GUEST COMMENT: May I suggest a win-win solution for investment banks with serious cultural deficiencies

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News of Pearson’s latest initiative got me thinking ... Here is a FTSE 100 business with a broad range of publishing interests (including the FT) which plans to start teaching full time 3 year business degrees. Not for them some distant ivory tower stuffed with theory based academics. Students will instead study at Pearson’s London and Manchester offices, have direct access to mentors from within the business and get opportunities to intern. On graduation the best and brightest are likely to be ‘tapped-up’ and fast-tracked into the Pearson Empire, where they will be destined for greatness!

So here’s why I ruminated over ... could the banking industry do the same? What if they hired the brightest and the best at 18 years old and put them through a 3 year in-house university validated degree?

Imagine the finest traders, most astute IB professionals and articulate salespeople teaching, mentoring and guiding the next generation of bankers. Students would be schooled to perfection in a highly practical and elite environment, where they would be tutored by the finest minds in the industry.

Once lessons were over, students would gain practical experience within the bank itself both during and outside term time.

Think of the ‘win-win’! Banks running such a scheme would have an in-house pipeline of well trained, confident and partially experienced 21 year olds ready to add immediate value on ‘graduation’.

Aside from the higher education cost savings and tax receipts during training, imagine how our having a well trained regular supply of young bankers would boost London as a financial centre. Think of the angst in Paris and Frankfurt as yet again London strides ahead, assumes a leading industry position and creates deep pools of human capital enabling businesses to grow and prosper.

No doubt a major part of any syllabus would centre on business and personal ethics. From the moment these fine young men and women stepped into the hallowed halls of banking, they would be ethically sheep-dipped, quickly becoming creatures of the new banking morality.

But could a generational and moral game-changer such as this work?

“Not a prayer” says one old lag. “The industry is too short term. Look at staff turnover for starters! There would be regular and disruptive turnover of mentors and tutors who would drift in and out of the curriculum as markets shifted, bonuses were paid (or not) and people got promoted or fired.

“You’ve then got to consider whether you could attract the talent needed in the first place,” he goes on. “You’d be competing against top universities to sign up the very best and brightest at 18 and anyhow, why would a young kid want to make that kind of commitment at 18? And could you honestly see a business which measures itself against daily P/L reports, quarterly shareholder results, annual bonuses and ever changing business targets commit to a substantial investment over a 3 year period with no foreseeable or measureable return? It would fail before it even got off the ground.”

So maybe a Pearson-type forward thinking approach to training and developing our banking talent isn’t possible. Yes, it would create a generational shift but maybe for all its talk the banking industry is not yet ready to make the long term cultural and financial commitment necessary to introduce such a game-changer.

Anonymous: The author is a recruitment entrepreneur who has built and sold several businesses across various international banking and finance related sectors 

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