For his bestselling book, Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits, Kevin Roose spent three years shadowing eight young bankers and traders as they got their first taste of the world made notorious in The Wolf of Wall Street. What he found is enough to shatter the illusions of power broker hopefuls, who quickly learn that they’re expected to work 100 hour work weeks doing inane tasks like completing excel spreadsheets for insanely demanding bosses. We caught up with Kevin to find out what motivated him to write the book, how his subjects reacted when they read it, and how it made him think differently about NYC.
Untapped Cities: What made you decide to write Young Money?
I was so curious about how young Wall Street bankers – the ones my age, just starting out in their jobs after college – were spending their days and nights. It was after the crash of 2008, and I remember talking to some of them about how embarrassed they felt to be working on Wall Street, how self-conscious they were. And I guess one of my questions for them was, “What made you want to do this?”
You clearly went above and beyond the average journalist in terms of interviewing and getting to know the subjects of the book. What was that like? In the book, you say that you started developing friendships with them. Do you still keep in touch?
It was a very intense process, getting these guys to talk. They’re not allowed to give interviews, so they were all taking a huge risk by opening up to me. And the result, I think, was that when they did finally decide to trust me, it meant really trusting me. I mean, one of them gave me his diary! That is a very intimate thing to do with a journalist. And, in a few cases, real friendships did emerge out of this. I still keep in touch with all eight of them pretty regularly.
The New York Stock Exchange. Photo Credit: Beyond Silence via Wikipedia
Have any of the people you wrote about read the book? If so, how did they react?
They’ve all read it, and their responses ranged from “I loved this” to “Reading this gave me PTSD.” This was a very painful time in their lives, and it was harrowing for them to relive it on the page.
Has there been any backlash from Wall Street or the members of Kappa Beta Phi?
Not nearly as much as I expected. The good thing about writing about a terrible secret society is that the members don’t want to fess up to being involved.
The young bankers in Kevin’s book questioned their roles as they walked past Occupy Wall Street protests on their way to work. Photo Credit: David Shankbone via Flickr.
In the book, you mention going to meet these young recruits at NYC bars, but you don’t mention names. What are some of the banker bars?
Did writing the book make you think differently about New York City?
I love New York. I don’t live there anymore, but it remains a place very dear to me. I don’t know if meeting young bankers helped craft my fondness, but it definitely gave me a little more empathy. When I see a 23-year-old banker bro on the subway in the morning looking absolutely miserable and underslept, I know what he’s going through.
What advice would you give to young people who are considering working on Wall Street?
Only do it if it’s your real passion or you need the money. If it’s just a stopover on the way to what you really want to be doing, then just cut out the middle step and do that thing directly. You’ll be much happier.
David H. Petraeus, Director of the CIA, rings the NY Stock Exchange bell on September 18, 2012 in honor of the CIA’s 65th anniversary. Photo Credit: the CIA via Wikimedia Commons
The book was optioned for a TV show, correct? Do you have any details on it?
Nope! I know that Fox TV Studios is working on it, and that a very talented group of writers and producers has glommed onto it. But I’m not involved in it in a deep way.
What are you working on now?
Catching up on sleep! Books are exhausting.