Do You Really Want to Work for a Bank?

You cannot progress your career in banking.

Unless you are one of the very lucky and very few who has been selected as a graduate in the front office, and you have the right temperament and luck to progress up the chain, you will simply never make it.

This is not a defeatist statement.

Recent rogue trading activities have made very large, well publicised mistakes. This has led to the implementation of global risk structures that aim to clearly separate the knowledge of the front and back office systems.  This cannot really be faulted as it falls in line with internal control fundamentals and the notion of separation of duties. One side effect of these measures however, has been the effective and definitive separation of those working as highly-paid, revenue-generating front office staff from those low paid minions known as support employees (and treated as such).

It is worthy to note that this delineation is under the direction of the US SEC. In recent years, a few very intelligent, but unethical individuals have taken advantage of loopholes in bank risk measures. Notable cases include Kweku Abodoli of UBS who in 2011 lost close to USD2 billion and the infamous Jerome Kerviel who lost close to 4.9 billion Euros for Societe Generale.

The implication for new and existing employees entering the banking industry with plans to climb the corporate ladder is that now there isn’t a single ladder. There are two ladders and in between is a giant wall manned by controls and compliance teams mandated to keep you away from the other side. One ladder starts at the very bottom and will take you to the top of the lower class of employees. The other ladder is the one most graduates have in mind, the one that leads to the 120% bonuses, the one that leads to the wheeling and dealing that gets reported on financial news channels like Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

Students are now required to give deep consideration to whether they are cut out for banking, not only to enter the profession but also to progress up the ranks. In the current regulatory environment, employees must succeed from day one or find themselves stuck in an operational role which is really nothing more than a cog in an increasingly ageing machine.

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