This was a time, ladies and gentleman, when there were chaps who would came in to work one day and say “Lets start dealing in single malt whisky barrels.” And sure enough two hours later after a few phone calls they’d have signed off on a bunch of barrels from Scotland and be working the phones selling the stuff hither and yon all across this great planet of ours. Followed a few weeks later by a party to celebrate the selling of all the barrels. Celebrations crowned by taking delivery of one of the barrels for themselves and drinking it. Turned out it wasn’t very good, but hey, what an adventure and what a hangover. Good times had by all involved.
Try doing something like that today! It can’t be done. Legislation won't allow it. The world has changed, banking has changed. We’ve become boring, we have no ideas and we’re not allowed any ideas.
Investing is an ideas endeavor, it involves a certain creative process and of course risk. Sure you need to have an understanding of financial analysis and numbers, but you shouldn’t just be reading reports done by an analyst who is 21 years old and spent all his college days sending out applications to work for Goldman Sachs.
This brings me to one of the huge problems in the finance industry. Interns, no I don’t mean interns are a problem, it’s great we have them and it gives young up and comers a great chance to build their resumes and get a feel for the industry. BUT, but, but and it’s a big (_,_) Banks don’t teach them important skills. Interning at a big bank has become a form of military indoctrination designed to mold you into the kind of brainless non thinking machine that destroys your character and makes you a tool for the bank.
Just look at the tragic case of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern who died after apparently putting in 72 hours of work in one slog. Interns are nothing more than research assistants and excel jockeys. The purpose of putting them through ridiculous working hours day in day out, night after night is not to build professional capabilities, but to indoctrinate, it is just another form of hazing.
There is absolutely zero added value in making some youngster tap away at his excel charts for umpteenth hours a day. The amount of mistakes made is immense and all of their work needs rigorous checks and corrections. Anyone who has ever had to go through another person's excel analysis knows this. It’s a slow and laborious process to find the bugs and correct them. My point is this: Working them this hard requires additional resources, which costs the banks a bundle of money. So it is clear that the idea to work them this hard is not to improve their professional skills, it is to mold them into blindly loyal obedient minions in the world of finance.
Basic military training often involves excessive work and sleep deprivation. It’s a great tactic to build complicity and eliminate personality. Big bank internships are no different.
If you make humans into machines, you either end up braking the machine and/or creating an individual who is incapable of creative thinking in times of crises and new challenges. Problem solving involves creative thinking, destroying creative thinking leads to catastrophic crashes. The trend of conformity above all else in some of our most talented youngsters is destructive. Just look at the financial word during the past decade.