'2008 has been a difficult year for most of us in the financial markets industry, but my year really takes the biscuit. In fact, I've come to believe that I'm the unluckiest banker alive.
I'd been at Bear Stearns for two years or so. I was never really happy there, as I think the culture suited a certain type. I'm more of a big bank man, and I guess I work better in a more structured environment. But I also thought that I'd better do a couple of years before I moved on again, so I stuck around.
Having said that, I started to get real nervous in August 2007, after those two Bear hedge funds went belly up. Rumours started to circulate around the firm, and there were plenty of employees who thought that there would be a big knock-on affect which could threaten the firm itself. It was then that I upped my game, and started to look for something else with a vengeance. It didn't take long, and I was thrilled to get fixed up pretty quickly (although I had to wait until December to resign, and leave after my bonus had been paid). I got a little more on the base, a guaranteed bonus for 08, and the stock I had in Bear was transferred over into stock in my new firm. I started my new job at Lehman Brothers in late February - just a few weeks before Bear fell to JPMorgan Chase. Boy, did I feel the lucky one - not only had I got out just in time, but I'd already lost out to JPMorgan once (I lost my job at Chase in 2001, following the merger of the two firms), so I wouldn't have been happy even if I had managed to secure a job with JPM.
Life was good at Lehman - at first. But the fall of Bear put pressure on the other stand-alone securities firms like Lehman, Goldman and Morgan Stanley. It wasn't long, however, before all the pressure was on us. Our stock started to plummet as short sellers smelled blood in the water, analysts were downgrading our earnings estimates, and the market started to become concerned about our liquidity position. I soon realised that I had simply jumped out of the frying pan straight into the fire. And I had to get out - and quickly.
It was now July, however, and we were bang in the middle of the summer, when recruiters take their summer break, and the job market mostly closes down. But I was lucky (or so I thought). Back when I took the job at Lehman, I had another offer - so I called the recruiter who fixed me up with that role to see if there was any way the other firm might still be interested in me. Thank goodness, it was. I resigned from Lehman in August, had 3 months gardening leave, and started at my new firm in November. In the meantime, Lehman went bankrupt. Another lucky escape, or so I thought. I lasted just 3 weeks, however, before I was laid-off. One month into my gardening leave my new firm, Merrill Lynch, had merged with Bank of America. When I first heard the news of the merger, I fully expected to be told just not to bother showing up, but was advised that nothing was settled yet and that I should join in November as planned. I never even made it to the end of my 3-month probation period, however, before I got the dreaded call from Human Resources.
So, I'm now out on the job market again - at possibly the worst time ever for our industry. And, in less than a year, I got through 3 firms and still don't have a job! I'm perhaps the unluckiest banker alive or, worse, cursed. Either way, it hasn't been much fun'.
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