Young bankers are wondering if there are easier ways to get rich

It’s not uncommon for first year investment banking analysts to get the winter blues a few months into the job and to start wondering whether they’ve made the right life choices.  Usually, this results in an emotional conversation over coffee or beer and some calming and encouraging words from the desk’s most recognizably human Executive Director. (It’s usually the ED rank that gets this job – vice president and below aren’t old enough to have the gravitas and MDs are too busy to credibly act as if they care). 

With everyone working from home, however, it seems anecdotally that these pep-talks aren’t happening as reliably as they did, and that more first-years than usual are quitting the industry.  This is potentially a problem for the banks – often it’s the best analysts who push themselves the hardest and end up close to burning out.  And the same anecdotal evidence suggests that the first year quitters are leaving the industry altogether rather than moving to other banks.

It’s hard to blame them in some ways.  Over the last twelve months, with all that everyone has had to put up with, it’s also been noticeable that some young folks have been making banker-like money without having to endure a junior banker lifestyle.  For example, Bloomberg has unearthed Brandon Smith, a 32 year-old Elon Musk super fan, in Milwaukee who earns less than six figures annually as a video producer, and who poured $90k of savings into Tesla; he’s a millionaire today. There’s also that guy at college who sold weed for Bitcoin on the internet might be in a similar position.  Since these are exactly the kinds of assets that members of the University Investment Club tend to have been vocally dismissive of, it’s all a bit demoralizing. 

It’s not just youngsters, either.  Even people like Nick Giovanni, the head of Goldman Sachs’ global TMT group, are leaving to tie their financial future to the online grocery delivery industry.  This is kind of worrying.  Ever since the great financial crisis, investment banks have had an image problem when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best talent.  For ten years, the industry has told itself that this is mainly because of the appeal of the Silicon Valley giants.  But now that Facebook and Amazon are not exactly considered popular and glamorous, that excuse isn’t there any more.  Perhaps it’s time for banking to take a longer look in the mirror and ask why it’s not seen as a place to have fun and get rich. Maybe it’s time to start paying in Bitcoin? 

Daniel Davies –


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