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Book Review: Young Money

Should be required reading for every college student who is planning a career on Wall Street.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   03-07-2014
Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits by Kevin Roose, published by Grand Central.

Kevin Roose’s “Young Money” chronicles how the first two intense and often sleep-deprived years of a Wall Street investment banker’s life work. Roose started writing the book in 2010, when he looked at college graduates who were starting jobs at banks just after the financial crisis.

Roose found eight young bankers who agreed to let him into their lives in exchange for anonymity, and he tracked them as they moved from college internships to grueling lives on Wall Street as financial analysts. The book focuses on Arjun, Chelsea, Derrick, Jeremy, Samson, Ricardo, Soo-Jin and JP who work assignments across trading, mergers, muni bonds and risk management. “Young Money” is a story about 100-hour work weeks at firms like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan, drug-fueled all-nighters, Harvard hedge funds, dating mixers, Occupy Wall Street protests, and top-secret fraternity parties.

But it's less about the frolic on Wall Street and more about the insecurity that plagues young bankers. “They made a mistake hiring me,” Chelsea Ball, a flip-cupping Bank of America analyst who earns six figures, tells the author. She had been staffed on several deals in a row that involved arranging muni bond issuances because of her efficiency. Still, she is wracked with insecurity. “I’m the dumbest person here, I don’t understand any of this.” Of course, the whole point is that everyone on Wall Street feels that way because of the cut-throat completion and volume of work.

Demystifying the I-Banker’s DNA

The typical Wall Streeter is an “escalator climber”: intelligent, diligent with a great capacity for hard work. Roose classifies the young people who typically flourish in finance, the ones who are genuinely happy with their careers - into Habituals, Locomotives and Gunners.

Habituals are people who might, in the context of college admissions, be referred to as “legacies.” The author says these are college graduates who gravitate to finance because their parents or siblings work in finance. They make it to Wall Street on their own, but their upbringing is wealthy and they often have Ivy League credentials. They also want the luxe life.

Locomotives on the other hand, come to Wall Street with an underdog’s ambition. “They tend to come from working class or middle class homes, receive financial aid or scholarships during college and often pull their families behind them as they chug toward success,” writes Roose.

Gunners think nothing of the stress of the job and thrive on the pace and excitement of the finance world. “A Gunner may be a former college athlete who treats his trading career as a dog-eat-dog competition, or she may be a female executive for who succeeding in a male-dominated industry is a test of endurance and pluck. For these people, money is only a scoreboard,” writes Roose, rounding out his colourful taxonomy of I-Bankers.

Author Kevin Roose

Most MBA graduates are enamoured by the bonuses and glamour of Wall Street, but Roose points out that the pay is sometimes not worth being treated as a dispensable resource. The 100-hour workweeks can also leave you stressed, in a state of perpetual exhaustion, and lost to family and friends. For those looking to join, don’t say you weren’t warned!

The book has all kinds of tidbits for want-to-be bankers. We are told you can buy the "Investment Banking Interview Prep Pack" for $79.99 from Wall Street Oasis; the "Ace the Technical Investment Banking Interview" webcast and PDF guide for $99 from Wall Street Prep; or, if you're really playing catch-up and don't mind shelling out, a four-day "Intern Core Skills" workshop from Adkins Matchett and Toy for $3,000. Of course, Wharton and Kellogg students don't need these study aids, since they have already learnt advanced financial skills in their classes.

Entertainingly, Roose crashes the gala of Kappa Beta Phi, the Wall Street secret society whose members are considered to be comprised of the elite one percent of America. Before he is discovered and bundled off unceremoniously, he witnesses off-colour skits mocking Wall Street’s adversaries (Congressman who helped to author regulatory restraints on banks), victims of the financial crisis and unkempt Occupy protesters.

 

Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London. 

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