Discover your dream Career
For Recruiters

The Undergraduate: Why grade-A grads often make awful bankers

As I immerse myself deeply in the midst of my graduate job hunt with financial institutions, I realise that one criterion they commonly list is: "We look for individuals who like challenges."

A's above everything else

Yet, if I look around me, I see peers choosing classes on the basis of how easy it is to score an A+ in a particular module. This can't be helped because more often than not, a near-perfect grade point average (GPA) on a resume always screams "pick me!". This begs the question: what is the value of tertiary education? Do we go to university with the aim of pursuing knowledge - taking classes to fill in the gaps in our abilities - or merely to get good grades? Perhaps we should now step back and think about this issue.

A tale of two students

At one end of the spectrum are individuals who recognise their own weaknesses and choose professors who are difficult, in a bid to improve their conceptual knowledge. Yet this often produces less-than-stellar grades, which reduces their GPA. On the other side of the fence are students who recognise their weaknesses and lean towards 'easy' professors to avoid exposing their Achilles heel and to continually secure their As. At the end of the day, a higher GPA always holds greater value, ceteris paribus (other things being equal).

Easy-A graduates will crash and burn at your firm

Is the prestigious finance industry doing itself an injustice by picking these 'stellar' students? This often creates an HR nightmare of recruiting the wrong person to the job. If firms are hiring graduates who shy away from challenges and are accustomed to picking the easier way out, then it's very possible that they may replicate such behaviour at work. In times of crisis and challenges, these people are ill-equipped to take the bull by its horns and are more likely to end up looking like a bull in a china shop. Food for thought for employers: match the right people, not the right GPA, to the job. While this might make hiring a more drawn-out process, with the right recruits, it would most definitely contribute to the longevity of the firm.

The author is a final-year finance undergraduate.

AUTHORAnonymous candidate Insider Comment
  • DQ
    21 November 2011

    Maybe he's right. Maybe he had the worst grades, but he runs a 500 mln hedge fund. Or maybe he just seeks attention, or he's just doing a Report project.

    If you have an Ivy League banker vs a street smart know-how guy, I think they each have their own abilities. Personally I think an A grader will likely beat those other guys, as long he is good at both EQ/IQ.

  • Al
    19 November 2011

    Ok I am in the industry and I see some merit in this article. Bad professors do give bad grades particularly if you can prove that you are smarter than them. In my experience of facing 30 professors in four different universities: two professors failed one in math where I had scored 800 in GRE with 99%ile (now a days you get 800 with only 92 %tile), my peers too had considered me the smartest person in math, but according to my professor who used to make many mistakes in the classroom often me correcting in front of the whole class, I was just not good in math, 5 gave me C-, 10 gave me Bs and rest A's. So in one university my GPA was 3.85, in another 3.44 and in 1 I was deprived of my intended degree. I am now a CFA level III candidate and am sure of getting charter next years. Since you are a finance major, take CFA and if you pass even Level I, you will be considered smarter than many of your peers because CFA is considered the benchmark and it has notoriously high failure rate (65% on an average at Level I, 55% at level II and 50% at level III). Thus to earn the charter only 8% pass. So passing at level I, you prove that you are in the smartest 35% of finance undergrads

  • Lo
    19 November 2011

    This article stinks.

  • Je
    Jealous much?
    18 November 2011

    Your argument is very flawed.

    You are assuming that students with good GPAs get As only because they pick easy modules. I'm sure there are students that pick challenging modules, and still get As.

    Anyway, I was a student once, and I don't think "easy" modules exist. Sure, there are professors who are known to be hard graders, and professors who are nicer. But if a certain module is known to be easy, anyone who is smart naturally gravitates towards it, and you end up having to compete with more smart people. Hello, bell curve?

    Smart people just get As, regardless of what class it is. People with lousy GPAs have no excuse.

  • An
    18 November 2011

    Agreed. The argument is flawed. I thought this was written by someone in the industry already.

Show more

Apply for jobs

Find thousands of jobs in financial services and technology by signing up to eFinancialCareers today.

Boost your career

Find thousands of job opportunities by signing up to eFinancialCareers today.
Latest Jobs
CME Group
Pricing Summer Intern
CME Group
Chicago, United States
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Client Service Associate
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Scottsdale, United States
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Client Service Associate
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Middleton, United States
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Client Service Associate
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Portland, United States
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Senior Operations Professional
Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
Minneapolis, United States