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"This is what it's like to be a senior black banker now"

I am a black man on Wall Street. I'm working for one of the top US banks in a front office role where I work across divisions and my life is not easy. Perversely, the push for diversity is making things harder for people like me.

I'm over a decade in to my career in banking and am at the stage where I hope soon to become a managing director. In theory, I should be advantaged by banks' diversity targets. In reality, I am disadvantaged by them.

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My bank and other top banks on Wall Street are going all out to hire black students into junior roles. For many banks, the focus is on targeting historically black colleges and universities and former professional athletes. This is a good aspiration but in reality, many of the historically black colleges and universities are underfunded and don't attract top students. These colleges often rank outside the top 100 colleges in the US, and we find that this shows in the caliber of the people we hire from them.  At the same time, the pressure on managers to make diversity hires means the interview process for black recruits can be less rigorous and we sometimes drop requirements for math and other skills.

Because of this, we are achieving a critical mass of young black bankers who are not bulge bracket quality. Many of them leave of their own accords. Many of them are moved around the firm or exited. A mentality is developing of, "We tried to hire diversity and they are not good enough or qualified to be here." Even though there's this awareness, there's no analysis of our recruitment practices. - We're so focused on showing that we're bringing in young black talent that we're doubling down and over-hiring in anticipation that many of the black hires will leave again. 

This makes life very difficult for people like me. I am a top performer and I am a black man. I still face daily discrimination at work, including from my white boss who persistently ranks other lower performers, with whom he has a personal relationship, above me. I see white people favored when it comes to pay, and when it comes to promotion opportunities. 

At the same time, because the firm is over-indexed towards underperforming junior black staff in an attempt to improve its diversity quotas, I am continuously having to fight the perception that I myself am a diversity hire and am less capable than my peers. I work doubly hard to counter this, but I still face the racial bias that exists at a senior level. Diversity programs are no more than lip service and it's time that banks understand that this problem is about more than flooding the lower ranks with people who they know will not succeed. 

Patrick Carter is a pseudonym

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AUTHORPatrick Carter Insider Comment

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