Former banker Kerrie Keeling left the City in 2003 to set up A Woman's Touch, a property maintenance company run and predominantly staffed by women. The company now has a turnover of more than 1m, and Keeling was recently cited as one of Management Today's 35 Women Under 35. For the benefit of anyone who's thinking of getting out of banking, or who's already out of banking and thinking of doing something else, we've asked Kerrie a few questions, below. She will also be available between 28 and 30 July to answer selected questions from readers.
Are we right in thinking you worked at JPMorgan?
It was JPMorgan and Citigroup actually.
What did you do there?
I started in derivatives in the back office at JPMorgan before moving into an emerging markets role in the middle office. I then moved to Citigroup as a relationship manager. It was sales and marketing basically - I was trying to flog the bank's products to clients.
Interesting that you moved from the back to the front office - was that hard?
It was very difficult. I had to move company - once you've worked in the back office, you get branded. I could see it wasn't going to happen at JPMorgan, so I applied speculatively to Citigroup where I knew they had a few vacancies in the financial institutions team. It worked to my advantage that it was full of stale pale males - suited men in their 50s - I think they quite liked the idea of a young girl joining them.
How long were you in banking for all together?
What was the hardest thing about leaving?
Walking way from the salary and bonus. Two things made me want to go: disillusionment with the internal politics of American banks, and the fact that I'd always wanted to run my own business.
When was your eureka moment?
I had some tiling done at my flat and the guy was awful. He was a typical builder: called me darling, left cigarette butts in my sink, and tried to charge me more than he'd said it would cost. I saw an opportunity for a building business run by women which would turn up on time and stick to budget.
Did you leave the bank to set the company up?
I started while I was still working.
Wasn't that difficult?
I had to be fairly discreet. But I didn't actually have any customers - it was more a question of setting up the website, etc.
How far advanced were things when you left?
Before leaving I sent out an email to my very large network of friends and colleagues, put in a link to the website, and told them they'd all get a discount. A lot of my first few months of work therefore came from former clients and colleagues, and a large proportion of my current clients are bankers and City people.
What advice would you give to other bankers/ex-bankers looking to set up a business?
That there's more money to be made in a down market than an up market. Also, you don't need backing. I've always funded myself organically and put my own money into the business.
Kerrie will be available to answer your questions between 28 and 30 July inclusive. To ask her a question, enter it in the comment box below. Please note that we'll only publish questions that are answered.