“As a young banker in M&A, you have no social life, I mean, none. A work week has seven days. There’s no time for friends, and when you have a few hours off, you try to maximise it. Drink really hard, party wild, and you get confronted with drugs – which seems to be a taboo although many do it. You need to feel in those few moments that you’re still alive. On Sundays, following one of these binges, I would wake up feeling so rotten, so empty.
“I used to be the kind of person who enjoys life, who gets up in the morning eager for another day. The past two years I found myself changing. I lost my interest in politics, in sports … I began to wonder: what’s happening to me?
“My flatmate is in finance too. I’ve seen him coming home crying, from exhaustion, from something that happened to him. Why are we doing this to ourselves? My sense is that the majority of the people in finance have an urge to prove themselves. And banks offer a platform where they can do so. I feel there’s a particular kind of insecurity to many bankers, a form of neediness and a deep desire to compensate. Love?
“Many people in banking try to project an image of perfection, and banks play to that, trying to make you look perfect and feel invulnerable. It’s very easy to get hooked to that life, to become addicted to work and the money. I am sure it would have happened to me, had I done this work for too long.
“Imagine. 25 years old, and in my first year I made £45k plus a 70% bonus. So over 75k, one year out of university. That is quite something, let me tell you. But within six months you get used to it. I would spend £250 on a night out, and think nothing of it, spend £100 on dinner and genuinely think to myself: well, that was not too expensive.
“This was a lesson: it doesn’t really matter how much you make, because your lifestyle and expectations move up with your income.
Many people who wish to enter the financial services industry have a strong desire to prove themselves. Given this investment banker’s illusion with the industry, I think Alain de Botton’s TED speech, “A Kindler, Gentler, Philosophy Of Success” is relevant. I highly recommend this speech to readers: