"I walked away from a $600k private equity job"

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Grace Kim is the kind of person most banks, most private equity funds, and probably many hedge funds would like to hire. She's smart. She's proven her ability, first in Morgan Stanley's M&A group and then in General Atlantic's high growth public markets investing fund. And she's a woman. 

She ticks all the buckets, but in the past few weeks, Kim has walked away from her finance career and railed against her previous employer in a way that hasn't been seen since Greg Smith left Goldman Sachs 10 years ago. - Except Kim has taken to social media while Smith turned to the New York Times, making her claims more raw, more angry and a lot less sanitized than Smith's gripes against Goldman.

The style of Kim's complaints has led some people in the industry to question her sanity, but when we spoke to her, she seemed sane, articulate and angry. 

"Many of the people with integrity leave the industry," says Kim. "What remains are people who are weak, who are happy to do sweatshop work." The industry wants young people who are loyal and who are happy to be taken advantage of, says Kim: "These guys don't assume that cute Asian women who are 5ft 3 will have their own minds. They assume that we will continue to do their bidding. But I am not a comfort woman - you cannot keep occupying all my time and my energy and using all my IT skills."

Kim graduated from NYU Stern with a bachelors degree in finance and data science in 2016. She spent just over two years working in M&A for Morgan Stanley before joining General Atlantic in 2019. Initially, Kim worked on the high growth private markets investing team, but in March 2021 she moved to a new team where she led the formation of a high growth North Atlantic public investing fund with two other investors. 

General Atlantic didn't respond to a request to comment for this article, but part of Kim's gripe is that she didn't receive any carried interest while she was there, despite setting up most of the analytics that powered the fund's investments, and despite others on the team receiving carry. "Young people today are totally empowered to be better than their MDs, but they make you wait years to achieve that level of pay," she says. 

When she left Morgan Stanley for private equity, Kim says she expected her lifestyle to improve. Initially, it did. But then the pandemic and work from home happened. "I was working similar hours to in M&A but at a different pace," she says. "In M&A you are either full-on or doing nothing, but I was working all the time. I never had a weekend off - I was motivated to do that, I wanted the fund to do well, but I wasn't being given a proper opportunity to enrich myself."

Although she wasn't given carried interest, Kim wasn't exactly badly paid. She claims that GA indicated that she would earn nearly $600k this year if the fund performed. When she quit, she left that on the table.

At the start of this year, Kim says she developed heart pains and a racing heart beat as it became apparent that the technology markets she specialized in were crashing. She was subsequently hospitalized with stress and anxiety, before being given the all-clear. It was another signal that it was time to get out: "My specialty is not in fashion right now, unless you're shorting things, but I'm more of an optimist." She quit in May 2022. 

Kim says she has savings, and is currently living off those while she works out what to do next. On her Twitter account, Kim intimated that she was considering OnlyFans as a side-gig, but she tells us that this was a joke and that the finance bros berating her don't understand her sense of humor. It's still early days, but she says she's becoming an artist in the style of a "modern renaissance woman" who creates things. "Ultimately, I am still a businesswoman first." 

One day, Kim might go back to finance, but when she does, she says she'll choose a progressive fund with a more egalitarian ethos, rattling off names of smaller places which offer equity and carried interest to all staff, and which take executive assistants on holiday. Most of her friends, though, work in the arts. "People in finance assume they are intelligent and superior to everyone else," says Kim. "But that's not the case. My group of personal friends are all DJs and artists. People in finance need to respect other kinds of intelligence."

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