If you’re feeling a little tired from your hectic full-time banking schedule, we’re here to tell you that there is an alternative. But you have to be old enough to access it.
When Peter Selman, the former head of global equities at Deutsche Bank, resurfaced after a healthy rest in June this year, it was not in another banking job. It wasn’t even in a hedge fund. Selman is now president and managing partner of SEDA, an expert witness firm in the financial services industry. He’s in good company: Other key SEDA people are Michael Yarian, the former head of debt markets for the Americas at HSBC and Richard Marin, former chairman and CEO of Bear Stearns Asset Management.
What makes senior bankers with seven-figure salary histories turn to expert careers instead? We can’t comment specifically on compensation at SEDA, but other expert witnesses who have left banking careers say it can be lucrative. If you are an expert witness yourself (rather than running an expert witness business), you can earn a very healthy hourly rate.
“Expert witnesses can only be paid by the hour. They are usually paid $100-200 more than a regular consultant due to the additional requirements needed to be an expert,” explains Gontran de Quillacq, a financial services industry expert witness who formerly worked in structured equities for HSBC. “In the financial sector, expert witnessThe es are therefore paid $600/$700 an hour, with variations on subjects or on the profile of the individual.”
If you have already made some money in banking, have some expertise in a particular niche (SEDA covers everything from risk and compliance to derivatives and asset management) and are looking for a job that pays a healthy hourly rate while allowing downtime as needed, expert testimony may be. But it’s not open to everyone.
First, de Quillacq says you’ll need a “irreproachable background”, including in your personal life. If you have “buried an ex-spouse at the bottom of the garden,” he says, the lawyer opposite will dig him up. You will also need “investigative skills and ethics” and expertise in your testimony space. de Quillacq, these are derivatives, but he says experts also come from fields such as compliance and legal.
Traders can also have an advantage. “Experts must be able to endure a difficult conversation, with a skilled interviewer whose goal is to trip them up,” explains of Quillacq. “The conversation is recorded and every word counts. Traders have an advantage – it’s a normal day at the office.”
The downside is that careers in expert testimony can take a while to kick off. “Like all consulting companies, the difficulty is to receive calls from potential clients,” explains of Quillacq. “Lawyers select experts primarily by word of mouth. Since legal cases take two to four years, it takes several years before a lawyer can recommend you, and even longer before you are recognized in the legal community. No money will ever buy that reputation. Quality work pays off in the end, but it also takes patience.”
If it works, you could end up with a part-time job that pays a good hourly rate and is intellectually stimulating. “Personally, I find the role rewarding. The responsibilities require expertise and experience; they make good use of my college and my decades on the court,” de Quillacq tells us. “The tasks are diverse, interesting and challenging. You work with really knowledgeable and knowledgeable professionals. There is always more to learn. You’re a piece in a 3D chess game, and there’s real satisfaction when the customer wins their case.”
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