Wall Street culture: A new chat service from Symphony and lots of white, male bankers.

Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues

Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM

Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 

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"Let me check that latest tweet again for you."

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

A couple of updates on Wall Street today. First, how bankers communicate. Chat services have been a major headache for big banks, with indiscreet instant messages playing key roles in documenting the Libor scandal and capturing stereotypical Wall Street vulgarity. So it's not surprising that Goldman Sachs has spent the better part of two years working with other financial institutions to develop a better, more secure communications platform for the financial world.

Now, Reuters reports that Goldman and its 13 partners in the project have made a $66 million investment in Symphony Communication Services Holdings. The open-source platform is designed to let finance professionals and their customers centralize digital communications; chat messages, texts, emails, and tweets will all appear in the same place. Darren Cohen, Goldman's global co-head of principal strategic investments, described chat functions to Reuters as "the core nervous system of the financial markets." Symphony, he explained, was "about creating one platform that allowed the silos to communicate effectively." And, presumably, to make it easier for banks to track every kind of communication made by their employees.

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As for the other finance news: diversity! The numbers on Wall Street's youngest members are in, and at big banks they're still mostly white men. The newest class of first-year bankers is 77.5 percent male and 65 percent white, according to data from startup recruiting firm Vettery. Twenty-nine percent are Asian and just 6 percent are black or Hispanic. Vettery did not check its findings with the banks, and some of them dismissed its data as misinformed. Deutsche Bank, which had 70 percent white first-year analysts, the highest among big investment banks, told the New York Times in a statement that Vettery's findings were "inaccurate and do not reflect the true diversity of our 2014 analyst class."

Assuming Vettery's figures are true, the diversity problem on Wall Street is even worse than in Silicon Valley, where big tech firms are also by-and-large male, white, and Asian. And the fact that the numbers are so skewed at the entry level doesn't bode well for making progress overall.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.