You don’t have to be beautiful to work in banking, but it may help. Especially if you want to work in the front office careers where people are of above average attractiveness.
Which careers are those? Try equity capital markets (ECM), followed by sales. Trading and technology, not so much. M&A, maybe.
This is the outcome of an ‘experiment’ in which 60 profile photos of people (men and women) in these careers were selected at random and rated for facial attractiveness by members of our editorial team who were oblivious to the origins of the photos. 10 teachers were thrown in as a comparator.
If our editors are any judge of objective aesthetics, some professions in finance are more attractive than others. And the average finance professional is more attractive than the average teacher.
Does this matter? Yes. As Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times pointed out last year, banks and professional services employers are becoming ‘faceist’ – they favour good-looking people. Less good-looking types, even if they’re perfectly talented, are overlooked. And before anyone calls sexism, it applies equally to men as to women. Attractiveness sells, as noted by the Chinese brokerage which has begun using live streams of attractive female analysts to tout stocks. It’s no coincidence that Xenia Tchoumitcheva, the model and lifestyle blogger, once interned in sales at J.P. Morgan, nor that Bank of America hired an ‘America’s Next Top Model’ contestant as a director in equity derivative sales.
“There are a lot of beautiful salespeople in the City, men and women,” says one London banker. “Sales is a honey trap,” he adds. “There’s a lot of emphasis on wellness and health and faddy diets.”
“Men in sales are often good looking. They go to the gym a lot and more likely to be full of themselves,” observes a quant. “They’re not hired deliberately. It’s an unconscious bias. Banks aren’t going to hire purely on looks – they want someone who can do the job.”
A former J.P. Morgan banker says ECM attracts beautiful types because ECM is quite simple and there’s a lot of client hand-holding. “The typical ECM guy is easy on the eye, very sociable, not too smart,” he says.
However, one equity researcher cautions against building a career around your looks: “It works against you. People think you’ve only been hired because you’re attractive.” Worse, he says the beautiful ones don’t last and don’t have “grit”: “Sales is a pretty demanding role with a lot of stress and early mornings. You can’t stay good looking in that environment for long. People leave.”