Both President Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke talked Tuesday about the recent attraction of finance as a profession for some of the nation’s brightest young people.
Obama, speaking at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., appeared to welcome the changing economy that means fewer people will be going into Wall Street jobs: “One of the changes that I would like to see — and I’m going to be talking about in this in weeks to come — is seeing our best and our brightest commit themselves to making things — engineers, scientists, innovators. For so long, we have placed at the top of our pinnacle folks who can manipulate numbers and engage in complex financial calculations. And — and that’s good. We need some of that. But you know what we can really use is some more scientists and some more engineers who are building and making things that we can export to other countries.”
At Morehouse College in Atlanta, Bernanke was asked by a panel of students about job prospects in finance. He answered by emphasizing the value of finance to an economy, mentioning, for instance, venture capital, but made clear that he thought too many recent graduates were lured to Wall Street by outsized salaries.
“It’s clear that some of the compensation and some of the risk taking was excessive and as we go forward there’s going to be a more vigilant regulatory system to make sure compensation systems don’t incentive risky behavior,” he said. “I think that in one way this is healthy…People ought to go into a profession based on what they enjoy” as well as what is valuable to them and valuable to society, he added, urging the students not to seek only “the highest possible income.”
”I’m not saying that smart people, talented people shouldn’t go into finance,” Bernanke said, “but you ought to follow your interest and the direction that you think will give you the most personal satisfaction.”
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