employable than if you've worked for a selection of firms. People will have more respect for you if you've worked for the competition. And if you've worked for three companies your network will be far bigger than if you've only worked for one."

But what of all these senior bankers who joined as interns and only emerged blinking into the sunlight 20+ years later on?

Ignore them, says the head one of one search firm. They're a throwback to a cozier past. "These are just old timers who are packing it in," he says. "Anyone who's started a job in the past decade is switching every two or three years."

The comfort trap

Heather McGregor, an ex-banker and director of search firm Taylor Bennett, says changing jobs too often is a bad thing, as is changing jobs too infrequently. "If you move between several jobs after less than two years in each one, you will lose credibility," she says. "However, if you’ve been in a job for more than seven years you should be regularly challenging yourself. – Are you still learning? Are you still making progress?"

Women have a particular tendency to cling to the same job for years and years, says McGregor: "The longer you work somewhere, the easier it is to do your job – you know where things are and women tend to have more extraneous demands upon their time."

Fundamentally, you should never get too comfortable. The real tragedy is that people in banking spend 20 years working for the same firm and then get ejected in their mid-40s, says Moran. At that point, it can be very hard to find anything new. "If a company's getting rid of you because you don't have the skills it wants, the chances are that the rest of the market won't want you either," Moran adds. "If you've worked for two to three companies, you're far more likely to be up to date."

Related articles:

One 21st century interview blunder which you must avoid 

Ten handy hints for fitting into Goldman Sachs' culture 

How to style your hair if you want to get in with Gaël de Boissard at Credit Suisse

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • in
    8 April 2014

    Never ask a barber if you need a haircut -- Warren Buffett

  • Sc
    8 April 2014

    One key thing the article doesn't note is that each of the bankers mentioned climbed the ranks within their respective firms to a very senior level. Although their experience with a breadth of corporate cultures may be lacking, clearly their tenured helped them form deep connections within the organisation that helped them rise. Not exactly something you get if you're always on the move.

  • Cy
    7 April 2014

    You need to change your banking job every five years, says recruitment agent. Well, this comes as a shock..

Sign up to our Newsletter!

Get advice to help you manage and drive your career.

Boost your career

Find thousands of job opportunities by signing up to eFinancialCareers today.
Latest Jobs
DTG Capital Markets
Machine Learning Engineer
DTG Capital Markets
Greenwich, United States
ML Quant - hedge fund
New York, United States
CFO, Private Equity
New York, United States
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Forecasting/Capacity Planning Analyst II
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Charlotte, United States
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Sr. Compliance Manager
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Boston, United States
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Tax Accountant
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Minneapolis, United States

Sign up to our Newsletter!

Get advice to help you manage and drive your career.