When Stanford University released a recent study saying that men are more prone to taking financial risks when faced with erotic images, it was no surprise to the car-show marketers who drape models over their vehicles or to the Hollywood studio execs who employ the infamous “D-girls” to woo producers. Strategic mixing of business and pleasure has been around for eternity.
But in recent years, such strategizing has infiltrated even the most buttoned-up of enclaves: the world of finance. Nowhere is the phenomenon more blatant than at hedge funds, where the term “marketing executive” has become all but synonymous with a blond in Theory trousers (the rule being figure-hugging is a go, Roberto Cavalli a no). “Hedge funds aim to hire hot women [to work in marketing],” claims Bess Levin, a writer at the insider-y finance blog dealbreaker.com. Much like the army of attractive pharmaceutical reps who make pitches to doctors on behalf of drug companies, these perky twentysomethings have taken over the task of luring clients for their wonky portfolio manager bosses. “Guys who have a load of money [invested] in these big funds are often pigheaded, type A male personalities,” says one male marketer by way of explaining the estrogen predominance in his field. “They want a hot chick with a nice ass and nice boobs who is going to come in and sell the fund to them. I have a friend in the industry who is drop-dead gorgeous, and even she knows that’s the only reason she has her job.”
“You meet these bimbos and they say, ‘Oh, I work at a hedge fund,’ and you think, What?!?” says one head of an investment bank who pals around with high net worth investors. “And then you realize, Oh, this is, like, the PR girl. And it’s a wildly successful strategy. The influential rich people who put money into these things like to be titillated by pretty girls.”
“The looks definitely help,” one blond, curvy female marketing director admits matter-of-factly. Which is why, despite sometimes limited knowledge of the very funds they work for, these young women are jetting to conferences at the Palm Beach Ritz or to meetings in Paris. They wine and dine investors, taking them to private clubs like the Grand Havana Room or to the U.S. Open before passing them off to their bosses on the investment side for a more nuts-and-bolts-type meeting.
The female marketing staffers regularly find themselves entertaining men who are often decades older and used to getting their way. It can lead to dicey situations: One marketing exec says she was asked to dinner by an investor in her small fund—he happened to be a high-profile billionaire—and sensed that he was after a date rather than a business chat. Confronted with this not-uncommon scenario, she felt there was only one way to handle it: “I had to accept,” she says. “It’s my job.” (It was, in fact, a date, and after several more overtly romantic meetings, she managed to tactfully distance herself.)