Thinking About Leaving The Finance Industry: Your Skillset & Options

Should you stay or leave? Are public finance jobs for you or not anymore?

Are public finance jobs for you? Yes or no? Now or later?

I am not sure if it is because of the pandemic or people’s lack of faith in the markets, but I get numerous phone calls from prospective candidates that are seriously considering leaving the public finance space. Let me take this opportunity to talk about what you can do or not do with the skills that you have acquired as a public finance professional. It is most important that you determine what your highest and best usage is when thinking about the venture away from the industry. Are public finance jobs for you anymore? Is it actually time to leave? 

A Particular Set Of Skills: What Are My Options? 

Public finance professionals, as you are all aware, are paid extremely well. For you to consider leaving the industry and finding another position, I would say to you that this is (at most) terribly difficult and sometimes impossible. So, what are the next steps in finding out if public finance jobs are for you or not? What you should do is analyze who can use your skills first. Secondly, determine what they are willing to pay for those particular set skills.

An immediate response would be that you could go to the issuer side and become part of the bureaucracy called government. As this may sound like a realistic alternative (with your skills definitely being in demand), you must be prepared to take a significant haircut in your compensation. In addition to your base salary being adjusted significantly, the idea of bonuses typically is nonexistent. This may be a reason to stay in public finance jobs for you. If we take issuers out of the equation, then we have the next option being the sell side of the business. Getting a job on the sell side is much more difficult as there are a multitude of public finance bankers/institutional salespeople who want to represent that side of the equation.  With so many candidates calling the “Buy Side Companies”, it’s difficult to get their attention, let alone an interview.  In addition, the skills of an originator are exceedingly different from the skills needed at the “Buy Side Companies”, whether as a sales professional or a portfolio manager.

Is It Worth It? 

As for attorneys looking to leave the bond counsel area, their skills will also be in demand by the issuers; however, the same situation will apply as to compensation and bonus structures. You could decide to become a transactional attorney for a different group within your firm, but that is going to take a significant amount of time to learn that area of expertise. The world of public finance, as you are most aware, is a small world with some significant players. If you have become one of those and are either bored or burnt out, leaving the industry could be the alternative. Even so, be aware that your highest and best use is remaining where you are currently in your career trajectory. Continue in the public finance jobs for you that have your best interest. I am not saying that you should not look at other firms. I am trying to make an argument that leaving the industry does not make as much sense as you may have thought prior to reading this blog.

Where To Go From Here: Public Finance Jobs For You Or Not?

So many people have reached out to us and talked about leaving the industry. This is something that I don’t necessarily understand since public finance is right in the center of all of the infrastructure that will need to be built (i.e. financing the rebuild of America and financing related to the COVID-19 pandemic). Now is not the time to think about leaving our cottage industry. Conversely, it is the time to figure out how your skills and knowledge can be used to further your public finance experience. Like the advent of the Cinderella bonds, there is always a new mechanism, financial tool or tools that can help solve the financial situation we find ourselves in. Identifying the right company to find out what they have to offer should be your objective – not leaving the industry. Finding the right firm and the right public finance jobs for you may be the missing pieces to your career happiness puzzle. 


If you would like to discuss your options, please reach out to me for a confidential conversation at 760-477-1284 or email me at [email protected]. He can also be reached on LinkedIn

About Harlan Friedman, JD & Founding Member, H. Friedman Search LLC. Harlan is a thirty-year veteran Public Finance Banker turned recruiter who specializes in the placement of all level Public Finance Bankers, Health Care Bankers, Municipal Financial Advisors, Compliance Officers, Issuers, and Bond Counsels.