Robert Wuebker
by Robert Wuebker
Wed Aug 20th 2008 at 8:00am UTC

Flight of the Finance Class

It probably feels about as good to be a banker today as it did to be running an Internet startup back in the day. That is, until the other shoe drops. Yves Smith reports on the ennui engulfing this season’s technique-arbitragers, finance professionals with “a narrow skill, like being able to structure CDOs…unable to land jobs” in the imploding financial services industry. Reports indicate that half of the people working in debt sales, trading, or research in NYC at the beginning of 2007 will be fired at the end of the year or won’t get a bonus. For fans of Leveraged Sell-Out and the Banker Method, this is not good news.

The similarities are not lost on those of us who participated in the technology tomfoolery in the early to late 90’s, where those who could hand-code HTML had a skill they could trade – albeit for a very brief period – for 80 large and on-site espresso. Smart people understand the half-life of the trix-y things they know, and act accordingly. Those that miss the phase shift take a more stable job or shift careers, leaping from the back of one hungry crocodile to the next like Pitfall Harry. A few even become entrepreneurs. Some follow the heat and light elsewhere, “…moving west or to Europe, including Russia, or to Dubai” according to Jeanne Branthover, managing director of Boyden Global Executive Search.

Technique without creativity is a commodity, and all that this entails. What’s of interest to me is the crucial intermingling between technique and creativity, and how people use the current foundation of technical work as a mechanism to learn, incorporate, and innovate. There are heaps more places to do that then ever before. It’s a spiky world. Where will innovation in the production of complex, mission-critical software applications, energy and the environment, or finance happen next? I suspect that innovation will go where the people go.

What’s creativity and what’s technique in your line of work? When will the particular tricks-y things you do become automata, or simply routine knowledge that represents the ticket to entry? If the talent in your industry goes elsewhere, will you switch locations, switch industries, or stay put?

One Response to “Flight of the Finance Class”

  1. Elizabeth M Says:

    As a writer, my line of work is all creativity and all technique. Maybe someone will develop a program someday that can spit out heartfelt, moving copy that encourages people to act or feel… but writing in my mind is not programmable. You’ve either got it or you don’t – and for the people and companies who don’t, that means I’ll always have somewhere to go.