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"How I escaped equity sales aged 30, and did something quite different"

What one woman did after leaving Goldman Sachs

"I left Goldman Sachs in May 2012. It wasn't entirely my decision, but it was something that I'd seen coming for some time. The general level of the markets wasn't great and my clients were mostly retail banks, which had cut their derivatives volumes considerably. There comes a point when the market just isn't there any more and my desk had been losing people since 2008.

Initially, I didn't have much of a plan. I went to Goldman straight from university and rather than go straight into something else I traveled a bit. I spent six months in Asia and then came back to London, still wondering exactly what I was going to do. I didn't really want to go back into banking - after seven years in the industry it had felt like it was time to move on anyway. I wanted to do something creative and to start a business. After so long selling abstract products, I also felt that I wanted to be involved in selling something tangible - as well as high quality and ecologically sustainable.

Working with an old friend, I conceived the idea of selling luxury bags and accessories made from exotic skins. We founded Heidi And Adele 18 months ago and make our products from salmon and eel skins. We're not the first company to do this, but our competitors tend to stick with neutral colours, where as we go for bolds and mix and match the exotic skins with regular leather to show off the contrast.

It's been hard work, although the first year was slow in some respects. We spent two months in India and visited 10 different factories while we tried to work out which suppliers to use. We didn't want to work with someone who was unethical or who wouldn't let us see where the products were made. We also attended plenty of trade fairs to select which skins to use. Initially a lot of time was spent waiting for samples, but now I'm working 14,15, or 16 hour days. In that sense, it's a bit like banking - except that I now work from home and there's no commuting time. I can answer my emails and look at social media when I wake up - it's a much freer lifestyle!

It was easy for me to walk away from a finance career because I'm single and no one relies on me. My life's very different now. I used to live in London, close to the Goldman office so that I could walk in. Now I live in the middle of the countryside, in a house that overlooks a field of sheep. I enjoyed the excitement of the City lifestyle, but I also enjoy living in the country, going for walks and doing things that cost nothing. [efc_twitter text="I'm living on a tenth of what I had before, but it doesn't feel like a setback."]

I've never really felt tempted to have another look at a banking career. Maybe I'll be bored of this after five years and will want to move on again! For the moment, I'm really enjoying it though. We now have enough stock to go out and start talking to people. We aim to sell directly through our website. We have no middlemen and our products are priced very competitively, with bags costing up to £220 and accessories from £25.

I still have plenty of friends in banking. They admire what I'm doing. They think it's a great idea - if a little crazy. I've actually got quite a few friends who've left Goldman and are doing their own things. Maybe it's the market? Maybe it's the industry - people seem to hit their late 20s and early 30s and decide they want to do something else."

Heidi Carneau is one half of Heidi and Adele.  

AUTHORHeidi Carneau Insider Comment

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