Young Wall Streeters were surveyed about their experiences in finance — and their responses were brutal

Wall Street Men 1929
Wall Street needs to focus on inclusion, according to a new report by Toigo Foundation and Russell Reynolds Associate. AP Images

Wall Street has cause for concern.

That’s according to a recent report out by Toigo Foundation and Russell Reynolds Associates, a New York-based employment consulting firm. The two firms surveyed 300 financial professionals with six to 10 years of post-MBA experience to uncover why some Wall Streeters might be thinking about leaving finance.

The global survey covered the financial, ethnic, and geographical gamut.

Top students from America’s most prestigious MBA programs are increasingly seeking out careers outside of financial services and voluntary turnover at some banks has reached peak levels, according to Business Insider’s Matt Turner. According to the survey from Toigo Foundation and Russell Reynolds, 50% of mid- and senior-level finance leaders are considering leaving their employer, and 20% are considering leaving finance.

The report identified the lack of an inclusive work environment as one reason why some people are leaving the Street. Many financial firms have taken key steps to diversify their ranks, according to the report, but not everyone feels “welcomed and valued.”

“A resounding sentiment voiced during the focus groups is that the commitment to inclusion must be absolute and ingrained in the organisation’s DNA,” the report said.

“Inclusion, as many leaders know, is the more challenging and elusive element to achieve and sustain,” the report added.

The report includes responses from some of the people surveyed. One respondent left Wall Street for a job at tech firm because life was just too brutal:

“I transitioned to tech where the company says: ‘We care about you.’ That message alone gives you a sense of belonging and value. In banking the messages are conveyed through your bonus. Not everyone is motivated solely by money. We want to feel engaged.”

And another said:

“Finance could be better served if they tried to flatten their organizational structure and get to know their people — even at the department level. I’m much more than simply a pitchbook.”

The report emphasised that attempts to build an inclusive environment must be authentic. That sentiment was echoed by one survey respondent:

“To build an inclusive culture, you have to be authentic and genuine about it. Simply updating a website or recruiting materials to show underrepresented talent doing cool work won’t change an employee’s mind if they are considering Facebook. They have to do more.”

Another person surveyed said it’s easy to see through the PR efforts:

“Banks feel they are above fray and when they do outreach. People can see through that. If you tell someone you are doing ‘XX,’ they will do a quick reference check to see if it’s true. I have to experience the change as a part of the firm’s culture.”

In addition to noting the importance of inclusion, the report advises Wall Street firms to adopt a mission that employees can get behind and allow for more flexibility and freedom. While Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyld Blankfein has broken the mould in recent weeks, lamenting President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement for example, bank CEOs have typically kept quiet post financial crisis.

One respondent to the survey said:

“I envied my counterparts at the Googles and LinkedIns of the world — any time a crisis popped up, the CEOs would take a stance and employees would feel energised to act. That would never happen in finance, they have always tried to be neutral.”

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