If we learned anything from Part One of our coverage of Wall Street Oasis’ 2022 Investment Banking Work Conditions Survey, it’s that the life of a banker is often — to put it mildly — grim.
The big reveal from Part Two? Life for bankers at the 10 big bulge-bracket firms can be even grimmer.
“Most of my close friends have told me to quit for mental and physical health reasons,” an analyst at JP Morgan says in the survey.
“Healthcare group is a sweatshop and 11 people have left in the past 2 months including 6 people to competitor banks,” adds another JP analyst.
A Bank of America analyst is more succinct: “F*ck the dickhead directors.”
WSO 2022 IB WORK CONDITIONS SURVEY
This spring, Wall Street Oasis — an online community, news site, and career center for people working and aspiring to work in finance-related fields — released its second Work Conditions Survey for investment banking. Its first, released in April 2021, came in response to a report of dismal working conditions by 13 first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs, known in the media as the “Goldman 13.”
WSO’s 2022 survey collected responses from 485 bankers from investment banks of varying sizes. Overall, 52% said they are not satisfied with their current pay, 14% averaged 91 or more hours of work per week, and 75% say their work hours have negatively impacted personal relationships. They also reported a 28% decline in their mental health and a 33% decline in physical health from before accepting their current positions.
We reported on Part One of WSO’s survey in this story, looking at the overall highlights from all respondents. In this article, we’re comparing how 10 bulge bracket banks fared against each other. The banks include Bank of America with 14 banker responses, Barclays (13 responses), Citigroup (20 responses), Deutsche Bank (19 responses), Goldman Sachs (23 responses), Jefferies & Company (13 responses), JP Morgan (29 responses), Macquarie Group (8 responses), RBC Capital Markets (9 responses), and SunTrust (8 responses).
We’ll look at the difference year-over-year in an upcoming article.
MENTAL HEALTH WORSE AT BULGE BANKS
A surprise to almost no one, Goldman Sachs isn’t exactly a beacon of tranquility, according to the survey. The 13 bankers who started the hubbub were all first-year analysts at Goldman, after all. At the time of their informal survey in March 2021, they rated their mental health at a mean of 2.8 on a 10-point scale. That was down 6 points from the 8.8 the analysts had rated their mental health before starting at the firm.
In its work-conditions survey, WSO also asked respondents to rank their mental and physical health on a scale from 1 (poor) to 10 (excellent) before accepting their investment banking job. At a mean of 8.5, bankers at Goldman Sachs rated their mental health the second highest of the 10 banks before accepting their current positions. But, they rated their current mental health the lowest at a mean of 4.1. That’s a mental health decline of 4.4 points after taking jobs at the firm, the steepest decline of any of the 10 bulge banks.
The next largest decline in mental health was at Citigroup, which fell from a mean of 8.7 before taking their jobs to 4.8 after–a decline of 3.9. JP Morgan’s mental health rating fell 3.4, from 8.2 before their jobs to 4.8 after. You can see how all the banks compared in the table below.
An associate at TMT, a boutique bank, tells the survey that after he left Goldman, his experience has been night and day. “Goldman was a death ship and life has gotten much better since leaving. Still banking hours are still like 80 a week, but that’s way better than 110 hours a week, every week at Goldman.”
An associate at Goldman Sachs, however, disagrees: “Not bad, but have grown into a senior associate. My analysts have a better work life than any generation of analysts before them (and a misplaced sense of entitlement).”
Now for the bright(er) spots. While mental health fell at all banks, it fell less than others at three bulge banks. At RBC Capital Markets, bankers ranked their mental health the highest at 6.4, falling just 1.8 points from before taking their jobs. Macquarie Group bankers rated their mental health at 6.3 (down 1.5 points) , followed by Barclays at 6 (down 2).
SLEEP & HOURS WORKED
How do the 10 banks compare in average hours worked per week? Overall, the survey’s 485 respondents at all banks (including the mid markets and boutiques) reported working an average of 77.73 hours per week while sleeping an average 5.97 hours per night. Some 18% averaged 90+ work hours or more during 2022, and 4% averaged 100+ hours. Up to 33% are managing less than 5 hours of sleep or less per night.
At the 10 Bulge Brackets, eight had significantly more employees working 90, 100, or more hours per week than the overall survey sample. Again, Goldman’s 23 respondents (30% of whom reported being first-year analysts) were an outlier here. Some 39% of its bankers reported 90 or more hours worked per week. No other bank broke 30% in this metric. The next highest are Sun Trust at 25%, JP Morgan at 24%, and both Jefferies & Company and Barclays at 23%.
The two banks at or below the overall survey average for 90+ hours per week were Bank of America at 14% and Macquarie Group at 0%. (For what it’s worth, Macquarie had 8 survey respondents, but none of them reported being first-year analysts.)
Meanwhile, five of the 10 bulge banks had 4% or higher of its employees reporting working 100 hours or more per week: Goldman Sachs (4%), Citigroup (5%), Bank of America (7%), Barclays (15%), and Sun Trust (13%).
CULTURE AND SATISFACTION
A striking number from the WSO survey is that 75% of all respondents said that work hours demanded have negatively impacted their personal relationships. This is even more pronounced at the 10 bulge banks. In fact, six of the 10 were on par or worse than the overall sample. At Jefferies & Company, 85% of the respondents reported negative impacts to their relationships. It was followed by Citigroup (80%), Deutsche Bank (79%), and both Goldman Sachs and RBC Capital Markets at 78% each.
Meanwhile, Bank of America scored the highest in the category, if you can call 64% of employees reporting negatively impacted relationships a win. Barclays also “beat” the overall average with 69%.
You can see how the banks stacked up in other metrics including how likely bankers would recommend their firms to both clients and new talent in the table below.
In terms of satisfaction, respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction with their current firms on a 10-point scale. Overall, bankers rated it at 6.1.
Three bulge banks ranked satisfaction higher than the average overall including Jefferies & Company (6.3), Barclays (7.8), and RBC Capital (6.7).
Deutsche Bank had the lowest satisfaction among its respondents at 4.6, followed by Citigroup at 4.8, and Bank of America at 4.9.
Perhaps the most illuminating insight on a bank’s culture comes from the bank-specific comments included throughout the survey. It’s worth the read for just the quotes alone.
In fact, analysts at Deutsche Bank had quite a bit to say.
One tried to be diplomatic: “DB is honestly one of the better if not the best in terms of culture IMO. Very understanding people, want you to grow / learn, only one or two seniors aren’t great, the rest are in my personal opinion. With all that being said, when push comes to shove, the job is a grind, you will work long hours, and you will sacrifice a social life.”
Others pulled no punches.
“Long hours, teams half the size of pre-pandemic, pay below street.”
“Toxic environment, toxic people, good execution. Experience not worth the emotional / health damage. Pay sucks,”
One analyst possibly sums up the job better than any other associate, analyst, or VP in the survey: “It is what it is.”
Read WSO’s full 2022 Investment Banking Work-Conditions Survey here.
Or, read our first report in the series here: ‘THIS IS ALL BULLSH*T’: INVESTMENT BANKERS SOUND OFF ON LOUSY HOURS, BAD PAY & RUINED RELATIONSHIPS
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