Wall Street Is Not For Wolves: How The Financial Industry Is Not As Glamorous As You Might Think
Models, bottles, drugs and debauchery. Enough Benjamins rolling in to fill a swimming pool.
These are the windfalls that I, and what I can only assume many of the 99 percent-ers in the Occupy Movement, believe a career in investment banking yields.
However, Wall Street is not immune to class disparity. There exists a distinct group of elites (let’s call them the one percent of finance) who personify many of the deplorable traits that we associate with the financial industry.
Below them resides a class of worker ants, pushed to the brink of insanity by 100-hour work weeks, belittling bosses and virtually no personal life outside of the office.
From this group, we learn that their experience working on Wall Street bears little resemblance to the images we have seen glorified in cinema. You would be hard-pressed to find a wolfie like Jordan Belfort or a Gordon Gekko amongst this crowd.
More on them in a bit.
First, we should examine some of the reasons Wall Street has drawn the collective ire of America’s middle class. This phenomenon is unsurprising, given the widely reported antics of its most visible and distinguished members.
Yesterday, for instance, Kevin Roose published an article in New York Magazine titled, “One-Percent Jokes and Plutocrats in Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society.”
In it, the financial reporter and author of the new book, "Young Money," provides a detailed account of the events he witnessed when he snuck into the annual black-tie induction ceremony of the hush-hush Wall Street fraternity called Kappa Beta Phi.
His description of the St. Regis-hosted event could be inspiration enough for the Zuccotti Park contingent to sharpen their pitchforks and relight their torches.
Amidst the foie gras and racks of lamb, an assembly of the world’s most famous investment bankers, private equity heads and hedge fund executives took turns lambasting the underclass, trivializing their hardships while emphasizing their shared conviction that society is wrong for vilifying the super-rich.
And they did so in the form of variety-show acts and skits, featuring financiers dressed in drag and costume wigs. They performed standup routines where they told jokes like “What’s the biggest difference between Barney Frank and a Fenway Frank? Barney Frank comes in different-size buns.”
In one particular “comedy” sketch, starring Blackstone exec Bill Mulrow and Emil Henry, a hedge fund manager and former assistant secretary of the Treasury, the pair took to deriding the so-called 99 percent in a mock debate between a hippie liberal and a wealthy baron.
“Bill, look at you! You’re pathetic, you liberal! You need a bath!” Henry exclaimed. “My God, you callow, insensitive Republican! Don’t you know what we need to do? We need to create jobs,” Mulrow retorted.
When Roose was finally identified as a journalist while attempting to record a video of a parody version of “I Believe” from "The Book of Mormon," he was escorted from the premises.
But his report recounting what transpired at the Kappa Beta Phi event exemplifies why America holds the financial industry in such contempt. The individuals who attended this gala grab headlines, unlike their hardworking subordinate 20-something employees.
For them, life isn’t quite so glamorous. These young financial analysts are up to their necks in Excel spreadsheets, left with little-to-no time to enjoy their work’s plunder.
That’s not to say they didn’t expect to partake in their fair share of profligacy and decadence upon entering into finance. Roose learned that many feel deceived by lingering stereotypes attributed to the industry while conducting research for his book, and that upon taking that entry-level analyst position, they quickly learn what life is really like on Wall Street.
“I followed eight young bankers for three years, and not once did I hear about one of them doing lines of coke off a stripper’s ass. It’s a very, very different world now,” said Roose in an interview with MTV. “These young Wall Street workers are totally overworked, they’re miserable and they’re getting into a lot less mischief than they used to.”
Roose says that these finance workers at the bottom of the ladder don’t necessarily reflect the image projected by those at the top of the food chain.
“Going in, I halfway expected to meet a lot of blue-blood lacrosse bros with Roman numerals after their names, said Roose. “But young Wall Street is a surprisingly diverse place. In my book, there’s a young woman who went into banking to pay off $100,000 in student loan debt, a guy from the Midwest whose father owns a grocery store, and a guy who worked his way into finance from a non-Ivy League school.”
He elaborated on that point a bit further.
“But I guess what surprised me most was that a lot of them were actually thoughtful about their work. They weren’t all rah-rah about finance — and some of them actually had fairly serious misgivings about the morality of what they were being asked to do.”
However, Roose does note that those who are willing to object themselves to years of excruciating labor, painful small talk and steadfast attention to detail can make their way to the top.
Unfortunately, once they’ve reached that summit, they’ll discover that the lifestyle isn’t all strippers and cocaine. Instead, it features crappy comedy skits performed by a bunch of pretentious, out-of-touch aristocrats.
Photo credit: Wolf Of Wall St/Paramount