Why Bankers Can’t Stop Running
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From the Financial Times:

Why bankers can’t stop running

What is it about the world’s simplest form of exercise that so appeals to Wall Street?

When I was in business school in the early 1980s, the term “bankers” did not refer to Wall Streeters, who were known as “investment bankers.” Back then, bankers were unglamorous moderately well-compensated locals who made loans to strip mall developers and the like and, until inflation came along in the 1970s, enjoyed the 3-6-3 worklife: pay 3% interest to depositors, lend at 6% interest to borrowers, and be on the golf course by 3 PM.

The repeal of the New Deal Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 changed the terminology. So, now, “bankers” refers to Masters of the Universe types in New York and London rather than the person who runs your local Chase branch office. I point this out to keep this article from confusing my fellow 20th Century folks.

Laura Noonan in Rochester, New York JUNE 6 2019

… Every second banker I meet seems to be either training for or recovering from a marathon, or attempting a more arduous challenge. …

So what is it that binds running and finance so tightly? The easy answer is that both attract “type A” personalities. The intense preparation demanded by a marathon isn’t that different from what it takes to win a big client. Similarly, the stamina to keep going when your legs have given up is the same trait that powers investment analysts through 16-hour days.

… Running is popular with high-achieving finance people, she says, because they share “this very goal-setting committed type of mind that says, ‘I get up and I run. And if I have a meeting that’s early, I’ll get up earlier and run.’ ”

Yet grit and determination can only partly explain why bankers run — or why anyone runs. You also have to want to do it. From my vantage point writing about big global banks, I can see many reasons why people working in finance would want to run more now than they ever have.

One problem with journalism is the urge to turn every article about a long-lasting disparity into an article about a trend, whether or not the trend actually exists.

Rapid advances in everything from machine learning to voice recognition and computer modelling have brought the industry to the cusp of a transformational era. Bosses have so far mainly spoken about the destruction of roles in operational areas. In the long term, though, just about all roles in finance are potentially under threat, and so it makes all the more sense for humans to take part in activities that play to their advantage over machines.

“Some of my best clients and I run together,” says Ricardo Mora, a partner at Goldman Sachs. “We’ll incorporate a breakfast meeting, get together for a meal afterwards,” says the 22-time marathon runner. As someone who has done a few running meetings, I can see how the shared endeavour would forge deeper bonds than a drink or a meal.

Mora also runs with colleagues and is one of the organisers of an annual event for Goldman’s summer interns and other runners at the bank. “For a junior out of college looking for a job, it’s another way for them to connect,” Mora says. “One day they’re sitting at a desk working with them, the next day at 5.30am they’re running the Brooklyn Bridge with a managing director, a partner, someone from the firm, running alongside them.” Between 40 and 50 people join the run annually.

… Running also enjoys a roughly equal split between male and female participants, as shown by numerous studies including the latest annual survey from Running USA, which says that 54 per cent of runners are female.

Golf is a fine sport for coed participation, but far fewer heterosexual women than heterosexual men see the point of it. (I suspect that golf is a white collar suburbanized version of the traditional blood sports that appeal more to hunters than to gatherers.)

That makes it a far more inclusive option for client and employee bonding than traditional corporate activities such as golf — an important consideration as the finance industry comes under increasing pressure to improve its gender diversity.

Golf is a pleasant way to spend a lot of the money you are making in finance, but it’s time consuming and thus gets in the way of making even more money. Running allows you to waste the minimum amount of time on exercise so you can get back to making more money as soon as possible. Running is part of the neo-puritan imperative to be a lean mean money making machine.

As I’ve been pointing out since 2012, I would not be surprised if type of exercise done isn’t just a matter of self-selection based on individual Nature but also has a measurable Nurture effect on other aspects, such as political attitudes. For example, actors who lift weights intensively tend to be to the right of actors who run obsessively. I’ve used the comparison of two TV stars: Mark Harmon (football star to jogger and anti-gun activist) versus Gary Sinise (theater kid to lifter and support-the-troops Republican activist).

My theory could be tested by researchers for a moderate budget. As I wrote nine years ago:

The proposition that different types of exercise could drive political views could be ethically tested on college students by offering free personal trainers. Randomly assign some volunteers to the weightlifting trainer, others to the running trainer, and measure if their attitudes change along with their shapes.

As Obama’s calculatedly divisive 2012 campaign demonstrates, the future of politics may look much stranger than what we’re familiar with. The parties will likely want to research how they can mold their own voters.

Dear academics: if this experiment sounds interesting to you, please feel that you absolutely do not have to credit me for the idea. I just want to know what you’ll find out.

[Comment at Unz.com]

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