How to quit IBD AND consulting, go home, and still make it in finance

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Call it luck - Jim Barry certainly isn't afraid to do so - but for a man who left a career in investment banking with Morgan Stanley and a career in consulting with Bain & Co to move back to Cork in Ireland, he certainly hasn't done badly at all.

"I was at Bain for two years [after leaving MS]," Barry told students at the London School of Economics' Alternative Investments Conference today. "I loved Bain. I loved my friends and colleagues there, but I wanted to move back to Ireland."

Other European juniors may well feel the same - especially with Brexit in the background. However, while a move back home can be a trigger for a more parochial career, for Barry it was anything but. As global head of the infrastructure investment group at Blackrock Alternative Investors, he's now as likely to be found opining about coal in Australia as about infrastructure in America.

For Barry, moving back to Ireland from London defined his career.

Not that Barry actually lives in Ireland now. Nor does he live in Cork (where he and his wife come from). In an interview with the Irish Times in June, Barry said he now travels "as much as a 747 pilot,” either flying in out of Dublin from London to see his family, or flying to meet his team in 25 offices around the world. Even so, he did get to live Ireland for 11 years after quitting Bain, and Ireland was where he got his biggest break in 2011,when Blackrock set up a partnership with Irish infrastructure fund NTR.

"I went back [to Ireland] with three goals," he told the students. "I wanted to sit at the top table. I wanted to live in Cork and I wanted some equity." He now has two of the three (plus a house in Cork that he visits a few times a year).

"I quickly found out that commercial life in Ireland centres around Dublin," said Barry. He moved to the Irish capital, met the founder of NTL (who was looking for someone three days a week for nine months), stayed there for nine years as CEO and transformed NTL from an Irish toll road investor to a major global infrastructure investor. The rest is history.

Barry's experience reflects the possibility of straying from established career paths without doing yourself an irrevocable damage. To pull it off he says you'll need a strategy and some luck: know what you want to get and see what transpires. Most of all, don't just follow the money: "It sounds like a cliche, but if you do something you're passionate about the money will take care of itself."

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