Why I quit my sales job in an investment bank and joined a brokerage firm

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Sales jobs in investment banks have been falling out of fashion for quite some time. In 2016, however, the speed with which they're becoming an anachronism seems to be picking up pace.

Take Goldman Sachs. The firm is reportedly moving its fixed income business away from market making to more of a risk-averse agency-based model, with the result that instead of talking to clients about their individual transactions, its fixed income sales staff are being encouraged to develop long term relationships and sell the bank's trading systems instead.

Nor is it just Goldman - most banks are encouraging less profitable clients onto their electronic systems - if not dropping them altogether.

If you want to survive in a fixed income sales job now, you therefore have several options: you can sell the whole system, you can become an expert on servicing huge numbers of mid-market clients using data and electronic communications rather than actually talking to them, you can become one of a few surviving 'voice' salespeople with large, profitable complex clients, or... you can move to a brokerage firm.

Fixed income recruiters say salespeople are increasingly contemplating the latter option.

"At the end of the day, the compensation structure in these brokerage firms is much more attractive than in an investment bank," says Christian Robbins, a former broker-turned headhunter at Alpha Tradestone. "- You're getting paid cash, with no deferral on a quarterly basis, and should be getting anything from 35% of your net brokerage billings as pay. A good broker can earn £300k to £500k ($436k to $724k)."

If you're a struggling salesperson in an investment bank, it's easy to see why this might be appealing. - All the more so because some former salespeople, like Franco Mancini - formerly of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, now of Tradition UK - are among the top performers in the brokerage world.

We spoke to one fixed income broker who recently left a senior sales role with a bank in London for a job with one of the large brokerage firms. "It's a natural move," he told us, speaking off the record. "This way, I can leverage my client relationships more effectively."

He offered additional reasons for moving across: "Banks are switching to an agency model anyway. And, I get to keep far more of my upside here."

Moving from a sales job in an investment bank to a sales role in a brokerage firm isn't without its risks though. The brokerage sector in in a state of upheaval, with Tullett Prebon in the process of buying ICAP's voice-broking business, along with its 1,500 voice brokers. When the deal goes through, Tullett reportedly plans to focus its human talent on the more complex energy and commodities markets, with jobs likely to be cut elsewhere.

"We could be in for a big shakeout in the broking sector," warns Robbins. "There are some big structural changes taking place and those jobs aren't necessarily safe."

The ex-salesman we spoke to acknowledged this, but said the risk is worth it: "Banking is probably safer than broking. But banking is becoming less and less entrepreneurial as business shrinks and all that matters is cost reduction."

Photo credit:  Phone by Ant & Carrie Coleman is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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