You Sir, are too dumb to be a banker

British trainee analysts at a leading investment bank’s New York office have been sacked after they were caught cheating in a “basic” maths test, the Telegraph understands.
The disgraced junior bankers are said to have been told to pay for their own flights home after instructors discovered the foul play.
It is understood that nearly a dozen of the trainee analysts at JP Morgan, some of whom are British graduates, were caught sneaking notes into the exam room or copying fellow trainees’ answers.

It’s not that you have to know the answers in banking. Only that you know where to find them.

But you have to be able to do this without the client realising that you are clueless. That is, you must be a successful cheat.

37 thoughts on “You Sir, are too dumb to be a banker”

  1. My professional exams were sufficiently difficult that you could take anything you wanted into the exam that was not electronic, on the principle that you didn’t have to know every tiny detail, but you had to know enough to know that there was a detail and where to find it.

    In principle, even a digital watch was a no-no, let alone a phone, tablet or computer.

  2. I cheated on my Maths GCSE – it was a doddle. I waited 20 mins till the wandering teachers got bored then pulled out a prepared cheat sheet I did the night before. Placed it right on the desk in full view as if I’d just written it.

    Anyone know how simple the JPM test would have been?

  3. Twats.

    Imagine getting caught. It’s pitifully easy to cheat on even the most fiercely invigilated exams.

    All you need to do is write some notes on your body, like that guy in Memento.

    Then nip into the toilet during the exam for a peek. If the invigilator gets sniffy, tell her you ate a dodgy Bombay Bad Boy and are about to soil yourself. Nobody wants that.

    I managed to pass my English GCSE by transcribing the entire text of The Merchant of Venice on my manhood in felt tip pen.

  4. “I managed to pass my English GCSE by transcribing the entire text of The Merchant of Venice on my manhood in felt tip pen.”

    I didn’t realise you could make a microdot that small with a felt tip pen.

    I cheated on my GCSE exam by being prepared to take A-level pure maths the same year so the class wouldn’t get bored, particularly as most of us had already done 80% of the material by the age of 12 (God bless the old scholarship streams at prep school). Made it pitifully easy and dull.

    Why anyone would need to Cheat-cheat on GCSE maths to get a pass grade is beyond me…

  5. abacab,

    I was thinking the same thing. Cheated on GCSE maths? Jesus wept. Why?

    I cheated by being only the third year to take GCSEs, so our teachers just taught us to O-level standard because why not. Mind you, our teacher was shite, so I taught myself. Then I taught half the class how to do quadratics because the teacher was shite.

    I did that exam as slowly as I could, and I still had to twiddle my thumbs for over an hour at the end.

  6. abacab>

    Serious laziness, of course. If the only work you’ve done in two years is the past papers and mock exams, it’s easy to forget the odd bits of trivial memorisation they required when I sat them. Mostly it was simple enough to work out from first principles, of course.

  7. It’s not that you have to know the answers in banking. Only that you know where to find them.

    Broadly true, Tim, but we are expected to be numerate and to understand the underlying maths. And this was apparently a basic maths exam. If they needed to cheat on this, they weren’t fit for the job. Fuckwits.

  8. @S2 – indeed. I imagine multi-gazillion-dollar errors can be made by mixing up simple interest and compound interest…

  9. “And this was apparently a basic maths exam.”

    Sounds like their recruitment process is fairly useless then. If a certain level of numeracy is required, it’s best to filter out the innumerate ones before you hire them.

  10. > Sounds like their recruitment process is fairly useless then.

    Or they trust their own tests more than they trust school qualifications that they didn’t get to invigilate themselves. And it looks like they’re right to.

    > it’s best to filter out the innumerate ones before you hire them.

    I reckon making the cheaters pay their own air fares and publicising that fact internationally has probably done a pretty good job of filtering out innumerate ones for the next few years.

  11. S2: “I did that exam as slowly as I could, and I still had to twiddle my thumbs for over an hour at the end.”

    I still have nightmares about my Maths O Level, taken a year early just before my 15th birthday.

    We’d been doing mocks in 70 mins for weeks, but the exam allowed 2.5 hours. How was I to get through that? I slobbed about, dozed off, etc then rushed it. Disastrously.

    The worst bit was realising, as I left the hall that I’d got most of the multiple choice section wrong through not freaking reading. Wrong answers meant minus points.

    One question, when stripped of the guff about wingspans or whatever was: what is 8 x 4? Oh dear.

    I passed, but with a C.

  12. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xwp2rf_yes-prime-minister-rules-of-the-city_shortfilms

    Sir Desmond Glazebrook: They’ve broken the rules.
    Sir Humphrey: What, you mean the insider trading regulations?
    Sir Desmond Glazebrook: No.
    Sir Humphrey: Oh. Well, that’s one relief.
    Sir Desmond Glazebrook: I mean of course they’ve broken those, but they’ve broken the basic, the basic rule of the City.
    Sir Humphrey: I didn’t know there were any.
    Sir Desmond Glazebrook: Just the one. If you’re incompetent you have to be honest, and if you’re crooked you have to be clever. See, if you’re honest, then when you make a pig’s breakfast of things the chaps rally round and help you out.
    Sir Humphrey: If you’re crooked?
    Sir Desmond Glazebrook: Well, if you’re making good profits for them, chaps don’t start asking questions; they’re not stupid. Well, not that stupid.
    Sir Humphrey: So the ideal is a firm which is honest and clever.
    Sir Desmond Glazebrook: Yes. Let me know if you ever come across one, won’t you.

  13. @S2,

    …but but, surely you couldn’t “just create money out of thin air” if you understood basic maths?

    [/irony]

  14. I doubt this has anything to do with “passing” exams, rather it is the mentality of the investment bank training process (speaking as an alumnus of the training schme of a NY investment bank). While trainees think they are being taught, they are also being assessed. The bottom x% will be kicked out at some point, the next y% will move into operations and compliance and only the top achievers will get the plum jobs on the trading floor or in corporate finance. The trainees soon realise that they are under pressure not to fall behind. Being caught cheating simply makes some decisions very easy.

  15. dearieme – if you, uh, prick us…

    Rob – Damn right. I was pioneering manky unmade beds years before Tracy Emin.

  16. “I managed to pass my English GCSE by transcribing the entire text of The Merchant of Venice on my manhood in felt tip pen.”

    Would that be the “pound of flesh” that was central to the story ?

  17. I imagine all that will be required to get a first on the degree course that R Murphy will be teaching is a one line sentence on each paper, something like:

    “Richard, I think you’re quite amazing”
    “Richard, you’re my hero, may I inspect your stools?”
    etc

  18. @BraveFart,

    You should be less cynical. Before long he will be a Senior Professor. That means he gets a high chair.

  19. @BraveFart

    He says he’s going to be supervising PhDs as well. If true I’m not sure if that’s hilarious or terrifying!

  20. I wonder if Ritchie will launch a “Fair Exam Mark”. If his students agree with him and give him money he will give them top marks. What could possibly go wrong?

  21. I did O Level maths the last year it existed, and I walked out of the (2.5 hour) exam after just over an hour. I’d done the actual questions in less than half that, and was bored of checking so I just left.

    I got an A, and after checking the crib sheet, I believe I got 100%.

    Those sorts of exams, where there is a perfect answer (unlike, say, an essay question, where you could go back and edit your essay indefinitely to improve the language, add more information, etc) are ones it’s often possible to do well inside the time limit, because the time limit is set to give some time for thinking and considering – so if you can immediately turn the problem into arithmetic and punch it into your calculator, then you have the answers way ahead of time.

    That was a useful exam-skills lesson – I didn’t have to work out what I was doing wrong and could just sod off and do some revision of something I didn’t have a talent for, like foreign-language oral exams.

  22. Sq2,

    The Telegraph seem to have copied their test from here: https://www.assessmentday.co.uk/insidecareers/NumericalTest1/

    Good numeracy skills really are rare. This is why Murphy gets away with quoting £93bn in tax evasion, or why the Telegraph gets away with headlines like “Named and shamed: Monsoon Accessorize and 149 other firms who don’t pay minimum wage”, even though it only adds up to £0.04 per hour, and the staff got discounted clothes.

    But if you can actually add up, you’re a baby-eating Tory-voting neoliberal conspirator. *sigh*

  23. Good numeracy skills are NOT rare amongst the pre-Decimal generation.

    I have only (considerable) observational evidence for this, but it’s Absolute Scientific Fact.

    (Those questions are seriously easy. Were they allowed calculators??)

  24. Bloke in Costa Rica

    LOL-worthy contributions from Steve, BraveFart and Gunker. Bravo, chaps.

    Were the questions on the actual exam multiple choice? Because if so that’s a disgrace. Obviously the Telegraph version is too easy to even be worth commenting on but I would hope that a large merchant bank would make things a teeny bit tougher (yes I know the real bankers exams are a lot harder, but still).

  25. “I wonder if Ritchie will launch a “Fair Exam Mark”. If his students agree with him and give him money he will give them top marks. What could possibly go wrong?”

    Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the idea that Murphy would demand penis by penis reporting to ensure nobody’s cheating him out of his fee by copying Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie onto their trouser snake with a felt tip pen.

    It’s just a guess, but I’m pretty sure Arnald would be enthusiastic about the compliance part…

  26. So these banks cheat all the time in the market, the Giant Squid rips off its own clients but if you cheat in its internal tests you get fired. Aah, the wonder of irony.

  27. Well, question two from that Telegraph test becomes a bit more difficult if you are colour blind, or even can’t quite tell one shade of blue from another fairly similar colour on a quite small diagram.

  28. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Pie charts are wank, anyway. Per John Tukey: “There is no data that can be displayed in a pie chart, that cannot be displayed better in some other type of chart.”

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