A new accusation is being leveled at students who want to work in the financial services industry. Not only are they, it seems, prone to psychopathy, they're also a lot less trustworthy than students with other aspirations in life.
The new personality defect of young people who want to go into banking was unearthed by professors at the German University of Cologne*. Using a series of experiments run on over 200 students at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, the professors set out to unearth whether students with an interest in finance have different personality types, even before they even enter the industry.
Students were asked to play a trust game involving two players: a first and second mover. The first mover was initially given €8 and could send anything from €0 to €8 to the second mover. Before the amount reached the second mover, however, it was tripled. The second mover could then return anything from €0 to €24 back, and it was the second mover's behavior that was deemed to reflect trustworthiness.
The academics not only found that students interested in finance were less trustworthy than the rest, but that the more interested in finance they were, the lower their trustworthiness became. Hence, people with a low interest in finance careers returned an average of 38.5%; people with a medium interest returned 21.5% and people with a high interest returned only 16.6%.
Despite being less trustworthy, the academics found no evidence that the students were being excluded from banking jobs - if anything, the more they wanted to work in finance and the more untrustworthy they were, the greater their chances of success.
The academics suggest their findings explain why the public lack trust in banking and why the banking industry is prone to misconduct. However, they also note that students interested in finance appear to be unhealthily interested in exploiting "situations of asymmetric information," which is arguably what being a good trader is all about.
*Trustworthiness in the financial industry by Professor Matthias Heinz and Matthias Sutter.
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