Wall Street Stole My Smart Friends

Investment banks are machines for turning undergraduates into money. They're a talent vortex, a recruiting machine so well adapted that an entire school system has sprung up to feed it.

Banks take advantage of smart kids who think it's time for an impressive job but aren't sure what to do. They show up with cash in hand, practically pissing prestige, and offer a position guaranteed to keep the "complete fuck-up" scenario at bay. Soon enough you're 45, rich, tired, and anxious about the Nikkei.

It helps that investment banking has a low barrier to entry, because that way the applicant pool grows from a handful of specialists to anyone who can think and talk at a high level. Search costs are minimal: send a recruiter to each of the top schools and cherry pick their best programs. Take care of the rest in a rigorous internal training program.

What we're left with is an imbalance: talent leaning towards finance at the expense of everything else. Of course, the job market is precisely that — a market — and we've all learned not to begrudge an equilibrium. But I'm left to ask: is a society that sends so many of its brightest college graduates into a capital markets monkey pit maximizing welfare?

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