Monday, May 23, 2005


Chet aka investment banker aka well-dressed/polished buffoon?

Long discussion about the question of the value that investment bankers bring and the kind of skills (if any) required to be successful found here, here and here.

The original question was:

"There is one thing Chet is not, ever, in my experience, and that is particularly bright...

Is the role of these guys just to schmooze clients for their banks?

Is this a market failure caused by suceeding generations of Chets selecting other Chets?"

The response?

"There are four relevant human capabilities here: the ability to master details, the ability to quickly grasp what the salient issues are and follow them through to their conclusion, the ability to work like a dog, and the ability to size up people."

Further from Marginal Revolution...

"I suggest that detail mastery, analytical thinking and working like a dog are more open to meritocracy than sizing people up because to size people up it helps to get them to like you and that is more culturally bound than the other skills."

Financial Rounds chimes in:

"I heard once that arrogance comes from comparing your strengths to someone else's weaknesses. We have a natural tendency to look down on those with "different strengths"."

Are we just green with envy?

Well, what do you think?

I think the concept is there are certain skills that are more "commodity-like" in nature, as in, these skills are easily replicated and its difficult to distinguish between multiple people who have these skills.

For example, a strong work ethic, while extremely valuable, can be copied by anyone with the determination or drive to do so.

Analytical thinking, well can a computer do that? Can a machine be programmed to replicate this? Is someone out there willing to sell their brain/analytics for cheaper than you are?

Detail mastery -- again determination and drive might get you there... Willingness to devote massive amounts of time...

But, the last one, the quality related to psychology -- the ability to size people up -- I'd argue that's where you start to get into an intangible quality that isn't black or white. You can't just say this ability is worth $xx, since its not quantifiable.

Now, I'm not saying that the other qualities aren't important, since they are important, extremely so... however, what sort of quality can take you to the next level?

I'd say ambition and the ability to figure out the path to get there is probably the most important thing... (of course, relationships don't hurt!)

I'd recommend you follow through on some of these links.. there's an incredibly rich amount of discussion in the comments.

Maybe Calvin was right after all...

Wouldn't you say that many investment bankers have quite a bit of persistence?