There’s something about senior people who leave Deutsche Bank. As we reported in January, Kerim Derhali, a former equities trader who left Deutsche Bank in 2012 has been touring East Coast Universities proclaiming that banking careers are over. Now Chris Yoshida, Deutsche’s former global head of rates sales is busy encouraging the most able members of the younger generation to do something more worthwhile with their time instead.
Yoshida is a senior advisor to the Kairos Society, an organization formed eight years ago to help young entrepreneurs tackle big issues like clean water, global warming and rising energy prices. He says today’s brilliant young people are better advised to devote their energies to these kinds of activities than to finance. “Young graduates today should explore broader horizons than banking and finance. There’s so much more you can do than sit at a regulated desk in a regulated entity. You can make a difference!”
Yoshida has first hand experience of life as a junior in a bank. Although he ended up as Deutsche’s global head of rates sales, he started his career in 2000 as an analyst in Goldman Sachs’ investment banking division. The way he tells it, this wasn’t particularly worthwhile. “I was an investment banking analyst in energy and power M&A and I never really left my cubicle for 12 hours a day – I was there making pitch books.”
Like others who’ve been through banks’ junior ranks, Yoshida says the work in banking is fundamentally tedious: “The learning curve isn’t nearly as steep as you expect it to be. You get taught Excel and you learn how to be a grunt and survive it and you learn how to get yourself noticed by senior management, but you can learn all this and more in other places too.”
After two decades in finance, Yoshida says he’s looked over the parapet and found far more interesting things happening in the real world – and that today’s top students are already a long way ahead of him. “The students working with Kairos are the top students at the top universities in the world. They don’t want the kind of cursory mundane repetition you get in banking – they know that the world is their oyster and they can see that there are extraordinary opportunities available in solving problems with a social purpose. It’s not about economic rewards but they can also see that if you have a big impact, the economic rewards will follow.”
Kairos was founded by Ankur Jain, a former Wharton economics student who developed Humin, a communications app that was acquired by Tindr in 2016. It counts Bill Gates and Bill Clinton among its mentors and promotes entrepreneurship at over 300 universities in 50 countries. Kairos-assisted companies include Periscope, the live video app acquired by Twitter and Vital Vio, an antibacterial light bulb developed by a college junior whose grandmother contracted an MRSA infection after a routine hospital stay.
Every year, Kairos selects the 50 most impressive students with the most impressive entrepreneurial ideas to join its fellowship, where it pairs them up with its mentors, teaches them how to pitch, and introduces them to investors – all free of charge. “It’s hard to start out as an entrepreneur when you’re at university,” says Yoshida. “This is giving people some structure.” The Kairos calendar culminates in an annual global summit for members of the fellowship. This year’s is in a few weeks time – at the Rockefeller family estate, culminating in a party on the New Stock Exchange’s trading floor.
Yoshida says banks’ graduate recruitment days are uninteresting by comparison. He also says that global events over the last year have encouraged brilliant young people out of their cubicles and into the real world. “Trump and Brexit have lit a huge fire under young people who think they can make a difference to the world. They didn’t vote for this, but they can see there are broader social issues and they want to get involved.”
As top graduates aspire to make an impact, Yoshida says banks are being deprived of the best talent. “There’s nothing wrong with going into banking now if you’re in the middle two thirds of the bell curve. But if you’re extraordinarily ambitious and talented, there are extraordinary opportunities in innovation that have nothing to do with finance.”
Photo credit: Cubicles by Michael Lokner is licensed under CC BY 2.0.