"I'm a managing director in an investment bank. Young people think I'm deeply uncool"

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Banking not cool

Banking isn't sexy. It's a cliché, but as with all the best clichés it's also completely true. I've spent 14 years working in finance in NYC, latterly as a managing director. You might think I'm a sort of hero to the young. I am not.

Ten years ago, when I went out on campus, students would flock to me. I was like a god. It was before the financial crisis. It was when banks still paid big money, and when everyone thought we were these great guys with big watches and big futures. Now, when I go to campus recruitment fairs, I feel like a pariah. People still come to our table, but in much smaller numbers. I have to go and search for students who might want to work for us. They're all congregating at the tables of tech firms and other industries.

This is a huge problem. If young people don't want join banks, banks are going to wither from the bottom up. The problem is that we are trapped by their need to increase our return on equity. Everyone knows our big priority is cutting costs. Working for a growing tech firm is far more exciting.

This isn't how it was in the old days. It used to be that you came into banking because you made $85k a year as an analyst and you tripled your compensation in the first three years. These days, you're more likely to get a 10% to 15% pay rise annually. The really high performing Millennials don't want that - if they're putting in the hours and the effort, they expect to get paid.

It doesn't help that my generation of bankers are tired and deflated. A lot of us came into this industry expecting something different. Now we're hanging on because we've got five years' of deferred compensation and can't see what else to do. Our pay falls every year: the guys who were on $3m are now on $1m and the link to performance has been eroded. There's no incentive to go out and kill it. We're going through the motions and we're not exactly giving off a dynamic vibe.

This is why, when we do persuade the 21-year-olds over to our table at careers fairs and we get them through our door, they often don't stay. We have a big problem with our second year analysts. These are the juniors doing the grunt work. There are fewer of them and they have to work harder than their predecessors. They look up and they see me blocking their progress. They see that they're only going to get pay rises of 15% a year. They see there's no upside in it any more. And so they go off and do something else instead. Something cool. And I stay here, trying to pretend that I'm hip too.

Marty Smith is the pseudonym of an MD in the markets business of an international bank on Wall Street 

Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com

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