Finance is High Status Welfare

At my alma matter, the students lived in a ‘ghetto’ of run down houses ripe for trashing right next to the University. This ghetto abutted an actual somewhat poor neighborhood.

I spent my first year off campus living in this actual poor neighborhood and have vivid memories of obese porch monkeys bitching into the phone about their petty social conflicts. Get a #$%$ job, I silently scoffed.

Little did I know…


I have this idealized view of the past occupational landscape being populated by real experts: people who work on a profession and ‘practice’ that profession for money: doctors, lawyers, engineers. In the mix are also the organizational grease called managers and socializing cheerleaders called salespeople.

The elements of that structure remain largely intact. Innovators are far less productive today, perhaps, but I don’t think that has anything to do with their talent.

There’s a new category in town, however.

Most of the smartest people from my business school went to work in finance (mostly investment banking) and management consulting.

These people make money by being high status so they can build a great network of clients and markets. A contributor to this status is being on the outward margin of spexpertise in some industry or other, but anyone who has talked to a stock analyst about his/her industry figures out pretty quickly that they barely know what they’re talking about.

That’s because they’re in sales.

TED has taught me that bankers sell: “connection and access” to the people who control the money in the world. The rest is window dressing and mating dance. Felix has taught me that consultants mostly just sell insider information.

The irony is that business schools profess to teach everything other than sales. They teach management, they teach operations, they teachfinance’. But the people they’re teaching aspire to be in sales, whether they know it or not.

But these aren’t your grandmother”s salesmen. They aren’t selling any THING; they’re selling status and networking. Let’s face it, business schools only exist because finance and consulting are high status professions.

The kids do this for the status and the status is what they’re selling. And it’s self-perpetuating!

Really, it’s a life of pure socializing.

No different than a porch monkey on welfare.*

* I should point out that I consider myself IN finance, so I can say these things.

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