I'm an MD in an investment bank. This is my Christmas pep talk to the team
It's been a tough year. As 2017 draws to an end, I'll be glad of the festive rest.
This time of year can be exhausting for anyone, but in banking it can seem even more so. Year-ends create pressure to meet targets. Appraisals have to be completed and bonuses must be allocated. Instead of winding down, it's often a case of winding up.
Winter burnout in banking is about more than workload, though. As the nights draw in, there's a tendency for people everywhere to reflect upon their lives. All too often it seems that people in finance end up feeling inadequate. The financial crisis and its repercussions have taken their toll on our motivation: bankers are still vilified, still expected to justify our existence. Societal dislike chips away at self-esteem. It happens to us all.
At the same time, we're expected to work harder than before with less structured career progression. I've been in this industry for nearly three decades and it didn't used to be like this. Since the crisis, the emphasis has been on firefighting, on implementing new regulations and on trying to immunize ourselves against the next blowout. Everyone's working flat out. Costs have been squeezed and employee development has fallen by the wayside.
I know a lot of you feel neglected and disappointed. Many of you haven't been able to develop your careers the way you hoped when you started in this industry. You're stuck and you're confused about what else to do. You might feel that you don't have any alternatives. It's the big unspoken issue in banking nowadays.
While this might sound a bit bleak, there are things you can tell yourself to make things better! Life is not predictable: your career may not have turned out the way you expected, but if you work in finance you're very fortunate. By working in banking you're also fulfilling a valuable social function which has been overlooked in the discourse about the crisis. There are three limited resources in economics (labour, capital and land). If someone wants to create something, they'll need at least two of these. Banks provide the capital. This is our role: we are among the "creators"!!!
Christmas is about resting and reflecting. It's also about being aware of your purpose. As the employee of a leading investment bank, you are doing something valuable. Remember this and use it as a mantra to increase your self-esteem and resilience in the year to come! Be thankful for all that you have. Have a good break. I'll see you in 2018.
Roland Smith is the pseudonym of an MD who manages the derivatives trading business of a European bank.
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