The March/April issue of the CFA Magazine has a fascinating article titled “The Financial Psychopath Next Door.”
A shocking statistic jumped out at us. From the article:
Studies conducted by Canadian forensic psychologist Robert Hare indicate that about 1 percent of the general population can be categorized as psychopathic, but the prevalence rate in the financial services industry is 10 percent. And Christopher Bayer believes, based on his experience, that the rate is higher.
Bayer is a well-known psychologist who provides therapy to Wall Street traders.
The type of psychopath the author is writing about is characterized by compulsive gambling. And the Wall Street psychopath doesn’t necessarily show up to his or her first day of work in this condition. From the article:
Taken to the extreme, some traders become compulsive gamblers. The behavior is often latent–neither they nor anyone else knows they have this propensity. They hide small losses and keep doubling their position to try to eliminate them. When those trades turn sour, they dig themselves into a deeper hole and deny any wrongdoing or failure. They rationalize by telling themselves that poor investment decisions are an occupational hazard. They lie to family members or others to conceal the extent of their involvement with gambling and commit forgery, fraud, theft, and embezzlement to support their habit.
A little more color on these particular types of psychopaths:
These “financial psychopaths” generally lack empathy and interest in what other people feel or think. At the same time, they display an abundance of charm, charisma, intelligence, credentials, an unparalleled capacity for lying, fabrication, and manipulation, and a drive for thrill-seeking.
A financial psychopath can present as a perfect well-rounded job candidate, CEO, manager, co-worker, and team member because their destructive characteristics are practically invisible. They flourish in fast-paced industries and are experts in taking advantage of company systems and processes as well as exploiting communication weaknesses and promoting interpersonal conflicts.
Unfortunately–writes the author–the best candidates for many Wall Street jobs exhibit the traits of a financial psychopath.
Sources for this article include: