Andrew Montalenti said he and his girlfriend now refer to days he spent at Morgan Stanley as “the gilded age.”He told the Observer that he left because he hated it there, because Morgan Stanley told him the job (a programmer) would be a lot more intellectually stimulating that it turned out to be.
In an expose on what it’s really like to work on Wall Street, a number of former financiers tell the Observer that the dream differs greatly from the reality.
Turns out Wall Street cultivates this dream of working hard, making tons of money, and being one of the most influential and important people in the world – but it’s all a lie.
Puneet Mehta, a former VP of technology with Citi Capital Markets who now co-runs the mobile app MyCityWay, explains:
“That’s how they attract top talent,” said Mr. Mehta. “Going in, most people do not expect to be bored. I’ve worked outside of Wall Street and I’ve seen how attractive it is from the outside and how most people just dream of getting one of these jobs.”
Within the stories of these young adults who left Wall Street for their dream jobs is a universal truth: Wall Street sucks you in, and then it just sucks. Here’s how it all starts:
1. Wall Street recruiters tell smart college soon-to-be-grads that if they come to work for Bank X or Hedge Fund Y, they will find exactly what they’re looking for: hard work and lots of money.
Montalenti said that when he was applying to Morgan Stanley, recruiters played up the bank’s “hacker credentials.”
“They talked about how it’s an entirely Linux shop, which resonates with hacker types,” he said. “They talked about how they had these millions of trades that they had to process every day, and how this was a major data-processing challenge that required deep understanding of algorithms.”
2. The students recall hearing about Wall Street, and images of all the smart people who work there pop into their brains.
“There are a lot of people like me there who somehow wander into the space thinking there must be some intellectual merit to it because so many smart people are going there,” said Mario Schlosser of the social gaming start-up Vostu, who studied computer science in college before ending up at Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund.
3. Then the students call up their friends who have gone to work on Wall Street and confirm with them that Wall Street is indeed a challenging, well-paying environment. Of course these people have already been brain-washed by the system.
“He told me that he really liked it there,” Mr. Montalenti said. “He said it was a very hacker-oriented shop, and that you had a really good environment for doing software engineering.”
4. The students graduate from college and begin their finance careers. The first few years are fun.
Often the malaise doesn’t set in until after a few years.
5. But then. The veil is lifted. Wall Street is in fact boring, the work is not hard.
The work they’re asked to do there is repetitive and boring.
“Basically they have to book orders and they have to fulfil orders. Sometimes they have to do that kind of quickly, but it’s not really that crazy.”
6. And reality sets in: Wall Street is where you make money without hard work, whether it’s at Bank X, in this case Morgan Stanley:
“You can go to a job every day and get paid very well and not actually have to be that ambitious,” says Montalenti.
7. Or at Hedge Fund Y, in this case, Bridgewater:
“But literally the feeling I always had is that it was basically moving things from left to right or from right to left. And those things would move just fine even if we didn’t move them. … If we hadn’t been there, the world would not be any worse off.”
And so the lie is born in the mind of bright young college kids, matures in the first few years of a Wall Streeter’s career, and is killed by the minds of the bright young adults who have the balls to leave and actually do something with their lives. Others stay, and either too-enthusiastically keep the lie alive, or just say, fuck it. The money’s good enough.
This piece is dedicated to the people who work hard on Wall Street every day to keep the lie alive – may the Observer’s article leave the dream/lie unharmed, in their minds and in the minds of the young people they need to do the bitch work.
Read the full expose in the Observer.
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