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Where Have All the I-Bankers Gone?

It takes guts to leave the fat paychecks, and yet more and more bankers have traded in their suits and security to risk it all on their so-called American Dreams

While Main Street is clearly world-weary of Wall Street, particularly after the financial crisis of 2008, it seems that some of Wall Street is feeling the fatigue as well. There’s a growing exodus of financiers leaving their high-paying jobs in the dust to pursue other opportunities. Instead of channeling money to and from institutions, some have decided to use their typical type-A personalities to offer something more tangible to society than simply recycled greenbacks.  

Below, DuJour explores the stories of four ex-financiers who decided to find better bosses to work for: themselves. 

Bryan Benjamin Joffe created a place where everyone knows your name… 

In 2002, Joffe was determined to make it on the Street. He started his eleven-hour days at 6am as a broker at GFI and then worked from 6pm-2am as a waiter to supplement his starting salary. Eventually, his ambition to be a successful institutional Latin American derivatives broker paid off. 

On August 15, 2014, while working for ICAP, Joffe left the industry, not knowing what he wanted to do next.  “I just knew that being a broker didn’t match up with my soul anymore,” says Joffe. “I wanted a simpler, healthier, more contributing life.” After traveling around the world for a few months an opportunity presented itself on one of his favorite New York City blocks. 

“Sullivan Street [in SoHo] is still classic old New York,” says Joffe. “There are families that have lived there for generations. You’re not going to find a Starbucks, but instead, locally managed businesses. It’s one of the few blocks that are still like that in this city.”

Instead of letting an empty storefront be commercialized by a chain, or left vacant, a problem on the rise as rents skyrocket in Manhattan, Joffe and three associates decided that a neighborhood bar would help preserve the charm Sullivan Street offers. On August 11, 2015, Joffe and his associates opened 142 Sullivan Street, a quaint bar nestled between Houston and Prince streets, warmed by its brick exposure.

“We want the neighborhood to feel like this is their bar,” says Joffe. “A place for the community, where folks can forget the rat race and come to exchange ideas and neighborhood news.”  Something about the quiet charm of 142 Sullivan allows it to overcome the pretenses most New York establishments tend to insinuate. It is reminiscent of the mom-and-pop businesses that have long lived in the neighborhood.

“This work is so much more tangible and that much more rewarding,” says Joffe.  “I have zero regrets.”

Mark Partin traded in his desk for some wheels instead

Partin is a co-owner of B/SPOKE Studios, an indoor cycling studio in Boston, now operating in its second year. Previously, Partin was a trader at Morgan Stanley in New York and then London, before deciding to make the full-time switch in 2013. 

“At some point, the lifestyle was not sustainable, there was too much excess,” says Partin of his role as an emerging markets currency trader. “It seemed a lot of aspects of my life lacked discipline, and fitness brought me back into balance. I knew I needed a lifestyle change.” 

Partin drew upon his work ethic and determination from his role as a trader to launch the opening of B/SPOKE. “Being a trader is about looking at systems, analyzing models and figuring out the best solution, a lot of that translated to my new role,” he says. “There are scenarios when it comes to marketing and branding that involve analytical skills and my past helped with those decisions.” Studios are very personal, added Partin. “It’s really important to get the right vibe, since first impressions are so important.”

Partin and his partner plan to open their second studio next summer. It is the human aspect of his business that fuels Partin’s enthusiasm. “Fitness is a form of a therapy,” says Partin, “and you’re creating a positive change in people’s lives.”  

Instead of just investing in companies, Julie Macklowe launched her own…

Macklowe gave up her jet-setting lifestyle as a private equity/hedge fund manager to help women age more gracefully. In 2010, after her cosmetics were confiscated by the TSA due to size restrictions, her experience inspired her to launch vbeauté, a line of travel-sized skin essentials for women on the go.

Starting her career at Chase Capital Partners, Macklowe worked at various firms and even formed her own fund, Macklowe Asset Management, before making her career jump. Having survived the turmoil of 2008-2009, “I got a little bored,” says Macklowe. Inspired by entrepreneurs she met as a portfolio manager, Macklowe decided to leverage off of her background, pursue her own gig and debuted vbeauté in November 2011. “Every day is an adventure,” she says. “At the end of the day there’s a tangible product and hopefully we’re improving someone’s life,” she said. “There is no real social benefit of running a fund.”

Daniella Yacobovsky swapped a steady paycheck for a bit more sparkle

It was during her second year at Harvard Business School when Yacobovsky and her classmate, Amy Jain, conceived the idea of BaubleBar, now an online and brick-and-mortar jewelry retailer.

Prior to Harvard, Yacobovsky spent two years an analyst within UBS’ investment banking program, followed by a two-year stint at American Capital Strategies, a private equity firm. 

“The scariest moment is the anticipation around taking that leap of starting a new business,” says Yacobovsky. “Once you actually do it, it becomes easier. It’s natural to feel that trepidation, because uncertainty is scary especially if you’re used to a steady paycheck.”

After graduating Harvard, Yacobovsky and her partner raised about $1.2 million of institutional capital during their first round of seeding in 2010. “The fund raising process felt a bit more natural to us,” says Yacobovsky. “We knew how to talk about the business because we could speak [investors’] language.”   

Launched in 2011, BaubleBar aims to bring trendy jewelry accessories to women at affordable prices. While the brand’s sales are mainly online driven, the company does sell its line at Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Anthropolgie and opened up its first brick-and-mortar at Roosevelt Field, a mall on Long Island, in July. Since its inception, the company has raised $16 million and currently employs about 200 people. 

Yacobovsky is looking forward to growing the business even further.  “Amy and I were used to hard work and long hours given our previous roles,” says Yacobovsky, “but it is different when it is your business; you cannot turn it off. You live and breathe [the business] every day because you love it so much—and it’s incredibly rewarding.”