Dear Former Branch Manager

I have been interviewed a few times since my controversial op-ed ran in the New York Times last month. Some were long-form podcast interviews that took a deep dive in to my career path. While revisiting the story of how I got here, I realized that I never thanked someone who had a major impact on my career – the branch manager who laid me off 10 years ago this April.

Unlike Josh, I am not a reformed broker by choice, but rather by accident. In the ninth round of cuts following the Great Financial Crisis, my job was finally on the chopping block. I remember that day clearly. My friend in the Madison Avenue branch was let go in the morning. We met for lunch and commiserated, while I read her severance package. But I had to go back to work, while she relaxed with a glass of wine. I wouldn’t receive the news until 4:30pm.

I cannot say I wasn’t expecting it. Everyone knew I was unhappy in my job – one that paid my predecessor multiple times more than me during the bull market. I tried, unsuccessfully, to interview for a better position internally a few months prior. For weeks, I took home a personal item with me each day, so there was very little left in my office. But still, my heart sank when the office administrator called me down to the conference room. Getting laid off was a failure, and I have failed very few times in my life.

My greatest consolation that day was the branch manager himself doing the deed. I had never seen him participate in a layoff before, always delegating the task to lower members of his team. But there he was, reassuring me that I was young and talented, and suggesting that I take a trip to Europe with my 15 weeks pay. I was sitting for Level 3 of the CFA exam (second attempt) in six weeks. There would be no time for vacation.

I have long intended to write to my former branch manager and thank him for showing me respect by being present at my firing. But more importantly, I should thank him for all the career decisions that came afterwards. If he hadn’t let me go, I doubt I would have had the guts to quit, and I might still be working at a brokerage firm today, unhappy but unable to figure out why.

A few weeks later,  a former colleague referred me for a job opening at a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firm in midtown. I had never heard of an RIA firm, and it surprised me during the interview process to learn that I would let my Series 7 (3, 9, and 10) license expire if I worked there for more than two years. A Series 7 is a license to sell securities for commissions, and I would no longer be selling products to clients but rather, giving them advice. I was offered the job, took it, and never looked back. I’ve been a reformed broker since that day.

Now, 10 years later, I am grateful to that former branch manager for giving me the push. I know I was just a number on his P&L statement that had to go, one of the many peons shuffled through the revolving door. But his decision to pick me made me who I am today – a happy, fulfilled, engaged, financial planner, investment adviser, blogger, public speaker, and op-ed writer.

So thank you sir, for causing the domino effect that sparked a positive change in my life and my career. I hope you are well and enjoying your continued success rising to the top of the corporate echelon.

Sincerely,

One of the many “kiddos”

 

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