Location: Bel Rebel Boutique, London
I admit the title is a little misleading as I really do not know the answer. I also do not know why I keep seeing this constantly lately. Last week it was more apparent than ever – I either met or learnt about some admirable women who have spent their entire working life in high finance, only to give it all up to become entrepreneurs. It really got me wondering why I am seeing this so often, but from the people that I have actually spoken to about it, more often than not it boiled down to the same reasons. I will also add that I was hesitant to write this post as I really don’t want anyone to think there is a right or wrong answer – of course we are all free to work where we like and just because I’m noticing more and more women moving to entrepreneurship, it by no means is a reason for younger readers to not want a career in high finance. It can be extremely lucrative if you put the work in and deliver. Instead, think of this article as more of an observation piece, rather than an advice piece!
I guess the best place to start is defining what high finance means and how it differs to finance in general. I guess you could compare it to fashion, where fashion is an all-encompassing term used to define the industry as a whole, whereas high fashion refers to expensive, fashionable clothes produced by leading fashion houses. Same with finance. Whilst finance is that same all-encompassing term to describe the industry overall, high finance is that subsection of financial dealings that involve very large sums of money and complex investments. When I say large sums of money, I am not talking about thousands – I am talking millions, if not billions.
Why am I saying all this? It is definitely not to gloat – some of the worst periods of my life were spent in this kind of environment. I say it because when you are dealing with huge sums of money, it typically gives rise to a certain atmosphere. An atmosphere that some thrive in and some get crushed in. The stakes are high and you either sink or swim – if you reach the finish line for the year, you are rewarded handsomely. This results in huge competition, low patience levels and unfortunately, difficult characters. Everyone wants that big bonus at the start of the year and you want to make sure that it arrives in your bank account and not your colleagues’. Sad, but very true and I am no angel in any of this.
More than anything though, when you have received those bonuses and when you have made it to where you always dreamed, you begin to feel a little unfulfilled by it all, unsatisfied with how things are progressing and tired of working in such a competitive environment. At least I did and I feel so lucky to have been able to make the move to self-employed life, both for my mental and physical wellbeing. That seems to be what most of the women I met felt: that feeling of unfulfillment and not knowing how they add value to the world, wanting to do things their own way, exhaustion, stress, tired of an unnecessarily male-dominated environment despite being in 2019 (one of these women told me the story about how she was speaking with her boss about a deal they were working on, only for him to reply ‘I like your shoes’!), boredom and just realising there is more to life than that big bonus package.
These women have followed their passion and are looking to make their own mark on the world, whether it’s through skin care like LBB, niche perfumery boutiques like Bel Rebel, content creators like Gulshan at @meanderingmacaron or luxury wedding planners like Lelien Chew (who I didn’t meet or speak to but saw on the TV and thought oh wow another one!) – all four cut their teeth at top tier investment banks. I feel proud to add myself to that list as founder of my own luxury and travel brand, Dukes Avenue.
I guess my final thought is that it doesn’t really matter why they decided to make these huge career jumps, just as it doesn’t really matter why I did (although if you are interested in that you can read all about it here). What matters to me is that I am excited to be part of this group of strong women who are now running their own show, are their own bosses and make their own rules.