Recruiting against Goldman Sachs
I’m back from Amsterdam. Can I hear a “fuck yeah” for my guest blogger Becky while I was gone?
Lots of things to talk about, sausage wall-related and otherwise, but here’s what’s first.
After reading Karen Ho’s book Liquidated, which I blogged about here, it’s impossible not to understand Goldman Sachs and other investment banks recruitment plans as not coincidental but absolutely central to their overall business strategy of seeming elite and smart. That’s one reason Greg Smith’s resignation letter is so awesome: it erodes the brand of GS, and perhaps keeps young people from joining, cutting them off at the source.
This recent article from the New York Times discusses this issue and quotes both Karen Ho and my friend Chris Wiggins, which is cool because Chris told me about Karen’s book. From the article:
“Everything from Occupy Wall Street to larger critical discourses of ‘fat cats,’ all of that has had some trickle-down effect” to young people, said Karen Ho, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, who has studied the culture of Wall Street.
The decline in the finance industry’s allure has been accelerated by the explosion of the technology industry. A 2011 survey of 6,700 young professionals by the consulting firm Universum ranked Google, Apple and Facebook as the most coveted workplaces; JPMorgan Chase, the highest-ranking bank on the survey, was 41st.
This doesn’t really tell us much since i-banks only recruit at certain colleges, and we don’t know where the survey took place. Also, I’m hearing disappointingly large numbers of kids are currently planning to go into investment banking. However, I’m guessing that the numbers of students going into investment banking from Princeton and Harvard are going to go down about two or three years after Occupy started – these older students had already been brainwashed by the time Occupy got to them. More of the article:
At this year’s SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Tex., a panel called “Keeping Kids off the Street: Wall St. vs. Start-ups” was convened to address questions including whether the finance industry was to blame for what organizers called a “failure to nurture a culture of innovation” in New York. Chris Wiggins, an associate professor of applied math at Columbia University who sat on the panel, said he was seeing students shy away from Wall Street and veer toward industries where they could work and profit without bringing their morality under the microscope.
“The claim of investment banking that it serves a social purpose by ‘lubricating capitalism’ has eroded,” Professor Wiggins said. “It’s simply very difficult for young people to believe that they’re serving any social purpose now.”
First of all, great quote from Chris.
Next, I have no problem trying to talk young people out of going into investment banking and into internet start-ups, because one industry is just too big and the other is enjoying explosive growth. But on the other hand, there’s plenty of reason to worry about the idea that ones morality isn’t under the microscope if one is engaged in highly scalable modeling that affects people’s lives. In fact that’s exactly what I’m worried about right nowadays.
By the way, I’ll be talking about the job of the quant in these two industries, as well as my related concerns, tonight at Emanuel Derman’s Financial Engineering Practitioner’s Seminar at 6pm at Columbia.