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Why do ‘old’ people work in the back office?

Ok, early 40s isn’t exactly an age at which you’re likely be reaching for the Zimmer frame and the denture adhesive, but it’s fairly antiquated when you consider that the average front-office banker is probably 15 years younger.

Research from the Observatoire des métiers de la banque, a French organisation with affiliation to local unions, suggests the average person working in custody/settlements in France is aged 38 and has been in the same job for the past nine years. Back-office staff in French project finance are an even more decrepit 44.

Unfortunately, the Observatoire doesn’t have any figures for the average front-office person. However, BNP Paribas’ most recent annual report also states that people working in its corporate and investment banking business are among its youngest.

Back in 2005, the ex-City of London Mayor Sir David Brewer informed a group of assembled banking interns that it was somewhere around the mid-20s in the City, and we’re assuming this is still the case.

Do you work in the middle/back office? Are you surrounded by people who remember Margaret Thatcher? Why? Express your opinions below.

Comments (18)

  1. ‘Old’ people work in the back office because life is easy, pay is acceptable and you’re not surrounded by a load of testosterone driven 20 year olds trying to impress the female PAs.

  2. The back office is more respresentative of companies. It’s the front office that is the anomoly. With high burn-out and attrition rates trading rooms are always 70% new blood. Also the reason that every time we have a bear market banks get killed. The collective institutional memory is only about 5yrs.

  3. It’s as simple as that: out of 10 people starting in front office, the brown nose will end up with a managerial position, 6 will burn themselves too early and end up driving a cab, and the remaining 3 will be too old to risk enough or too threatening to the manager, and they’ll be “recycled” in some middle/back office position. That’s the “circle of life” in the dealing room…

  4. “Old people” work in the back office because not everyone is capable or suitable to working in the front office. Personally, I like the fact we have some people who more than a bit of bum fluff of experience on their chin with real business knowledge backing us up!

  5. I really just cant believe what I am reading .. In fact this conversation is just totally hilarious. “Old People” ??? 40 something…??? Listen I am sure 100% of the traders in front office would be over the moan to have Demi Moore ..oh I think shes 40ish… Jennifer Aniston … Jade Jagger…Kylie..walking around….!!! Just because you are 40 is doesnt mean you are old. Yes people do burn out ..but the sensible ones dont. Maybe it might be a more controlled and better working environment if you had a more “mature” characters in the front office – Instead we have a few jumped up youngsters that throw their weight around…or young up and comings who have been promoted to management too early and have no idea how to manage but just buzz off the power aspect to it all. I have worked in front office and middle offices – to be honest its all the same. This industry has a “real” age problem – thats probably because its run by ego driven men. Old people… ?? just so hilarious….

  6. Old people work in the back office because they can’t afford to retire yet.

  7. “Over the ‘moan’ ” Rachel? Really?

  8. I don’t believe that 40 is old. I know guys who have had 20 years dealing experience and now work in areas such as Prime Brokerage, Equity Derivatives and Fixed Income roles, which are Middle office/CRM roles. They offer a wealth of experience, which contribute to processes being improved. Due to technology the role of the middle office/front office functions have changed. I know dealing rooms, which don’t have a lot of young guys in them and others, which do. Time calls for change and it is best that we accept that fact. Young people are fascinated with the dealing environment where as a lot of people going into their 40s have been done and got the T shirt. It is not as glamorous as it looks. Infact there are many Middle office roles such as Prime Brokerage) which are just as challenging and can be rewarding.

  9. That’s why you have something like the subprime debacle. Obviously, even the way way over the hills like Stan O’Neal and Chuck Prince couldn’t rein in 20 something testosterone driven bankers from stamping out cookie cutter mortgage structured products. They had to know that the good time couldn’t last forever. I, sitting halfway around the world, was asking since 2005, “what happens when the housing prices falls?”

  10. Seriously, who put together this article. What use is it to anybody? This site goes downhill by the day, its content is embarassing!

  11. Simply because most financial institutions are committed to practicing age discrimination. They would like to have everybody in the organisation to be around 30 years of age and beautiful and convey some phony glossy image. However the law interferes with that commitment so they have to balance things out by employing older people somewhere. Hence the more experienced qualified people are in the back office while beautiful people are in the front. This is also a key factor in why financial institutions have regular problems such as trading frauds and credit crunches brought on by recklessly investing in sub prime pieces of paper.

  12. By the way, mid 40s in banking is considered quite elderly. When redundancies hit, for whatever reason, the older staff is culled, ever decreasing the average ages of all areas. However, bank office tend to be most skilled, somewhat invisible and less expensive so the axe is not so severe. However, if you make it to mid 40s, get made redundant – just try to get a job. Recruiters don’t want to know you because their clients are going for a different look or you are too experienced.

  13. Is this not age discrimination? The reason why there back office staff are older than the FO staff is that the youngsters come into banking at the ripe old age of 18-19 with no banking experience at all, do 6 months in the back office and then move to a middle office/front office roles attracted by thde bright lights!! however as I have seen these young “whizz Kidd” turn out to be nothing more than jumped up juniors that they fall flat on their face!!!

  14. old peopl tend to work in the middle office, whilst young people will be found both in back and front office..hr has the best looking girls..fact

  15. The middle/back office is closer to the toilets, and as you know we crusty old 40-somethings are nearly incontinent, so that’s why we work in the back. Near the loos. Now where did I leave my denture cream?

  16. One does not expect good quality research from a union, it is political spin, not evidence of anything.
    Anyone hear of survivorship bias ?

    Maybe I should use this dumb “survey” as an interview question. If someone accepts it at face value, they are not smart enough for banking and should enter a career for those who simply don’t understand evidence based science, like a BBC science correspondent.

  17. The comments raised above are quite interesting, however, i would like to point out that having a 40 something yr old in front office is the worst mistake that any organisation can ever make. Be reminded that the people in the front office are seen as the face of an organisation and the representatives should beam with energy and enthusiasm, something which is hard to find on the 40 something individuals at the workplace.

    Again, front office job is quite taxing, having to portray a friendly face the whole day is mostly challenging to the older generation. We can’t downplay the fact that their experience can be helpful, but front office is not for them. I would rather they be left to the back/ middle office where can use their wealth of experience to provide the front liners with good feedback and guide them throught the execution of their day to day duties.

  18. Bid 101, Ask 101 1/16. Yours. Done.
    In addition to this what else does a young trade knows?
    Try this, assuming the yield curve for the US Dollar flattens, the P/E for the Dow Jones drops, real rates for the Euro rise and copper futures fall what should you do? Long calls on the S&P500, long puts on the Wheat Futures or short puts on MSCI World?
    It is impossible to know all without experience. That is why most hedge fund owners are over 50 and successful!

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