Monday, June 24, 2024

The rise of the English major: BlackRock COO wants to recruit liberal arts consultants that ‘have nothing to do with finance or technology’

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BlackRock techies, get ready to talk about the latest New Yorker article with your newest coworkers on the block. Liberal arts majors are coming to work for finance, after all. 

English and history majors aren’t necessarily known for desiring consulting gigs, but those seeking to work for the man are finding that the man suddenly wants them back. Investment banks usually have their pick of the litter for the recent graduates that become the next crop of analysts. Yet executives are starting to turn their heads from the former belle of the ball, finding the usual STEM-based candidate isn’t just cutting it. 

And none other than the chief operating officer of BlackRock signals the changing of the tides towards the right-brained applicant. Speaking at Fortune’s Future of Finance: Technology and Transformation, Robert Goldstein noted the asset management firm is looking to get a little artsy. 

“We have more and more conviction that we need people who majored in history, in English, and things that have nothing to do with finance or technology,” said Goldstein of BlackRock’s new hiring strategy.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the typically favored techie is dying out. Admitting that “a little over a quarter of the company” are technologists, Goldstein added that’s “something that we have been doing for quite some time.” He went on to say that as BlackRock’s conviction in the belief they need technologists increases, the interest in candidates from other backgrounds also grows. 

That’s all to say, the search for good fits has only widened, as Goldstein (a former BlackRock analyst himself), explained the company’s strategy is to hire a large class of analysts from universities. 

The company is motivated to look for unique applicants in part due to a difference in thought.
“It’s that diversity of thinking and diversity of people and diversity of looking at different ways to solve a problem that really fuels innovation,” he said.

AI brings about the liberal arts consultant

BlackRock is not the only company looking towards new types of consultants: the creatives. This desire for liberal arts grads is in part fueled by the rise of AI, which creates a demand for different skill sets. “Questioning, creativity skills, and innovation are going to be hugely important because I think AI’s going to free up more capacity for creative thought processes,” Matt Candy, global managing partner in generative AI at IBM Consulting, told Fortune this past December. Coding, perhaps, wanes in importance as generative AI becomes more popular. But those who have a language background could take advantage of the new market by becoming prompt-engineers for said tools, he explained. 

And George Lee, co-head of Goldman Sachs’ global institute, echoed said sentiments. The usage of AI will pave the way for the ““revenge of the liberal arts,” Lee said in a recent Bloomberg Television interview. Adding that new innovation will “create enormous opportunity,” Lee alludes to how its implementation will make some jobs no longer as useful and create new ones in its place. 

“Some of the skills that are really salient to cooperate with this new of intelligence in the world are critical thinking, understanding logic and rhetoric, the ability to be creative,” he continued. “It will allow non-technical people to accomplish a lot more — and, by the way, begin to perform what were formerly believed to be technical tasks.”

As the robots take over Wall Street, so too might the liberal arts students.

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