The Fall of Gekko's Children

Jorgé's picture
Rank: Neanderthal | 2,118

"Give me guys that are poor, smart, and hungry and no feelings." - Gordon Gekko

Since the dawn of man, rules had been set to measure one's worth; in the prehistoric era it was one's strength that dictated whether he was to be a badass hunter or a wussy gatherer, in the Renaissance times, it was your proximity to the King that measured your capacity, and in the 60's to 80's Wall Street, it was the scrappiest, most capable Tarzans who had a ticket to the jungle. -regardless of background.

Now fast forward to present day Wall Street, one criteria for admission lords above all: your school.

Several application threads have popped up recently, discussing this or that since recruiting season is under way, but few were worse than this old thread of HR idiocy I found yesterday.

I distinctly remember the blonde that the first guy was talking about, she was an analyst with a Harvard English degree. "Interesting..." I thought. "What's she doing trading at an IB?" Then again I remembered that John Gutfreund and a host of other BSD's were English majors, so I scoffed it off, but what she said next was just wrong: "I didn't know anything about trading, but my mentors at Goldman taught me..."

What the...!?!?!

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure she was smart as hell, but I'm also sure that there are at least a thousand other people who could trade circles around her, people who actually live and breathe trading and has the experience to do the job with the least amount of imposition to his or her coworkers.

So why was she deemed more qualified than others?

This happened years ago though, and since then the banks have stepped up their selection process a whole lot, now possibly reflecting their "the best and the brightest" credo a little better.

But it got me to thinking; with the stringency of today's recruiting, what will happen to those in the old school BSD mold- Gekko's poor, smart, and hungry?

Will their present day versions still have a place on Wall Street?

Or have they all been stamped out already, and are now just poor and hungry?

Comments (29)

Sep 9, 2010

They still get in. Trust me.

I'm talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.

Sep 9, 2010

I think it's because Wall Street has become MORE meritocratic, not less.

In Barbarians at the Gate, traders are described (in contrast to corporate finance bankers) as Irish and Jewish kids who went to City College. Nowadays a kid from a lower- or middle-class family who excels in school and works hard can get into Harvard, and even if they can't afford it, they can get a full ride to (Good State School/Semi Target), excel there, and have a shot. Even though sticker-price tuition keeps going up, academic pedigree is far easier to attain than it was 50 years ago. Those poor, hungry and SMART people have a shot because of it.

Also, a degree doesn't guarantee anything. For all the moaning from non-target candidates on WSO, there are plenty of Princeton grads who wish they could be banking and plenty of Rutgers and Indiana alums building successful careers in finance.

Sep 9, 2010

While the trading floor has indeed become less back officey, I'd be willing to bet that othe, stuffier departments on wall street have trended toward a less classist approach to hiring than say 30 years ago. You no longer have firms where a Jewish guy has trouble fitting in. Further, hiring English majors is not as likely right now, during such a serious downturn.

Sep 9, 2010

What schools you went to are the most important factors as it pertains to ease of access and open doors to Wall Street.

Sep 9, 2010

Those poor, smart and hungry may still get in, if they're very smart and hungry. However, I agree with the OP that this era of "pedigree" on wall street threatens Gekko's kids. When you have HR departments at BBs that set certain numbers for the kids they're going to hire from Wharton, Princeton etc and leave everyone else in the dust, you know it's becoming a problem. Wouldn't be surprised if they straight up tossed non ivy league resumes in the trash at some points. It's not impossible for non targets, but it's far from easy.

Best Response
Sep 9, 2010

I am not a trader, but I am in the front office, and I got here with a 3.0 from a decent, but entirely un-notable state school. I started at the bottom in a good prop group, automated my job mostly out of existence and got promoted for it, and have slowly worked my way up the food chain. I landed my first job right in the middle of the recession after 9/11when jobs were hard to come by, and finance jobs were extremely hard to come by.

I am not trying to toot my own horn here, but I am just saying it is possible to get far in this biz without a degree from a big name school and a 4.0. I must say though that I was close to the top of the class in high school, and was forced for financial reasons to go to a state school since they gave me a scholarship. I became somewhat depressed and demotivated by being forced to go to a school that I felt beneath me, so I didn't really try too hard, though I did average about 19 credits a semester despite entering as a sophomore. In other words, I had a good story to tell.

I truly wanted to work in finance in the trading space, and found capital markets fascinating. It doesn't take too long to tell apart the fake "I really find finance fascinating!" responses from those in it for the money, to those who are really interested in it and say things like "I find the stock market fascinating, just the other day I was trying to find a pattern in how stocks move around the time dividends are paid out" or maybe even ask your opinion on whether they think the markets are efficient or not. It also helped that my boss never graduated from college, and felt that inner drive and actual accomplishments were more important than a piece of paper.

One good line I used to use when interviewers were getting uppity about my school or gpa- "How much did you learn in school, and how much did you learn while actually on the job? Which "schooling" has been more useful to you? That stopped a surprising number of people dead in their tracks that were planning on ripping me apart for my educational background, even a big full of himself prick PM from a big name hedge fund that had a PHD from an ivy who actually smiled and laughed to himself a bit when I said that (though I didn't get an offer).

Its not all peaches though, last year when I was looking for a job, I was told by recruiters that certain firms loved my background, but wouldn't talk to me because I didn't go to an Ivy or the like, and also didn't have a PHD. A buddy of mine was doing tech support for 2 years, but had an MIT degree, and landed a plush job at a hedge fund. So the pedigree makes it a lot easier, and I am sure it has affected my comp as well.

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Sep 9, 2010

The non-target kids could always get in through BSC, LEH, ML...no longer though. Now it's all prestige based. At the end of the day you gotta be smart to get into a top 5 school and no-one really knows anything before working at a firm, so I guess it's all justified in the end.

A note to all future WS aspirants, work hard in high-school.

The only place where you can still scram to get to the top is the UK. The US is really structured, it's almost creating an aristocracy...actually we already have one given the horrendous wealth gap in this country.

Sep 9, 2010

Bullshit, the hungry always get to wherever they want to be. If there is a will, there is a way.

Sep 10, 2010
trackstar2k2:

Bullshit, the hungry always get to wherever they want to be. If there is a will, there is a way.

MIGHTY DUCKS BABY!!!

Smokey, this is not 'Nam, this is bowling. There are rules.

Sep 9, 2010

Perhaps small to mid-sized prop trading shops may be merit based, since there are a few tier four grads who get in. WestHudson, is the UK really more merit based? I thought that the UK was the class based aristocratic system and the USA was the land of equal opportunity. In terms of merit vs. school how are the antipodean countries of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa

Sep 9, 2010

Its possible but tough. I worked tirelessly during school for 9 months for phone calls, meetings, coffee, let alone interviews for IB. I came for a non-target and had a 3.3 overall gpa. However, I was hungry and wouldn't give up. I even had a face-to-face meeting with a BB MD who was impressed w/ me and my resume but said, "Why don't you look at boutiques, get some experience and then look to come here after 2 years." I was waking up ready to bite the ass off a bear every morning but coming from a non-target meant I couldn't fit in.

At the end of the day do you want guys and girls who would bite the ass off a bear and wipe the blood from their chin or take an Ivy "interested in learning about the banking business?" Not sure about you but what Mid-town wants and what Wall Street wants are different. Get a good night sleep and wake up hungry...

Sep 9, 2010

Currently finishing up at a non-target. In a class full of kids who are finishing this quarter, we were discussing the current job market and reasons why it has been difficult to get a job.

After hearing acouple groups discussing stories, I brought up the point "lack of networking". Everyone was like, "hmmm.. how so? so its not just because the economy is bad" lol

I told my story how I went out to learn the things I needed to learn that werent being taught in the classroom that were relevant to the job, how I went out to find the few alumni that were in my field of interest, and the rest of the normal networking process.

The response I get: "So did you get all of this info from the career center?" ....... ha

People were amazed that I went out and found people to talk to and ask questions. I am now the one with the "creative way to differentiate myself and get a job".... I just thought it was normal.

I think today, there are a lot less of these "Gekko" types since everyone is used to being babied or handed everything. However, those who still have it are able to get where they need to be. Now I didnt land in a BB, which I never even applied to, but I was able to break into the industry which is now run by those who went to better schools regardless of their capability and solely on the fact that most places wont even recruit from other schools.

Sep 9, 2010

[double post]

Sep 10, 2010

regardless of background??!! I think you made that up to come up with that "interesting story"

Sep 10, 2010

Stop QQ, start PewPew.

I mean, if you're moaning on this forum that just proves the point: you're neither smart nor hungry. As Edomerp stated, if you're indeed smart and poor you'll get into a "target" school for free. Tuitions exist both in the US and western Europe as far as I know. And even if you don't get into a target, then just accept the idea that you won't get straight into GS after school. Who cares? Get into a less prestigious firm, prove you're indeed smart, then get hired by your dream firm.

I just come back from this room full of candidates waiting between their final round interviews, and most of them were just so obviously stupid. Those moaning about how tough were some interviewers looked dumb and reminded me some of the moaning here. There was one guy who wasn't enjoying the common moaning and who wasn't afraid to "get into the room with this interviewer who asks quantitative reasonning questions". Believe me, the boy wasn't target nor rich (nor white, if you wanna know). Just smart. He got a job, in the end. It's funny how you could just tell in 3 minutes who would make it out of those 20 or so candidates. I'm starting to think that interviews last for 30-45 min only to make sure some candidates don't complain about hypothetical discrimination of some sort. 'Cause really, after max 5 minutes, we've already sorted out the guys.

Sep 10, 2010

Tell me something, who would you rather have working in trading, an ivy league schmuck who clearly put way too much time into studing, or someone who is hungry and dedicated and motivated beyond all means? LIKE gekko? Schools cant really teach you to trade, its something you do on your own.

Sep 10, 2010

Threads like this always amaze me. Kids that go to Ivy League schools are no more schmucks than those who go to state schools. The ony difference is that they put together a more impressive admission package in high school.

Sep 10, 2010

It's all bullshit. I've met some pretty motivated state school guys as well as ivy league guys. In the end, your first job most likely won't be your last job, so if you're hungry enough, you'll get to where you want to be.

Sep 10, 2010

The Ivy League is like one big ass mafia. The whole point of hiring these types is to keep those who are not already priveleged from finding out how the system works and gaining an edge against the big players. No one earns an Ivy degree from hard work because there are too many students competing and you can't tell me that the ones who get in are the smartest of the smart because virtually everyone who gets in is priveleged or a token minority.
Now, anyone who understands probabliity knows that two independant events happening (being lucky to be extremeley gifted AND lucky enough to be born rich) is too rare. It is more likely to see those traits separately is what I'm saying. So Ivy students are just trophy students because they have the superficial characteristics that the cabal is looking for.
If a Gekko type gets in the club he will compete with the white priveleged mafia and take some their profit and eventually push them to the side (although they will still be rich). They don't want competition so they prevent the real talent from getting in. This is why we have bailouts folks. Do you really think if ivy grads were so smart, the banking system would have needed all that baliout money? They are there because they are rich not because they are smart.
Here's a dirty little secret: rich people don't like free markets. Some say they do, but they are lying. They want rich mans socialism, a rigged game without real competition.

Sep 10, 2010
northeast1:

No one earns an Ivy degree from hard work because there are too many students competing and you can't tell me that the ones who get in are the smartest of the smart because virtually everyone who gets in is priveleged or a token minority. They don't want competition so they prevent the real talent from getting in.

You can't be serious. People get into targets because they 1) are smart (good SATs), 2) work hard (good HS GPA), 3) sold themselves well to admissions, and 4) had some luck on their side during admissions

I think where people are getting confused is that they are not seeing the correlation. Kids that go to these schools tend to be hard workers and smart and have been that way their whole life (you don't wake up one day and decide that you're going to get a 2400 SAT; there are usually signs along the way like having high test scores in elementary school and middle school).

That being said, hiring from targets is just an easy, quick way to get these smart, hungry kids. Yes, there are smart, driven people from state schools, of course. But as a percentage, it's much higher in ivy league schools. Also, when looking at a resume from a state school I would be thinking: if he's so smart and hungry why'd he go to XState school? Did he decide to get hungry overnight and start trying in college? If that's the case, then I should still hire the other guy because he's been hard working for a much longer time.

In the end, it's just a proxy for hard work and intelligence, with exceptions of course.

BossMode

Sep 11, 2010

There is way too much tinfoil in the anti-Ivy sentiments here. Ivy League admissions are somewhat unfair with biases towards geography, race, legacy etc but as long as you work hard in high school you have a great shot at getting into a top 10 school and if not a wall street target (NYU Stern, Michigan ross, etc). Please don't bash the kids who worked hard to get into a top school, and don't call them all spoiled because schools provide enormous financial aid (in many cases its cheaper for a kid whose family makes 70k a year to attend harvard over a community college)

Sep 10, 2010
Jorge:

"Give me guys that are poor, smart, and hungry and no feelings." - Gordon Gekko

But it got me to thinking; with the stringency of today's recruiting, what will happen to those in the old school BSD mold- Gekko's poor, smart, and hungry?

Will their present day versions still have a place on Wall Street?

Or have they all been stamped out already, and are now just poor and hungry?

Guys like this still get in, and in my experience, often perform much better than their ivy grad / prep school counterparts (not always, but I'm generalizing here. It's also tough to say since the majority of people on The Street are from elite Ivies).

Guys without the words Harvard or Princeton on their diploma's have more to prove, and as a result are hungrier to do so. Also, it takes alot more for them to even get an interview, let alone the job, so they seem to be much more willing to bust their asses to get things done.

Sep 9, 2010

I doubt this will get a response, but I would be very interested to know if there are any quants that got into their role without a PHD, and without big brand name schools on their resume.

I am trying to convince my brothers to go for a math major, but I am not sure that will pay off for them unless they are really at the top of their game (they are above average, but they aren't anything special at all). I am not sure what math majors really do if they don't work on Wall St.

Sep 10, 2010

I cannot believe we have another one of these threads. Banks are lazy and just want the schools to do the initial quality control for them. Think of how many morons would apply to JPM if they had on campus as a low ranked school.

Work hard and network and you will get plenty of opportunities. It really isn't that hard. Lets stop all this Ivy bashing and blatant jealousy. If you keep thinking you are not worthy no one else will think you are.

Sep 10, 2010

kids that get to ivy league because of hard work and scholarships hell yeah thats respectable but when momand dad pay for it hell no!! they never worked physical labor in high school and drove mercedes in high school thinkin they were fly and gonna work on the street... not respectable

Sep 10, 2010

Everyone ignores the athlete component.

A ton of the Ivy Leaguers are former college athletes. Their teammates look out for them during recruiting.

At my school, our athlete alumni practically guaranteed us interviews and internships as long as we had a 3.0 and showed up showered, shaved, and suited.

Then there is reciprocity among the Ivy League athlete alumni when offer time comes.

Harvard football guys hire the Yale football guys and vice versa.

The state school kids can b*tch and moan. But when these kids wake up every day at 6 am for lifting or practice, then take a full Ivy League course load, and compete on game day against other Division 1 athletes... your Modern Portfolio Theory electives are hilarious.

Most of the athletes come from less than wealthy homes too and many from public or Catholic schools, not elite prep schools.

"The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

Sep 10, 2010

Seriously, I don't even go to an Ivy but I think the hate on this thread is unjustified. Why do people think that every kid at an ivy is pampered or brought in for diversity reasons? My friends at Ivies are all just regular people who worked hard in high school, and got in.

Sep 13, 2010
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Sep 14, 2010
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