December 1, 2023

Investment Banking

Let Your Investment Banking Do The Walking

“I was just laid off from my banking job. It was a complete surprise”

I was told this week that I was being laid off from the banking job I’ve been doing for the past four years. It came as a complete surprise. I was a junior vice president in M&A at a bulge bracket firm and I had no idea this was coming. 

Of course, I appreciate that it’s been a difficult year for investment banking teams, but I was not an underperformer. There were worse performers than me on my team, but they were not let go. 

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This was not the first round of layoffs made by the bank this year. When layoffs were made last time, we were all taken into a room and told how special we were. I believed that, and I can now see that I was an idiot to have done so. It made me work a bit harder for a bit longer, until they didn’t need me. The culture there is bullsh*t.

As someone who has been out of the market for a considerable length of time, it is better being employed by a small boutique than being out of work whilst waiting for the opportunity at a bulge bracket investment bank.

This past year has been one of especially hard grind. We’ve all spent the last 12 months working from 9am to midnight or 2am and putting in hours on the weekend. It’s been a year of pitching, pitching, pitching to get ideas in front of clients for the rebound. 

I’ve been let go before. Usually there’s some kind of warning – you’ll be given an indication that it’s coming. This time, there was almost nothing. Looking back, maybe there were subtle signs  – people being less complimentary about my work than usual in the past few weeks, but nothing discernible. I knew cuts were coming, but I had no idea that I’d be among them. I’m a minority and a top performer; the people who survived were white males who’d been playing the networking game – there were a lot of internal meetings before the announcement happened. 

When I found out, I was invited to a meeting by HR. And that was it. 

I’m still recovering from the shock. I’m not sure what to do next: I don’t think the market for bulge bracket hiring will come back until at least Q2 of 2024 and I don’t really want to join one of the small boutiques that’s hiring in the meantime. I have savings to pay my rent, but life isn’t cheap. 

The whole thing is frustrating, especially because the bank spent the past few years over-hiring. People joined from all over the place. That looks like stupidity and bad planning. 

If you’re in this position or have advice, let me know in the comments below. 

Samuel Astajam is a pseudonym 

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