Since the dawn of humankind, Wall Street has abided by a social-professional compact. It goes something like this: give us your twenties, and a chunk of your thirties—eh, throw in some forties for good measure. Be sure to put in countless 92-hour workweeks, including all-nighters, and ideally the loss of all hope for your starter marriage. In exchange, we’ll make sure you’re financially set for life, complete with 24/7 use of our car service.
That deal, like unlimited wireless data and the internship booze cruise, is having a hard time surviving this Great Recession. Even as the banks have been bailed out, and money now costs next to nothing, the overriding economic torpor means there just isn’t enough business to go around. Dealmaking is nowhere near buyout bubble levels. Ditto trading volumes: Across the Street, revenue from investment banking and trading fell for the seventh time in eight quarters. Europe could be the new Japan. And now China’s slowing?
There’s an ideal that hasn’t been heard from in years: Big Finance and the broader economy thriving together. Can you imagine?