The digital revolution has done a real number on Wall Street and the finance industry. Just look at the trading floors of stock exchanges -- they're relics. The real business of the NYSE is done across the river at a gigantic server farm in Mahwah, N.J. And powerful software is certainly reducing the person-hours required to deal with many number-crunching tasks. But if you're a college student who read that article a few months back in The Economist suggesting that artificial intelligence was going to eliminate half of the jobs in finance by 2030, you might be worried enough to change majors. Or you might ask the MarketFoolery podcast team.
In this segment of the podcast, host Chris Hill and senior analyst Seth Jayson talk about their views on AI, jobs, and finance, and give their 19-year-old questioner a bit of advice about how to angle an education.
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This video was recorded on Oct. 7, 2019.
Chris Hill: Question from P in Canada, who writes, "I'm a 19-year-old student starting my college education in the next three months. I'm very passionate about finance and the investing world. I started reading books and learning about the subject two years ago. This week, I read in The Economist that the majority of jobs in finance will be replaced by AI by the time I'm 30 years old. What do you make of this? Is a finance college degree still a good option?"
I don't know, the majority of jobs replaced by AI?
Seth Jayson: That doesn't sound right to me. I'm the AI guy here, and that doesn't sound right to me.
Hill: I was going to say, of the two of us, you actually look into and study the rise of AI and its applications in different industries.
Jayson: Yeah. Well, you don't even need AI to automatically choose good investments. In fact, the biggest advantage in the investment game is the capacity to think long term and not have knee-jerk reactions. That said, I'm not sure you need to be a finance major. If you are going to college and you're passionate about investing, it's OK if that's a hobby. Why don't you study something that truly interests you and see where things go from there? If you haven't gone to college yet, don't lock yourself into what you think your career path is going to be. Keep your options open. There's a lot of research out there that shows big companies in the U.S. are actually looking for liberal arts type of graduates because they want people who have a broader background than just a narrow set of skills that you might get out of finance or something else. And you can always move into the finance area from other fields. I mean, look at me. I was an art history major. Luckily, I found The Motley Fool -- before we started hiring smart people, by the way. A lot of it is luck as well.
Hill: Well --
Jayson: You worked here when the place was big. And then...
Hill: And then it got a lot smaller.
Jayson: It got a lot smaller.
Hill: I was just going to say, worth pointing out that The Motley Fool was started by two brothers, neither of whom was a finance major. Both of them were English majors.
Jayson: I thought David was math and business. I know Tom, our CEO, was English.
Hill: They were both big English guys.
Jayson: For sure, the name, right? Critical thinking is really where it is. Use college as an opportunity to become well-rounded. Think of what Charlie Munger would say. He wouldn't tell you to go off and hide with finance books. If you want to have breakfast with Charlie while he's still on this earth, put down the finance books and read some philosophy.
Hill: And if you're going to have breakfast with Charlie Munger, bring a box of peanut brittle. I hear he likes that.
Jayson: And a notepad.