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Citi MD who spent five years planning his exit is living his best life

As Citigroup prepares to make another round of job cuts, focused on staff in managerial roles, one former managing director there is having a fine timing living in Cornwall. 

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Alex Hayes-Griffin spent nearly 13 years at Citi in London after joining from HSBC in Hong Kong in 2015. He spent the last eight years as head of UK and Ireland FIG debt capital markets before leaving last summer. He did so of his own accord and has been very, very busy ever since. 

Writing on his own blog, Hayes-Griffin details his many endeavours since he was last seen at Canary Wharf. They include completing an AI program at Oxford, completing a digital writing course, completing a blockchain program, starting a coaching certificate, co-launching a family business (dog coats for Dachshunds), investing in a portfolio careers platform, redecorating his Cornish house, and becoming an advisor to four CEOs.

It all sounds very busy, but Hayes-Griffin doesn't aspire to sit back and stare at the sea. "There's a part of me that would like to sit down, read a book and walk the dog, but I'm also too young to be doing that," he says. He's 45.

Unfortunately for people who may be about to lose their Citi jobs without much time to prepare, Hayes-Griffin spent five years laying the foundations for his exit. "You need the patience to do it on a risk-managed basis," he says. "You need to be ready from a family and marital point of view, and you need to make sure that you have the financial security to bridge into your new path."

Even after saving for five years, selling his London home and paying down his mortgages, Hayes-Griffin says leaving finance can be daunting: "It's said that the most addictive thing in the world is a monthly salary, and that's true. You need to be prepared for the salary not coming through."

Initially, he didn't want to leave banking and was thinking instead of taking a sabbatical, but his mentor advised him against it. "A sabbatical sends a message that you are not committed," he says. Instead, he took five weeks off work to complete a short course at Oxford's Said Business School and to spend some time in Cornwall and in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago (Hayes-Griffin is Norwegian). "I came back feeling super clear about purpose and I made some changes," he said. Initially, he looked at different paths in the bank. Then he quit.

What he does next will be multifaceted. There's coaching - he hopes to coach other people leaving finance. There's board advisory work. There's the dachshund coat business; there's the possibility of working with the AI firms, and there's the potential to run retreats from the large house in Cornwall. 

"I've invested in myself," says Hayes-Griffin, adding that he doesn't completely rule out a return to banking one day but that it would be "doing an injustice to the opportunity I've created" not to explore the alternatives further. What he doesn't intend to do is not much at all: "For my personality, I couldn't just sit still," he reflects. 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Pi
    15 January 2024

    What a coincidence. Today is exactly the seventh anniversary of my controlled departure from one bank where I successfuly worked for 20 years. The atmosphere became so toxic that it was killing me. I spent two years preparing for my departure. Nobody expected it. It was a shock for the company, colleagues and family. Today, after so many years, everything has worked out, I have my own life and I am happy. So I fully understand the rationality of Hayes-Griffin's decisions and preparations. Well done.

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