Since Nadir Mehadji left his job in hedge fund sales at Barclays in 2015, he’s been indulging his creative side. He’s a semi-professional photographer, he’s advising creative agencies on how they think about design, and also teaching himself coding and machine learning techniques to better position himself for any potential return to an increasingly automated financial sector.
Mehadji has been on both sides of the fence – working with high-earning investment bankers in London and Singapore and more creative types who are much less concerned about money. But, he says, there’s a common theme – both don’t have much of an idea about how to handle their own personal finances.
“Just because you work in banking, doesn’t mean that you’re able to make the best of your own finances,” he says. “Most people are specialists in one area – bonds, commodities, M&A– and having a comprehensive approach to investing is a different skill entirely.”
To the man on the street, financial markets remain intimidatingly complex, he says. “The majority of creative people I’ve worked with since leaving banking tend to invest in one thing – the house they live in,” he says. “They’re among the smartest people I know. But investing is seen as risky and complex, so the thought of learning how to make the most of their money is intimidating.”
Mehadji believes he’s come up with a creative solution to help both parties – he’s written an illustrated book that aims to guide people through the complex world of investing and shake-up the "stuffy" world of finance textbooks.
The Cat and the Banker is a 21-chapter illustrated tale of a moggy called Socrates who inherits some money from his uncle. He’s advised to contact a financial adviser – a ‘banker’ called Catsby – who tells him that if he merely lets the money sit in his bank account, inflation will slowly erode its value.
What follows is a story that guides readers through different investment types – stocks, bonds, commodities, property, currencies – as well as how each relates to the ‘real world’. Catsby also explains to Socrates the concept of leverage, managing risk through diversification of investments, liquidity and reaching the ‘magic number’ of 69.
There’s even a splash of real-life drama – Catsby is fired after his bank is acquired by a rival, and an unscrupulous new financial adviser tries to flog complex financial products to Socrates.
Mehadji’s financial services background has helped the way he’s approached the book. He hasn’t just written it and started searching for a publisher. Instead, he’s created a webpage testing the appetite for the book, where readers can pre-order the story and pay between $21 and $1,500 to get the project off the ground.
So far, he’s halfway through his target of 1,000 pre-ordered books, and has received over $10,500 in funding. The most interest, he tells us, has come from other financial services professionals.
“Some bankers don’t fully understand the products they sell,” says Mehadji. “Many bankers also don’t know how to invest their own bonuses well. It’s a complex area, and most investment guides are dry textbooks – I wanted to see if there was an appetite for something more fun.”
In the pre-crisis glory days, financial services professionals would climb their way up the career ladder, amass big bonuses and then retire in their 30s. Leaving the industry rich after a decade or so is an increasingly elusive dream. Banking still pays better than most professions, but bonuses have been shrinking and most people leave with an ambition to start a second career, rather than to sip cocktails on a beach.
Making the most of their money is therefore increasingly important, believes Mehadji.
“Paradoxically, many bankers are risk averse,” he says. “There’s an increasing number who want to change careers, but they are fearful of what might come next. Pay is shrinking, and it’s no longer easy to retire early. Being able to make the most of your money is really important, even for finance professionals.”
Image: Getty Images