Bullshit Jobs - What Jobs from Financial Services are Bullshit?

Took this from David Graeber's 2018 book Bullshit Jobs, where he posits that 50% of societal labor is wasted time due to the protestant work ethic, he then categorizes them as follows 

  1. flunkies, who serve to make their superiors feel important, e.g., receptionists, administrative assistants, door attendants, makers of websites whose sites neglect ease of use and speed for looks.
  2. goons, who act to harm or deceive others on behalf of their employer, e.g., lobbyists, corporate lawyers, telemarketers, public relations specialists, community managers
  3. duct tapers, who temporarily fix problems that could be fixed permanently, e.g., programmers repairing bloated code, airline desk staff who calm passengers whose bags do not arrive
  4. box tickers, who create the appearance that something useful is being done when it is not, e.g., survey administrators, in-house magazine journalists, corporate compliance officers, quality service manager
  5. taskmasters, who manage-or create extra work for-those who do not need it, e.g., middle management, leadership professionals

Idk that I agree with his solution (UBI + a life of leisure), but it is an interesting theory. So WSO what do you think are bullshit jobs in finance? Let me get things started:

  1. all management positions in PWM, we can get by with a couple of compliance people
  2. non-fiduciary advisors/managers, this goes for PWM, HF, PE, AM, RE, not all of them are bad, but there's a lot of bad (read: where are the customer's yachts)
  3. marketing and advertising professionals
  4. HR
  5. tech support
  6. 90% of asset manager wholesalers
  7. insurance salespeople
  8. anyone whose job is to create bloated powerpoints to sell someone something

PS - lest you think I'm some self-hating financial professional, I'm not. I don't desire for these people to get canned, but if you really think about what adds value to society, beyond your organization, it makes you much more discerning... 

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Comments (28)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 25, 2021 - 8:47pm

So basically all management consultants, most IB analysts & everyone that isn't an executive in tech? If you apply it broadly, this list affects everyone besides founders/entrepreneurs. 

Aug 25, 2021 - 9:06pm

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - Bullshit Bullshit Bullshit 😂😂😂

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Aug 25, 2021 - 10:27pm

It's really easy to poke at a lot of Finance jobs, but I don't think it's entirely fair to demonize them.  Is it common to screw clients, be shady, and over charge for work a high schooler could do? Probably, but if it is what is necessary for corporate managers and investors to confidently act in the market place, then it's more than worth it.  Maybe BCG is intentionally giving bad strategy to ABC corp but just good enough to keep them from being fired to max billable hours, but at the same time, maybe without them, ABC's CEO would never consider expanding into new market X without the stamp of approval from such a consulting firm.  For now, I think it's a necessary friction to keep the economy moving even in the face of all the bad.  

HR though, not sure if there's a valid argument there. 

Aug 25, 2021 - 10:33pm

HR is actually vitally important to companies and some consultancies practice Human Capital Management consulting. 

Overall though, yes HR as a whole is usually a joke and filled with low paid low skilled people. But, leadership in HR is very important in companies.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Aug 25, 2021 - 10:40pm

marketing and advertising made Coca Cola - just look at the value of the goodwill 


"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Aug 27, 2021 - 5:26pm

Maybe I'm misremembering my intro accounting class, but I'm pretty sure you don't book your own goodwill, it's just an accounting artifact after an acquisition of the difference between how much you paid vs the actual book value of the target. So if Coca-Cola never acquired any company its goodwill would be zero, even though the intangible value to the brand is clearly worth billions. 

A better understanding of Coke's position is to estimate how much marketing money it would take to rival them, and that's in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Coke is certainly the posterchild of why marketing matters, but their balance sheet goodwill isn't the metric to prove that.

Most Helpful
Aug 26, 2021 - 3:32pm

Graeber's theory is complete garbage.  He claims the reason nobody's ever gotten rid of these useless white collar jobs, some of them paying tons of money like corporate lawyers, is because then they'd rise up and kill all the rich people or whatever, even though we live in a world where millions of working class jobs have been shipped overseas to save money.

I can list why most of the "bullshit jobs" here aren't bullshit.

1. Web developers.  People love beauty.  That's a fact of life, and in some cases it's more important than efficiency.  Sure your restaraunt would be more efficient if it was just folding chairs and tables, but would anyone visit?

2. Lobbyists.  What if the law being passed is a good law?  You need people who can understand the political process and get things across the finish line

3. Corporate Lawyers.  We live in a country with many rules and regulations, and companies need to comply with them, just like people.

4. Public Relations Specialists.  Same with the web developer answer.  A company loses money if the public has poor opinions of it so they do what's natural to stop it.

5. Corporate Compliance Officers.  See corporate lawyer

That being said the book is an entertaining read, there are many hilarious anecdotes from people who wrote to the author who do fuck all every single day.

Aug 26, 2021 - 5:02pm

Guy was an anarchist and career academic lol. He shouldn't be taken seriously. 

We offshore entire industries to save some money. We'll have a 12 year old Vietnamese kid make a pair of shoes if it increases margins by 0.1%. The idea that there's tens of millions of expensive American workers out there just doing nothing is laughable. 

More Marxist propaganda. 

Aug 26, 2021 - 5:31pm

>corporate compliance officers

1MDB says hi to those that think banks should do without compliance departments. Archegos, for those that think Risk is a bs function as well. Just off the dome.

Aug 27, 2021 - 10:58am

i think there are a lot of bullshit jobs because there are a lot of bullshit people. Meaning, most people don't have a hobby/passion in terms of something that would be of value in the market. That isn't everyone, but I think there is a large segment of "work to live" people. I'm not saying thats a bad thing, but we can't have a lot of people doing nothing. So, could we make the workforce more efficient, probably, but that might not be in our best interest overall. 

  • Associate 2 in RE - Res
Aug 27, 2021 - 11:20am

Most of these jobs aren't "bullshit" so much as low marginal value. Like the 80/20 principle, except more extreme. A small fraction of the workers produce most of the value, but problems emerge in some cases. So people demand higher safety/performance/etc. and a whole new group of people are hired to do things that aren't needed in most cases, but are needed in certain unusual circumstances.

Homebuilding is a good example. Most US houses could easily be built, and in the past were built, without any regulatory oversight. Carpenters know basic rules of thumb about how big beams should be and how framing connections should be made, and that's totally adequate in almost all cases. Most houses built that way haven't collapsed. But at some point there's an earthquake or hurricane or something and some buildings collapse. Then people demand more safety, so rules are created that new houses must be inspected by government building inspectors and mathematically analyzed by structural engineers. Now you have multiple people (who make more than the carpenters!) spinning their wheels doing something that is "bullshit" in nearly all cases. But in rare cases their work prevents a building from collapsing.

Multiply that by a million and you get what we have today.

Aug 27, 2021 - 5:35pm

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Aug 27, 2021 - 1:54pm

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