Why Banking Is Not Boring and other Words of Wisdom to Address the Industry’s Talent Gap

Are you finding it increasingly difficult to find qualified college graduates to fill open positions at your bank? Have you heard that the best and brightest these days would prefer to work in more scintillating industries—and that they perceive a career in banking as “boring”? If that is the case, then we, as an industry, must work to convince them that the opposite is true. This means communicating to better understand the source of such perceptions and actively sharing, reinforcing, and celebrating the essential, enduring, and unboring nature of banking. 

All bankers, at every stage of their careers, are ambassadors and potential recruiters. When advising college-bound high school students, speaking to promising college candidates at a career day, conducting job interviews, mentoring new hires, posting on social media, or simply having a conversation, we need to convey our passion for the banking profession and encourage young business-minded people to enthusiastically embrace a vision of an exciting, rewarding, and meaningful future in banking.

One of my first and most influential formative memories comes from the classic movie Mary Poppins. Although the character of Mr. Banks, a banker in 1910 Edwardian London, was portrayed as stodgy, I saw him as no such thing. He and his colleagues at the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank had me captivated from the moment they broke into song about the exciting projects they financed. “In the hands of the directors, who invest as propriety demands,” they explained to Mr. Banks’s young son, Michael, the “tuppence” he deposited would make him part of “railways through Africa, dams across the Nile, fleets of ocean greyhounds, and majestic, self-amortizing canals.” How could such prospects not send chills up one’s spine? Sharing in those risks and rewards!

When Mr. Banks was eventually convinced to (at least temporarily) seize a moment of freedom and “go fly a kite,”  just between us, dear readers, I fantasized that the kite industry—like the tanneries, incorporations, and amalgamations in the song—was also financed by the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank. (Be still, my racing heart!)  

Today, as I walk through the streets of the vibrant city that is Boston, I cannot help but reflect that most, if not all, of the surrounding buildings (both historical and glistening new) would not be there if not for a banker. Nor would many of the tenants in those buildings be operating without a banker ’s continued support of credit, services, and advice.

Bankers have shaped the horizons of cities and have influenced what is in them—transportation, merchants, professional firms, manufacturers, sports and entertainment venues, and institutions of higher education, to name a few—by evaluating opportunities and risks and by prudently and judiciously allocating the capital entrusted to them by depositors. 

Over the centuries, bankers have had to meet the call of discerning which industries and businesses will prosper and grow, which are hopelessly doomed to fail and not worth the risk, and which are in decline or obsolete. Bankers must understand a changing world and emerging new worlds. In a present-day version of Mary Poppins, maybe they will be singing “Let’s go fly a drone.” Change like that is not boring. It’s actually pretty exciting, if you ask me.

But could it be that our young prospects are being diplomatic? Are they saying banking is boring because they are too polite to voice a different criticism? Is it possible their perceptions and opinions are rooted in something unsavory? Is there a cloud (deserved or not) associating bankers with other films about finance that are far from an idyllic Disney story? Wall Street (“Greed is good”), The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Big Short all reek of financial arrogance, recklessness, and a wanton lack of ethical behavior. Has the shadow of the savings and loan debacle or the unfortunate residue of the subprime mortgage meltdown tainted the industry and shattered the next generation’s faith in it? Does “boring” really mean that lost trust needs to be rebuilt and restored?

In response to objections (voiced or silent) regarding trust and the trustworthiness of bankers, let us not forget that the bank in Mary Poppins was the “Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs, Fidelity Fiduciary Bank.” Fidelity and fiduciary—terms deeply rooted in trust and reliability—have been the hallmark and essence of bankers ever since there have been bankers. This writer would argue that most bankers do meet this standard and have done so consistently, despite the scandals, scoundrels, and stupidity.

To those potential bankers who might mean something else when they say the industry is boring, it might be suggested that financial institutions continue to need, above all else, individuals who are trustworthy, who are guided by steadfast honesty, and who have an unfailingly ethical core. Trustworthy behavior is not something that can be legislated or compelled. It is internal and instinctive. Banking presents an opportunity to provide a necessary service to others by doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons. In addition to not being boring, then, another selling point is that banking is extremely important and needs good people.

Or could it be that “boring” is a code word for something else?  When voiced by aspiring young professionals, might it mean they believe banking to be outmoded and on a trajectory of obsolescence—to be displaced by ever-evolving technology? Do they see banks and bankers as being supplanted by smartphones, cyber currencies, artificial intelligence, credit-scoring algorithms, robots, or whatever may follow? Maybe. But that would be an erroneous, or at least incomplete, view.

For as long as human beings remain relevant, human bankers will also be relevant, especially when it comes to commercial lending. For every decision involving the allocation of precious capital, there is a human context. What do people need? What are people doing now and what will they do in the future? What have they discovered? Where and how do they want to live? What do they value? How can limited capital best be used—wisely, profitably, and with reasonable risk? 

Questions of this nature are best answered by flesh-and-blood lenders (using state-of-the-art tools and technology, of course) who interact with people and get out of the office and see the world in person. This is what it takes to assess and understand what ’s happening—and what will be happening—and to make the well-informed decisions that will influence what the world will look like now and for future generations. 

Bankers are often unsung heroes, plying a trade that is as much art as science. They work behind the scenes, thoughtfully weighing opportunities and risks and carefully applying knowledge and skill to make the best decisions—all the while guided by a strong inclination to do the right thing.

Boring? I think not. So let’s keep listening, learning, and sharing with potential bankers who would enjoy a distinguished and prosperous career skillfully shaping the future.

The Risk Management Association’s Student Resource Center and RMA ’s Academic Program are designed to help position the next generation toward a promising future in banking. Combined with RMA’s free student memberships, these resources are a gateway to a wealth of opportunities, including network building, internships, recorded web seminars, and scholarships from the RMA Foundation.

“Fidelity Fiduciary Bank”

(from the film Mary Poppins, 1964)

Lyrics by Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman

If you invest your tuppence

Wisely in the bank

Safe and sound

Soon that tuppence,

Safely invested in the bank,

Will compound

And you’ll achieve that sense of conquest

As your affluence expands

In the hands of the directors

Who invest as propriety demands

You see, Michael, you’ll be part of

Railways through Africa

Dams across the Nile

Fleets of ocean greyhounds

Majestic, self-amortizing canals

Plantations of ripening tea

All from tuppence, prudently

Fruitfully, frugally invested

In the, to be specific

In the Dawes, Tomes

Mousely, Grubbs

Fidelity Fiduciary Bank!

Now, Michael,

When you deposit tuppence in a bank account

Soon you’ll see

That it blooms into credit of a generous amount


And you’ll achieve that sense of stature

As your influence expands

To the high financial strata

That established credit now commands

You can purchase first and second trust deeds

Think of the foreclosures!

Bonds! Chattels! Dividends! Shares!

Bankruptcies! Debtor sales!


All manner of private enterprise!

Shipyards! The mercantile!

Collieries! Tanneries!

Incorporations! Amalgamations! Banks!

You see, Michael,

Tuppence, patiently, cautiously, trustingly invested

In the, to be specific

In the Dawes, Tomes

Mousely, Grubbs

Fidelity Fiduciary Bank!

Source: Walt Disney Music Company

Maureen R. McCarthy is director of corporate credit policy at Brookline Bancorp in Boston, Massachusetts. She can be reached at MMcCarthy@BRKL.com.