I Was Kicked Out of Lehman Brothers in the 2008 Financial Crash

  • Adam Taylor had been working in M&A for 2½ years at Lehman Brothers in London in 2008.
  • He was laid off in August 2008 and describes the atmosphere before the company went bankrupt.
  • Taylor started a pet-food-subscription business in 2010 and says she loves entrepreneurship.

This as described article is based on a conversation with Adam Taylor.A former employee of Lehman Brothers. Edited for length and clarity.

In August 2008, I was woken up by a phone call from my boss asking if I would come to the office that day. I was there until 2 working on a deal. Something felt bad.

I went directly to a meeting with my team president. He was sitting on one side of a ridiculously large table in the boardroom. “Adam, I’m firing you,” she said.

The shock of being fired was terrible

I didn’t want to believe it. I had recently moved from the UK M&A team to the consumer M&A team and hadn’t heard rumors of people being laid off that day. I think they expected me to leave the office right away, but I went to my desk to process the news and tried to calculate my options.

I started working at Lehman Brothers in the summer of 2005, when I was 25 years old. I did a 12-week summer internship and got a job offer from the UK M&A team.

I used to enjoy working for Lehman Brothers, but I didn’t get it.

There were advantages – I made lifelong friends from my group of newly arrived analysts and the office was in the heart of Canary Wharf. It was a luxurious place with green marble all around, mahogany walls and doors.

The job was tough. There were high expectations and long hours. It was exciting to see how hard I could work, but innovation wears off.

In retrospect, there were warning signs before the crash.

Back then, no one thought Lehman Brothers would go under in 2008. No one knew how bad the situation was.

I’ve had friends who bought Lehman Brothers stocks when they were so low just thinking they’d go up but lost their money. Only one friend had predicted that the entire system would crash, but they were an anomaly.

In retrospect, there were warning signs. Half of my previous team went to Credit Suisse in the months before I left. Rumors were flying about whether people would be fired.

There have been three rounds of layoffs. In the second wave, I was released just before the company went into bankruptcy-like management in the US.

As people left, everyone wondered if this was the final round or just the beginning. I was shocked when this came to me because I was working on one of the company’s biggest active deals.

I lost the sense of identity I attached to the company

I was “Adam Taylor at Lehman Brothers” for 2.5 years.

I went to work every day for the first month of my notice period to use my network. I was desperately negotiating job opportunities with the bounty hunters. I also had £500 to use on my Lehman meal card. On my last day, I went out with bags of Coke to use.

People were probably thinking, “Why is the man coming here?” But I think there was a strength in my staying – the team that let me go had to see me every day.

Being made redundant is a blessing and a curse

Getting laid off is an opportunity to discover what you want to do and what you enjoy.

Three months later I got a job as a management consultant at Simon-Kucher & Partners. I didn’t enjoy it for very long and after about eight months I submitted my notice.

After leaving, I moved to New York to live with my family who moved there. Seeing my arthritic mom struggling to carry a bag of pet food gave me the idea to start a pet food-subscription business.

I came back to the UK in 2010 and co-founded PetShop.co.uk, a pet food subscription service, with my current wife, Lexi. The pet food industry hasn’t been very sexy. Although it was a competitive space, it was not full of young entrepreneurs.

I went from wearing bespoke suits at Canary Wharf to choosing pet food in Coventry. Building our company from scratch was difficult, but we learned how to run a profitable business.

It’s funny how things end like this. It’s hard work, but entrepreneurship is the best thing I’ve ever done.

It’s so satisfying to do something you love. I feel like I’ve won the enjoyment game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *