One of the things you learn in my industry is that pedigree opens a lot of doors and gives you a big head start – but it doesn’t guarantee your colleagues or clients any kind of peace of mind. Where you grew up and which school you went to and what firm you began your career at remain important as you climb the rungs of the ladder and interview your way up, but they don’t really mean anything in the end.

There’s no merit to being born to a rich dad or having said rich dad parlay his influence into getting you into a good school or placed into a great company. This is not to say that these things should be negative signifiers to those who would give you their money to invest – it’s just to say that they should not be positive signifiers about your character or performance potential.

The late Ace Greenberg understood this. As the head of Bear Stearns he wasn’t looking to fill up rooms full of the privileged sons of the firm’s corporate clients. He wanted strivers, whether they were from wealthy backgrounds or from the street. If they could hustle, work hard and learn fast, they were a good fit for the culture Ace was building. He called them PhD’s – Poor, Hungry and Determined. 

This week, the Manhattan US Attorney’s office charged a guy my age, who has a highly impressive pedigree, with undertaking a massive $95 million fraud under the auspices of the investment bank he worked for. It’s a shockingly stupid, facile scheme – you almost feel as though he wanted to get caught when you read the details.

It’s also a good reminder that pedigree doesn’t mean anything when it comes to whom you should trust in finance.

You can read all the details of this brazen fraud here:

Banker Accused of $25 Million Fraud Arose From a Gilded Legacy (Bloomberg)

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