Left-leaning bankers

Short of being a socialist, is it an oxymoron to be a
left-leaning banker? Does a career in
banking imply conservative political views? Have you known any bankers who are
also strong leftists?

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Comments (85)

Jan 26, 2008 - 1:12pm

Robert Rubin, etc. etc.

The New York Times did a nice piece on campaign contributions per industry: Wall St. contributed enormous sums of money to Democratic campaigns (on par with, and in some cases higher, than Republicans)

I'm a "yankee" conservative: fiscally conservative, but socially extremely liberal.

I doubt many of the top MDs, CFOs, VPs, and CEOs believe in creationism and all the other non-sense evangelical value issues the modern Republican party espouses--Don't drink the Kool-Aid.

Jan 26, 2008 - 2:54pm

As others have said, Hillary has raised more money from Wall Street than the Republicans.  I think there's somewhat of a "robber barron" feeling among those on Wall Street so they ar more inclined to donate to Democrats.

In reality, most working bankers I know are conservative and pissed that the Democrats appear to be winning in 2008 thus far.

Personally, I'm fiscally conservative and socially liberal.  So with Ron Paul gone, I don't know what to do. :)

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May 20, 2008 - 5:04am
dosk17:

As others have said, Hillary has raised more money from Wall Street than the Republicans.


Reading this from outside USA, these comments are quite amusing, you guys seem to imply Democrats = left-wing, Republicans = right. The Democrats are more right-wing than the mainstream right-wing party in most other developed nations.

Most banking grads I know are pretty right-wing, incredibly greedy and selfish, all they care about is their bonus and how to avoid paying tax on it. At the top end, there's plenty of left-leaning successful bankers - as said when you're a multi-millionaire a few mill tax this way or that is irrelevant.

However, a lot of my friends who are corporate attorneys / solicitors at top international firms are very liberal / socialist / left-wing. I find them at times very hypocritical, passionately arguing about social justice and redistribution of wealth, whilst their day-job involves reducing tax burdens of multinationals etc.

Jan 26, 2008 - 3:02pm

On average, the bankers I've met tend to be more libertarian, which means small government both out of your pocket book and out of your bedroom, so to say. Unfortunately, each party tends to violate those values on one side. A lot of super rich bankers tend to go Democrat, probably because they have so much money that a few points of tax rate doesn't affect their ability to buy that expensive car or house, nor are they running businesses that suffer from the Democrat's tendency to favor consumer over corporate rights. Thus they are less concerned with "tax the rich" Dems and more concerned with "Christian Republic of America" Republicans.

Jan 26, 2008 - 3:17pm

Warren Buffett contributes to the Democratic party.

To touch on what some others have said above regarding most of Wall Street's contributions going to the democrats, I think you are seeing is the flow of cash to the left more as industry protection than personal views perhaps.  There is no doubt there are democratic bankers (ie Buffett, Blankfein) but I think most people see Election '08 ending in a democratic victory due to dissatisfaction with the Bush administration.  Everyone knows Democrats tend to be in favor of higher taxes which means they are generally against Wall Street, big oil, and big pharma.  Perhaps seeing a Clinton or Obama victory as inevitable, these industries are donating big to the campaigns so they can have a say when said candidate goes into office.  This is just a big lobby.

Jan 26, 2008 - 3:52pm

I myself am fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I think both parties suck, but I can't see how most bankers would support the republicans. Quite frankly, a lot of the anti-corporate stuff from politicians is just rhetoric.  Very little need to worry on the part of corporations either way. However, republican policies (education, science,religion) tend not to be good for the general welfare.

Jan 26, 2008 - 3:57pm

I don't think it really matters. Most people, including myself, keep our politics to ourselves so as not to alienate friends or higher-ups. Me and my ideological counterpart, Ann Coulter, may differ on this but I have many very very liberal friends both inside and outside the banking would. For example my uncle works at Lehman Brothers and is one of the most liberal people I know . Its really funny, he looks like and is often mistaken for George W. Bush (and hates GWB).

Reality hits you hard, bro...
Jan 26, 2008 - 5:56pm

As dosk said, "In reality, most working bankers I know are conservative and pissed that the Democrats appear to be winning in 2008 thus far."  I feel that this will be the case with most analysts/associates.  Once you're wealthy, it is easy to be a dem and to give tons of money to the democratic campaigns (for reasons lightsout mentioned).  For those aspiring for wealth, it seems to me most would have a reason (at least financially) to lean toward the right.

Do any other current bankers echo what dosk said?

May 20, 2008 - 4:49am

But seriously, can the Republican party really be represented by creationists and religious wingnuts? I'm not American, but to me it seems that the Republican Party has simply been hijacked by Christian fundamentalists (theocrats?) in recent years. Hopefully it's just a temporary phenomenon.

When I think of the Republican Party, I still think of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, phrases like "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem." If only they would get back to the real Republican platform...

May 20, 2008 - 9:20am

As most people said here, most bankers are libertarians (whether they admit it or not). But their publicist / advertising girlfriends are generally liberal, so a lot of us will give money or say dumb BS just to keep things quiet at the homefront.

May 20, 2008 - 9:21am

rejected twice !! Too liberal for the bank?! (Originally Posted: 09/17/2011)

I am an econ and poly sci double major at McGill university, with 3.9 GPA rounded. I flew into NYC for 2 interviews: 1 with Barcaly's and other with JP Morgan. At Barclays, the interviewer wanted to see my transcript (which I found weird because they already had it), and then he told me that my background is too liberal for investment banking. He asked me if I considered corporate law instead, and then work for a bank. I asked him, "Im wondering, how is an econ major too liberal?" He said that for Canadians, he wants to see kids from our honours programs (which is a bunch of geeks doing stupid shit like econometrics and other stuff that no person in their right mind would want) with high GPAs, and he said that my program doesnt have "the quantitative rigor we are looking for". My second interviewer at JPM, said that I would be a good fit if I majored in math along with econ, or a more in-depth econ program, or if I majored in finance. I did my best to show that my less quant preparation would help, but I didn't get it. So, after spending a fortune to stay at NYC for a week, am coming back home with blue balls. Tell me, how could this happen! I mean they take sociology majors, don't they?! Also, i was president of 2 societies and am definitely not a socially awkward type. FML

May 20, 2008 - 9:24am

Barclays are a piece of shit. They had your transcript, yet still asked you to fly in to say your major is not quantitative enough?! I feel bad for you man.

I've seen pol sci majors get good gigs before, and from less prestigious universities than McGill. Not sure what the issue was to be honest. Keep at it, is what I can say.

Good luck.

May 20, 2008 - 9:27am

The person who interviewed you is probably not the person who decided to fly you in for the interview. You met the criteria for the first person, but not that of the interviewer. Tough break but this isn't really uncommon.

CompBanker

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May 20, 2008 - 9:28am

Your resume is much better than mine and I'm really in no position to say anything, but I would be very wary of hiring an econ major who avoided econometrics for any position, not just IB.

May 20, 2008 - 9:34am
obscenity:
Your resume is much better than mine and I'm really in no position to say anything, but I would be very wary of hiring an econ major who avoided econometrics for any position, not just IB.

I was an econ major and avoided econometrics and I ended up in IB. That never came up in any interview in my life. So no, you are in no position to say that especially since IB has no overlap with econometrics.

May 20, 2008 - 9:29am

Yes, it is frustrating. And here is the thing. I have friends who are math majors, and they minored in econ, and they have way lower GPAs than me (I'm talking 3.2 or lower). And they are working at BB! As happy as I am for them (because they really are good friends of mine), I am just pissed at my adviser who told me that econ major and poly sci with a high GPA will be just fine for IB. And of course I am raging that I had to fly in because they were too lazy to read my transcript.

May 20, 2008 - 9:33am
HustlingHard:
Yes, it is frustrating. And here is the thing. I have friends who are math majors, and they minored in econ, and they have way lower GPAs than me (I'm talking 3.2 or lower). And they are working at BB! As happy as I am for them (because they really are good friends of mine), I am just pissed at my adviser who told me that econ major and poly sci with a high GPA will be just fine for IB. And of course I am raging that I had to fly in because they were too lazy to read my transcript.

It is good enough. If anything wasn't enough, it was that you only went to 2 interviews.
May 20, 2008 - 9:30am

What's nice about IBD and S&T recruiting in the US is that there is far less emphasis on what your major is - so you can come from some arts or science background, and still get the job - so long as you pass their fit/culture and technicals process. Hence, you're not faulted for decisions you made in high school (who knows for certain what they want to do in high school anyway?)

But in Canada, if you want to be in IBD and S&T, 99% of the time, interviewees are from some commerce background (and also engineering/math for S&T). If the Barclays guy is used to interviewing Ivey/Queens/McGill commerce students, maybe he's got some bias for Canadian students needing to fit a certain mold.

I think you were just unlucky like CompBanker said, but just thought I provide another possibility.

Shouldn't they pay for your flight/accommodations though?

May 20, 2008 - 9:32am

You are putting too much emphasis on your major. I'm sure that wasn't the whole issue. Banks don't care what major you are if you seem like a good fit. You didn't seem to be a good fit so they brushed you off with that excuse, but that I think your major is a non issue.

Do what you want not what you can!
May 20, 2008 - 9:37am

My 2 cents man, not to say that i'm right or wrong just my two cents man because i come from a very similar boat as you...

The jobs just aren't there right now so there mind set is hire super smart geeks. Get cracking on the CFA in my opinion

The biggest aspect of IB is modelling, if you could of displayed to them, via maybe models you've done in the past you would of spiked a bit more interest from them and got them to shut up about being more "quant"

sorry to hear that man, jus keep pluggin away

May 20, 2008 - 9:41am
wallstreetballa:
My 2 cents man, not to say that i'm right or wrong just my two cents man because i come from a very similar boat as you...

The jobs just aren't there right now so there mind set is hire super smart geeks. Get cracking on the CFA in my opinion

The biggest aspect of IB is modelling, if you could of displayed to them, via maybe models you've done in the past you would of spiked a bit more interest from them and got them to shut up about being more "quant"

sorry to hear that man, jus keep pluggin away

That's what I thought too. I think at this point they are over-flooded with MIT geniuses who also have social skills and good GPAs, and I guess they just pick from the top of the pile. I'll go get cracking on CFA and learn DCF ASAP for sure.

May 20, 2008 - 9:40am

What a load of horse shit. They were a bunch of dicks. With that said, your post above makes me think that you are also at fault, for not challenging yourself in school by avoiding those certain courses.

Who gives a fuck about those socially awkward kids? Why do you hate them anyway? Who gave you the right to judge them and say they are socially awkward, who the fuck are you? Because they want to be successful and intelligent? Suck it up and stop bitching, no one is asking you to be best friends with them.

So I feel both, sorry for you and like you deserved it, for being such a popular princess that's too good for the nerds.

Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into SWANSONS.
May 20, 2008 - 9:43am

Bud, I understand your frustration, but it was just your first two interviews. You will get into IB. It may not be JPM or Barcap, but you'll get in. Just keep networking.

Let's be honest, a Econ/poli sci degree is probably one of the better BA degrees, but from a Canadian School, it does come off kinda wishy-washy. Make sure you NAIL all the techs and show a strong interest in Finance, because there really isn't any reason for you not to be in a commerce program if you truly want to do banking.

You seem like a fairly normal, social guy, and your stats are MUCH more impressive than mine, from a way better school, and somehow I did it. Just keep moving forward and try not to dwell on the past. Use it as MOTIVATION.

May 20, 2008 - 9:45am

As far as people giving the OP shit for not taking harder courses... I've read some advice on this site where people have recommended not to take unnecessary (harder) courses to maintain a high gpa to break into IB.

If your dreams don't scare you, then they are not big enough. "There are two types of people in this world: People who say they pee in the shower, and dirty fucking liars."-Louis C.K.
May 20, 2008 - 9:47am
scottj19x89:
As far as people giving the OP shit for not taking harder courses... I've read some advice on this site where people have recommended not to take unnecessary (harder) courses to maintain a high gpa to break into IB.

I really am starting to question this advice now A LOT. Maybe I should've at least minored in math or something, just not to come off as a liberal arts kid. It is upsetting though, because a bunch of kids with worse stats in more quantitative majors are getting in, so I feel like I've listened to the wrong advice (I don't mean on WSO, but from others at university and from my research on the industry in general). I am starting to think that maybe your hard courses signal "balls" to employer? Like, a fact that you were willing to take a chance with your GPA and learn something hard. I guess they interviewed someone with similar stats, and he stood out in a special way, and they wanted to see the same with me. I do admit "economic crises" and "international relations" don't sound like very intense courses.

May 20, 2008 - 9:49am

Don't listen to these idiots... you don't need calc for shit in IB. At the end of the day it's just signalling theory

You come from a non-core, Canadian school and you need to show them that you're on top of your shit. If you're an econ / poli sci major and haven't taken many math or stats classes, that's an automatic ding. Either that, or the guy just straight up didn't like you and was looking for a reason to toss you out. Sorry, but that's the way the world works.

You need to adjust your resume accordingly and keep your head up

Good luck

May 20, 2008 - 9:50am
Solidarity:
Don't listen to these idiots... you don't need calc for shit in IB. At the end of the day it's just signalling theory

You come from a non-core, Canadian school and you need to show them that you're on top of your shit. If you're an econ / poli sci major and haven't taken many math or stats classes, that's an automatic ding. Either that, or the guy just straight up didn't like you and was looking for a reason to toss you out. Sorry, but that's the way the world works.

You need to adjust your resume accordingly and keep your head up

Good luck

This one.

Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into SWANSONS.
May 20, 2008 - 9:59am
Solidarity:
Don't listen to these idiots... you don't need calc for shit in IB. At the end of the day it's just signalling theory

You come from a non-core, Canadian school and you need to show them that you're on top of your shit. If you're an econ / poli sci major and haven't taken many math or stats classes, that's an automatic ding. Either that, or the guy just straight up didn't like you and was looking for a reason to toss you out. Sorry, but that's the way the world works.

You need to adjust your resume accordingly and keep your head up

Good luck

so he doesn't need calc for shit, but he got dinged because he hasn't taken any math or stats classes?

that's not contradictory at all...

May 20, 2008 - 9:51am

To me, it sounds like they probably had equal or better candidates that didn't require a work visa. It sucks that it works out that way, but I'm sure if you had opportunities in NYC you could also apply in Toronto with ease.

May 20, 2008 - 9:53am
zenaku:
To me, it sounds like they probably had equal or better candidates that didn't require a work visa. It sucks that it works out that way, but I'm sure if you had opportunities in NYC you could also apply in Toronto with ease.

After cogitating about the op's dilemma, this post tells all. Op, even though Mcgill is a good school, you still could have made your application more competitive. After all, you are competing with American students, from schools just as good as yours and better, for American jobs.

Good luck on the job search!

May 20, 2008 - 9:55am
jack_donaghy:
Is your economics degree a bachelor of arts or science? If it's an arts degree, your Econ degree is worthless in business.

That's not the problem, and there's no difference between an BA and BS in Econ. There are kids from Harvard with AB (Bachelor of Arts) in sociology working on the street.

May 20, 2008 - 9:57am

I mean I will keep hustling, but I just hope that this whole "your economics was too artsy" thing doesn't follow me around to my next interviews (if I get them).

May 20, 2008 - 10:03am
oldmansacks:
this was last year in a decent year.

I agree with what you said except for this. Last year sucked especially.

Also, classes don't matter as long as you can show you have what it takes in an interview. YOU DID NOT GET REJECTED BECAUSE YOU WERE MISSING A FEW SPECIFIC CLASSES. The interviewer probably said that because it was representative of some deficiency he saw in you. Just make sure you can address that angle and you will be fine. Keep at it and no, economics is not too artsy if art history majors can break in.

May 20, 2008 - 10:07am
oldmansacks:
its a numbers game.

^^^ This is exactly correct. The Law of Large Numbers will help you find an offer in IB. Honestly, with a 3.9 at McGill in Econ/PoliSci, you have a much higher expected offer rate than many of your peers. Even without a rigorously quant transcript.

Good luck

May 20, 2008 - 10:02am

let me explain this a bit better, as you are a bit dumber than i had thought

you said he doesn't need calc, then you said he got dinged for not taking more math

calc=math, which according to you he didnt need, yet according to you it was the reason he was rejected.

if i got rejected for not having something, my next thought would be, "hey, maybe this is something i need"

hope that clears things up. let me know if you need any more clarity.

May 20, 2008 - 10:04am
leveRAGE.:
let me explain this a bit better, as you are a bit dumber than i had thought

you said he doesn't need calc, then you said he got dinged for not taking more math

calc=math, which according to you he didnt need, yet according to you it was the reason he was rejected.

if i got rejected for not having something, my next thought would be, "hey, maybe this is something i need"

hope that clears things up. let me know if you need any more clarity.

Jesus christ you are a fucking asinine idiot.

Scenario 1:
Based on his resume and the interview, he does not come across as a quantitative candidate--iIn which case the suggestion would be to a) additional quantitative emphasis on his resume, or b) take an operations management, derivatives, and / or business stats class.

Scenario 2:
The interviewer just didn't like him and used that as a convenient excuse to ding the kid.

Nonexistent Scenario:
One in which you need calculus for investment banking

Divorce yourself from the idea that "more math" necessarily entails calculus.

May 20, 2008 - 10:06am

Most of the BB hires from McGill are management or econ honours students. Very likely that was your competition. I would say your majors for risk at JPM for sure were not enough. While the Barclays guy most likely wanted someone from the BBA program or Econ/Finance double major. Suck it up taking it as learning experience and continue. You for sure have the stats to get in somewhere.

But truly the best way to get into banking from Canadian school is a BBA or Econ/Finance majors. Also being on the school fund. This is pretty much a known fact across the country.

May 20, 2008 - 10:09am

A BA in economics typically requires no advanced math courses and tends to focus on the theories and history of economics. A BS in economics is what we would call "business economics" and will have course work in econometrics and business applications. There are plenty of people in banking that are nonbusiness in nature(my director is actually a PhD in Syriac), but you'll have to overcome some hurdles in this market. Especially if you're going the path most travelled.

My advice:
Goto some networking events and join associations. The banking world is very small. Get people to like you and they won't care about what you went to school for, or where.

May 20, 2008 - 10:10am
jack_donaghy:
A BA in economics typically requires no advanced math courses and tends to focus on the theories and history of economics.

This is utter bullshit. At elite schools you can only receive a B.A. in Economics and it has plenty of advanced math.

May 20, 2008 - 10:11am

It's pointless to argue about what schools require what classes because it'll get us nowhere. I'm telling you that it has been my experience that when we debrief after interviews, this is a topic that has come up. We have brought in people who looked awesome on paper, but couldn't tell us what EBITDA is or reason their way out of some basic analytical questions. We have attributed this not only to their coursework, but also as mentioned up top, something that is resprentative of the person's abilities/pursuits. Advanced people tend to take advanced classes.

If you have experienced differently, then please share as I am always interested in hearing how other shops work. Thanks.

May 20, 2008 - 10:12am
jack_donaghy:
It's pointless to argue about what schools require what classes because it'll get us nowhere. I'm telling you that it has been my experience that when we debrief after interviews, this is a topic that has come up. We have brought in people who looked awesome on paper, but couldn't tell us what EBITDA is or reason their way out of some basic analytical questions. We have attributed this not only to their coursework, but also as mentioned up top, something that is resprentative of the person's abilities/pursuits. Advanced people tend to take advanced classes.

If you have experienced differently, then please share as I am always interested in hearing how other shops work. Thanks.


Sounds like your experience is based on being at a middle market shop interviewing middle market kids.
May 20, 2008 - 10:13am

Why the hell would you even consider a risk position if you're the type of person that avoids quantitative courses?

How can a less quantitative background put you at an advantage for a quantitative position?
Also, econometrics is a pretty fundamental part of econ and is the basis for any type of research. Why even bother majoring in econ if this doesn't interest you?

Honestly, your comment about honors econ programs along with the fact that you expected a job after a single interview (Your background does not come close to matching the job. How you got that interview is beyond me.) pretty much tells people all they need to know.

May 20, 2008 - 10:15am

I've heard that the econ program at McGill pretty bad and almost worthless as preparation for grad school if you're not in the honors program. I understand your frustration, but not taking honors because you didn't want to be in classes with nerds is a terrible excuse. If you were trying to maximize your chances for banking in the first place, why wouldn't you have done commerce?

Tough break, but I don't think any Canadians on this site would find it particularly surprising.

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May 20, 2008 - 10:16am

Weird. I have an Econ BA and it's far more quantitative than the BBA in econ my school offered.

BBA requires two management classes, a general finance class, and a calculus II class.
BA you have to take 2 more advanced micro classes (calc based) and stats and metrics. It's pretty much applied statistics major. Same department with the Stats and Fin. Engineering.

May 20, 2008 - 10:18am
xst3413:
That's strange...met an MD from JPM in New York that studied Art History...apparently that's rigorous enough in the quant area for them.

whether your point is correct or not is moot, your argument is borderline retarded.

industry and preference change, ever considered that?

May 20, 2008 - 10:19am

This may have been already mentioned, but it could have been the interviewer just wanted to see how you reacted under pressure and how you handled an intense and uncomfortable situation. Stay cool in situation like these and even if the interviewer is having a bad day, you will get some respect for it. Maybe they didn't really believe what he was saying was even valid, but just wanted to start an argument and see how it goes.

Or it could be you got interviewed by a bunch of overworked and tired people that just wanted to mess with you for kicks.

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May 20, 2008 - 10:20am

^that may be more correct. It falls under the "why this school/major??? etc.. question" Probably more typical for non/semi-targets interviews.

or the latter, but twice?!?

May 20, 2008 - 10:21am

Fact of the matter is that banks want to hire smart people, because they can. Why do they hire sociology majors from Yale? Because that guy is accepted by general society as the smartest sociology major money can buy. For the IB position you probably could have been given the job if you came off as brilliant in the interview. But for risk....sorry you need math, how can you accurately test or derive anything without it.

Econometrics is a key course to any decent economics degree just so you know. Saying it's just a waste of time is the equivalent of a physicist questioning calculus. Every curve and modern theory you learned in your undergraduate years was a result of econometrics. Your ability to graduate a program without taking a single course on the subject makes me once again question the usefulness of the degree.

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