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Reflections of a banking MD: "20 years of 70-90 hour weeks; six million air miles"

John Metz, ex-technology banker, has an idol. It's not Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs, both of whom he's lukewarm about, but Ernest Hemingway.  Metz loves Hemingway for his lack of BS and experiential maximization. "Why would you want to work yourself to death?," he says of Buffett. "He ultimately failed because his family hated him," he says of Jobs. Metz, who likes hiking, travelling, dancing and living, is more akin to Hemingway: "I am a strong personality," he admits. "- Do you want to survive your life or live it?"

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This month marked the end of Metz's investment banking career. Spanning two and a half decades, it was split between Credit Suisse (18 years) and Jefferies (seven years), and was spent serving US technology clients from a base in San Francisco. Lasting that long in banking was an achievement, says Metz. "I have spent 30 years pricing IPOs and M&A deals, valuing software and infrastructure," he says. "Banking kept me young," he adds.

It wasn't the demands of the job, but the interactions with the founders that maintained Metz's vigor. He's open about the demands of banking careers, and says those demands keep going right through to managing director (MD) level. "I grinded well into my managing director years," he says. "I have flown six million air miles and worked 20 years of 70-90 hour weeks." Ultimately, it was too much: "It's hard to maintain enthusiasm after nearly 30 years doing the same thing. I was ready to do something else."

Metz comes from the same generation as Jim Donovan at Goldman Sachs. But he's more ardent and prone to using expletives than Donovan, who rarely breaks a smile or reveals any emotion. The early years in banking were the worst, says Metz. "After the 2000 internet bubble, we were all shredded," he recalls. The approach to managing juniors was different then: "I used to say to juniors, 'I am going to throw 10 of you in the pool and only two of you will survive.'"

 

Metz was never the kind of MD to hand analysts a pile of work to be done overnight before leaving the office himself, though. When his analysts worked through the night, Metz did too. "I would pull all-nighters with my juniors," says Metz. "I would sleep under the desk two days a week."

Ultimately, banking cost him his marriage, but Metz says the hours weren't the problem. It was the behavior. "In 2000 I said to my wife, "I don't know if you're willing to put up with this anymore, but if you are, there's going to be a level of material quality of life that's significant, although on the flipside you'll be a single parent for a while.'" His wife acceded to that payoff, but things fell apart anyway. Metz says the behavior that banking encourages is inimical to successful relationships: "Bankers are extremely competitive aggressive type A people who are used to driving themselves and others. While that makes for success professionally, if you bring those traits home, it's not a healthy thing." 

Outside of banking, Metz is still that person. "I’ve always exceeded expectations and optimized every challenge I've encountered in my career," he says. "I've always come out ahead." He's moved to Arizona, but he hasn't retired: he's using his network to source details for Saints Capital, a secondary venture capital (VCs) firm that buys investment from existing VCs.

Metz is proud of his career. He's proud of his children, and he's proud of the young bankers he's mentored. He is also proud of his approach. "I am a strong personality," he says. "Some people like that. I am not a bullshitter."

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • JM
    JMcD
    2 March 2024

    I worked with John Metz very closely. He was my absolute favorite banker (out of hundreds I encountered at Credit Suisse. Extremely fun to work with. Phenomenal banker and person. What’s unique about John is that you always knew where you stood w/ him - there’s not a single passive-aggressive bone in his body. That type of honesty is incredibly rare in the industry.

  • Ch
    Chicago Guy
    21 February 2024

    Hemingway would have been disgusted by this guy. Letting your marriage fall apart so you can work ninety hours a week on IPO's for 30 years is living?!

  • Hu
    Huggy Bear
    21 February 2024

    Sounds like he lost in the game of life and is trying to make himself feel better. John, you can't take the toys with you. Hope you live long enough to enjoy your material things that most of us don't really care about. Very sad


  • GC
    GC Hong Kong
    21 February 2024

    The years working like this and thinking it is impressive baffles me. All seems sad.


    You only get a single go at life and spending 90 hours of a week in the office is a waste. Nobody is on their death bed saying 'if only I had spent more time in the office....'

  • Se
    Serge Gainsbourg
    21 February 2024

    You don't get people like this in the industry anymore.


    Metz's place at CS would be taken today (at UBS, I guess) by a Machiavellian ivy league student who can't talk to women but does own a Rolex and thinks that's sufficient to find a mate.

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