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Why Millennials want to work in finance, and why they don’t

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Do millennials want to work in financial services? It’s a question that employers would dearly love to know the answer to as they replace older workers with cheaper juniors and roll out schemes to keep their younger employees engaged.

On the one hand, large investment banks are deluged with applications for their graduate schemes. On the other, Wall Street is facing a talent shortage. While real wages for financial services professionals in New York rose by 14%, the number of young people working in the financial sector has declined by 11,000, according to the New York City Comptroller.

Defining Millennials as one homogenous group with the same ambitions and characteristics is, of course, foolish and vaguely insulting. We spoke to two young Americans to get their impression of the financial sector. One has set his sights firmly on a banking career, while the other is definitely not interested in working on Wall Street despite a family connection in the sector. These are their stories.

Why I would never work in investment banking: 

“Finance is a bunch of old white guys doing sneaky things in a conference room”

Meg Manning, 25, is an Alabama native who graduated from the University of Southern California in 2012. She made the Dean’s List, was a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and took classes in the Marshall School of Business.

After graduation, she got a job in L.A. as a research analyst for NBCUniversal. Last year, she accepted a job in Nashville as an automotive consumer insights analyst for an after-sales marketing agency “so I can be a little closer to home” where “the cost of living is lower.”

“What is my impression of the financial services industry? It seems like a bunch of old white guys in suits doing sneaky things in a conference room somewhere. I graduated from high school in 2008 when the market crash was happening, and I recently saw The Big Short, which explained the process of what went into the crash. That makes me reluctant to deal with large financial institutions other than what is absolutely necessary.

I recently bought a car, but I didn’t want to deal with lease terms or loans, so decided to pay for it outright. I’d rather eat peanut butter and jelly than deal with the financial stuff.

My brother is studying finance and eventually wants to end up in an investment bank. I think his main motivation is to achieve financial security. He had the vision of the big investment bankers on Wall Street who are super successful, and it’s a control thing, a place of power, which something I don’t understand and my mother doesn’t understand. If you have that knowledge base of the system, you have something that people need to rely on you for.

We’re always going to need doctors, lawyers and the military, and while financial services may be a great thing if you want a job, it is more of a secretive club with less transparency –I just can’t understand it. You can’t just start trading stocks and take care of yourself that way.

There’s a lack of transparency in the financial sector. In some ways it’s deliberately confusing so that they wield more power, and a lot of things that happen are after the fact, so there’s not a lot of accountability. People are moving from government to finance firms and back and forth, and they have their hand in a pot that they shouldn’t in terms of circumventing regulations.

Now you have to either completely let go of everything and let them take control of it, or like me, withdraw at all if you don’t feel comfortable handing it off to anybody else.”

Why I really want to work in investment banking: 

“Every action that mankind takes is governed around money.” 

Riddhish Rege, 23, placed third in the M&A Game earlier this year. He is a recent graduate of the Brandeis International Business School and is joining J.P. Morgan as a full-time IBD analyst this summer.

“Right after graduating from high school, I was thrown into this world of possibilities. I closely analyzed each and every option I had in mind and financial services wasn’t one of them. I wanted to become a scientist. I wanted to invent the time machine.

However, one day right after high school, a close friend of mine introduced me to his brother-in-law, who had started his own investment bank based out of Mumbai. I was intrigued by the amount of things he was able to talk about related to how the world runs, considering that the world was in a financial turmoil during those days right after the financial crisis.

Things only started getting more interesting when I took classes in my school on finance and economics and reading financial dailies. One day, while consulting with an uncle and mentor close to me, who is a business executive, he reaffirmed my thoughts on venturing into the finance world. So, I was pretty much sure about a finance career before entering college.

Being a student of finance and monitoring the market, I understood that finance is 80% human psychology, which is backed by 20% of the math behind it. I believe this because any and every action that mankind takes is governed around money. That is why I chose banking

There are a few reasons I want to work in investment banking. Getting to understand how the world works, which fuels the development of transferrable skills. Math, which I believe is the mother of all subjects, so being close to it on a daily basis would increase my brain’s capabilities of being “street smart; Working with the most competitive people would help me develop a fantastic network; and since I come from a middle-class family, monetary compensation does play a big factor in attracting my interests.

But, we all know long hours are a problem, and frequent tight deadlines would increase my blood pressure leading poor health. I’d sacrifice time spent with loved ones and miss the important moments that constitute life and finance novels and movies had me thinking of the difficult people I would have to deal with. Oh, and going over to the dark side and becoming a Sith Lord, plagued by ego and greed.

At the time of declaring my major, I did have my reservations, since I was brought up in an artsy household where my mom, dad, grandmother and brother are artists and my grandfather and uncle are architects, I had no clue which direction I wanted to head in.

However, since I am lucky enough to be born in the age of the Internet, I made my way through and figured out the path I wanted to be on. I believe every person should take that leap of trying what they are feel most curious or intrigued about, and finance was mine.”

I have had experiences of talking and dealing with people who have a negative view of the financial services industry. However, I would also say that there are tons of students, people out there wanting to be part of the Industry.

Most of our generation became debt-laden in the process of getting an education. This has pressurized many of us and back us into a corner. I foresee the entire credit system being redefined in a few years. Mix this debt problem with the exponential population growth and you will see competition among us for limited jobs. The 2008 crisis destroyed the dreams of majority of us and blame falls on the financial services industry.

Our generation is also sensitive to the social fabric around us. So, considering that banks are based on the logic of capitalism, there seem to be conflicts of interests, and many millennials often listen to what their heart says.

Since our generation is well travelled and experienced growing up in a different way, the traditional definition of freedom seems to have been altered. Terms such as disguised slavery, work-life balance and experiences mean a great deal to us. Never has there been so many things to do out there at the same time, and we have only one life to live. Isn’t a person better off earning a few thousand dollars less but keeping his sanity and having fun?”

Photo: R_Jasson/iStock/Thinkstock

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