COMMENT: My finance job destroyed my brain
Help me. I used to be able to sit down and read a book. And no, it wasn't a picture book either. Now, I can barely read a 3-page research report without switching back and forth between 10 other things. And I blame it all on
being on the buy-side.
It's not just me. There’s something alluring about watching my Bloomberg screen. It’s a sea of red and green, flashing constantly, with upticks and downticks in share prices. Sometimes, the prices change every few seconds. For more liquid names, prices can change multiple times in a second.
In my job, I sit and I stare at my screen for minutes and hours. I have therefore become accustomed to expecting changes all the time. I have atrophied: I now have the attention of a goldfish. It's impacting my life and it's impacting my ability to do my job.
This becomes apparent during earnings calls. Like most people on Wall Street, I hate them. I hate them more than most people because I always tune out after 20 minutes. I don’t know if it’s because the monotonous CFO is rehashing numbers from the press release or the slide deck, or if it’s because regardless of how bad numbers were, the management team will make it sound like everything is going well and in line with expectations. No matter how hard I try, I lose interest in the middle of the call. So even though I’m listening in real-time, I always need to go back to the transcript to catch up on what I missed. The thing with earnings calls is that the longer the call, the crappier the results. So if you see an earnings call that lasts for more than an hour, you know they really screwed-up.
I'm also incapable of attending a meeting without a laptop. If you take paper notes in a meeting, you are frankly weird. You’ll never be able to find your notes again after 3 months. And how the hell are you supposed to browse if you don’t have a computer?
Nowadays, when I meet with management teams or analysts, I always avoid sitting next to them. Like with earnings calls, I inevitably lose interest during the meeting. Naturally, when this happens, the first I do is fire up my
browser to see if there’s anything interesting going on in the world. I used to feel bad about doing this, until I caught some IR teams doing the same thing. I’m sure the CEOs and CFOs would do the same, if they weren’t
forced to answer boring questions for the whole meeting.
Basically, this job has given me ADD. And it’s funny. As short as my attention span has become, I still have no
problems bingeing on Game of Thrones.
Margin of Saving was created by an analyst at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund to help others learn how to invest and save.
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