Opinions of Wall Street
Looking at Hollywood films about investment bankers and hedge funds, we see a list of negative depictions; The Big Short, Wall Street: Greed is Good, Wolf of Wall Street, Margin Call and American Psycho. Indeed, it’s hard to find a positive depiction of Wall Street and high finance with the possible exception of the Pursuit of Happyness.
Opinions of ‘Wall Street’ in the 2017 US YouGov survey, found that 77% of people believed that “most people on Wall Street would be willing to harm consumers if they believed they could make a lot of money and get away with it”, 72% believed Wall St financiers were more greedy and selfish than regular people. By contrast, in 2018, only 66% of 18-24 year olds and 76% of 25-34 year olds said they have always believed the earth was round. Put another way, you would possibly have more success on social media, arguing for a theory of a flat earth, than you would for the idea that there are ethics on Wall Street.
But none of this is new, those surveys are years old, people still talk about the open wounds of the GFC in 2008 and American Psycho was released in 2000. It may have ebbed and flowed at times, but movements like Occupy Wall Street didn’t feel like a response a single moment, but looked to address long-standing grievances. People have long been cynical about hedge funds and investment banks, and it doesn’t appear much has been done by the industry to improve the situation. Thought pieces on public relations and branding express exasperation with the financial services sector, generally acknowledging early in the text; ‘we know you don’t like it but here’s why you need it’, much like a dentist explaining flossing.
And who could blame hedge funds and investment banks for being ignorant in the modern world of communications? They are non-consumer facing businesses. They don’t have issues like other non-consumer-facing businesses (mining companies) that regularly seek community and environmental project approvals and face a highly organised and powerful climate change movement. They also don’t have an easy story to tell. The mining sector’s blue-collar jobs and regional economies have a more convincing message than providing liquidity to financial markets and diversifying risk.