The four employee development stages for people working in the financial service sector ..


Jun 13, 2005
SPU ¦ Smart Professionals United
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Larios Semai Niva
The four employee development stages for people working in the financial service sector ..

There is a lot of HR literature out there to discuss employee motivation, career building or personal development... City bookshops are full of readings that are supposed to give you the "edge" over your colleagues to master your work life. Unfortunately most of what is written is more or less useless... Most books have been written by University Professors and PhD students who have never seen any of these companies from inside. Or have you ever read a good HR book from a CEO of a major big Investment Bank?

So after spending some time in the industry and judging from experience, it seems that most people will have to accept at some point that what they have learned at university or during their CFA, CIMA, FSA or similar studies with respect to personal development does simply not hold true. It turns out that the real development stages of people working in the finance industry are somewhat different.

Since all people working in banks, consultancies, audit companies or the like are or pretend to be terribly busy, you will be presented with an executive summary of the real "four employee development stages" that apply to ordinary business people.

These four stages are usually experienced by everybody working in a major sized company. The stages repeat themselves when you change departments, when you work on projects or new initiatives... The four stages start from stage 1 again when you change company or even roles but inevitably for the most part and within the bigger context of a big major company, you realize that at some point you will always end up at stage 4 in terms of personal development.

Stage 1: The stage of enthusiasm

The first stage in the life of an employee of a big sized company in the financial world is marked by great enthusiasm and excitement. It maybe because you have just started a new job in a new company or because you have been nominated to represent your department on an important project, it might be you have acquired a new client or that you have moved over to a new Role in a new department. Anything new is exciting to humans. Stage one is the most intensive when you have just left university and managed to get a job in one of the big major investment banks or with one of the big audit firms, or maybe a big consulting house or a hedge fund. You are new and it seems that big bucks are waiting for you should you prove yourself worthy to your employer.

Anybody who has made it to a job in the financial world will strive to make the best of it, to make as much cash as possible and to get as high up on the management leader as possible... That requires positive thinking, a strong personality and the will to tackle any challenge that may be ahead of you. You have the will and the power to change the world! Nothing will stand in your way! You are the man/woman of the hour, you will prove yourself, you will prevail! You shall get the most out of this! Hail to the Lord of the business world! I am your disciple! Give me a chance, give me a problem, give me any task! I can do it, I can fix it! I can figure it out! I am the man/woman !

Stage 2: The stage of realism

Stage two can take quite some time to achieve, especially as a new joiner to a company. This stage is all about having gotten to know the company you are working for, understanding what the project is all about, realising who is doing what and why. You suddenly feel like you now know why certain things are the way they are and most importantly you have come to see that some things in this world are not perfect! The department you are working for is having issues because certain processes don't work the way they should, the project that you were supposed to lead to great success is being torpedoed by some colleagues in the support functions, the new role you took on is suddenly not that challenging anymore because you have learned to accept that your impact and power is severely handicapped by clear borderlines.

Stage two is not a bad stage in itself but its the stage of realism. It's all about acceptance and understanding, about patience and tolerance. Certain things are simply not the way they should be but things work out somehow and you got to do the best to find your workarounds. That's what you have become really good at now! You have learned a great deal of things and usually you can get by, doing your own thing and trying to avoid the big barriers you know will be impossible to cross. Simply accept things as they are: It's pointless, but it's to be done, it's fucked but nobody can or wants to fix it, it's ok, it's costing a lot of money but it's just the way it's been done for the last 10 years so we keep doing it... it's ok... Your management has no idea what you are talking about or what the real problems are but they are afraid to say so or to back you up because that could cost them their bonus by jeopardizing their targets and you know that that's just the way big companies work. Play the game and be a hero ! Bullshit Bingo is good ! It's all one big show and you are part of it, it pays you well so shut up and be happy ;)

Stage 3: The stage of anger

Stage 3 is a critical stage to achieve... it arrives suddenly... Of course it would be preferable to skip stage 3 in your personal development altogether or to be at home when you reach stage 3 but in real life, things usually happen when you a) don't expect them b) you don't really want them to happen and c) they should not happen. This development stage is all about anger and frustration, about swearing and violence towards desks, keyboards, computer screens, phones, blackberries, colleagues and in worse cases clients..

After having lived happily in the stage of realism you suddenly feel anger building up within yourself. Now why is that you ask? Well look at it this way. During stage 2 you are surrounded by things that do not work the way they should. In the stage of realism you have become a competent employee who knows his shit, you know what you are talking about and you realise how many deficiencies, broken processes, incompetent people surround you. You are in Stage two and believe that you can handle the situation but the truth is that you simply can't. Every time you pick up an issue that frustrates you that you can not change and pretend to accept, you build up some anger. Imagine you have a pint glass sitting in your stomach, standing in a ring of fire... every nodding of your head, every compromise you make during stage two will add a drop of pure alcohol to that pint glass... no need to illustrate to you what happens when the glass is full. All you need is one last little drop of alcohol... a little tiny one.. and the whole thing goes BOOOOOOOM !

Traders smashing computer screens with their phones, consultants throwing their notebooks to the ground, auditors ripping paper, managers throwing blackberries through the airport lounge... anger has many faces! The thing about stage 3 is that it can last several weeks or months. You are in a bad mood, you have had enough of this SHIT ! You start shouting at incompetent people, you start to write aggressive e-mails, you can't be bothered to stay late or to correct somebody in a meeting while making some totally wrong assumptions. You are totally frustrated by the stupidity of the world, by the hopeless behaviour of your peers.. Why can nobody be assed to change things that do not work? Why is everybody lazy and ignorant? Why is this company still existing you wonder... you have discovered so many problems and issues that you really question yourself as to how any business like this one can possibly be profitable and make money...

It's so fucked up... and nobody cares... AAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGG !!!

Stage 4: The stage of resignation

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just move from stage 2 to stage 4 ? In a certain way stage 4 is not the worst stage to be in. Stage 1 is certainly a nice stage in everyone's business life but it can be quite stressful. You are trying so hard to get things right and although you are happy, it certainly requires a lot of energy and dedication. Step two is a pretty comfortable stage, as an experienced employee you know your trade and your work is effortless in comparison to stage 1. We all agree that one should try to avoid stage 3 at all costs. You are running in danger of loosing your job because you do something stupid and might even end up in jail. It would not have been the first time someone ran into an office with a pump gun..

Stage 4 is all about resignation. In the end what you will come to realise is that you are just one tiny little number, one little screw, one little winch in this big big company. You are a replaceable part. If you were a screw in a Ferrari Engine, you'd know that the engine needs way too much petrol, that the pipes need cleaning, that the oil needs changing, that the tyres are worn out, etc etc... but if you break, you will be replaced instantly and the Ferrari will still be a Ferrari without you.. So what can you do?

If the world was full of clever people like you, there would never be arguments, no wars, no conflicts. We'd all be friends, we'd probably be ashamed of making a profit making business with our friends. So the world is just fine the way it is.. it's an ocean full of sharks and idiots and it's full of processes and procedures that don't make sense but which nobody has any intention of changing. Why would you take on the world ? Why would you waste too much energy on getting things right when they are just screwed up anyway?

Learning to accept that you can not change certain things and to not care about it is also a skill and an important stage in your personal development, so don't feel bad about it! Learn to accept and to live with the weaknesses of the world of finance!

You need to learn to be able to say: It's fucked, I can't fix it, and I don't care ...

Final Conclusion:

It's all about the 4 Stages, you can deny it but if you keep this e-mail and dig it up again in a few years time, you will see that it's true! You might not like it and there are exceptions of course! There are people who do not show any emotions at all, people who might not even have the brains to evolve and progress in their personal development, there are those that may seem not to follow the 4 stages because they have become CEOs or powerful Managing Directors... but be assured, the 4 Stages apply to them as well! They apply to anybody working in a larger sized company in the financial services industry!

And what can you take from all this? Well let it be inspiration to you. You can not fight it, so learn to accept it and use it to your advantage. When talking to a colleague, think to remember: what stage is he in? Listen carefully to how he is talking, he will reveal his secret. The 4 stages do not mean that nothing can be done, changed or achieved in the business world, you can always "do" things that make the business improve but in the long run, just accept that you simply can not get it all right! You simply can't, no matter how hard you try and how much support you are getting! If at all, any activity that has a positive impact will happen in stage 1 or stage 2 but once you reached stage 3, it's all about keeping the business running..

Knowing about these 4 stages and living the 4 stages will make you a much happier person. Your work life will significantly improve! And maybe the most important consequence out of all of this: you don't want to end up in stage 4 forever !!!! But now that you know about the 4 stages, once you have reached the stage of resignation and once you have endured in that stage for a while, give yourself a kick in the butt and go find that new job, role, department or company to get you back to stage 1 !

This is the most important lesson of your professional career ever, and it's been totally free.. so don't be an ass and share it with the rest of the world ;)

Best Regards, good luck and all the best,
The master of the 4 Stages!


Feb 1, 2006
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Photonic Edge
I can safely say it's not just the financial sector that this occurs. I've gone through these stages too while in advertising (not quite the full on stage 3 though) and I think it happens only as a permanent employee.

If on the other hand you are a freelancer / consultant then the feeling that you are your own boss outweighs any of these stages. You're outside the system and have the ability to give your opinions and make things happen because people will listen to you more - possibly because they think they need to get value for money for your fee. :)