Why I’ve decided to leave academia for finance. And no, it isn’t the money

It really isn’t the money. Honestly.

No-one has really believed this, from family to fellow students to fellow City grads.

It’s easy to see why, as the perception that you get your Ferrari within 5 years after selling tear gas futures to Syria is a popular and persistent one. The idea that academia is some paupers wasteland, populated with people who eat beans on toast for dinner into their 30’s (shoutout to future me) also dominates.

I may have exaggerated that somewhat (just possibly) but those are kind of the perceptions I have found. And neither of them are really true.

Academia has lots of money, It’s just very slow

There’s tons of money in academia. Especially engineering, which I could have moved into from Physics. However to access that pile of dosh you have to do a PhD. Then work from grant to grant as a postdoc. Then maybe land a steady job as a lecturer. Then become one of the only experts in a field that is commercially viable. Remember not to die of old age before your fundamental science becomes commercially applicable.

I’m not knocking academia, it’s incredibly important and rewarding but I’m afraid it just wasn’t for me.

Finance also has lots of money. But it’s not immoral and it’s not boring.

It is so popular at the moment to (usually virtually) scream that all people that work in finance are evil. That banks are the equivalent of Sauron and anyone in financial services is an indistinguishable part of the twisted orc horde.

Bernie Sanders built an entire campaign on that very view.

The bank bashing is popular on the tea drinking side of the pond too, but the rhetoric goes far beyond reason.

The people I have met at the start of my journey in the city have been some of the nicest people I have ever met, and have quickly become true friends. I think this is very company dependent, but for me it is impossible to square the demonic horde with people who bring homemade muffins in on Fridays.

Finance is boring. FinTech is cool.

They’re the same thing! I am working in ‘FinTech’ but I don’t work in a place with people who (Insert hipster insult here. Probably something to do with beards or Shoreditch).

All jokes aside, finance is in the early stages of being disrupted. Companies like LendInvest, Kickstarter, TransferWise and Nutmeg are shaking things up and making ivory towers creak and sway.

I joined a company that is squarely in the crosshairs of Nutmeg, as it’s a traditional asset manager. That might seem like a foolish thing to do to anyone who’s noticed how well encyclopedias competed with Google, but I think it’s where things are going to be the most interesting.

I’m going to be on the technology graduate scheme of an industry leader fending off disruptors by changing rapidly. The opportunities to help shape its future are immense and innumerable , and if past disruptions are anything to go by, this will be a place where history could be written.

It might go badly, but it’ll be much more interesting to me than a PhD.

And that’s it. Not the money. Although that’s not a bad added perk.

Tl;Dr: the above.

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