A Day in the Life of an Aspiring Finance Person

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Don’s morning alarm rips him out of an anxious dream, out into the already exhausted state of awake for another day. “Fuck”.

Throwing on whichever suit was hanging outside his closet, he hurriedly washes his hair in the sink and styles into something vaguely presentable. No remedy will be found for the bleary red eyes, a result of waiting till late to throw on two US trades and a CADJPY short which his favourite newsletter recommended. A protein bar and water bottle get thrown carelessly into his satchel, and the speed walk to the office begins.

The new gig has an admittedly crap office, the foyer is tacky and elevator system seems older than him. Swipe to level 5. Wait for the dumb thing to come down even though no living soul seems to be in the building besides him. Unlock the office. Flick on the lights. Log into personal computer and sign on to Bloomberg. The instinctual rush to get into the office and get started is still pumping.

Right, now what?

This is where existential crisis #1 of the day tends to hit Don.

Not even half a year ago, his work environment had been full of passion and ambition, surrounded by former insto traders and bankers as mentors, every day was fast-paced and covered multiple asset classes and strategies. 12-hour days, zero lunch breaks, brutal intensity — and it kicked arse.

But after things soured and a new role presented itself, things became decidedly less ambitious. No more trader environment, little ambition, 8-hour days if you wanted. But he doesn’t want that, in fact he aspires to careers where the work never stops and the markets are one big puzzle to be solved. The path to success is decidedly more overgrown with the underbrush of uncertainty when you are not surrounded by successful people.

The morning proceeds with working at around 70% capacity for several hours before anyone else arrives in the office. Perhaps a review of a particular sector or investment trend, far more data-driven than he had previously experienced — learning that was, after all, the reason why he took the role in Shit Office Inc. He takes some pride and solace seeing his reviews getting more comprehensive, more proprietary, with each passing edition.

When the office is more populated there are more ideas thrown around, but none with any particular energy: the enthusiasm you would expect from a university lecturer addressing a class of honours students rather than the vibrant hustle and bustle of an asset management firm. Lots of hypotheticals, lots of timeframes measured in months, not the days or hours which was like muscle memory at him.

Capacity = 50%.

Very little occurs throughout the day to interrupt sitting at the desk, perhaps the occasional meeting or investment committee, all moving at glacial speeds. He now has to remember to check the market, without constant discussions of ideas and movements one tends to forget that somewhere some asset class or another is open for business. No more multi-asset heat map on one screen for Don, back to TradingView unless the Bloomberg terminal is free.

Like clockwork around 4:30, someone in the research team will suggest a new model or macro factor they could test for predictive power — are there any current pieces of literature, how efficacious do we think this could be, does it enhance our existing quantitative process? Excitement builds, then the incumbent members look at the clock and realise it’s time for the shift to end.

Capacity = Bugger it%

Back at home before dinner time, the inertia still hits Don like a very mild car accident. Not quite whiplash, but a head spin nonetheless. Walking home before dark feels cheap, like a faux pas. The urge to continue working is still there, ingrained from past roles (and ambition), but the timeframe for projects are all measured in weeks or months — where’s the urgency?

Back onto spreadsheets to project future net worth, research on pathways to venture capital careers or the skills needed to succeed in hedge fund land. Is the CFA or MBA worth it? Fuck that, who wants to think like every other shmuck. The CAIA? Tempting, who in the network could offer an opinion on this? File that idea away under things which could help illuminate the path.

Existential crisis #2.

Selling your time for the sake of learning is a double-edged sword, each side equally as sharp, and equally as likely to slice you from balls to brain if you make a slip walking that fine line. On the one hand, experience > academics every day of the week and twice on Sundays, so it behoves one to collect varied and quality experience. On the other hand, you are whittling away at the time you have and the compounding effects of being in the dream industry each day you are not in it.

Don cooks dinner whilst fretting over this quandary, running through a mental contact list of potential mentors or door-openers, all the while feeling guilty about watching some mindless video or show instead of reading the stack of unread finance books on the coffee table.

A workout is strongly considered, but goddamn that desk chair feels good after an entire day of sitting in an identical desk chair — maybe tomorrow. But a few hours between him and the Xbox suddenly feels a lot more plausible in this new role.

He finishes his day by reading through the dozen or so unread newsletters in his inbox, always considering emailing the writer to ask their advice on career progression, but never quite mustering the will or courage to put himself out on that line.

At 1am an alert from the phone on his table wakes him out of the feather-light sleep he was drifting into. Subject line of the email: Long AUDUSD prior to FOMC announcement. “Fuck”. Up out of bed, back over to computer to log into the broker platform. He places the trade with a foggy mind, not quite understanding the full logic of the position, but feeling good that he placed it anyway.