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The real reasons Ivy Leaguers flock to Wall Street

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Best-selling author Michael Lewis, the scribe of hits like “Moneyball,” “Flash Boys,” and “Liar’s Poker,” just penned an eye-opening op-ed on Wall Street and what it does to young bankers. A former banker himself, Lewis identifies several structures – or occupational hazards – that can turn bankers into a cliché of themselves: selfish, immoral and egotistical.

But his first point, why Ivy League graduates still flock to Wall Street, may be the most interesting. He argues that the funnel from Ivy League schools to banks is about much more than just the fact that they both are home to smart people, something Kevin Roose also notes in his recent book, “Young Money.”

Part of the parallel is about status, Lewis claims. People who enjoy the reaction to “I go to Harvard” also get a kick out of saying “I work at Goldman Sachs.” And, unlike in other industries, like tech, where you need to make something to be somebody, Wall Street only asks you to sign an employment contract to gain status.

Roose offered a different take after following a bunch of fresh young bankers around for two years for his book. He argues that, as graduates, most Ivy Leaguers aren’t born risk takers. In fact, they’re the opposite. Many are naturally anxious, and there’s nothing scarier than graduating without a job or any plan on what to do in life.

Investment banks provide a cure. Two-year analyst programs and job offers before graduation. “We think of Wall Street as being full of these crazy risk takers. But in a lot of schools it’s these scared organization kids going to Wall Street,” he told Vox earlier this year.

While each take different angles, the point is the same. Banks, whether inadvertently or through design, often take advantage of recruits’ weaknesses: fear and ego. And if you aren’t careful, investment banking will help nurture both of these attributes, Lewis suggests.

Click here to read his full post.

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Quote of the Day: “More generally, anyone who works in big finance will feel enormous pressure to not challenge or question existing arrangements.” – Michael Lewis

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