My fiancé works in private equity. I met him at friend’s birthday party eight years ago, when I was 25, and he was studying for a Masters. When we met, he warned me. – He had an offer to become a junior M&A banker at a major bank in London, and it was going to be crazy. I thought, “Stop being dramatic, you’re just trying to make yourself seem important.”
The first few months were easy. While he was a student, I was busier than he was. I was working and living in a shared house in London, and we’d meet in the evenings. When he began the analyst program, things were still fine – he was training, and he’d finish work at 5pm and go to the pub with the other analysts.
Then the job began. And it was mental. You have no idea how much junior people in banking work until you actually see it. He was working all day and night and weekends.
We went from seeing each other a lot to barely seeing each other at all. He would say, “Let’s meet in a restaurant at 8pm,” and I’d still be there at 9pm waiting for him to turn up. I’d go to his house and wait for him to come home and he’d never turn up. When we went out, his Blackberry would go off, and it would be his VP asking him to work.
He gained loads of weight. He was comfort eating and the bank was paying for his food. He looked ill – he was pale and had black rings like bruises under his eyes. He couldn’t remember things I’d said or arrangements we’d made.
At this stage, of lot other people dating the analysts on his program gave up. If I’d only just met him and I was hanging around in restaurants on my own, I think I would have binned him off too. But we’d had those early months together and I knew what he was like before banking. I also knew that he was ambitious and that he had a plan: he wanted to do this for a few years and then move into private equity.
During that period, it helped that I didn’t blame him. I could see from the stress on his face when his Blackberry went off, that this wasn’t him – it was his VP at the time who was doing this and who was controlling our relationship. It wasn’t about him or about me.
It also helped that I had my own life. I didn’t want a boyfriend when I met him. I was happy going out with my mates, and I didn’t want to have a life where you sit in and watch movies. By dating a banker, I got the best of both worlds. I hardly saw him, so I still got to go out with my own friends, but we texted a lot. When he was free, it could be problematic. If he got out of work early at 9pm on a Friday he’d be frantically trying to make up for lost time by chain drinking.
After two years in banking, things changed. His plan had been to go into private equity, and at the eighteen-month mark I started nudging him to move. He applied to a fund and escaped. These days he’s more senior and works a lot less, although he’ll still be up until 2am when he’s on a deal.
If you’re dating a banker, my advice is to understand what their goal is. Do they want to stay in banking, or are they only doing this for a few years before moving on? If you really can’t hack it while they’re an analyst or associate, then find someone else. But if you want to stick it out, build your own life. Get your own friends, make your own plans, do your own thing. If that person is available, then slot them in, but don’t rely upon them for your social life because your plans will always fall through. I know, I’ve been there.
Nancy Garnier – Read more on efinancialcareers.co.uk