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Data | Business Grads to Wall Street: Drop Dead

Photo: Daniel Foster/Flickr

It used to be that bulge bracket investment banks and big-money hedge funds had the pick of the quantitative and data-minded crop coming out of top business schools. That was especially true of those students based in the finance world’s backyard, New York City.

Not anymore, says Anindya Ghose, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business who focuses on business analytics and digital marketing.

“For the longest time all those sort of quant-type people went to Wall Street,” Ghose says. “I talk to my students about this, and the allure of Wall Street is all but gone.” The reasons for the shift in sentiment, he says, are equal parts moral and mercenary.

“There is a lot of disillusionment with what happened after 2008,” Ghose says. “This whole game of speculation and scams, and the fact that there is no real product being produced in that market.” The other big reason is pay (these are business students after all). As the finance world responds to its own investors and tries to make money in a slowly improving economy, it’s no longer offering the mountains of cash and perks that it once did.

“The reason people would still consider biting the bullet and heading off to Wall Street is because of the salaries, but someone who might have been paid $300,000 starting out of a master’s program is now getting paid one-third of that if they are lucky,” Ghose says. “There are no bonuses anymore, everything is deferred stock compensation so you don’t know what is going to happen in five years down the road and what the value of the stock is going to be.”

Ghose isn’t saying that not a soul wants to go to Wall Street anymore, but that the excitement for students with statistical and programming chops lies elsewhere. “It’s tech,” Ghose says. And the second and third choices? “Tech and tech,” he says.

Professor Anindya Ghose. Photo: Anindya Ghose

The areas within tech are what you might expect, anything social or mobile, services that throw off lots of consumer/customer-generated data. Startups are attractive, but so are tech’s giants, including Apple, Facebook and Google, Ghose says.

That said, it’s not just straight-up tech outfits where Ghose’s data-scientist students are headed. As other industries, including retail and consumer-packaged goods begin to generate boatloads of their own data, they are looking to find ways to tap into it and use it. Which is where the data-mining MBAs come in.

“The role of the marketing manager is shifting from just understanding traditional metrics to more digital and social metrics,” Ghose says. “We are also seeing the demand for data scientists in insurance, healthcare, and utilities, industries that already have lots of data sitting around, and are likely to keep producing it.”

And if for some reason you feel sorry for those data scientist MBAs now deprived of Wall Street’s former excess, don’t worry, they’ll be fine. “The really good data scientists will become like the quant jockeys of the ‘80s of Wall Street, really sought after, and really well paid,” Ghose says.

To get those plum gigs you’ll have to be scary talented at both the statistical and programming sides of the job, a combination that is rare to find today, Ghose says, but for which he believes companies will be increasingly willing to pay big bucks. “We aren’t there yet,” Ghose says. “We have decent scientists, but we haven’t yet seen the brilliant examples.”


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