All around me, there are signs that I'm aging: the gray-white hairs that are cropping up from around my temples with increasing frequency, the college friendships that somehow can be measured now in multiple decades, the deepening disconnect I feel to popular music and seasonal fashion trends.
But a few weeks ago I noticed something that was far more jarring, and far more worrisome, than all of that. It came to me after reading an article, posted to a heavily trafficked news site, about the changing nature of investment banks.
The story led with a quote from an industry executive declaring that the investment banking industry has essentially disappeared. It went on to explain that any bank with the breadth of a Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs would be regulated now by the Federal Reserve. These firms, the article elucidated, had once been supervised differently from banks like Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, and were converted into bank holding companies in 2008 so that they could be more closely monitored, and so that they'd be eligible for certain emergency funds made available at the time.
Whereas that's the kind of material I'd tuck into a story as boilerplate background for any readers who've been under a rock the past six years, this story was reporting it all as though it were actual news, with a breathlessness that seemed to suggest that the author had only just learned about the recent crisis that reshaped Wall Street.
Curious, I looked up the reporter's name and found his LinkedIn profile. He's a legitimate journalist who has covered business for several respected news outlets.
And he graduated from college in 2012.
This means that in September 2008, when I was well into my journalism career and covering the cascading crisis overtaking the economy, he likely was arriving on campus for the first time, settling into his dorm room, registering for fall classes and thinking more about frat parties and football games than financial Armageddon. (I was a freshman once, at the very same school, it turns out; I know the drill.) So when he was assigned to cover a speech this spring by an important investment banking executive, he probably really was just learning that Wall Street had been reshaped by a recent financial crisis.
It's not that I begrudge his youth. We all have to start sometime, and there are always going to be generational disconnects as a result. For example, while some of you were dealing with the savings and loan crisis, I was reading Seventeen magazine and shopping for prom dresses.
What bothered me is the realization that in another few years, things that to me seem so fundamental to the basic understanding of the bank sector won't, in fact, be obvious to most banking reporters (or, scarier still, to most bankers).
As today's whippersnappers start infiltrating the labor market, it is incumbent upon all of us to avoid the mistake of presuming intelligence, even on the part of some very intelligent young people, when it comes to understanding the lessons and consequences of 2008.
For yet another signal that the effects of the crisis have begun to recede, I point you to this month's cover story, featuring our annual survey of bank reputations. The study, done in partnership with our friends at Reputation Institute, indicates that consumers, while perhaps not in love with their banks, are at least taking a view of them that is less and less dim.
It's progress, perhaps some of it simply inevitable as time marches on.
Editor in Chief