Does Anyone Honestly Work In Finance For Reasons Other Than Money or Prestige?

LReed's picture
Rank: Almost Human | 6,746

I get that during interview season and beyond we all cook up our "story" about why we want to work in finance, but does anyone actually believe their own story? Like, if we lived in a communist society where everyone got paid the same salary regardless of what they did, would you still have studied finance in UG? Would you still want to work in finance?

Personally, I think my job in finance is great - comparatively speaking. As in, for jobs that pay ~100K your first year out of undergrad, the hours are marginally less shitty and the work is marginally less grueling. But if money was no object, hell, I'd have majored in psychology and would be working as a chef right now. Why not?

Comments (90)

Controversial
Feb 5, 2018

I genuinely find finance interesting. I'm a curious person - I've always asked a lot of "why" questions when I look at the way the world behaves. The answer is usually money.

Feb 5, 2018

I think kids at top schools are much better at cooking up a story about shit than the rest of us. If you don't have some connection that you believe in, I wouldn't even have known how to sell that.

But yeah, I generally think that when the chips fall, someone has to be there to pick up the pieces. I believe that's what finance guys do, and I'm lucky to have stumbled on the career track when I was a junior in college still figuring out what I wanted to do.

Feb 5, 2018

Financiers are glorified assistants son. Don't get it twisted. We crunch numbers for the revenue generators...

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Feb 6, 2018

I think you're confusing that with accountants and auditors, the real no lifers.

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Feb 7, 2018

4 accountants/auditors who can't face the reality of their situation.

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May 21, 2018

Am an auditor. Can confirm.

Feb 5, 2018

If anyone actually has to make up their story then what good is it? The key is to express it.

I for one prefer interpretive dance, but I hear that a genuine interest in finance or economics also works for some.

Feb 5, 2018

The answer is no, no one is in finance for reasons other than money or prestige. I don't know anyone who genuinely enjoys making powerpoint slides or kissing client ass for a living. Alternatively, the sole purpose of the buyside is to generate money for LPs and in the process take a cut yourself.

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Feb 5, 2018

i genuinely enjoy what i do. that said, if money played no part, then i would've been either a high school coach or maybe a firefighter.

Feb 6, 2018

Being a coach for a top high school program would be sweet.

Best Response
Feb 6, 2018

I think comparing doing finance while living in a communist country to only doing it for prestige and money is an oversimplification. It's two extreme ends of the spectrum. There are shades of grey balancing the two.

My career outlook for balancing money/comp vs. personal fulfillment is similar to what happens when I go play basketball with my friends. Sure, I'm competitive, play hard, and want to win, but at the end of the day I'm there because I love playing the game. I would never lose sight of that simply to put up another "W."

For me, my vocation is the same. I view the money/prestige the way I view winning when I play basketball. I certainly put forth a lot effort and energy towards it, but it's not driving my existence. It's not my raison d'etre.

In short, money and prestige are important, but only have a relative importance when looking at the big picture.

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Feb 6, 2018

Perfectly put ^

Funniest
Feb 6, 2018

I'm in it for the women. There is nothing else quite like watching her ride you while shes rattling off financial ratios. You must try it sometimes.

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Feb 6, 2018

lmao this is the funniest comment ive read all year

Feb 9, 2018

This just made me spit out my coffee at my desk. Thank you sir.

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Feb 9, 2018

And hopefully that hot co-worker you like saw you do it and then they ask you what it was about and you can use my comment as the perfect "in" to get it in! :)

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Feb 6, 2018

On the real estate finance side, I am genuinely interested in how a series of activities (leasing, development, property management, capital expenditures, etc.) can be translated into money in and money out. Not only is it an intellectual challenge to understand how a building or a portfolio of buildings make financial sense, but also offers a chance to facilitate communities, businesses, and lifestyles.

Oh and the money is great. Yet when I mention that I work in real estate, I get asked about whether X should buy a 2br or told that "Hey I know this one resi broker too...". Hate it.

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Feb 6, 2018

You're so right. I stopped telling people I work in real estate because they assume I work in the leasing office of an apartment building or something. I normally just say I work for a private equity fund and then specify we invest in real estate if whoever I'm talking to actually gives a shit (rare).

As immature as I know it is, my entire ego deflates when someone pegs me for a lease-cuck.

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Feb 7, 2018

This is interesting. I actually take the opposite approach in a social setting. Generally if I say I'm in real estate and don't elaborate, right/wrong or indifferent people assume a certain set of things about you which aren't necessarily true, but sets a pretty low bar so people don't expect too much out of you by way of small talk. This is great for me because if it's a bunch of tools that I am forced to talk to, I can just kind of zone out of the conversation, or if it's people that I actually want to engage, it sometimes allows me to chime in and come across as better-than-expected.

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Feb 6, 2018

I had a great professor in school who used to say you should think of picking a career like a Venn diagram--find something that 1) you're good at, 2) you find interesting / enjoy, and 3) meets your life style requirements (e.g., income, hours).

I enjoy my work and I like to think I'm pretty good at it. Out of all the careers out there, would I have picked finance if the money wasn't good? Maybe not. But then again if money wasn't an issue I think there'd be a ton of video game programmers and not enough doctors, lawyers, financiers, and even trash men.

Some people are definitely in it for the prestige, but honestly for a lot of them it's a mind game they play with themselves. Average people like my parents don't know the difference between investment banking at JP Morgan vs. UBS, and the names Apollo and [Random MM PE Firm] are equally foreign to them.

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Feb 6, 2018

I agree 100%. I too work in a "profit center" (for those of you who don't work in finance: "profit center" is an aggrandized term for "sales"). I actually work in client service for a hedge fund. The other day, our portfolio manager (loser who sits at a Bloomberg terminal and lacks my knack for business development) asked me to do something. As I raised the back of my hand to bitch slap him, he retreated into his office, clearly realizing that I, as a profit center, am his superior in all regards. Later that day, I called the IT guy after my computer crashed. While he tinkered with the computer on my mahogany desk, I fondled myself as I mocked his thickly accented English, superior technical education, and relatively minuscule paycheck. He left in disgust without repairing my computer. I spent the rest of the day staring at a black screen, unable to function. I could not perform my job and I certainly could not repair my computer. I realized that I am utterly useless without technology and personnel to manage and repair the technology. For a moment, I questioned whether the IT guy is actually superior to me - No way could I do his job; could he be taught to do mine? If he is capable of getting a 3.6 gpa in computer science, could he not master the art of PowerPoint and lying with statistics? The moment quickly passed, however. I looked at my Park Avenue shoes, thought of my bank account and proceeded to fondle myself.

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Feb 6, 2018

+1 SB

Feb 6, 2018

If they got a 3.6 in comp sci, there's no way they're doing helpdesk IT. A comp sci degree with >3.0 GPA gets you a laptop on a beach in bora bora clocking out at 4ish pm while sipping pina coladas throughout the day.

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Feb 6, 2018
urmaaam:

If they got a 3.6 in comp sci, there's no way they're doing helpdesk IT. A comp sci degree with >3.0 GPA gets you a laptop on a beach in bora bora clocking out at 4ish pm while sipping pina coladas throughout the day.

LMAO. Keep dreaming BOM!

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Feb 6, 2018
urmaaam:

If they got a 3.6 in comp sci, there's no way they're doing helpdesk IT. A comp sci degree with >3.0 GPA gets you a laptop on a beach in bora bora clocking out at 4ish pm while sipping pina coladas throughout the day.

But it still doesn't get you laid, which is like the third most important thing, after prestige and money.

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Mar 1, 2018
urmaaam:

If they got a 3.6 in comp sci, there's no way they're doing helpdesk IT. A comp sci degree with >3.0 GPA gets you a laptop on a beach in bora bora clocking out at 4ish pm while sipping pina coladas throughout the day.

True

Comp sci majors work 25 hours a week for 125k salary plus equity options

Fact

Feb 6, 2018

absolutely fuckin not

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Feb 6, 2018

It's too bad school doesn't show people that you can make money at just about anything provided you're really passionate about it have an IQ higher than room temperature.

Doing something just for the money isn't sustainable long term. How long can you grind 100 hour weeks when you don't love the work you do?

Feb 11, 2018

You should get a degree in art if you believe that cliche

Feb 11, 2018

I made my seed capital flipping what amounted to art. One of the core businesses I own basically sells high end art so...

Feb 6, 2018

I do it mostly because I am a machine.

Feb 7, 2018
TippyTop11:

I do it mostly because I am a machine.

You are machine?

Feb 7, 2018

I am the machine!!

The machine

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Feb 6, 2018

Most people think they don't care about money and prestige when they have a well paying, prestigious job.

When someone says "believe it or not, I really find the complexities of a financial transaction interesting", they're probably not lying, but they're implying that that's why they took the job which isn't true.

Feb 6, 2018

Here's my honest answer and it's actually served me well during interviews when I get asked "why". Full disclosure, this is probably only mostly relevant for public market investing and research.

I'm fascinated with social psychology and the behavior of people. Finance, particularly the stock market, is one of the coolest places to see that activity. Prices actively reflect what the masses are think something should be worth, and I find it genuinely interesting to figure out what's being priced in and why so. Figuring these things out can tell you a lot about the emotions, rationality, and thinking of the participants. Then you layer on your own analysis and figure out why the differential between you and the market exists. Honestly, there is a sense of thrill I get when I find opportunities this way. I guess it's my ego trying to prove I'm smarter than everyone else?

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Feb 9, 2018

I wasn't aware algos had feelings

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Feb 6, 2018

Also, I think it's misleading to assume you would enjoy turning a hobby you love into a career. Even if money were no issue, being a chef especially at entry level, sucks ass. You work ridiculous hours and stand the whole time next to intense heat. You might enjoy the hobby of cooking and creating new things but turning it into a full-time job makes it become something else.

Personally, I love dancing and it's something I always do on my free time. However, I would NEVER want to make it a job because even if I were a millionaire, the lifestyle of a full-time dancer still sucks ass

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Feb 6, 2018

I transferred careers from high volume cold call sales at a startup that small businesses hate (hint) making 70 calls a day with 2hrs of mandatory talk time. From there I got a gig as an analyst intern in a boutique bank.

I absolutely love getting my hands into the guts of a business and seeing how everything works. I may work 70 hours a week where at my old job I was pulling 40hrs but man this industry is something.

Feb 7, 2018

I did it for a number of different reasons with the #1 reason being the amount of doors a job in finance opens. The job I am taking will definitely (help) give me opportunities that I normally would not have.

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Feb 9, 2018

I enjoy finance. But if I could get paid a comparible salary as a margarita taster in the Cayman Islands, I'd rather do that.

Feb 10, 2018

Don't forget the bitches.

Feb 10, 2018

I grew up lower middle class and saw my parents working 24/7. Despite all their work, the biggest decisions in their lives were made by random people in suits sitting somewhere else. I always wanted to understand who these people were (out-of-touch CEOs, PE guys who lay people off, rich kids who run their family businesses aground, etc.) and that drove me into finance.

And what do they say? If you can't beat 'em...

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Feb 11, 2018

I just feel finance is one of the better places to start a career. My other options were engineering and law; the former which I felt I lacked the actual intelligence and computational skill to thrive in the field, and the latter which I felt had worse pay and more grueling work.

Working at an investment bank seems a lot more straightforward, as most of your worth is dependent on whether you can earn money for the company (directly or indirectly). Teams are lean, people are competitive, lot less incompetent people compared to the average industry. Less office politics, less people getting triggered about actual politics and religion (and other similar things), generally more resources in training and in infrastructure. The hours are shit and you get thrown a shitload of work, but it helps develop some necessary basic skills and a certain mental fortitude. It feels like what work should have been for everyone; do your shit and get paid for doing it, instead of appeasing your colleagues and meddling in others affairs.

Feb 11, 2018

Less office politics? Fewer incompetent people? Dude, which bank do you work for, again? :P

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Feb 12, 2018

To me, it's all about abstraction. When seeing NPV for the first time, I was fascinated by the idea of capturing everything about a business into a numerical range of plausible value. Even although you quickly find out it's not at all a precise science and one can twist numbers as much as needed, at its core valuation is still a pursuit of truth via abstraction. And its complexity, ambiguity and multidisciplinary span make it even more interesting.

Mar 1, 2018

If anybody knows how to monetize smoking blunts, going to play tennis, and then hanging out on the boat let me know. I will quit finance in a second.

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Mar 1, 2018
The Warthog:

If anybody knows how to monetize smoking blunts, going to play tennis, and then hanging out on the boat let me know. I will quit finance in a second.

Instagram influencer

They make HF money

Fact

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Mar 1, 2018

Models and bottles

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Mar 1, 2018

I was wondering the same thing. To be honest I haven't quite made up my mind on which part of finance I'd like to be in and will probably go with whoever gives me the first shot as long as it's AM, PWM, IBD, PE, VC, HF, etc and not some shitty back office. I really think if I was in IBD I would like at least 3 years and then get a mba and go somewhere else or get a mba and stay in the ibd game. I think we all can agree that the hours are not great, but they get better as you move up the ladder I'm assuming right? I mean I REALLY couldn't imagine a 40 yr old md with a family working 100 hr weeks all the time.

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Mar 1, 2018

The hours do not get much better especially if you decide to go over to PE. You are still working 80-90 hours a week if there is heavy deal flow. The MD was also working those same hours with us.

Mar 1, 2018

I'm not disparaging the career at all, but even 14hr days suck ass. Without working out and living close to the office I'd wake up at 5:45am get ready, eat and be in the office by 7am and then stay there until 9pm. By the time you get home, shower and change it's already 10pm. It doesn't leave you a lot of time to do much. There's a lot to do late at night, I just don't like consistently choosing between having a life and getting sleep.

Mar 1, 2018

It's always hard to see colleagues that you have got along with go. BTW, how much did they borrow from you?

Mar 1, 2018

Geez, when did this become a discussion about cost of living? If anyone is curious there's already other threads dedicated to it, but I bet I already just touched most of it.

Also, looking back on my initial post, I do seem like a person with abandonment issues, but I do want to get other opinions on this. If your teammates left your group and all their workload gets added to yours, how would you feel?

And they borrowed a total of about $500 from me...$300 of which was from one night.

Array

Mar 1, 2018

Sorry, this post just reeks of someone blaming their personal problems on the actions of others... I apologize if that isn't the case but just a few thoughts below:

The Deputy:

A question I've always pondered is why do people even decide to joing IBD if they're just going to leave after 2 or so years? The answer to that is likely the fact that it's a stepping stone to other careers or they've gotten sick of the hours (In addition to prestige, compensation, and all that other stuff). But if that's the case, why don't you just go to that other job in the first place? There's plenty of buy-side gigs available straight out of college and other finance-related jobs that don't require 80-100 hour work weeks. Why go through the trouble of doing IBD first and just pissing off a lot of people by leaving?

Can you please list the "plenty of buy-side gigs" that are available. Especially for non-target kids or others who can't make that extreme of a jump? In addition, have you ever thought of the optionality IB gives you?

Case in point: I've been working at a BB for about a year now. In the past 3 months, we had 7 people in our group leave (Our group is only a little over 20 people so 7 is a lot especially in that short a time) and none of them have been in the firm for more than 2 years, a few even only ~7 months. We all put up a happy face as we bid them farewell, but these bittersweet moments to me were really just bitter.

Why are you bitter? Furthermore, I'd like to bring up the famous quote "don't hate the player, hate the game... son."

I understand career goals and interests change over time, but this change should be a lengthy process that takes years. I'm not saying you should be able to predict your future, but being able to think 5 years ahead isn't difficult. Leaving your analysts stints after about 2 years is frustrating for the rest of us but still okay, because that's still some time [presumably] spent for thinking about career goals and interests. But to leave before even one year; that's just ridiculous and beyond frustrating. That shows you probably never liked IBD in the first place and probably looking for a new job on Day 1 (Which I learned isnt uncommon at all). Plus it shows you haven't given your career much careful thought, so how do you know you won't also just leave your next job after 7 months? Leaving any job in that short a time shows lack of commitment, making hiring you for any subsequent job very risky.

This may be the most infuriating part of your inane post. How do you know that these people don't know EXACTLY what they want to do? Why should this process "take years"? If I'm coming out of college and I my dream job is PE/HF, then IB is probably the best post-college job I can get (especially, personally, coming form a non-target). I know exactly what I want and I am going to do everything in my power in order to achieve it. Even if it means making the people I leave behind feel "bitter."

In addition to that, there's the work allocation. You might feel good about yourself for being able to secure another job, but in the meantime, there's work to be done; the same work that YOU for hired to do. And guess that happens to that work allocation when you decide to leave prematurely? That's right, the rest of us: your teammates whom you claimed to consider as a "second family" in your farewell emails (and borrowed money from and never paid back, but I'll let that slide). Now, almost every group is prepared for turnovers, but that doesn't mean they welcome it. In addition to increased work allocation for the rest of us, there's additional time spent just trying to figure out that allocation. This process is worst when people leave unexpectedly. If you do decide to ditch the people you've thought of "as family" at least be courteous and give a heads-up (Preferably a month in advance); one analyst in my group suddenly left one morning and didn't say a word (Our VP notified us over email about his departure). The re-allocation from this analyst's departure was by far the worst our whole group had experienced. This was already ridiculous those people were taking very inconveniently-timed "doctor's appointments" but to completely leave and ditch us with your work allocation, often times right in the middle of a major deal...is there a word for "empathy" in your native language?

And while the prior part was infuriating, this is the most immature part. This is where we use the word "anecdotal" as you seem to have had a few specific bad experiences which you are now extrapolating to the rest of IB. Plus, maybe your team is staffed just a little too lean if turnover is always such a chronic problem.

I'm sorry for my rant, but I've just been supremely frustrated and tired lately. Even with new analysts who have joined, we're still dealing with re-allocations.

I understand your frustration but please don't take it out on another people trying to do the best for themselves. I would hope you knew that turnover was a huge part of IB before getting into your current seat (or at least the impact it would have on you mentally.

I know this is an aggressive post. But something about it just really rubbed me the wrong way. To think that someone can get pissed off at me for doing what's best my for career really hit a nerve. Especially when you are an employee at will and can be cut loose at any moment.

Mar 1, 2018

High turnover is high everywhere, if the company is not doing you right why stay? Your job should be more than just a rent payment. The days of staying at a job for 20 years is out the door. Jobs aren't the same like they used too, we are a number. Even execs are sort of a number, just deal with it until you can find something better.

Greed is Good!

May 21, 2018

I am interested in Finance, I enjoy working in Finance and it is something I have always been interested in. I don't plan on starting an ugly sweater/energydrink/socialmedia company..

May 21, 2018

$$$ + prestige + career optionality + responsibility + smart(ish) coworkers and bosses + finance is pretty damn interesting + I love my industry

Never been interested in entrepreneurship, and if I were I would never have gone to work in finance in the first place. Two totally different worlds with very little overlap in skill-set.

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May 21, 2018

I'm not even going into banking. Might start a kids show.

May 21, 2018

I really believe that finance will be f*cking awesome once I have completed the part of it that really, really sucks for everyone.

May 21, 2018

The almighty dollar. Why else pump spreadsheets out all day. I'm not trying to get into that aspect of finance though.

We're running out of oil....sike!

May 21, 2018
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Jul 24, 2018
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"Work ethic, work ethic" - Vince Vaughn
Jul 24, 2018
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"one for the money two for the better green 3 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine" - M.F. Doom

Jan 16, 2020