How to Quit Your Investment Banking Job Without Getting Executed

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Quitting Your JobMidway through every year, a whisper starts growing at investment banks everywhere.

“This sucks. I’m gonna quit.”

Sometimes it’s so bad that you just want out immediately.

Other times, you plan to wait and stealthily make an exit as soon as your bonus hits your bank account.

So here’s how you can break out of investment banking – without dying in the process.

Your Mission

It’s not as simple as announcing that you’re leaving and storming out of the building.

Yes, you could do that… but it will create some problems for you in the future.

To make your quitting successful, you need to:

  1. Make sure no one else knows anything about it beforehand / prevent rumors from circulating.
  2. Avoid burning bridges (if you can) because you might need recommendations in the future.
  3. Line up another offer first or have a plan for what you’ll do after you quit and spend a week on a tropical island.

You probably understand the importance of point #3, but I’ve seen many quitting bankers forget #1 and #2.

How to Escape the Executioner

Here’s what you need to do once you’ve made the decision to jump ship:

Get Over Yourself

Repeat after me: no one cares about you… at all. You are a very small cog in a very large wheel.

In “normal” industries if you tell your boss you’re leaving, he might say, “We really need you right now! Can you stay for a few more weeks?”

Or who knows, maybe he’ll even offer up a promotion or try to bribe you into staying longer.

You don’t have to worry about any of that in finance: as soon as you say you’re quitting, they’ll say, “Good, here’s the door. Please leave now.”

A lot of junior bankers overestimate their own importance – “Trophy Kid” syndrome.

But most people won’t even remember you the next day.

Prepare for an Immediate Exit

Next, understand that once you announce your plan to quit your exit will be immediate.

You don’t get a “going away party” or presents or any of that nonsense – you get escorted to the building exit.

There’s a practical reason for this: you have access to a lot of confidential information about public companies.

If you continued to have access to that information, you could spread it around to other people, competitors, or make a quick million or so with insider trading.

It’s almost as fast as getting fired, but sometimes – depending on the bank and group – they will let you stick around for a few days to a week to hand off your tasks to other analysts.

Save anything important – both physical possessions and computer files – in advance of quitting, because you won’t have time later.

Make Sure Your Exit Strategy Is Lined Up

No matter how bad you have it, it’s a really, really, really bad idea to quit if you don’t already have another offer lined up or at least some idea of what you want to do next.

So if you’re quitting to start your own fashion company, obviously you won’t have an “offer” but you should have some idea of how much money you’ll need, what you’re going to do, and an understanding your market.

And if you are continuing on within finance, you should have an offer somewhere else.

In “normal” industries it’s much tougher to get hired when you’re unemployed, and it’s exponentially harder in finance.

So you should not go and “announce” anything to anyone until you have a signed, accepted offer with another bank, hedge fund or PE firm, or a concrete plan of what you’re going to do if you’re leaving finance.

Make a Clean Break

Once you’ve prepared yourself, you need to avoid screwing up the final step of quitting – actually telling people that you’re quitting.

Here’s what NOT to do:

So once you’re set, go directly to your MD, in-person, and explain the situation:

“I’ve enjoyed my time here, but I’ve just received an offer for [Name of New Job], and they want me to start immediately – so I’ll be leaving.”

At this point your MD will probably jump in and act professionally about it – or he’ll complain about how much work you’re leaving behind, especially if it’s at a smaller bank.

Do not get emotional or give into any demands or last-minute requests.

You’re quitting. If you say “no” to these demands, what will they do? Fire you?

Saying “yes” won’t put you on better terms, either – if they make last-minute demands of you, they wouldn’t write a good recommendation in the first place.

Once you’ve told your MD, go around and say the same thing to your other team members, keeping it brief and unemotional.

Then, depending on whether you have to leave immediately or you have a few days to a week, go and craft a brief farewell email with your new contact information.

Don’t send this out to the entire investment banking department or the entire bank – you’re not that important.

Just send it to your own group, or to anyone you’ve worked with in the past.

A Tale of 2 Analysts

Similar to a tale of 2 summer interns, a quick tale of 2 quitting analysts will illustrate just how important the above points are.

Bitter Quitter

Bitter Quitter was at a bulge bracket investment bank and received a hedge fund offer just before bonuses were announced – right around the 1-year mark.

He hated his life and desperately wanted to get out, but he made the mistake of telling all the other analysts in his office before anything was official.

“I’m really close to getting this hedge fund offer… then I’ll be out of here!”

Rule #1 of quitting your job: don’t tell anyone you’re quitting.

Assume that anything you tell a single person at your bank will instantly spread to everyone else – office gossip happens 24/7.

Bitter Quitter eventually won the offer, but he made the critical mistake of not telling anyone higher-up directly – they found out through the grapevine instead.

So he didn’t even get to “quit” – instead, the staffer approached him and said, “We know what you’re doing. Please get out right now.”

Result: He never got to tell his MD himself, so he left on poor terms and would have trouble getting a good recommendation for business school or anything else in the future.

Clean Breaker

Clean Breaker was working at a middle-market investment bank, and received an offer to move to the corporate finance department of a Fortune 500 company, a few months after bonuses had been awarded.

He also hated his life (notice a common theme here?), mostly because one VP he worked for could best be described as “evil incarnate.” He was incredibly out-of-shape, had no life outside work, no friends, and spent all day making his analysts and associates miserable.

Even though Clean Breaker was miserable, he wasn’t foolish – so he didn’t tell a single soul that he was even interviewing until he had the signed offer in hand.

“Trips to the dentist” and “personal days” are plausible if you don’t use them every single week.

When the time came, he went directly to his MD first and told him the news, then informed Evil VP and the rest of his team.

Evil VP got visibly angry and spent 30 minutes trying to convince Clean Breaker to stay (this only happens at smaller banks), but Clean Breaker held firm and said, “Thanks, but I’m out.”

Result: Clean Breaker probably can’t get a recommendation from his VP, but there’s nothing he could have done to prevent that. But since he handled it professionally, he could easily go back to his MD and ask for help in the future.

How to Quit

Quitting your job is like removing a band-aid: make it quick and clean, and accept that it’s going to be painful in the short-term.

That’s way better than spending an eternity peeling it off and enduring the pain over weeks or month.

So make it quick, professional, and confidential and you might just escape with your head intact.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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40 Comments to “How to Quit Your Investment Banking Job Without Getting Executed”

Comments

  1. ike says

    i adopt the principle of not telling anyone as well, but there’ll always be folks who seem to have the habit of probing/asking you every single week whether you’ll getting the hell out of there.

    and if the person is someone you feel close to, you feel obliged to tell rather than keep mum since if you tell at the last minute, they might think you’re not being honest to your “friend” or someone who always has something to hide

    how do you deal with the double edges by not using deception and not telling too much?

    • says

      I would just say you’re interviewing around and considering a couple things but haven’t made up your mind yet, and don’t give specific firm names, just say “tech-focused PE” or something like that.

  2. says

    It would probably be best to keep your feelings to yourself, but if you are so frustrated, this must be difficult?

    Great post. Never would have thought that bankers were such gossips to talk about who wants to interview at XYZ. I thought this was just journalists!

    • says

      I would recommend speaking with friends outside the office if that’s the case – it’s a really bad idea to tell anyone anything sensitive

  3. CHI says

    what if I have already messed up my relationship with my current employer,because I took many days off to spend on interviewing at other firms?
    when my new emploer ask me current employer referrences, what should I do?

  4. Dave says

    Not sure how relevant this is to this particular topic but…How hard do you think it would be to move from a small VC firm (>$100 million AUM) to middle market PE?

    • says

      Difficult b/c you don’t know as much about debt working at a small VC firm. Significantly harder than moving in from banking

  5. orchid_q says

    Great post, Brian, as usual!!!!!

    The first thing I do on every morning is to catch up with M&I ~~LOVE ur style!!!!!

    PS: I wrote u a message several days ago, REALLY look forward to your reply!!!!! Thanks!!!!!!!

    • says

      I don’t have firsthand knowledge but not as good as better-known schools… there might be some recruiting but you’re better off going to a top state school

      • Steve says

        Hey Will – I’m in Fordham’s undergraduate business school and for motivated students who are willing to network, getting into I banking is certainly possible. I intern now at UBS with 5 other Fordham kids, and while it’s in Wealth Management, I’ve been told that we could look into interning in the investment bank after junior year. Fordham’s strength is in accounting; however, finance majors often fare well and land high paying entry level jobs

  6. Anonymous says

    Brian,

    Sorry for the slightly off topic question but do you know what exit opps are like for credit risk management roles at BB? Can i exit into a distressed or credit oriented fund?

    • says

      Honestly not sure but I think risk management is more of a middle office role so a true buy-side fund would be tough – more likely to go to a risk management role at a fund instead

  7. joeortiz says

    Brian,

    Would it be dumb to ask a VP for help into exiting into a firm that he has previously worked at and has many connections in (say GS). He has said he wants to help but I don’t know if he’s just saying that to be nice. Would I be fired immediately if I ask him for help joining his old firm?

  8. Anonymous says

    Brian,

    The first step you outlined above is to give your notice to your MD. If my MD is travelling the week that bonuses hit your account, and you’ve have another job lined up afterwards so timing is tight, would it be appropriate to notify him over the phone?

    • says

      You could do that if you absolutely have to – I wouldn’t recommend it but it’s not the end of the world if you go that route, several friends have done it before

  9. Mike says

    Does your advice still hold true for quitting before your two year stint is up? For example, if you are lateraling to another bank after you got your first bonus? And in that would you really piss off your MD? Thanks!

  10. BBdreamer says

    You mention that there is the risk of not being able to get a recommendation. Is this recs for business school or recs for future jobs?

    I’m kind of in a bad situation where I feel that my managers dislike me because I chose to quit a rotational finance program midway into the program to go to grad school. Would this hurt me in the future?

    • BBdreamer says

      Also, if I am leaving in a month (not FO so I guess the company is more lenient in me staying), is it worth it to put in my best efforts and work hard to make a last minute attempt for a good impression, or should I just chill out and enjoy my remaining month (as it’s too late for a positive impression)?

      • M&I - Nicole says

        Try your best and fulfill your duties. Don’t burn bridges and try to maintain good relationships with people in your firm. I wouldn’t try too hard to make a last min attempt for a gd impression as this is “fake” and people might be able to see through your intentions. Just chill out and try your best. Don’t stress.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Both.

      If you feel your managers dislike you given the above, you’re probably right and this might hurt you in the future since they are less likely to give you good rec.

      • BBdreamer says

        But isn’t it standard practice (actually law) for firms just to confirm that you worked there?

        Could you give me examples of how past managers that have disliked me could hurt me in the future (except b-school because I have no intention of getting an MBA in the near future)? I’m sure many people choose to quit a firm because of bad relations at their current firm.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          yes

          If they badmouth you yes it can hurt. I have heard of a person whose previous manager & colleagues bad-mouthed the person so bad that the person couldn’t get a job in this particular city. since the industry is small, credibility is extremely important.

          what i’m trying to say is – quit if you want, but always maintain good relationships, or at least don’t burn bridges. Make sure you have allies in your previous firms that can serve as your references. If you can’t do the above, then spin a story why you didn’t get along w peeps in your firm. hope this helps

  11. Anonymous says

    I have a few questions:
    1. If you leave banking after one year and intend on going into b-school after one year of your next job, does this hurt the chances of getting into an MBA program because your combining two different paths with limited time in each?
    2. If you leave after one year but are on good terms with your MD and senior people, would this still affect how they write your recs for B-school?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      1. It may. Depends on how you spin your story.
      2. This depends on your MD and the senior people. If you left on good terms, I think you shouldn’t worry too much about the recs

  12. Peter says

    You mention that “But since he handled it professionally, he could easily go back to his MD and ask for help in the future.”

    I don’t understand why an MD would help someone who reneged on a signed 2 year contract and just left. Can you explain what you mean here?

    • Peter says

      Reneging on a signed contract is considered very unprofessional in the business world–so why would your boss have anything positive to say about you after you quit?

      Thank M&I!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      This means that he hasn’t severed the relationship stayed in good terms with the MD, and he’s likely to help him down the line. Sometimes people may be fine with you reneging, assuming you handled the situation professionally. And you’ve also got a point – sometimes people wouldn’t help you if you reneged, even if you handled the situation as best as you could.

  13. Adam says

    Hi Brian
    I’m at a BB (non NYC) and contrary to your articles/popular belief about all nighters, there isn’t that much work and the lack of dealflow and transaction/modeling experience concerns me a lot. Have not tried looking for another job since not much to write on resume and quitting so soon leaves a “bad reference” so I’ve been holding on longer.

    Do you suggest applying to fresh grad programs now without much experience or sticking around longer? Thanks

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I am not sure if you’d be eligible for fresh grad roles since you’ve already graduated. Sticking around maybe a better option though I may look around for other roles you can transition into. Of course, if you can move into a fresh grad role that maybe a good idea.

      • Adam says

        I see already graduated people join my bank, but maybe thats around 15% of the analyst class. Problem with sticking around is if i have 2 years at a BB ppl expect more when it comes to interviews in terms of deals/modeling, whereas I have relatively little, so thats a tradeoff as well, no?

        When you say other roles, do you mean changing industry? I want to stay in banking, how would I go about changing to another bank, or a different group internally ASAP?

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