The truth about “princelings”
Editor’s Note: The original version of this post had the word “priceling” instead of “princeling.” After further investigation, the post was updated to include “princeling.”
You’re in the waiting room about to see the hiring manager. You strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. He may be wearing a more expensive suit and may have a slightly more confident posture, but he holds practically the same credentials that you do. His interview ends with a pat on the shoulder and an offer while you were sent to the door.
If you were in Asia, don’t be surprised if the person you just talked to was a “princeling.”
Relatives of high-ranking government officials—usually in China—these individuals appear to have long been the pick of the litter when recruiting season arrives at investment banks. Through its “Sons and Daughters” program, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and many other banks have long had a special system for processing these candidates. However, with the discovery of a spreadsheet linking specific hires to certain deals the firm is working on, JPMorgan has recently faced the scrutiny of United States authorities for testing anti-bribery laws.
As seniors at Wash. U. begin to look for positions after graduation, such news may come across as immensely frustrating. But is this practice really an unreasonable unfairness to other candidates? And is it truly a far cry from what we are used to?
Businesses competing in an environment like investment banking are constantly looking for a point of differentiation from their competitors. This edge comes from their name, their resources and most importantly their people. Employees specialize in functions and sectors that they excel in. And people in the industry claim that “princelings” are invaluable in providing their knowledge of the political system and connections inside China.
For the same amount of compensation, these new hires do not need extra cultivation in building connections among elites as they already have an established network within the field that they operate in. This provides an incentive for firms to hire them as opposed to imported talent or even local talent who do not have the same exposure or excellence in education. The firm is essentially hiring specialists at a stage where they can still be developed to the firm’s needs. This is especially true in Hong Kong during the initial public offering boom.
It is true that the existence of the spreadsheet linking hires to specific deals may raise the case of a conflict of interest instead of an “added benefit” and leave a bitter taste in the mouths of other applicants. However, the fact that these individuals are born into families of government officials should also not label or strip them of the right for them to engage in a career of their choice in the most fundamental level.
In truth, “princelings” have been born into more powerful families compared to their counterparts. They lead a more privileged life and start ahead of the rest of their peers.
Are the underpinnings of this case really so far from home? Does it not parallel the situation of applying to college? Or more fundamentally, that we can pursue a higher education without having to worry about basic necessities?
We now understand the differentiation factor of the selected few; we may as well understand our own. We’ve done it before. We can definitely do it again.