The wall street personality

Oligarch92's picture
Rank: Monkey | 42

Yet to work my first 'real' job, I have had my first real exposure to people in the industry through reaching out to a handful of PMs, associates, etc. Many are happy to grab lunch, well-mannered, yet, and particularly with more senior people, are unsmiling and morose.

It confuses me how someone can be serious and detached, yet compassionate enough in taking out some of the time in their day to chat.

Person A will be happy to chat with me for an hour, offer to shout me lunch, yet reply with a dull, uninterested tone and ignore my simple thank you message afterwards.

Small sample size, and obviously worlds away hierarchically and I am not their 'bro', but surprised at the behaviour of some.

Does banking select for a serious and apathetic demeanour? Lots of eccentric fund managers, and some execs like Lloyd Blankfein come off as genuine and friendly. But I want to ask, what do you think the wall street personality is and how does this come about? Has the way you acted changed with your years on the job?

Comments (14)

Jan 11, 2019

I think there are a number of things going on here. I think in general, a lot of people in any "high finance" related field lack enthusiasm in general, many are probably slightly on the spectrum as well. It does attract a certain personality after all. That being said, you'll find all kinds. Gregarious outgoing types, etc. although some of these folks tend to be in more of a sales capacity than a PM etc. Also, don't take lack of response to your thank you as a negative or slight. We take tons and tons of these coffee meetings. Unless there is an action item in your thank you note, such as an introduction or resume review, I'm not going to waste time thanking you for a thank you note...

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Jan 11, 2019

But do you think people started off their careers like this? Just speaking from uni friends also who are outgoing, charismatic and friendly, is it something the industry does to you? Is there any disadvantage with being enthusiastic/charismatic in non-sales roles? Viewed by clients as a lack of maturity?

Jan 12, 2019

I think you are confusing email behavior with real life behavior. You have to realize that these people probably receive a ton of emails every single day, and they simply don't have the time to respond to all of them. Also, most people don't really respond to thank you emails, it is not necessary and it is also not indicative of whether or not a person likes you. I've had interviews where the person responded to my thank you email, but I still got rejected.

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Jan 11, 2019

I think it is a mix of both, and also dependent on specific group/firm culture more than the industry in general. e.g. Working in VC is going to be drastically difficult from working for some stodgy 60 yo Lazard M&A MD vs working for an eccentric character like Dalio. There is some nature vs nurture going on here. There are many firms who reward the automaton personality you're talking about. A friend of mine at GS had a VP tell him he smiles too much... This is not a rule across the entire industry or GS or even his specific group. You do not have to assimilate to be successful, you just need to find the right seat.

When it comes to clients, targets, etc. It's all about playing to the other persons personality to develop rapport. One thing someone taught me early on is to remember that you are talking to a person. It doesn't matter if you're a summer analyst talking to the managing partner of Kleiner Perkins. Yes, initially the conversation may have elements of what you have illustrated, but that is just because you haven't found common ground with the guy and you need to find a way to humanize yourself and connect with him. This may mean bringing your energy down a notch to match his or vice versa.

I'm a little hungover and I am rambling at this point. To better help, I need to understand a bit more about where you are coming from. Are you concerned that your personality will disqualify you from the industry etc.? Or perhaps worried that the industry is not a place you want to make a career?

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Jan 11, 2019

There are a ton of different characters on Wall Street. You'll run into the arrogant jackasses who have enormous egos; you'll also find guys (and girls) who are genuinely nice and passionate about what they do that really want to help others, and you'll find a ton of people in between. You just have to network and find people that you click with most (in addition to the right role/firm). That's what these coffee meetings / phone calls are for.

You'll be happier at a smaller shop with a supportive boss that pushes for you and gives you opportunities, than at a more prestigious firm with a douchebag boss that doesn't care if you drop dead reading this.

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Jan 11, 2019

No. They are not being nice to you by taking time out. They're just doing their job. You'll soon realize this.

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Most Helpful
Jan 11, 2019

I mean, the reason I do it is to pay it forward. There is no way in hell I would be here if it weren't for people like me taking time out for dumbass kids from shit super non-target schools like former me.

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Mar 11, 2019


Mar 11, 2019

Also, and I'm not in the industry, people are really busy and don't always do the "little stuff" as well as they should, myself included. Something to remember when you're in their position, but don't take it personal.

Mar 11, 2019

They probably genuinely do want to help you. I always respond promptly to any alum from my school that wants to meet up and talk. But they've done a lot of these coffee chats, and it's just one more thing on their calendar for their day. It's a bigger deal for you than it is for them.

Mar 11, 2019

People are busy and overwhelmed and you are their last priority. Wait til you get on the job - you shall see

Mar 15, 2019