When we looked at the nationalities of an admittedly small, but nonetheless representative, sample of this year's analyst classes in the City of London last week, one thing stood out: the Italians. By our estimation around 14% of the analysts hired into investment banks this year come from Italy. One Goldman Sachs MD, himself an Italian (admittedly), thinks he knows why.
He says Italians make good bankers for a variety of reasons but most of all because, they lack alternatives.
"The Italian economy has barely grown in the last 25 years," he points out, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There's no Italian tech industry and at the institutional level most finance activity happens out of London. At the same time, there are very few industrial opportunities, so top Italian talent gravitates to London."
Together with the Indians and the Chinese, he argues that the Italians are the hardest working bankers in the City. Firstly, they're motivated by the lack of alternatives ("People are very committed to perform once they get a job.") Secondly, even moderate success in banking can deliver "transformational wealth" when it's taken back home.
"Young Italians working in Italy are some of the worst paid in Europe," he points out. "The average gross salary in Italy is €27.4k a year and when you graduate from university, your best bet as a starting salary in an Italian job is around €1.5k a month."
By comparison, 25 year-olds in the City of London can expect to earn £100k (€119k) plus.
Motivation-by-fear isn't the only thing driving young Italians to success in London though. The Goldman MD says it helps too that Italy's government bond market is one of Europe's largest: "Italians are usually very good in rates." Italians are also naturally gregarious and commercial, which helps in sales. And then there's Bocconi, which regularly ranks towards the top of the league tables for masters courses and universities that banks hire from.