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Gen Z in banking: "A load of white men cursing at each other"

Anwar (not his real name), is the sort of person many banks would probably like to hire. Nearly 18 years old, a self-described "academic machine" with dual passions for economics and mathematics, he's already spent some time on diversity-inspired programs at a leading US investment bank and hedge fund. And he's already decided that a job in an investment bank is not for him.

"It was very cutthroat," Anwar says, of his brief day shadowing a young rates trader. "They were shouting and cursing at each other all the time. If you were even a second slow on an order they would shout at you." Not only that, but he says everyone seemed to be male, and white. "There were some women in the elevator, but I didn't see them again. It was all men, and they all looked white to me."

The bank concerned, which has - like all banks - ambitious diversity targets, might take exception to this categorization of its staff, but that's not the point. What matters is Anwar's perception. And his perception was not good. He won't be applying for an internship in the future.  

He's not the only one with an aversion to the idea of a banking career. Shakeel (also a pseudonym), a 17 year-old with a self-declared passion for economics, has his doubts too. The banking industry comes with "inevitable hardship," he says. Being a banker is a risky job with an uncertain future in a "high-pressure, intensive working environment," that he's not interested in getting into. What is he interested in, then?  "Maybe the Big Four." 

Of the three young people we spoke to, it was a young woman - Kareema (another pseudonym), who was the most pragmatic about a potential career in a bank. Kareema said she wants to go into a developer role in either banking or technology because she's interested in tech and she likes mathematics, and because the long hours are more tolerable when you're doing something you enjoy. And yet she acknowledges, too, that there's always a danger that you'll work "70 hours a week" in a quest to get rich only to realize when you retire that what you really wanted in life was time. 

Not all gifted Gen Z students are afflicted by similar philosophical struggles. Although he doesn't want to work in a bank, Anwar says he's still very up for working for a hedge fund. That's because when he interned in a fund, there was still shouting, but the shouting wasn't the same as in the bank. "The aura was different," he reflects. Maybe that was down to the fact that compensation there averages nearly £200k.  

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Th
    The intern
    7 June 2023

    Couldve picked a better name though

  • Th
    The intern
    7 June 2023

    It was great fun if i must say.

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