How to change the negative perception of bankers?

I have spoken to people in their 50s that are business owners and a lot of them seem to have a really bad view on investment bankers. For example, they're very hesitant to speak with an investment banker. I believe most people are very misinformed about the value add that we to offer.

Is this really the effect of 08'? How can you change their perception? It's definitely difficult to change someones perception during one conversation, but what are ways to slowly do it?

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Comments (12)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Mar 31, 2021 - 12:05pm

I feel as though these people don't really know what investment bankers actually are and probably think of commerical bankers (e.g. people that try to get as much money out of them as possible via debt). Or,if they do, they probably just don't think what we do justifies how much we get paid

Mar 31, 2021 - 1:16pm

The world of capital markets and M&A is pretty complex to understand and most business owners don't have to think about it as they're focused on their tangible businesses. That being said, they probably don't trust bankers because they already know we make a cut from the middle which causes a lack of trust in the services we provide. I think it'll be beneficial to use terms and analogies within the realm of the business owner because most high finance talk is fluff. This will help your client understand how he/she is gonna benefit and start trusting you. Alternatively, take them out for models and bottles they'll get the vibe.

Mar 31, 2021 - 1:35pm

Sadly yes I still believe it is the effect of 2008. I posted on another thread about the comments on the Goldman survey article posted on Twitter, where a lot of people were genuinely saying things along the lines of "am I supposed to feel bad for the bankers who crashed the economy". Like analysts now were in fucking elementary school back then. But it goes back to the George Carlin quote: "think of how dumb the average American is, and then realize that half of em are dumber than that". Just like how most of us can't articulate the exact ins and outs of what goes on in other industries, such as technology, entertainment, you name it, that's how 99% of the general public feels about the finance industry. They either think you're doing shady 2008 shit, day trading stocks, or giving out CD's to old ladies. To be honest, I don't think the perception will ever significantly change. There's just too much ignorance among the general public (not saying we're better than them because we know what goes on, like I said there are obviously industries that you and I don't know jack shit about). It's better to just ignore it, because if you spend your time trying to convince ordinary people or even business owners how you're not some evil capitalist pig, it's largely going to be a fool's errand. 

  • Analyst 1 in AM - Equities
Mar 31, 2021 - 1:50pm

Most people are projecting envy towards bankers. Imagine working hard-labor for 30 years to only make less than 80k. Meanwhile some hot-shot college student is bringing in $140k and crying about how much their life sucks. 

Ofcourse those folks are going to dislike bankers. 

Also, people fear/hate on what they don't understand. Capital Markets, the stock market, the various nuances to investment banking are far too complicated for many people to grasp. Therefore, they project their insecurities on others and attack bankers for collapsing the economy even though they can't differentiate S&T from IB

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Mar 31, 2021 - 2:11pm

It's because they know the incentives are messed up and the job of an investment banker it to sell whether or not the buyer benefits 

Mar 31, 2021 - 2:37pm

What value are you telling them that you add? It may very well be your approach - People are usually very hesitant / defensive if it is blatant bullshit. 

The problem with bankers isn't even reputational damage from 08, 08 was just a catalyst that drove further media attention to an industry that is quite frankly boring and difficult to comprehend for a laymen (by design), plus morally gray if not downright harmful. 

The problem is bankers are unlikable, both as a professional and more importantly as a class of people (generally who Ibanking attracts).

In this career you are a perpetual toll-taker, and despite the illusions we have about our efforts enabling the flow of international commerce, we are actually sitting on the highway of commerce with our hands out taking a toll from passing rubes. Some self important hardos would make you think they are atlas, singlehandedly holding the world of finance on their back when in reality most of us have the good sense to smile shut up and keep the decks churning, holding our hand out for our toll on any deal that comes out way. 

And thats fine, there is nothing wrong with being a toll taker. I say this as a proud parasite, I will suck the nutrients out of any corporation but at least I don't fool myself into thinking I am adding genuine value (and before people get too defensive, I don't mean to say that we don't do anything as glorified money salesmen and deck builders and DCF/LBO/etc churners obviously deals need to be made but I think any one of us could easily imagine a world in which investment banking analysts in particular would not be required to fill the role it fills right now). I think this is where the breakdown begins, this is where the dislike for people in our professional has always manifested itself from. The outside world can see through the facade and generally has a dislike for jobs that don't really add tangible (visible) value, or at least have the perception that they don't add any value. Aside from adding value that is not really visible, we are very clearly associated with very real instances of having caused pain. If you lead a merger and there is a 2000 job layoff, does that man that lost his job really care that you are just some poor overworked analyst? No, he blamed the whole class of bankers and you are in that group whether you like it or not.

This isn't to say that it is necessarily bankings fault, but part of the necessity of the industry (and really part of the only tangible value you bring) is that we are the people to get blamed. In medieval times no one had any love for the executioner, no one had any love for the tax man. Nowadays people hate politicians pretty much depending on which way the wind is blowing. That doesn't mean that these jobs aren't important, but the people were rightly (or wrongly) viewed as scum due to their profession. 

Additionally it is no secret that banking attracts some of the worst people (I'm talking annoying, type A, insecure individuals with either too much pedigree or an insufferably large chip on their shoulder. The high stress environment, expectations, and cunning ambition of everyone involved creates an atmosphere in which the people are easy to hate. Whenever I get introduced as working in IB at a party and someone goes on their high horse about hating bankers I smile and shake my head and reminder them that no matter how much they hate bankers, no one can hate bankers as badly as someone who works in banking. 

In Summary you are not going to change peoples perceptions. This industry, perhaps more than most others is always going to be hated. People in general have an aversion to type-A braggards, people who look at life through a purely economic lens, and professions that seem to add no tangible value. We have all of these things in spades. 

  • 1
Mar 31, 2021 - 3:11pm

Agree with most of what you said. Bankers exist in large part so that shareholders can blame someone if they disagree with a merger or acquisition plan. The board and management of a company have a fiduciary duty, and the bank doesn't. So when a founder wants a payday and sells their company for $X, they can claim their fiduciary duty was completed as they hired an independent advisor to oversee the process. IB is a very well paid scapegoat in the bigger picture of things.

Mar 31, 2021 - 3:09pm

Why wouldn't you have a negative opinion of IB kids? It's no secret the majority come from very privileged backgrounds and that they value prestige and money over everything else. No other explanation for why you all subject yourself to that.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Mar 31, 2021 - 4:44pm

dude you're literally like what, 12 months ahead of an intern? sure they can't say "we" yet but don't think your dick is big just because it's bigger than the smallest one in the room

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