Why an EY Partner Quit His Job in Finance to Be a Math Teacher

Estimated read time 6 min read
  • Deepak Swaroop was a partner at EY in London for 10 years before quitting in 2019.
  • Swaroop left his position, with a reported average pay of $1 million in 2022, to change careers.
  • He qualified to be a math teacher in his 50s and said teaching is more valuable than money. 

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Deepak Swaroop spent nearly 20 years working at EY in London, 10 of which as a partner— a position known to attract an average salary of £803,000, about $1 million. Swaroop has an MBA and has completed courses in executive management at Harvard and AI at MIT.

In 2020, he left the high-flying world of finance behind to become a high school math teacher, taking a considerable pay cut in the process.

Swaroop started his career consulting for Arthur Andersen & Co. in India

Swaroop grew up in Delhi and Mumbai during the 1970s and 80s. He came from a high-achieving family of engineers, but his aptitude for finance helped him climb the ranks at global financial consultancy Arthur Andersen & Co.

“I built a valuation practice supporting foreign investments into India in the 90s. I made my way up from a senior consultant to manager and then a director,” Swaroop told Business Insider.

In 2000, Swaroop leaped at the chance to be promoted to chief of staff to the company’s EMEIA — Europe, the Middle East, India, and Africa— managing partner. This opportunity included company benefits like relocating from Delhi to a four-bedroom apartment in London’s expensive St John’s Wood area and covering London private school fees for his two young children.

Soon after Swaroop was made a partner himself in 2001, Arthur Andersen & Co. collapsed. The accounting firm was part of a massive scandal involving the energy company Enron in the US. The energy company went bankrupt, and Arthur Andersen & Co. was dissolved.

Swaroop became a partner at EY

Swaroop was one of 85,000 employees left without a job. He was faced with the decision to return to India, or to stay in the UK without the corporate benefits. “My wife and I said we would not let the kids’ education get impacted, so if we wanted to stay on in London, that would be the one constant thing,” said Swaroop. “We said we’d give ourselves a year to see if it would work out.”

He and his wife decided to cut costs by moving to a smaller apartment in a less expensive borough of London. They relied on their savings to keep their children in private education.

During this time, Swaroop began his career at EY. Swaroop, alongside many of his fellow Arthur Andersen & Co employees, moved to EY after it absorbed some of the Arthur Andersen & Co operations.

‘I was at the right place at the right time’

At EY, Swaroop shone. He pioneered EY’s adoption of automation and AI, building the company’s Automation Central division in 2015.

“I felt I was at the right place at the right time, with the right sort of knowledge of the organisation, which allowed me to rapidly build the team,” Swaroop told BI. “People tell me that still remains the largest such operation in the corporate world. So we did something really good,” he added.

EY restructured, and Swaroop no longer felt excited about his role

After a company restructuring in 2019, Swaroop told BI he faced another big decision: accept a significant change to his role or leave the business. He chose the latter.

“I felt that working there was no longer going to be as exciting for me,” said Swaroop. “So I took early retirement, partly driven by my desire to start a startup.”

He spent the next year co-founding an enterprise AI platform, from which he quickly parted ways. He told BI it wasn’t the change he sought from corporate life.

Retired life was unfulfilling, but teaching was a way out

Swaroop was 56. He had paid off his mortgage and supported his now adult children through university. The next step for the ex-partner was early retirement. But he found his new schedule of golf, walks, and trips to the library unfulfilling.

Swaroop told BI he read about Lucy Kellaway, the Financial Times editor who left journalism to become a trainee teacher. Kellaway founded Now Teach in 2017, an organisation to support people to change careers into teaching. After sitting in on lessons at five different schools, his mind was made up. Swaroop wanted to retrain as a high school math teacher.

Three years on, Swaroop told BI he feels energized and inspired in his new career — even if he now earns a fraction of what he used to. The maximum salary of a qualified teacher in London is around £50,000, according to the UK government.

The pay cut didn’t matter as long as Swaroop was making a difference

Swaroop said his salary wasn’t a deciding factor in this career change as he knew it wouldn’t come close to his old pay.

“I was keen to do something which had a purpose, so I could contribute back to society in a way,” said Swaroop.

Swaroop said coming into teaching as a novice in his 50s was challenging. He was surrounded by more experienced peers who were much younger. He also found standing up in front of teenagers all day more grueling than working in an office. But he has been buoyed by his students’ energy, humor, and affection and how he motivates them to learn.

“I just want to get into the classroom and teach. I don’t have an objective of becoming a head of school. Previously, I would actively try to move up the ladder. That is being replaced by my desire to be more committed to my teaching,” said Swaroop.

“I have had students write to me that I have helped them realize their potential and what path to take in the future. That is more valuable to me than money.”

Correction: March 14, 2024 — An earlier version of this article misstated how long Deepak Swaroop was a partner at EY. Swaroop worked at EY for 20 years, 10 of which he held a partner position.