Rainmakers quit investment banking gigs for greener pastures

After nearly a decade and a half in investment banking and a glamorous career in deal making with some of the top global and Indian banks, Harsh Soni decided to move on to a startup, driven by a “desire to work on something closer to consumers and an opportunity to build something new”.

This May, Soni joined Slice as head of corporate development, responsible for leading the fintech startup’s strategic efforts, investor relations and business finance.

“While i-banking as a career offers a steep learning curve and a well-defined career path, it’s a high-pressure job which might not be sustainable in the long run for all,” says Soni. That apart, there’s this rut of repetitive, monotonous work that people might fall into. “Tech startups in particular fill that void – leveraging cutting-edge technology to solve the most pressing problems, not to mention a potentially infinite upside.”

Soni, who moved to Slice from Bank of America, is not the only one to make this transition. The glitzy world of investment banking seems to be losing its magic for many bankers. Despite the fat bonus packages and a host of IPOs and M&A deals in the last one year, several bankers are opting out to high-growth corporates or new-age companies in strategy, M&A and corporate development roles.

Of the 150 middle- to senior-level moves in investment banks in the last six months, about 52% left the sector to join other domains, show exclusive data from executive search firm Native. About 74% of the churn happened in domestic banks and financial services institutions. Data of the last couple of years at top global i-banks also show that exits are more than double compared to lateral hires.

A significant increase in opportunities at large Indian companies and the scope of wealth creation at startups in the form of hefty stock options are attracting the rainmakers.

Breaking the Monotony


That apart, while banking has always been a high-stress job, the last two years of pandemic – which saw deal making at an all-time high – has made it tougher for many to strike a work-life balance, leading to huge increase in stress and prompting several bankers to make the switch.

Some of the recent top moves include Chirag Jain, who joined Reliance Industries from Bank of America; Puneet Gulati, head of M&A at Piramal Enterprises who moved from JM Financial; Naveen Sachdeva, who joined MobiKwik from JM Financial; Dinesh Taluja, who joined Reliance Retail in corporate finance and M&A from Credit Suisse; Raj Rathi, who joined Dream Capital, the corporate venture capital and M&A arm of Dream Sports, from JP Morgan; and Shashank More, who shifted to Jio Platforms from Morgan Stanley, according to data put together by Native.

“While many IB platforms gave out stupendous appraisals backed by a phenomenal year in business, IB has become a stepping ladder for many junior bankers to move to buy side and mid- to senior-level bankers to move to corporate roles,” said Ruchi Thakkar, head – capital markets, at Native.

“Bankers are largely attracted to established corporates or startup roles due to the pressure of revenue targets year on year. Another key reason is also the boredom of doing the same thing over a decade and the desire to move to differentiated roles,” she said.

Banking on Expertise

Large Indian companies and conglomerates are also growing in terms of size and offer a plethora of opportunities in investor relations and strategic M&A that require the expertise and acumen of bankers who have been involved in marquee deals.

“The amount of fundraising at large Indian companies has significantly gone up and we are looking to hire bankers who have been a part of large deals,” said Pramod Menon, group chief financial officer at RPG Enterprises. “Large companies can offer them a more stable ecosystem, empowerment for decision-making, decent salary and a reasonably large canvas, while on the banking side the burnout is much more.”

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