USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘banking’
general

Lucky Items in Investment Banking

Informant:

Daniel is a first year analyst at a prominent Manhattan based investment bank. He grew up in Northern California from a predominantly irish background

Piece:

“So whenever a huge deal goes through, the company that is acquiring another will give a little gift to everyone on the group that helped. Like we helped MLB buy this streaming service and they gave MLB baseball bats to the 10 guys who worked on that deal. And it’s considered lucky to hold onto a gift from a past deal when you’re on the phone with someone from a new deal. So if you look around the office people are always fiddling with little trinkets and shit that they got for completing deals as like a good luck charm.”

 

Collector’s thoughts:

I find the dichotomy between the the extremely analytic, numbers based aspect of being a banker with the dependence on items of luck to be very interesting. The trinkets seem to remain not merely as good luck charms, but also as visible trophies of past success signaling one’s competence to those around them. In such a quantitative profession, the presence of lucky items suggests that often times the quantitative isn’t enough, even for professionals

 

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

Business Proverb

My informant is a senior in the Marshall School of Business.  He emphasizes in finance and spent his last summer as an investment banking summer analyst at Morgan Stanley.  I knew bankers had lots of stereotypes and figured he would have some interesting occupational folklore.  He gave me this proverb:

It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

He went on to explain that his boss had given him this piece of advice during his first week on the job.  It wasn’t necessarily meant for his internship because that was mostly about learning and questions were welcomed and encouraged, but it was more for his future career.  I interpreted it similarly to “Never be afraid to fail.”  This proverb attests to the go-getter, competitive mindset of investment bankers.

Folk speech
general
Riddle

The Magical Wolf Island Riddle

This informant is a senior at USC in the Marshall School of Business.  He told me he had a riddle for me that he was asked in an interview for consulting, but then later said it could have been an investment banking interview as well he didn’t remember.

Out in the middle of the ocean there exists a magical island with only grass.  There are 120 wolves and 1 sheep on the island.  The wolves can live off the grass but they would rather eat sheep.  Every time a sheep is eaten that wolf turns into a sheep.  Now the wolf has to worry about being eaten by another wolf.  All the wolves are rational and smart and want to survive.  Given that there are 120 wolves and 1 sheep on the island, will the sheep be eaten?

The answer is: No the sheep will not be eaten.  This can be shown much simpler with smaller numbers.  If there is 1 wolf and 1 sheep the sheep will be eaten.  If there is 2 wolves and 1 sheep the sheep won’t be eaten, because each one knows the other will eat him right after.  So with this reasoning, whenever there is an even number of wolves on the island, the sheep won’t get eaten.

I definitely didn’t know the answer off the top of my head, but once I heard the answer it seemed like a pretty simple concept.  This shows how much people working in high finance value critical thinking and problem solving skills.

 

 

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