Saturday 18 Aug 2018 | 05:50 | SYDNEY
Saturday 18 Aug 2018 | 05:50 | SYDNEY

Intelligence: Youth and consequences


Sam Roggeveen


17 November 2008 15:01

I've never worked in finance, yet I found this oddly familiar (H/t Sullivan):

To this day, the willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense investment advice to grownups remains a mystery to me. I was 24 years old, with no experience of, or particular interest in, guessing which stocks and bonds would rise and which would fall. The essential function of Wall Street is to allocate capital—to decide who should get it and who should not. Believe me when I tell you that I hadn’t the first clue.

I’d never taken an accounting course, never run a business, never even had savings of my own to manage. I stumbled into a job at Salomon Brothers in 1985 and stumbled out much richer three years later, and even though I wrote a book about the experience, the whole thing still strikes me as preposterous—which is one of the reasons the money was so easy to walk away from. I figured the situation was unsustainable. Sooner rather than later, someone was going to identify me, along with a lot of people more or less like me, as a fraud.

That's more or less how I felt when I was recruited to the Defence Department as an intelligence analyst about a decade ago. Sure, I had a couple of broadly relevant degrees, but my analytical responsibilities covered a region of the world I had never studied in detail or even visited. And mine was a reasonably typical experience for a young analyst. The world of finance, it seems, is no different:

One of Oppenheimer’s investment bankers stomped around the research department looking for anyone who knew anything about the mortgage business. Recalls Eisman: “I’m a junior analyst and just trying to figure out which end is up, but I told him that as a lawyer I’d worked on a deal for the Money Store.” He was promptly appointed the lead analyst for Ames Financial. “What I didn’t tell him was that my job had been to proofread the ­documents and that I hadn’t understood a word of the f*cking things.”