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Ashamed to be an Investment Banker?

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Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 18 Oct 2008, 13:25
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 18 Oct 2008, 14:12
That's pretty funny.

On a side note, I think I'm going to start using the term "gob smacked".

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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 18 Oct 2008, 17:40
Interesting read. Kudos.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2008, 03:16
Lucy Kellaway is awesome.

Also read her answer on this one:
http://blogs.ft.com/dearlucy/2008/09/my ... ll-street/
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2008, 06:28
Thanks for posting that. To be honest with you, I'm a little aghast at the level of wealth envy in this world after reading the comments that appear after each article. It seems people in general have almost no compassion for someone that 'works on Wall Street' because they view them to be better off. They are people too! Maybe some of their problems can be silly, but some are just as real as any other families. Geez, I'm working on my 'why greed is good' speech so I can rightfully defend my career choices later in life. :wink:
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2008, 07:32
jb32 wrote:
Thanks for posting that. To be honest with you, I'm a little aghast at the level of wealth envy in this world after reading the comments that appear after each article. It seems people in general have almost no compassion for someone that 'works on Wall Street' because they view them to be better off. They are people too! Maybe some of their problems can be silly, but some are just as real as any other families. Geez, I'm working on my 'why greed is good' speech so I can rightfully defend my career choices later in life. :wink:


Agreed. Anyway, people in general are pretty clueless when it comes down to finance (especially the arty farty types); all they do is assimilate and spit out what they hear at McCain's speeches ("greed on Wall Street", bla bla bla). Mind you, he's not wrong, but to accuse one guy at a dinner is poor to say the least (especially a guy in M&A).
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2008, 08:16
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To just blame the bankers for the problem, especially one individual banker at some party, is just ludicrous. Sure, bankers were greedy and they are easy targets because they made tons of money. But the government encouraged lending with cheap credit and policies to increase home ownership. Now, I'm not going to say that home ownership is bad, after all it's part of the American dream. However, not everyone is cut out for the responsibility.

Which leads to another leg of the crisis. Some people can be counted out to budget their spending so they are prepared to make a mortgage payment every month, and a property tax payment every year, insurance, utilities, and a zillion other things. Just taking a random sampling of people I know, there are definitely some that aren't up to the responsibility (artsy fartsy types perhaps?). But everyday American's exacerbated the problem by buying homes they couldn't afford - and I think buying homes without being really prepared for the full range of expenses. I think back to when I bought my first car (first year of college) as an example - I just wasn't ready. I made just enough money to afford the payments, had to scrape money together to pay the insurance, then after a year I got hit with $300 for registration and didn't have it. Then, I blew out a tire and didn't have the $200 to replace it, then had a small accident and a $500 deductible. I feel like a lot of new homeowners fell into a similar situation. They weren't necessarily speculating, but took out equity loans to pay for stuff they just didn't expect.

Another factor was the flood of cheap money coming into the country. Countries that traditionally held a lot of US treasuries started buying up highly rated mortgage securities because they offered higher yields. This drove down the yields on a full range of securities so that the spread between BBB and AAA was historically low (you weren't getting a premium for risk). This flood of money coming in meant that bankers had to work at breakneck pace to create mortgage securities so they could be sold to willing buyers around the world. What's missing here? Well, the ratings agencies. I dealt with them both as a lawyer (CMBS lawyer) and as a banker, and I can tell you for a fact that the people at the ratings agencies are not up to the challenge. They don't attract the best talent, and they simply do not understand a lot of the stuff they are rating. Certainly, they are only part of the problem, but I'd put a big chunk of the blame on the rating agencies.

Another big factor that lay people hardly every point to is Sarbanes Oxley. I'm 100% in favor of making executives at companies sign their names certifying financial statements, but that's where the policy should have stopped. the mark-to-market accounting required by Sarbanes Oxley put the financial system into a death spiral that it had no way of stopping without a huge capital injection from the government. It's too complicated to explain here, and I don't think many people want to read about it, but look up mark-to-market if you want to understand why once Bear fell (bad business perhaps), Lehman's fall was inevitable (probably not a bad business); why Merrill (probably not a bad business) jumped into BofA's arms within a day after Lehman failed; why AIG & Wachovia then immediately required bail-outs; and why Goldman & Morgan (not bad businesses) went into death throes before the government stepped in.

So, among all the factors involved, greedy wall-streeters were likely not the most important. Some years from now there will be lots of books written about the events of the past year, and we'll look bank to figure out where to lay the blame, but I'm betting greedy bankers will be a small factor. Let's face it, they have always been greedy so that's nothing new and we've never seen a crisis like this in our lifetimes. Some of the other new stuff (new government policies, new inflows of money, easy credit, rating agency stupidity, greed on main street, etc.) will be far bigger factors. Try explaining that to your artsy friends.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2008, 08:51
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Be careful not to take the stereotypes the other way. Some of these posts assume that "artsy" people can't manage their own money and are just jealous when really some of them are just very socially conscious.

There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. There is plenty wrong with greed. It doesn't matter who you blame it on, greed is what got us into this mess.

Finally, I assume this guy was exaggerating and as we've all pointed out, he was probably talking to a group predisposed not to care for his profession.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2008, 09:59
Guys with better understanding of finance and economics help me here.

I live in a small town in U.S. I have been here for past 5 years and witnessed the transition of industry and servies to international location. Significant numbr of people lost jobs. People who still have jobs, save money by purchasing lower priced imported goods. At the same time, they save the money and invest in companies and expect high returns. If the company is supplying its consumers cheap goods from international locations and sharing profit with shareholders (consumer again), then who is at loss? I say consumer, because he gets chep goods, good ROI on investement but looses jobs.

Now, the problem expands to healthcare and pharma. Over a period of time, consumer (many of us I have seen) started considering pharma and health research companies as gold mines. They expected huge returns from those but at the same time kept whining about higher healthcare costs. They expect high stock performance from insurance companies but want premiums low.

I think as consumers as well as stakeholders in companies and the society as a whole, we have been irresponsible sometimes. Unrealistic expectation of consumers (who is also investor) have brought us to where we are today. Bankers were just the tools that we were using.

Again, I might be entirely wrong.


Disclaimer : I am not anti-globalization. I am an immigrant to U.S. myself.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2008, 10:11
highhopes wrote:
Be careful not to take the stereotypes the other way. Some of these posts assume that "artsy" people can't manage their own money and are just jealous when really some of them are just very socially conscious.

There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. There is plenty wrong with greed. It doesn't matter who you blame it on, greed is what got us into this mess.

Finally, I assume this guy was exaggerating and as we've all pointed out, he was probably talking to a group predisposed not to care for his profession.


Coming from an artistic family (both my parents are professional musicians) I can tell you that most of the artists are not very aware - to say the least - about what going on in the financial world. This is not an accusation: most of the people are clueless about classical music too.

I also have the impression that among a certain type of people - the arty farty type, or what I would call failed artists suffering from the "misunderstood artist" syndrome (generally not the professional type) - there is a strong predisposition to hate capitalism and to blame everything that goes wrong on "Wall Street" (whatever that means) or those horrible "merchant bankers". I suspect our FT friend fell into one of those crowds.

Anyway, I digress, and I agree with the rest of your post - especially the greed part.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 19 Oct 2008, 10:44
mbavacation wrote:
Guys with better understanding of finance and economics help me here.

I live in a small town in U.S. I have been here for past 5 years and witnessed the transition of industry and servies to international location. Significant numbr of people lost jobs. People who still have jobs, save money by purchasing lower priced imported goods. At the same time, they save the money and invest in companies and expect high returns. If the company is supplying its consumers cheap goods from international locations and sharing profit with shareholders (consumer again), then who is at loss? I say consumer, because he gets chep goods, good ROI on investement but looses jobs.

Now, the problem expands to healthcare and pharma. Over a period of time, consumer (many of us I have seen) started considering pharma and health research companies as gold mines. They expected huge returns from those but at the same time kept whining about higher healthcare costs. They expect high stock performance from insurance companies but want premiums low.

I think as consumers as well as stakeholders in companies and the society as a whole, we have been irresponsible sometimes. Unrealistic expectation of consumers (who is also investor) have brought us to where we are today. Bankers were just the tools that we were using.

Well at the individual level, a consumer who loses his job will never be made whole by purchasing lower cost internationally made goods. The benefit of the international production is spread across millions of stakeholders, who might see a small incremental gain. I would say yes, the person who loses their job is at a loss. That is one of the problems with living in a small town these days, many workers there have few skills that are transferrable to other jobs and industries. They worked at the auto plant for 20 years, and now that the plant is gone, what do they do? The opportunities are limited. It is similar to if you had invested all of your money in Enron and not diversified your portfolio in any way because you were limited (by some higher authority, in the case of the small town worker, geography, driving distance, etc.) with what investments you could place your money in. If Enron (the plant) went, then you lost everything. The other choice is living near a bigger city with lots of varieties of jobs and industries. If your company goes bankrupt, then you may have hundreds of other employers seeking someone with similar skills as you. In a sense you are diversifying your employment opportunities, in a similar manner to how smart people invest. This strategy can also fail, but diversification of risk is one of the first lessons in investing. Of course people take this risk all the time (some are aware of the risk and others are not) for the added benefits of living in a small town. Maybe you like the community, everyone knows your name, or you are just comfortable there and are afraid to uproot your family. Whatever the reason, people take this risk everyday by putting all of their employment eggs in just one basket.

Actually, the time to invest in biotech was the 80's after the high flier Genetech was formed. The problem with investing in pharma and health research companies as an industry due to rising healthcare costs, is that you are investing in an industry that is not gaining any real effciencies or expanding margins. In a sense supply costs are increasing for them and they are passing those costs onto the consumer. The industry is actually pretty mature as a whole and will most likely not produce any unusually outstanding returns. I wouldn't expect it to do too much better than the S&P 500.

As far as being irresponsible stakeholders, it really is VERY difficult and almost impossible for an individual to be a responsible stakeholder. The system is setup against the individual and skewed towards the company. Some activist shareholders have had success influencing corproations, but even their results would largely be considered self-serving and mixed at best. The whole game is set up against the individual and it is basically cost-prohibitive to act, so don't necessarily blame the individual companies, but instead blame the system.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 20 Oct 2008, 06:03
pelihu wrote:
So, among all the factors involved, greedy wall-streeters were likely not the most important. Some years from now there will be lots of books written about the events of the past year, and we'll look bank to figure out where to lay the blame, but I'm betting greedy bankers will be a small factor. Let's face it, they have always been greedy so that's nothing new and we've never seen a crisis like this in our lifetimes. Some of the other new stuff (new government policies, new inflows of money, easy credit, rating agency stupidity, greed on main street, etc.) will be far bigger factors. Try explaining that to your artsy friends.


I disagree. It wasn't NINJA home-buyers that were developing the ludicrous and unnecessarily complex OTC financial derivatives (without a central clearing mechanism and in an unregulated market environment) that have brought the entire financial system to the brink of collapse. This time, the investment banks and other large institutional investors have been caught holding the bag from this bust in credit and default derivatives. The housing market decline and ensuing sub-prime crisis were just the trigger events to a highly inter-linked, complex universe of OTC derivatives that have been pushing established firms to the point of insolvency and bankruptcy. Sub-prime borrowers are less to blame than the top management for lack of oversight and going along with all of this, the financial engineers behind these complex instruments, and the bankers for not only peddling these "investments" but also buying it up themselves.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 20 Oct 2008, 06:34
To be sure, homeownership should not be a right, but a privelege. FRE/FNM facilitating this "right" (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.h ... A96F958260) coupled with cheap money a la Greenspan and complicit investing foreign governments, created the dangerous environment. Bankers, as all other rational economic actors would be expected to, took advantage of the situation to their benefit. I don't blame banks' "ludicrous" derivatives. These, when understood and used properly, are a net positive for investors, companies and society in general. However, I do believe that nobody, except maybe Paulson (not the Treasury Secretary), understood the risk underlying these securities/derivatives as well as they should have.

Re mark-to-market, i.e. fair value, accounting. I don't think a less transparent method of accounting is going to solve the problem, nor is it the catalyst for these recent events. The principle is a good one, and investor friendly. However, I recognize that mark-to-market, when there is no market, is pro-cyclical. Thus, the banks, regulators, and rating agencies should be able to understand the underlying value (if different from market value.) Isn't that why we pay them to analyze, oversee and rate these companies/securities? If we, as investors, only needed to look at the marks, then we could just do away with the analysts and rating agencies altogether.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 20 Oct 2008, 11:23
cougarblue wrote:
To be sure, homeownership should not be a right, but a privelege. FRE/FNM facilitating this "right" (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.h ... A96F958260) coupled with cheap money a la Greenspan and complicit investing foreign governments, created the dangerous environment. Bankers, as all other rational economic actors would be expected to, took advantage of the situation to their benefit. I don't blame banks' "ludicrous" derivatives. These, when understood and used properly, are a net positive for investors, companies and society in general. However, I do believe that nobody, except maybe Paulson (not the Treasury Secretary), understood the risk underlying these securities/derivatives as well as they should have.

Re mark-to-market, i.e. fair value, accounting. I don't think a less transparent method of accounting is going to solve the problem, nor is it the catalyst for these recent events. The principle is a good one, and investor friendly. However, I recognize that mark-to-market, when there is no market, is pro-cyclical. Thus, the banks, regulators, and rating agencies should be able to understand the underlying value (if different from market value.) Isn't that why we pay them to analyze, oversee and rate these companies/securities? If we, as investors, only needed to look at the marks, then we could just do away with the analysts and rating agencies altogether.


I definitely agree Greenspan shares a lot of the blame for the easy monetary policy that fueled the mis-allocation of investment resources. Actually, I can point to a number of financial experts who were calling the OTC derivatives meltdown a couple years ago before we started seeing the recent tremors in the financial system. One is Jim Sinclair. Another is Peter Schiff. Another is Warren Buffett. And there are many more. Here are several reasons why OTC derivatives are "ludicrous" in their current form (according to Jim Sinclair):

OTC derivatives generally have the following characteristics:

1.Without regulation.
2.Without listing on public exchanges.
3.Without standards.
4.Therefore not in the least bit transparent.
5.Therefore without an open market of the bid/ask type.
6.Dealt in by private treaty negotiations.
7.Without a clearinghouse.
8.Unfunded without financial guarantee of any kind.
9.Functioning as contracts of specific performance.
10.Financial character or ability to perform is totally dependent on the balance sheet of the loser in the arrangement.
11.Evaluated by computer assumptions made by geek, non market experienced mathematicians who assume religiously that all markets return to their normal relationships regardless of disruptions.
12.Now in the credit and default category alone considered by accepted authorities as totaling more than USD$20 trillion in notional value.
13.Notional value becomes real value when the agreement is forced to find a real market for ending the obligation which is how one says sell it.

(www.jsmineset.com)
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 20 Oct 2008, 15:04
I was watching a special on CNN last night and a guy they had on basically got this same reaction. He was a former intern from Lehman. They did a story on Jordan Belfort and then basically turned to the Lehman intern and were like "So you want to be like that guy?" I guess such is the time that we currently live in.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 21 Oct 2008, 08:27
Interesting editorial on BusinessWeek today:

Young Bankers: Not feeling their pain

http://www.businessweek.com/managing/co ... 864350.htm
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 21 Oct 2008, 08:49
terp06 wrote:
Interesting editorial on BusinessWeek today:

Young Bankers: Not feeling their pain

http://www.businessweek.com/managing/co ... 864350.htm

Is it just me or can you just feel the envy and hatred towards all things Wall Street oozing out of every key stroke she wrote?

"Recently, I've found myself not only NOT empathizing with my fellow twentysomethings in the beleaguered financial services industry, but experiencing undeniable pleasure at their increasingly tenuous circumstances"

"You see, for those of us recent grads working in New York, a pay-related pecking order was established immediately after graduation. Those who chose the I-banking route nailed down six-figure salaries—moaning about their hours—while others—teachers, journalists, and the like—were barely squeaking by, often keeping similarly punishing schedules."

And then the English major at Haaaarrrvuuuud chimes in, "So now, when our more pragmatically minded friends are starting to worry about their prospects, we feel a little complacent," she writes. "We never expected to make six figures out of college. We were never in it for the money."

Well, I bet her $hit don't stink, huh? Since she was never in it for the money...she must be better than the rest of us greedy, selfish capitalist pigs who might like to make some money.

I just have to ask one question. Why is it any of hers or anybody else's business how much money someone else makes? Who cares!!! It doesn't matter!! You're not their judge and jury. Just worry about yourself and everything else will work itself out in the end. I'm just absolutely sick and tired of reading about wealth envy in this country. It's nauseating how many people want to sit there and judge other people based on their bank account. What gives them the right??!?! Everyone will be judged on their own merits in the end, so for now just worry about yourself instead of what's fair. I learned one thing early in life...that is that life's not fair.

Ok, sorry about that...I'm done.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 21 Oct 2008, 08:59
This kind of overly liberal mindset permeates the campuses of most universities in America. We better get used to it.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 21 Oct 2008, 09:16
jb32 wrote:
terp06 wrote:
Why is it any of hers or anybody else's business how much money someone else makes? Who cares!!! It doesn't matter!!


I think she was making a broader point about the "pay-related pecking order [that] was established immediately after graduation" she talked about earlier. Sure, it's easy to say "who cares?" about how much everyone is paid... when you're making out pretty well. But it's simply naive to say that our society doesn't assign (or imply) a social hierarchy based on how much you make. No where more than in NYC, I imagine.

For what it's worth, I agree with a lot of what she says. As far as I can tell, the friends of mine who went to work for Goldman, Deutsche Bank, Lehman and elsewhere right out of college weren't really creating anything of value at all; and certainly not for society as a whole. They were just very talented at symbol manipulation. I don't begrudge anyone for wanting to make money (who doesn't?), but I also don't feel terribly bad for someone making six figures who's missing out on their bonus this year that's several times my annual salary.

More broadly, I don't think we can realistically expect Wall Street firms to adequately and fairly govern themselves. They're out to make large profits by any means necessary - usually by sacrificing long-term success for short-term profit, as we've seen. It's the government's role to regulate them such that the avarice that drives their success doesn't ultimately destroy the whole system, as it did in 1929.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker? [#permalink] New post 21 Oct 2008, 09:39
No one on Wall Street expects any sympathy. However, there is no need to be smug.
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Re: Ashamed to be an Investment Banker?   [#permalink] 21 Oct 2008, 09:39
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