What is High Finance?

Is this just a made up term? What's middle and low or even atmospheric finance? Can someone define?

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Comments (22)

Nov 30, 2018

high finance is smoking some pot and then doing financial modeling

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Dec 1, 2018

front office finance roles. client-facing roles or being an actual trader. having autonomy to make decisions. using your noggin to make money. requiring creativity. more than just following systems.
middle office is shit like risk management
back office is just normal business roles that happen to be at a finance company. accountants and shit
it can be whatever you want though.

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

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Dec 1, 2018

Not being "retail" The people here in WM are going to hate me for this because you can make a million bucks a year there in retail, but if you see Joe Schmoe about his portfolio more often than you see Reggie Browne or go to the NYSE then you're retail.

Pitching billion dollar mandates to huge pension funds is what not being retail means in AM, in IB, I imagine it means making big deals, etc.

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Dec 1, 2018

any core role involving handling significant transactions or asset management (or supporting the process with information/analysis) across the primary markets, private markets, public markets, physical commodities markets, corporate lending markets, reinsurance/corporate insurance markets at investment banks (IBD, S&T, ER etc), investment funds (PE, VC, AM, HF, PrivCredit, GE, REPE, Infra-PE), commodities shops, prop firms, asset owners and allocators (FoFs, pension funds, E&Fs, family offices, private banks, treasury departments etc), corporate banks, insurance companies, brokerages, corporations (CorpDev) etc etc.

Retail or mass-market transactions (or assets) are usually much smaller and are, as such, not "high" finance. Working in the finance department of a bigcorp is not really high finance either because you're reconciling budgets and forecasts not working transactions (though a CFO/Treasurer could arguably be more high finance-y if the company is growth oriented or has a robust financing program but usually it's again more a financial "management" role than a "finance" role.

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Dec 1, 2018

That definition probably puts everybody on this forum into "high finance". If everything is high finance then is anything high finance?

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Dec 1, 2018
Temujin RE:

That definition probably puts everybody on this forum into "high finance". If everything is high finance then is anything high finance?

I don't know. I don't like the term specifically and don't hear people actually say 'high finance' that much in real life. If you work in IB, you say, "I work in IB" or something like that. To say you work in 'high finance' to anyone just sounds a bit pompous and odd in my opinion.

But, yes, agree to the posts mentioned above - it is on the front lines, client facing work. I've seen a broader scope to who is in this umbrella on WSO and it seems some MO people are saying they work in high finance at times. I think the whole thing is stupid. Trying to claim some title of an industry category when you're actually not even really in that category.

But, I hold myself back on here at times to debating the verbiage of words as even though they might be used incorrectly, a debate about the verbiage and proper use of terms is quite futile, so back off of it usually. Unless it is more pertinent to the drivers of value in something. Rather than the 'labeling' of a certain role. People on here seem to be so obsessed with what 'category' they fall into and the title that comes with it.

"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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Dec 2, 2018

I've personally never heard the term "high finance" used in real life, and thought it was a WSO invention from someone like michigan but during the 2014-ish era, which was when I first saw it pop up.

When it comes to describing what part of the business someone works in, I personally think there's front office and back office, and that's it. Middle office sits right there with the FO guys and often switch into and out of FO, so I really don't see a difference. You either do trade support and clock out at 5PM, or you earn a bonus and your boss is crawling up your ass all day for deliverables.

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Dec 5, 2018
Temujin RE:

That definition probably puts everybody on this forum into "high finance". If everything is high finance then is anything high finance?

All of those listed industries and jobs represent a near-rounding error in the larger financial services sector. WSO simply caters to individuals in those career paths and is not representative of the larger financial services industry.

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Funniest
Dec 1, 2018

I would honestly rather my mom cheat on my dad with @GoldenCinderblock than hear the term "high finance" again

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Dec 3, 2018

100% agree with you here. Honestly, I don't understand all this ridiculous hype around finance. Who would pick that as a major when they could have chosen one of our majors. Two equally great majors.

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Dec 4, 2018

lol'd

Dec 4, 2018
theaccountingmajor:

I would honestly rather my mom cheat on my dad with @GoldenCinderblock than hear the term "high finance" again

I dig how triggered you are.

Dec 1, 2018

Atmospheric finance is a measurement of how much clout you have.

Dec 2, 2018

I always used it to distinguish the people in "finance" that are really just financial advisors etc.

Dec 2, 2018

High finance is just financial services focused on very large amounts of money, which is why HF, IB, PE are encompassed in the term "high finance." It's distinguishable from retail finance because retail generally involves much smaller transactions.

Dec 3, 2018

Like 'Wall Street', it's just a catch-all colloquial reference.

Dec 3, 2018

Does that mean everyone else is in "low finance?"

Dec 3, 2018
Dolphins Are Cool:

Does that mean everyone else is in "low finance?"

Nope, as mentioned before, "Retail" is the preferred derisive term. My parents go to a retail Merrill FA. He gives them dubious advice and collects some of the money he manages for them in fees each year, regardless of how well or poorly the advice he gives my parents helps them, or how much or little time he spends with them.

Dec 3, 2018

everything else is plebian finance

Most Helpful
Dec 4, 2018

I don't get what's so mystifying about this phrase - have seen several question it in the past few weeks.

High finance (pretentious as it may sound) refers to finance that primarily revolves around the provision of bespoke advice (frequently to institutions), rather than the (relatively commoditized) provision of capital (lending) or financial services (checking accounts, custody services, etc) alone.

PE/Hedge funds provide investment advice and expertise to the funds they manage. Ibankers provide holistic transaction advice to market participants (structuring, timing, counterparty intelligence, etc).

One could argue that any job in finance revolves around providing advice, even if it's what index fund to buy for your 401(k). However I think many of those positions we connote with "high finance" derive their value from their proximity to a complex and rapidly evolving deal landscape - which is what makes he bespoke solutions they offer worth paying top dollar for. Financial advisors, retail bankers, and commercial bankers (to name a few "not high finance" jobs at random) must stay up to date with industry trends for sure - but those trends are much less complex/rapidly evolving than those that shape the LBO business, for example.

None of this is to denigrate "non-high finance" positions. The term certainly has a smug ring to it that I don't personally like to associate myself with.

That said, to crib a line from Supreme Court jurisprudence , high finance is a lot like porn - there's no mistaking it, and even if you can't define it easily, you know it when you see it.

Dec 4, 2018

D.I.

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