Not so much the wolves of Wall Street as the insecure and a little bit lost..
Ezra Klein: My big takeaway from your book was that Ivy League graduates aren’t going to Wall Street because they love risk and want to make a ton of money. They’re going because they hate risk and are terrified about what to do next and Wall Street has figured out a way to calm their anxieties.
Kevin Roose: Wall Street invented this new way of recruiting in the early 80s. Before that they hired like any other industry. If you wanted to be a banker you applied for a job at a bank and they hired you or they didn’t. But in the early 80s Goldman Sachs and others figured out they could broaden their net and get lots of really smart people if they made it a temporary position rather than a permanent one.
So they created the two-and-out program. The idea is you’re there for two years and then you move onto something else. That let them attract not just hardcore econ majors but people majoring in other subjects who had a passing interest in finance and didn’t know what else to do. People now think going to a bank for two years will help prepare them for the next thing and keep them from having to make these hard decisions about the rest of their life. It made it like an extension of college. And it was genius. It led to this huge explosion in recruitment and something like a third of Ivy League graduates going to Wall Street.
EK: Wall Street seems particularly good at both valuing the skills and managing the fears of liberal arts majors. A lot of kids graduated with a degree in sociology or English literature and feel they don’t know any skills that will help them get a job. Wall Street both seems to see the value of that kind of learning and see how to position themselves as a kind of continuing-education program.
KR: It’s amazing. They have turned investment banking into this two-year bootcamp for adulthood. They teach you to make powerpoint slides and Excel spreadsheets. But if you ask the banks what’s interesting is they see this as a labor advantage: they can get not only the smartest econ majors but the smartest history majors. Lloyd Blankfein was a history major, for instance. And they view this as a source of prestige. They’re not just getting finance-minded kids but they’re getting the smartest kids from all fields. That lets them broaden their intellectual inputs. A history major might have different perspectives on a trading desk than an econ major.
More of Ezra Klein interviewing Kevin Roose in Vox.