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"I left my banking job and now I'm reliant on food banks"

I’m writing this as a warning to other people in the industry. I worked in banking operations for years and I have a host of international names on my CV. I did my time.

Ultimately, however, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Several years ago I decided to leave banking and set up my own concierge company providing people like my former colleagues with privileged access to things like high-end restaurants, luxury resorts and VIP events.  

I thought I knew what I was getting into. I could have done some research with my target market and former colleagues – the CEOs, hedge fund managers and traders wanted to sell to, but I didn’t bother because I thought I knew what they wanted. That was incredibly naïve. I was wrong.

It was a major error and it has had a dramatic effect on my life. I took out loans to finance my company but was unable to pay them back. As a result, I am bankrupt. I have lost everything: my savings, my cars, my house.

I am based in the U.K. and have had to seek government help in the form of Universal Credit simply in order to provide for my family. Universal Credit is notoriously slow to arrive, and we are currently reliant upon food banks to eat.

If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. In banking I had a net monthly income of £6k. Now, I have nothing left.

Obviously, I’ve tried to get back into finance but it’s never easy to get a job in the industry and now that I have big CV gaps and have defaulted on my loans I have no hope at all of reentry. Plus I am no longer up to date with regulations and systems.

In desperation, I’ve taken a coaching course. It’s early days, but I hope I can use this to enable me to help other people to learn from my mistakes. Until then, I would caution anyone with fantasies of walking away from a good income to think carefully about the wisdom of this move. Yes, you want to set up a business, but there are thousands of others out there. – What will differentiate yours? Yes, the hours are long in banking. Yes, the politics can be fierce. But once you walk away, you may never be able to get back in.

Did I make the right decision? No. I absolutely regret it. I have put my family through hell and lost everything I worked for. Do not leave your steady job unless you’re confident you replace a significant chunk of your income with your ‘hobby.’ In my case I couldn’t. And here I am.  

Vennie Adams is the pseudonym of a former operations professional in London.

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Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash

AUTHORVennie Adams Insider Comment
  • Ke
    Kent Brook
    30 December 2019

    To go out on your own is tough, like very tough, in fact super tough. You need to be able to do whatever it takes NO MATTER WHAT. So if you have to live on the streets for a few years, then that is what you have to do. Budget on five years with no income. It tests your character and certainly not something I would have done if I had kids to support. That's being plain irresponsible. So going out on your own is a matter of timing in the end (and your attitude), you normally only see people successfully doing it in their early twenties (no kids yet) or late forties, fifties and sixties, when their business knowledge and contacts can cover them through those tough initial years and the kids are basically independent.
    You will also need help from above with a super guardian angel as you'll be doing a lot of praying each day, because the sh!t is about to get real.

  • In
    28 December 2019

    My story is somewhat similar, but the difference is that I left banking to pursue an MSc in Computer Science, hoping to capture the opportunities in the growing area of data analytics.
    After graduation, I applied to more than 10 data related roles in banking, but I got exactly 0 interview invitation. I got more interviews from Insurance or Consultancy than from my previous line of work (Finance)! Banking certainly has a funny way of chewing people out and spitting them out.
    To me, a career in banking is very much akin to a "value trap". Sure, the initial pay is much higher than in other industries. The offices are much nicer and in prestigious locations. It is also easier to get promoted to a more fancy title (VP, D, etc.). But this is not a career for life unless you're smart enough to get to C-suite level (Look around the office and see how many people above 50?). The knowledge that you gain is also surprisingly less transferable than most people think. I'm glad that I've left when I still can, albeit at a lower salary nowadays.

  • Ad
    Ad Hnl
    24 December 2019

    The details may differ, my story too is similar though. I quit a senior role and got onto my own business. Now, I am totally depleted. Unable to feed and educate my children. A church is feeding my family currently.
    However, how and why is that getting back into an industry with loads of experience and skills is proving to be difficult or impossible. I am keeping myself up-to-date with subject matter and regulations etc. and do one off projects every now and then at times free of charge. When especially inexperienced and lesser skilled applicants are being taken in for employment (well done and congratulations to those people securing the jobs).

  • ze
    14 December 2019

    Rest assured this happens more often than you think. This story sounds almost identical to mine, except I now work for one of the big 4 as a consultant in another country and far away from Europe.
    I quite my nice London banking job in early 2016 to set up my own software implementation practice for cloud accounting software. An area I though I'd had enough experience and done enough research about. However, it didn't quite work out as expected and it took a massive toll out of me financially. I depleted most of my savings in the effort to get things started and had to fold the business less than a year later. I was out of work for 2 years looking to get back into banking, however Brexit ruled out any possibility of getting a decent role again.
    I now work as a consultant, which is a massive step down in pay, but at least I can rebuild my life again. In fact, I'm actually enjoying consulting, it's more rewarding than I expected. Coming from banking I always thought very little of consultants, but I'm now really enjoying the variety of engagements and working with really interesting, capable and fun people. Who would've thought!

    My message to anyone looking to go out on their own. Don't, unless you are 1000% sure you can replace your income straight away with your new venture. That means running your new business on the side in parallel, before you leave your nice Banking job.
    The reality is, your banking job is actually pretty nice for all the effort you put in. Many small businesses don't make anywhere near the profits you expect and in reality the life is more stressful.
    Best of luck and I hope you consider this advice if you are serious about entrepreneurship.

  • Gu
    Guy R Bailey
    11 December 2019

    Good luck "Vennie".

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