Why Bankers Make Good Entrepreneurs

In September last year I left the comforts of a salaried banking job to co-found EatAds. My salary went from an annual six-digit figure to zero. My office moved from high rises of the Central Business District to a run-down industrial park in the West. I’ve gone from working five days a week to seven days a week. I’ve gone from watching the clock countdown to hoping time freezes so I can catch my breath.

Despite the struggles, I still wake up every day far happier than I did in banking. Actually, the transition was more seamless than I expected. I knew this was a bit odd so after some reflection, I came to an interesting realization. I realized that my previous job’s challenges and struggles were essentially the same as the ones entrepreneurs face.

Why Bankers?

Bankers innately have the traits of an entrepreneur. They work crazy long hours, they can grasp new concepts rapidly, they possess the ability to keep up in high stress environments, and they are highly motivated and driven. And perhaps most importantly, they are always selling. These are exactly the challenges entrepreneurs face daily. The key difference is that Bankers work hard for their big bonus and clock out with little care for the organization after work hours. Most aren’t even doing what they’re passionate about. A startup is the opposite. There is no clocking out–your next paycheck relies on you always being connected.

The Missing Link

The key reason why you don’t see more Bankers as entrepreneurs is the lack of risk appetite. Ironically, you’ll see traders taking on huge positions with their clients’ money, but they wouldn’t invest a dime themselves. Sales will (try to) sell all sorts of exotic products and never touch them with their own money. Some bankers are ok to spend thousands on bottles and models yet asking for a $10k investment in a startup is out of the question and “doesn’t fit my risk profile.” Considering bankers are highly overpaid, up to 3-4 times more than their peers (not including bonuses), they have far more of a cushion in case the startup goes belly up.

Adding Value to the Startup Community

The startup community can greatly benefit from the skills acquired by bankers in their positions. I’ve been in many positions in my brief yet exciting entrepreneurial career where I was well prepared thanks to the skill set I picked up at the bank. Most bankers go through various high stress scenarios and learning to maneuver those are experiences that are extremely valuable in a startup. Not to mention bankers have contacts to the financial sector where a huge pool of money lies for potential investments.

Just Do It

I’ve met many bankers who haves great ideas. Most of those individuals keep giving excuses why they haven’t pursued something more entrepreneurial. “I need a little more experience” is generally the response I get. My view is that “more experience” eventually just tightens the golden handcuffs. Ultimately they should take the leap and JFDI.


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