Morgan Stanley's ex-head of London IG trading quits as Brexit makes banking "miserable"

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Morgan Stanley's one-time co-head of investment grade trading, Isabel Mahony, has moved into publishing, leaving her 15-year long investment banking career behind.

Mahony was co-head of investment grade trading at Morgan Stanley in London between 2009 and 2016. Last year, she moved to become head of fixed income at SMBC Nikko Capital Markets. Now she's left to work full time on her own publishing company, which encourages children to read.

Mahony says her decision to leave was partly motivated by Brexit, which is making life in banking "pretty miserable" as team members are moved to Frankfurt. "It's all rather depressing," says Mahony. "The problem with European fixed income is always that the cost base is so high and with Brexit you are making the cost base even higher, which just makes the business more difficult."

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit doesn't help, says Mahony, and nor do the costs to individuals of moving to Europe. "I don't think I know anyone who wants to move to Frankfurt," she says. "Originally a lot of people thought they would simply commute from the UK, but it turns out that there are big tax implications of that."

Brexit wasn't Mahony's only motivation for leaving, but it did help tip the balance. She also wanted to focus on her colourful bi-monthly magazine (Scoop) and its parent publishing company (Curious Publishing). Working full time in banking turned out to be "totally incompatible" with this, says Mahony.

Mahony began her career as a trader with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in 2003. She says she spent much of her career trying to move people from Europe to London because "they work better together". Brexit is undoing all of this. The move to Europe is particularly challenging when you work for a smaller bank, says Mahony. Then, you have to go wherever you're sent, whereas if you work for a big bank it's easier to go to the Paris office if you're French or the Frankfurt office if you're German.

Mahony is far from the only person who's left behind an investment banking career for something entirely different. Mark Franczyk, a 10-year veteran of J.P. Morgan, quit his job to become a pastry chef (he now works for a boiler company). Shintaro Maeda, an executive director within Morgan Stanley’s structuring business, departed the bank to join a household robot manufacturer, Groove X. Chris van Aeken, a managing director and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley AG in Zurich, started a consultancy on wine.

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