Joining a competitive and highly rewarding industry has always been my goal. While that first manifested as a career in banking, where I spent a good ten years, today that means being a part of the dynamic world of VCs.
Although currently an investor at digital health VC firm Spex Capital, I’ve worn, and still wear different ‘work’ hats. In addition to starting my career in banking, which saw me begin on the Corporate Risk Solutions desk at NatWest Markets then move to the public side as a Fixed Income Salesperson before finally transferring to FX Sales, I’m also currently undertaking an MBA at London Business School.
Conscious of my uniquely multifaceted career path, I thought I’d share my experience in shifting from banking to the world of venture capital, in the hope of helping those who wish to make a similar jump.
Crossing the threshold
My interest in VC first sparked when I started investing my own capital in 2016, predominantly through private investments as an Angel investor and crowdfunding campaigns, and saw first-hand the impact they were making.
The soft skills I had acquired in Sales roles combined with the technical skills characteristic of banking jobs were a solid springboard for a career in VC. In my mind, the switch was a natural progression. Knowing that I was looking for a part-time VC role during my MBA, a friend brought to my attention Spex Capital – a recently founded firm that was rapidly gaining momentum in the health-tech industry. She put me in touch with Claudio D’Angelo and, after a long and productive conversation, I was given the opportunity to join the team.
With Spex Capital operating in the niche industry of health-tech and med-tech, I had to adapt quickly to the market landscape. The team have been fantastic not only at teaching new joiners how to go about the VC role, but also welcomed me with open arms. The supportive environment allowed me to learn the job, and its unique requirements, step by step. Nevertheless, even though I was new to the VC world, I was supported by years of client-facing banking experience, personal investment experience and theoretical investment knowledge gained through the CFA and CIPM curriculums as well as my current MBA.
Trading floor vs VC
The buzz of the trading floor and the electrifying handshakes of venture capital might appear similar on the surface, but the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the two jobs emerge only once you are experiencing them. Here are a few of the similarities and differences I noticed in the weeks and months following my move to Spex Capital.
As a mum of two, the main difference that stands out to me is the flexibility. When I was working in banking, my working hours were bound by the market. In my VC role, I have more wiggle room and can dedicate more time to both my family and studies whilst still getting my work done.
The nature and essence of the two jobs are also deeply unique. In my FX Sales role, I often had to respond to many client trade requests at once and was rarely able to focus on a single task for long. In VC, on the other hand, I can dedicate myself to one task at a time, such as crafting the due diligence reports that are essential for a deal to progress. I also rely more on my analytical skills and adopt a forward-looking approach in my VC role. Lastly, teamwork plays a much larger role here at Spex Capital, compared to the independent nature of a banking job. Everyone can voice their opinion on which company investment we would like to take forward. Cooperation is key in the day-to-day operation of the firm and helps us deliver better results for the start-ups that are part of our portfolio.
The two jobs, however, also share similarities. Chief among them, managing clients and acting in the best interest of clients, colleagues and the firm is a crucial aspect of both roles. In a bank you seek the best outcome for both the bank and the client. In VC, the same is true for the firm and the portfolio company. In both positions, balancing the aligned (and at times misaligned) interests of multiple parties is pivotal.
Tips to switch from banking to VC
If you plan to move to VC, I recommend starting by following target VC funds and target industries of interest. I personally chose health-tech which, especially following the pandemic, witnessed a significant acceleration from an investment standpoint.
You should always be on the lookout for promising start-ups and assess if you would be willing to invest your money in them and why. Beginning to develop a framework for making investment decisions is also a great step to prepare yourself.
The jump from banking to VC requires shifting from an employee mindset to an entrepreneurial mindset. My favourite aspect of my new VC role so far has been meeting various entrepreneurs and hearing about their company’s aspirations. By playing a role in helping someone achieve their dream, you become part of something bigger, which is a fantastic motivator. Lastly, build a strong banking and VC network: you never know who might create the next unicorn start-up.
Though I look back fondly at my time in banking in my twenties, working in VC is more suited to my current lifestyle. Overall, both career paths are exciting in their own ways, and I am grateful I got to experience them at what I feel are the right stages in my life.
Ultimately, getting into banking as well as VC requires determination, drive, and interest. Despite their differences, curiosity and a thirst for knowledge can open doors into, and between, both worlds. After all, where there is a will there is a way.