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Five Ways to Break Into Wall Street

Do you have what it takes to work in the financial sector?

Scott Bell, CEO of the wealth management firm MyGDP, has provided StreetID with his blueprint for breaking into Wall Street.

  1. I say this kind of tongue-in-cheek, but if you haven’t watched the movie Trading Places more than five times in your life before you’re applying for the job, you probably shouldn’t bother.
  2. There are people who actually like optimizing portfolio allocations. If you don’t love the idea of what you’re about to do (forget the money), there are plenty of other worthwhile professions to consider until you find your passion. When in doubt, see rule #1.
  3. If you want to be an advisor, read Josh Brown’s book, Backstage Wall Street.
  4. Then read Tadas Viskanta’s book, Abnormal Returns.
  5. Then read the old classics and leading academic papers. Meb Faber has compiled a fantastic reading list.

Now Hiring

What does MyGDP look for in a prospective hire?

“A warm, caring attitude and passion for their speciality,” Bell explained. “A strong sense of their personal and professional strengths and weaknesses will go a long way toward helping everyone involved identify if there’s a fit. We value practical experience and persistence over pedigree. Stiffs in suits need not apply.”

“We are hiring,” Bell continued. “Right now we’re focused on product development and content. We are also hiring Financial Advisors.”

Your Resume is a Placeholder

Bell said that to him, “a resume is just an e-mail attachment with your stats to serve as a placeholder.”

“Personally, I wish candidates would simply craft a thoughtful e-mail and save me the time of Googling them by including their Twitter handle and LinkedIn profile,” he said. “The insights I garner from those two social media outlets is worth more than any resume.”

As an interview candidate, “learn everything about the company, as if you’re going to educate your interviewer,” Bell recommended. “Come in with questions or comments about a couple of problems you see in the company, and where the competitors are doing things better and worse than the company. Be humble about everything. If you do that well and have the personal qualities and professional credentials they’re looking for, I think you’re a probably going to be a great candidate.”

Wall Street Changes

“As it is, I think we are in a process of stripping all of the implied value out of the advice model Wall Street has been peddling for the last 30 years, which is now ripe for disruption, in part because of the ubiquitous nature of technology today,” said Bell. “A perfect example would be my blog, I Heart Wall Street, which has given me an amazing outlet to communicate.

“All I needed was some imagination, basic computer coding skills, $6 a month, and a WordPress account. I’ve been quoted in a number of different languages and garnered way more attention and affected more positive change than I ever could have working for my old firm. This secular shift has yet to be fully realized and the margins for the legacy firms are completely upside down if they are forced to truly compete with the oncoming wave of change.”

Bell said that in the last four years, he’s seen a deluge of online financial advisory offerings. “I think, in general, technology really has leveled the playing field,” said Bell. “In my mind, people still make the difference, but the tools are so much more robust now, empowering a lot of new of creativity in sculpting a user’s experience. An advisor, today, really can cobble together a world-class infrastructure affordably. Twenty years ago that would have been unimaginable.”

Wall Street Growth

With regard to Wall Street’s recovery, Bell said that while he can’t speak to the whole industry, he does think that the “silo of wealth management is backward in a lot of ways.”

“We are in the very early stages of witnessing the effects of the shift in wealth management,” he said, citing an article in the Wall Street Journal that claimed that as of 2010, “physical branches have grown by around 30% over the last decade to over 80,000 locations across the US for people’s banking and investment needs.”

“That’s roughly 1,600 branches per state in a decade when the world is clearly moving more online,” Bell explained. “That being said, I am hopeful the coming shift will actually lead to some wonderful improvements for the individual investor and financial advisors practicing their craft.”

Ultimately though, Bell realizes how tough the market has become. He cited an article from Investment News, which stated that the entire wealth management industry is “going through a significant graying-process, lacking enough new talent to fill the seats of retiring advisors,”

“Training programs have been gutted in the wake of the dot-com bust and the more recent credit crisis,” said Bell. “Ironically, these were self-inflicted wounds but Wall Street’s approach toward recruiting and training is also now completely outdated and still based on the idea of selling investment products through veiled advice. The Gen X and Y crowds aren’t buying it. I’m not sure if anyone has the roadmap to fix the profession’s aging trend right now. I also can’t say I’d recommend starting a financial advisory career at a Wall Street firm anymore.”

Instead, Bell recommends that advisors in the wirehouses “get out as soon as you can and become an Investment Adviser Representative (IAR).”

“For existing IARs, my advice is to find other IARs who share your same philosophies and join forces,” said Bell. “Good support and operations people with the right skills are still in demand. I don’t see that abating despite the wave of change creeping into the industry’s hairline.”

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

“I met many of the key people involved with MyGDP through social media,” said Bell. “Ten years ago, MyGDP literally could not have existed. Social media has helped me find amazing people through a worldwide network of talent that would have taken me five lifetimes to build before the likes of Twitter and blogs.

“As it is, I think the balance of power has shifted to smaller, more specialized firms who effectively tap into the powerful infrastructure the Internet has to offer. This really is an exciting time to be alive.”

Don’t Forget the Most Important Resource of All

These days, job seekers have a million options, but there is only one place where they should turn: StreetID. We built StreetID (a financial career matchmaking website) from the ground up to accommodate Wall Street’s growing community of financial professionals. In good times and in bad, current job seekers and those looking to move on in the future can turn to StreetID and sign up for a free account and make a direct connection with relevant candidates and employers.

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