COMMENT: Welcome to the brutal world of banking jobs

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COMMENT: Welcome to the brutal world of banking jobs

The vultures are coming

Investment banking can be a brutal world. You will know this if you take some time to read about Nomura now. - The Japanese bank has been closing businesses and letting go of students hired only last year. While this may see extreme, it's not unusual. Even when banks aren't closing whole business, they get rid of underperformers. It's a natural process. Employees are reviewed; the bottom 10% are sent home.

You might think you can avoid this by being very good at your banking job. Wrong. This won't insulate you from an abrupt “termination” of employment. No matter how much profit you make or how many deals you "print," if a bank mades a strategic decision to shut down a division there's nothing you can do about it. Maybe the entire bank will close down (Lehman Brothers). Maybe two banks will merge (Deutsche and Commerzbank). But maybe there will simply be a shift in geographical or business focus. One day you're a rainmaker; the next you're out there looking for a job. 

This is why you should never take your banking position for granted, especially if you are senior and therefore expensive. In one of the major U.S. banks I worked for I saw a managing director (MD) in charge of a certain team arrive at work to find a new guy sitting right next to him with the exact same job title and description. They'd hired his replacement; he hadn't been told.  In other banks, I've seen heads of teams suddenly being told they're getting a co-head, which is complicated for all those working beneath them (who can be compelled to pick sides) and for clients (who can get different messages from the different heads).

Nor should you suppose that you can take time out and slot yourself back in again. At another bank, I saw a female colleague return from maternity leave to be told she would have to share “her” clients with a colleague. The colleague was the guy who took over from her when she left, and he had no intention on giving up his newly “conquered” clients. Welcome back.

And then, there is always the "promotion" overseas. This too can be a way of clearing desks and transitioning you out of the business. Brexit is the perfect excuse for this: "Congratulations on your promotion to the head of desk in Frankfurt, where you will be managing...yourself."  This just happened to a friend; he accepted a lower ranking job just to stay in London.

There are many ways to die in banking. Some are quick; others take years. 

Amit Itelmon is the pseudonym of a senior banker in London

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