EconView 4/10: Some thoughts on ‘Young Money’

He took the title of my autobiography

He took the title of my autobiography

“It’s only 2 years”

When I went to college I had no conception of the ‘recruiting process’ that ambitious undergrads have to pursue the next level of success. I thought bankers were people who helped me open a deposit account, what’s the big deal? But, by junior year, I got it. Just by going to recruiting events, I was enamored by the allure of “tackling complex problems” with very smart people while being compensated “generously“. Most of all, I felt that a career in that direction, working for a big preferably finance or consulting company would be viewed by my peers as a continuation of a successful life. That didn’t happen but I still wonder what could have been.

That’s why I was drawn to Kevin Roose’s Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits, (Grand Central Publishing, 2014). Truth is, despite many of my peers going into and currently working deep in front-office finance it was still somewhat of a black box to me. What did they do day-to-day? Are the horror stories I’ve been hearing just a massive (and unhealthyhumblebrag? Finally, I hoped to have an answer.

Young Money is structured into a narrative of the 8 young financiers interwoven with commentary about various aspects of the financial services industry and humorous retellings of the author’s own awkward forays into the more visible aspects of that lifestyle. It reads easy (I finished it in less a week), the characters are likable and themes of the amorality of Wall Street (side tangent: “amorality” instead of “immoral” is more apt here. Roose has a memorable line, and I’m paraphrasing here, mentioning that if Wall Street could make more profit with the same amount of risk as shaving pennies from financial transactions as distributing vaccinations in developing countries, they’d do it)  and the uncertainty most 20 year-olds face while thinking of about the rest of their lives is hammered throughout the book.

Perhaps being that age and having friends made me desensitized to some of the problems that the analysts face. Yes, working the “banker’s 9-5” (both A.M) is terrible, yes, doing work on the weekend jeopardizes relationships with your friends and significant others and yes, ordering take out food from Seamless and sitting for hours on end will probably affect your health adversely. None of that is particularly insightful.

However, Roose does touch upon some of the more interesting aspects of the culture. I was intrigued by some of the ways recruiters look for young analysts by offering vague descriptions of what their life may be like or how certain educational institutions seem to encourage students going into the industry. Roose also mentions how money can change people over time in a particularly memorable detailing a Wall Street fraternity event for the people who have made it. I would have love to read more about each topic with research to back up his statements but the book, perhaps purposefully so, focuses more on the anecdotal experience of the 8 people he chose to follow.

Ultimately, I feel like I got a sanitized version of the rants on Wall Street Oasis when I wanted something more like The Big Short which I felt was more a narrative on the system the individuals who made it.

Watch more:
The Daily Show – Kevin Roose Interview

Also:
Slate – Mad Men Season 7 Preview
Washington Post – The Attorney General, a Republican Senator and Asparagus.
CBC – Trevor Linden is back with the Canucks!

EconView 09/11: Never forget to Vote

Classy Voting

Classy Voting

As a New Yorker, I paid attention to the results of the mayoral primaries showing public advocate Bill DeBlasio representing Democrats and MTA-head Joe Lhota representing the Republicans in the Nov. 5 election. I, like a lot of residents of New York, cannot vote but I strongly believe in the process.  That’s why I was a little annoyed at piece written by a current student of my alma mater (well, kind of) who wrote that she would “turn [her] attention away ” from the election because “modern American politics has become an absolute bore”.

I wrote a slightly overkill response:

Dear Ms. Lerner,

I appreciate you writing an article about your thoughts on New York and American politics but I have to heartily disagree with your thesis that “modern American politics has become an absolute bore” even at the mayoral level.

Never mind the fact that the president has asked Congress, something that hasn’t been done since WWII, to vote on entering another conflict in the Middle East. Syria was also a sticking point for the past presidential election which, as you suggested, was overshadowed my Donald Trump by some voters. But, let’s focus this on NYC.

You wrote about how there should be more efficient subways and a MetroCard discount, great ideas. The Republican primary winner, Joe Lhota, used to be the head of the MTA and has given controversial pay raises to MTA employees resulting in 8,000 employees of the MTA earning more than 6 figures. Mr. Lhota’s past experience certainly be a factor for his candidacy. But you declared yourself a Democrat so let’s talk about the Democrats especially since New York’s Democrats outnumber Republicans 6:1.

The major sticking point of the Democratic primary debates was the policy of stop-and-frisk which, according to Mayor Bloomberg, has made the city safer but may not be unconstitutional. Mr. DeBlasio, seemingly the Democratic candidate, calls to stop the policy but that’s very different than what Mr. Weiner or Ms. Quinn, who were both front runners of the Race before Mr. DeBlasio rose to the lead one month ago, believe. You also called for investing in underprivileged students and infrastructure but should New York tax its citizens more or allocate resources from other departments? Each candidate, Democrat or not, has widely different views and policies.

I share your frustration with the tabloidization of politics but there definitely is meaningful discussion to be had after listening and analyzing what each candidate has to say. Being the mayor of the biggest city in America has consequences for each student of Columbia and citizen of New York City. Instead of, turning away from the discussion, I really encourage you to go out and be informed about the differences in policy and rhetoric between the now two candidates for the office.

I do live in the city but don’t have the privilege of voting for its mayor so I really hope voters like yourself are making the best possible decision for the future of New York.

Sincerely,

Paul Hsiao

Takeaway: Elections have consequences. Know why.

Also: 

Never Forget.

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