Working at the finance department in one of the biggest banks – J.P. Morgan Chase is an ideal start for most of the young fresh grads. I was definitely one of those young people and felt super excited to work there when I first started my career. After 5 years of work, I made a decision to pivot my career from finance to a more innovative and young industry – Data Analytics and I made through it successfully. Here is my story and hope it helps for you to build your career path as well.

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Life at J.P. Morgan

I started my career from the risk team to assist the evaluation/pricing of the financial products. In most big finance companies such as J.P. the structure and team set up are similar. It can be briefly summarized as three major functions – Front Office, Middle Office and Back Office.

  • Front Office – deal with the financial market and clients directly, mainly trading and investment banking. Salary is the highest among all three functions, usually 100-150k for the junior analysts.
  • Middle Office – deal with risk management, pricing and finance (external accounting reports). Salary is in the medium level, average 70k-100k for the analyst or associates.
  • Back Office – support or operation, control management and reconciliation. Salary is between 50k – 100k.

My role was in the middle office and salary base was pretty good. I enjoyed the time there as I had gotten good exposure of the financial products, so I got a good understanding of how those products work and the pricing model of those products. However, I experienced several drawbacks as I progressed my career

  • I found most of work were done manually and we needed to cooperate with tech team to automate the process, that made me rethink about my skill set and ask my self “Will you still be competitive in the next 3-5 years to compare with the technical people?”
  • The work itself was very repetitive. In a big bank like J.P., each one on the team was responsible for one or two particular products. With that saying, I was an expert for product XYZ, but I may had no idea about product ABC. I felt the spectrum of knowledge was quite narrow.
  • There were 2 career paths. First was to stay in the same position for at least 2-3 years to be promoted to VP (Vice President) but getting really hard to be promoted to ED (Executive Director). Second path was to jump to similar bank and renegotiate your salary. For both career paths, I would have to be good at the products I covered.

With the reasons mentioned above, I started to think about how I want to grow my career and fortunately I found a different solution.

Career Change

During the time of 5 years at JP, crypto and machine learning became 2 hot topics everywhere. The huge price volatility brought attention of Wall Street. J.P. Morgan at 2017 and 2018 had not any trading on crypto but did start to research and prepare the market of the crypto currencies. As the analysts within the organization, I was also able to track market news and read research papers about it and I also learned the mechanics and the investment of the crypto as my personal interest.

On the other hand, I started to learn coding myself to have myself more competitive for the job market. Some of the coding project was to use machine learning to predict product volatility and P&L (profit & loss). I was hungry to learn those new skill sets and products not just because to secure my job but also I felt passionate and thrilled by the changes brought by the new technology.

for the 5th year at J.P. I feel like I am ready for the change – to get a data analytics job in a fintech company and bear in mind the risk – the change might not go as well as I expected and I was willing to bear the risk. So I quit my job and focused on researching on job opportunities and improving my coding skills.

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After I Quit

Since I planned in advance, I started to execute my plan starting the first day I left the job by reading and searching fin-tech companies, analyzing the hot ones. Screening job opportunities and most importantly, reinforcing my coding skills by going to LeetCode to solve problems in SQL, python and take challenges in Kaggle using machine learning strategies. It was also a good time for me to pick up the basic knowledge about data and statistics during this time, taking online courses, reading books and also relaxing during the time-off.

After 6 months, I found a data analyst job in another big bank’s risk department. The salary is 80% of my last one, but I do not mind I just need this opportunity to accumulate my experience for data analytics. I started and worked for almost one year and got the opportunity to join a crypto fintech company as a data scientist. My salary increase for 50% for that position.


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