Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Young money mavens not sold on Wall Street careers

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The Wall Street analysts at the heart of Young Money don't party as hard as The Wolf of Wall Street's Jordan Belfort, but then they're working with much smaller disposable incomes.

After all, the highest-paid among the eight recent college grads shadowed by journalist Kevin Roose pulls in maybe $150,000 in a year -- big bucks by most people's standards but a small fraction of what Belfort scammed in his days of living high.

This is the second book by Roose, a business writer for New York magazine.

He followed the young financiers for three years, beginning at their recruitment by investment banks in 2010 -- less than two years after the great crash of September 2008 -- and found them to be appreciative of their remuneration but generally unhappy with their work lives.

Young Money is entertaining, helped in good part by the author's remarkable adeptness at weaving several narrative threads without confusing the reader.

Wall Street banks expect their new recruits to work 100-hour weeks and be available at any time; as a result, first- and second-year analysts tend to be highly stressed and lack robust social lives outside the office.

By the third year of Roose's project, some of his eight subjects have left the banks, a couple have left the finance sector altogether, and all seem at least a little weary and disillusioned. Pay aside, the Wall Street life is a hard life for rookies.

Short, breezy chapters introduce us to and then follow the odysseys of the recruits. All start their jobs with an eagerness that quickly dissipates as demands wear them down.

Chelsea, for instance, begins her time at Merrill Lynch as a diligent member of the firm's public finance team, but quickly grows frustrated with working long hours under a high-strung control freak who doesn't have her back when she makes a mistake.

Jeremy works at Goldman Sachs, where his days are made miserable by a boss with an explosive temper; after his first year, he notices that his own temper has shortened and he's often unkind.

Chelsea and Jeremy both leave their employers. When Jeremy quits, he writes on Facebook that "the nightmare is over."

Roose admits that his pool of "conflicted" sources may well be an unrepresentative sample.

"My banker sources were atypical by definition -- daring or disillusioned enough to be willing to risk getting fired by talking to me, and kind and introspective enough to spend hours at a time answering probing questions about their lives," he writes.

The tracking period of the recruits runs through the Occupy Wall Street days of 2011-2012. Roose's subjects give little thought to the Occupy movement, though none of them are entirely dismissive towards the protesters' issues.

A couple of them do wonder aloud, however, if their work is doing much good at all for society.

Roose finds it sad that so many bright people from prestigious universities get drawn in by Wall Street's money appeal every year.

He worries that Wall Street will change some of the "socially conscious" young people he met, and change them for the worse.

He wants to see the allure of Wall Street fade so that more "highly creative young people use their abilities for purposes other than padding an investment bank's bottom line."

There's nothing deep or groundbreaking about Young Money, unless you're surprised to learn that Wall Street is a high-stress work environment.

Nevertheless, it's a thoroughly readable look at what it's like to toil as a junior analyst for a big investment bank. It gets a "buy" rating.

 

Winnipeg writer Mike Stimpson admits he probably isn't bright enough to be an analyst on Wall Street.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2014 G7

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Updated on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:25 AM CST: Tweaks formatting.

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