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How attractive must you be to work in banking?

Beautiful investment bankers

Prospective associates in a bulge bracket bank

Call it the Abercrombie & Fitch index. The notion that in order to get ahead you need to have the sorts of physical characteristics that might not go amiss at an Abercrombie & Fitch casting session.

Earlier this week, Financial Times writer Lucy Kellaway bemoaned the disappearance of ugly people from the graduate recruitment schemes of investment banks, accountancy firms, consulting firms and lawyers. Top employers have become ‘faceist’, argued Kellaway; ugly talent is going to waste.

We’ve noted the preponderance of attractive people in the finance industry several times in the past. In sales roles in particular, you’ll often find an agglomeration of young and beautiful women – ‘tethered goats to attract business from hedge funds’ in the parlance of controversial writer John LeFevre, author of the @GSElevator Twitter account. But it’s not just sales, investment banking divisions (IBD) are replete with chisel-chinned top university graduates, hedge funds have their fair shares of floppy-haired traders.

These observations have some objective substantiation. Research by the department of psychology at York University in 2013 revealed that the average member of the public expects the average male banker to look like this:

Average banker face

In other words, well groomed, fairly handsome, slightly genial and slightly contemptuous. Coincidentally, it’s a look shared by many of the men at the top of UBS. And yet not all top bakers are Adonises: Bruce Wassertein didn’t much look like the composite above.

To help lay the matter to rest we’ve taken a statistical snapshot of employee attractiveness by industry based upon the proportion of people who publicly state that they previously worked for Abercrombie & Fitch. As a reminder, Abercrombie has historically hired men with six packs and girls with diminutive midriffs and flawless skin. A period spent working for the retailer can therefore be taken as an indicator of conventional physical allure.

The result? Whichever industry you look at, a teeny tiny proportion of people have worked for Abercrombie & Fitch in the past but that proportion is highest in investment banking. Ex-Abercrombie people are dispersed across the industry. For example, there’s Rebecca Chandler, a new analyst at UBS in London who has been both a model and an Abercrombie associate, or Didi Peng, a summer analyst in IBD at Goldman Sachs in NYC who spent three months working as a model for Abercrombie in 2013, or Natalie Allen a graduate recruiter at Goldman Sachs who was previously a people manager at Abercrombie & Fitch and therefore – we assume – knows what sort of look to go for.

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