Open Letter to Laid Off Wall Street Bankers and Traders

by Derek Loosvelt | June 29, 2011

The below letter is a direct response to the numerous termination notices that Wall Street bankers and traders -- mostly at the junior levels -- will be receiving in the coming weeks.

laid off bankers with boxesDear Former Banker or Trader,

A friend of mine, a former jazz saxophonist who is now a psychoanalyst, once told me something like this: "When you're in your twenties or thirties, there will come a time when you'll lose your job, your girl, or both. And, it's also possible, and even likely, that you'll go broke, or nearly broke, and that, before you know it, you'll have fewer friends in the world than you have fingers on one hand. However, there will also a come a time -- and this I guarantee -- when you'll look back on all of that and think, Ahh ... the good ole days."

The point is, dear former banker or trader, that even if you do get laid off by the likes of Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Barclays Capital, or any other dual-named institution involved in the securities business, things are not all that bad. And, in fact, they couldn't be better.

In case you missed all of the articles about ex-Wall Streeters who lost their jobs in the last big round of layoffs (in 2008 and 2009) and then went on to become business owners, here, dear former banker or trader, is a synopsis: many took advantage of the opportunity given to them (they were out of work and no one was hiring) to follow their passions and try to make some money from it. And, what do you know, many succeeded. (I wrote about one such banker earlier this year). What this means is that you too can -- and will, if you want it bad enough -- succeed in starting your own business and becoming, as they say, master of your domain.

Speaking of passion, I remember in the aftermath of the great financial crisis of 2008 that Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short, Moneyball, and Liar's Poker, among other excellent books, wrote in one of his Bloomberg columns that one of the positives from the mass layoffs in the crisis's wake was that many young professionals (ex-bankers and traders; yes, just like you, dear former banker or trader) were forced to ask themselves these questions: What am I truly passionate about? What do I want to do with my life? Is working in investment banking my life's goal?

Mr. Lewis added that, had the mass layoffs not occurred, these questions would not have been faced by these ex-bankers and traders until much later -- perhaps years later, maybe a decade later, or even two decades later.

And that, dear former banker and trader, is a good thing. A very good thing. And so, if you've been laid off, consider yourself the receipient of a gift: a head start versus your peers in the game of life (or, at least, in the game of careers).

I know what you're saying now: But what if I don't know what I'm passionate about and I'm not the entrepreneurial kind, not one bit?

To that I say this: take some solace in the fact that your former profession (at least, former for the moment) is currently one of the least respected on the planet, and so if you do join another industry, chances are you'll be much more well liked by every Tom, Dick, and Harry, as well as by your Great Aunt Judy.

In addition, as mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, if you're a young buck or doe who envisions an MBA in his or her future then you might be in a good spot. According to recent admission statistics, that school in Boston (a.k.a. Harvard) is increasingly searching for candidates outside of the financial services industry. That is, HBS (and, likely, other schools, which will follow pinstriped suit) want students not with banking backgrounds but with manufacturing and/or high-tech experience to matriculate into their fine institutions.

And, speaking of tech jobs, what better time to join a firm like Facebook or Groupon than right before they go public when you can snag a few hundred shares of their stock as part of your compensation package -- shares that you wouldn't have been able to pick up on your own, unless, of course, you had ocean-deep pockets.

Now, if none of the above placates you, and you're still saying something like, "These are not the good ole days -- are you insane? -- and I certainly don't want to start my own popsicle stand, nor do I care what my Aunt Judy thinks of me (in fact, she already thinks I'm nuts) and I most definitely do not want to work for Mark Freakin Zuckerberg or Andy Pansy Mason, and I know, in fact I'm sure of it now that I think of it, that investment banking is indeed my passion, Wall Street is where I want to be, net present values and company comparables and IPOs and naked swaps are what float my boat, and, to boot, if there's anywhere I don't want to spend two years, especially if those years include a season called winter, it is Boston," then, well, I guess there's really only one thing I can tell you:

It's time to hit the BRICs (that is, Brazil, Russi, India, or China; jobs in finance are plentiful there, the last I checked). And/or, perhaps, you should consider heading to Singapore (where Lloyd No Sleep Til Blankfein and the rest of the Goldman gang is hiring a grand's worth of bankers in the coming year).

In any case, I wish you luck, dear former banker and trader. Not that you'll need it, of course. But still.

My warmest regards,

D.L.

(Related: From M&A to Make Up and Hair: Q&A With Finance Employee Turned Wall Street Salon Owner; HBS Class of '13: More Women, Fewer Bankers; Goldman Sachs to Hit the BRICs)

Filed Under: Finance


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