How I got from Back Office to Front Office in Banking

Before I started off as a research associate, I actually landed a data analyst job at a bulge bracket first. It wasn’t exactly what I was after but it was a start. I was kind of proud that I was working for the bulge bracket. It was a nice thing to tell your friends I thought.

However, things didn’t really work out in the end and I left about a year into the job. It was good experience though as I had my first taste of the “cut throat” environment and how research analysts worked. I recall asking one of the associates if I could help him with his work, which didn’t really go anywhere. I also recall one of the analysts had a spreadsheet that made financial forecast of how to get to his retirement in details.

During my time there, I was trying to migrate a local data platform into a newer global one (there are a lot of these migration projects at banks) and it didn’t go so well with the local analyst so there were some fights, which I took my share of the brunt. It was also during that I learned from this analyst — he told me he only picked fights that he could win.

After I left the firm, it was sort of back to starting again as getting in itself was the difficult part. Again, as fate would have it, after more than half a year of search, I managed to land a job at another bank as a research associate on a contract basis. Looking back, I would say you really need to be catching the wave. Back then, the market was about to go into bull market mode so there were just more opportunities.

In any case, that was a big break for me and I was so happy on landing my first “front office” job. I was there for about 6 months and it wasn’t a really busy job somehow. Then a friend approached me and asked if I wanted to work as his associate. It was a full time position and a bigger brand so the choice should be obvious.

However, the firm I was working for at the time was about to be bought and so they wanted to retain their staff. They actually offered me a matching pay plus a guarantee bonus. That bonus amount was actually more than all the bonuses I ever got each year until the last 2 years of my banking career — so it was very significant. And remember back then, housing prices didn’t rise so much so I could have done a lot with that money.

But, being young and naive, I thought the bigger brand and working for a friend was a better option and so off I went.

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