You're 26 years old and are working in an investment banking division (IBD), and wondering how your career will pan out. Maybe you're thinking of doing an MBA? Maybe you're thinking of moving into private equity? Maybe you're thinking of progressing up the investment banking hierarchy? Whatever your intention, one thing is imperative according to a senior lawyer who spent a year as an associate at UBS in his mid-20s - you need an escape plan.
Being a banker was fun, says Leon Shelley, general counsel for Westfield, a London shopping center, but working in the industry after the internet bubble burst was also a lesson in job insecurity: "every Monday there were fewer people on the floor; I knew I had to have an exit strategy." For Shelley, that strategy was to run away to a law firm. After only 12 months, he left UBS for U.K. law firm Skadden Arps. Unfortunately, it became apparent that while the law might be a more secure career than banking, it was just as demanding.
"I had two young children and I working until midnight every night," Shelley says. It came to a head when he was promised a week off after working on a major deal involving Westfield, but was instead summoned back from a distant party with his wife's family on a Saturday night: "We had to drive back to my in-laws’ house, wake up the kids and drive down to London at midnight. At 3am we arrived home and there was a car waiting outside the house to take me to the office...It wasn’t the life we wanted as a family and I started to consider my options."
Serendipitously, Shelley managed to line up another exit – this time to Westfield, his client. These days, we infer that he's very happy with his lot. His advice to bankers and lawyers who are stuck on the treadmill: "I have a confidence that things will be all right in the end... careers ebb and flow and there is no point expending nervous energy on challenging times. You have to deal with them, make the decision, go with it and not look back. You are dealt cards and you have to make the best of them."
Separately, maybe you should be an infrastructure professional? The UK government has committed to £100bn of infrastructure spending by 2020 and J.P. Morgan has coincidentally created a new infrastructure team. Financial News reports that the U.S. bank has hired two new managing directors from RBS and formed a single global infrastructure team spanning finance and advisory roles to, 'capitalise on the rise in investor appetite for infrastructure projects among pension and wealth funds and other non-bank investors.' The global infrastructure finance and structuring function will be run between London and New York, but Asia will have its own dedicated sales and marketing team.
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