Yes, Wall Street Still Has a Big Perception Problem

Got 15 minutes to spare? Listen to this NPR “Planet Money” clip in which New York magazine financial writer Kevin Roose gives us a hint as to why the insular world of big finance no longer appeals to Ivy League MBAs as much as it used to. In short, The Social Network is this generation’s Wall Street.

Roose says:

“The sex appeal is in Silicon Valley now. It has the…cultural cachet that Wall Street used to have…the tech industry is making things…”

That’s a key insight: tech makes things while Wall Street “re-bundles” things—at least according to popular opinion.

Younger bankers want to change all that. While all evidence indicates that the old generation is perfectly fine with being feared, the new generation “wants to be loved.”

A few weeks ago we posted a piece on how every MBA program should teach strategic communications—and upon listening to the party recorded by Roose, we had two thoughts:

  • These guys/girls quickly forgot whatever they may have learned about strategic comms at business school
  • Their sense of secrecy is completely justified given the way in which most of the public would respond to such events

It’s a good illustration of why “I work at Goldman Sachs” went from a point of pride to something you don’t want to emphasize too much when meeting new people (unless they also work in finance). And while the prospect of a high-paying Wall Street job has clearly regained some of its lost luster over the past couple of years, the perception problem remains as the public fixates on the less flattering side of the financial world:


If the industry at large wants to complete its own return to public favor, we see far more public CSR projects like Citibike and far fewer sexist jokes at secret society meetings.

But what do we know?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.