Ex-Goldman banker advises students to run a McDonalds franchise instead of going into finance

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If you're a top student who aspires to work for a top tier investment bank or a hedge fund, you probably don't want to hear that you're making a horrible mistake and should probably be running a fast food restaurant or becoming an entrepreneur instead. This, however, is the message Guy Hands delivered to students at the London School of Economics' Alternative Investments Conference today.

Hands, who began his career at Goldman Sachs (where he rose to become global head of asset structuring) and today runs private equity firm Terra Firma Capital Partners, told students - who applied to attend the conference - that they were the 'Kardashians of academia' and were mulishly taking the "safe route" in applying to investment banks or private equity funds when they could be working for small and medium sized companies (SMEs) instead.

"Small businesses are a driver of innovation and ideas," said Hands, who started his presentation by describing investment banking jobs as the "dark arts." - "It's sad that 99% of you aren't considering it [an SME career]," he added.

Hands himself runs the McDonalds development franchise in the Nordic region. He told assembled students that McDonalds franchisees who run four restaurants can make upwards of £500k ($644k), "and they don't have a lot of student debt."

If you're an entrepreneur - whether you're running a cluster of McDonalds' restaurants or writing video games, Hands said you'll probably work longer hours than in banking, but that it will be worth it. "I worked 80 hours a week at Goldman Sachs....as an entrepreneur I work even longer," he said. Small businesses aren't just satisfying to work for, they're also good for environment and for society, Hands added: "Small businesses are important for driving a humane approach to globalization and for reaching the areas that multinationals don't...SMEs provide 70% of the employment across the world."

Hands said students who apply to Goldman Sachs or McKinsey are often driven by the pursuit of kudos, but are missing an opportunity by ignoring small and medium sized enterprises and focusing on finding jobs at large multinational companies instead. "There's an alternative world out there.... A world that isn't at Davos but a world that is really really important to us." Top students think they can only do important things at big businesses, but this isn't so said Hands. "I am telling you, you can do it just as easily at a small business."

At SMEs he concluded, it is possible to "give the finger to the man." At a previous LSE conference in 2016, Hands revealed that he used to be a punk.  Of course, not all McDonalds franchisees are super-successful: Hands noted that it's necessary to ensure tables are constantly clean and to regularly bin unwanted burgers if you want to make a go of it.

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