"It’s not easy being an unemployed junior banker in a bad market"
Young people in banking who find themselves looking for a job in 2023 are in for a shock. Anyone who came into the industry in the past two years has no idea what a down market looks like. I’ve experienced it firsthand.
I’m a VP now, but when the pandemic hit, I was an associate. Suddenly, I was out of a job. And it was not at all easy to find a new one.
There were loads and loads of candidates on the market and recruiters were treating everyone incredibly badly. I was treated like soiled goods because I’d been let go – no one wanted to talk to me. I interviewed for over 100 positions and got nowhere. I was effectively told that because I’d been made redundant, I would not get rehired.
That all changed in the middle of 2021. Suddenly, there was a huge shortage of candidates. The M&A market had dramatically recovered and there simply weren’t enough junior bankers to go around. In London, the situation was made worse by Brexit – a lot of young bankers from Continental Europe went back home and the candidate market shrunk further still.
The recruiters who’d refused to talk started calling me up. From being ignored, I was suddenly feted. Technical questions were dropped from interviews and candidates like me who had previous experience were waived through. Suddenly, I had seven offers, including some from top US investment banks.
Now, the market is turning again. And a lot of the people who only came into the industry in the past two years are about to have a new experience.
Many of these people are very weak. I was in the industry pre-COVID and had received strong training, but in banks’ rush to hire in 2021 they recruited juniors wherever they could and didn’t probe technical proficiency. As a result, we now have people on our team who’ve been here for a year and yet are still asking what EBITDA is. It doesn’t help that many of these new joiners were poorly trained when work was entirely virtual during the pandemic.
At this stage, no one knows exactly what will happen to investment banking revenues next year. But there's a chance that they won't quickly recover from this year's lows and that banks will start taking much more drastic action to cut costs in the first quarter. When they do, we could be back to the market conditions of 2021. I've been there, and it's a scary prospect.
Amanda Besnard is a pseudonym
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