Bankers in their late 20s have some tough decisions to make

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Bankers in their late 20s have some tough decisions to make

If you work in banking, don't get too comfortable with your pay. It will be your undoing.

I spent nearly four years working in the structuring team of a major bank. I quit. Today I work for a successful technology start-up. It was a risk, and it paid off.

I left my banking job when I was 29 after it became clear that the big money wasn't there anymore. I have a background in astrophysics and satellite remote sensing; I thought I could make more in the real world.

Life looks very different outside of banking. You earn a lot more in banking than in any 'normal' job. But when you compare pay in banking to pay for the London/Silicon Valley technology elite, banking pay isn't that impressive. Yes, managing directors at top investment banks are worth tens of millions after a long career. But early employees at tech firms like Uber, Airbnb, and Snapchat made multiples of that very quickly.  If you can get it right, the real money is in tech.

A lot of people I know in banks miss this truth; they believe the myth that the banking industry is the best place to be. They become comfortable on their banking salaries, and once they hit 30, a kind of sclerosis sets in. They can't move out of banking because they want the high salary and bonus, but unless they're a superstar, their banking pay will be topping out in a few years and their job will become increasingly insecure. 

For this reason, it can make sense to take a risk in your late 20s. These are often the last few years before you make the kinds of serious financial commitments that make it hard to move on. At this age, you can still walk away from banking and take an upfront financial hit for a potential longer term financial gain in a technology firm.

The equity you own in a high-growth tech company is like a lottery ticket, but it's a lottery ticket that you can influence yourself. When you leave banking for tech, you're sacrificing a few $100k of short term earnings for the chance to make tens of millions.  You're also hedging your career risk: the experience and contacts you get in high growth tech are so valuable that even if the endeavor fails, you remain valuable as an employee. If you're a banker in your late 20s, I suggest you give this some serious thought. 

Louie Hughes is the pseudonym of a former junior banker who now works in a tech firm

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available.

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Photo by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash

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