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"If you're not French at my bank, you are discriminated against"

I work in equity derivatives for a major international bank (not a French bank) on Wall Street and I am being disadvantaged in my career because I am not French, unlike almost everyone in a position of power here. 

Astonishingly, all the managing directors in equity derivatives trading and structuring globally at this bank are French. Every single one. So is the global head. So are many of the direct reports. This means that emails are still sometimes sent, in French, by the team leaders. And this is a problem if you don't speak the language fluently.

For example, there have been numerous occasions when I have been forwarded an important email which I've been expected to action, but where if you don't speak half the contents of the email chain.

Worse, because such a high proportion of my team are French, there are a lot of important conversations that occur on the desk in French too. If you don't understand, you're either in a continual state of cluelessness about what's going on, or you find out things last of all.  


We've tried making ourselves heard. Non-French staff have raised the issue with French managers and we've even complained in the bank's feedback forums (anonymously) but nothing has changed. It seems the bank is unwilling to do anything about it because the people who are hearing the concerns and who would need to take action are - you guessed it - French themselves.

Frankly, it helps if you speak French fluently. I've asked a lot of my non-French colleagues whether they think our ignorance of the language is hindering our careers and pay. They all say yes. It seems a bit unfair.

Hayden Mcdonald is the pseudonym of an equity derivatives professional on Wall Street

Photo by Alan Hardman on Unsplash

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AUTHORHayden Mcdonald Insider Comment
  • En
    1 December 2021

    If your face does not fit in somewhere, and you realistically cannot expect to change that situation, then the smartest move is to move on.....quietly.

  • Bo
    1 December 2021

    Having worked in big banks French are the worst people managers and very toxic in their behaviours. They add layers of management to insulate themselves from blame and promote from within their circle.

  • Le
    1 December 2021

    Wow, this has been around for decades. It is discrimination. Problem is most of the bank's clients are french :d so not much motivation for the bank to diversify... But it is a huge problem for all smart kids who did not do their degree at a french uni...

  • Po
    1 December 2021

    This post is the summum of the hypocrisy, written by an English native speaker (obviously) whose language and culture litterally parasitizes the 80% remaining. Maybe the whiny author never thought that his experience is lived by millions of people around the world... with English native speakers. Just do as we do, learn a second language and move on. Or don't but stop complaining. P.S.: the stereotyped picture of this post is racist.

  • Lu
    Luis B.
    1 December 2021

    Don't be lazy, work hard, and you'll learn French faster than you think

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