The Cubs of Wall Street

Chris Hayes in The New York Times:

BookImagine you’re a scientist in some sci-fi alternate universe, and you’ve been charged with creating a boot camp that will reliably turn normal but ambitious people into broken sociopaths more or less willing to do anything. There are two main traits you’d want to cultivate in your recruits. The first would be terror: You’d want to ensure that the experimental subjects were kept off-­balance and insecure, always fearful that bad things would happen, that they would be humiliated or lose their position and be cast out. But at the same time, it would be crucial that you assiduously inculcate a towering sense of superiority, the belief that the project they happen to be engaged in is more important than anything and that, because of their remarkable skills and efforts, they are among the select few chosen to be a part of it. You’d want to simultaneously make them neurotically insecure and self-doubting and also filled with the conviction that they and their colleagues are smarter and better and more deserving than anyone else.

As chronicled in Kevin Roose’s “Young Money,” this is basically how the first two years of a Wall Street investment banker’s life work. Roose found eight young aspirants who agreed to let him into their lives in exchange for anonymity, and he follows their trajectories as they move from college internships to grueling lives as Wall Street grunts. (One note of caution: In order to protect his sources’ anonymity, Roose writes in a prologue that “many personal details have been altered or obscured, and a few events have been reordered chronologically or given minor tweaks to make them less recognizable to the people involved.” That stuck with me as I read the book and had to wonder just what “events” and “personal details,” which are the stuff of narrative, weren’t actually accurate.)

More here.