Are Work Conditions Improving At Investment Banks? The Answer Depends On The Bank

Wall Street

For the past couple of weeks, Poets&Quants has been reporting on the work conditions in investment banking and, it turns out, most of the rumors ring true: A recent survey of nearly 500 bankers revealed long hours, strained relationships, and steep declines in both mental and physical health. (For details and pointed quotes, see “Investment Bankers Sound Off On Lousy Hours, Bad Pay & Ruined Relationships” and “Grim Work Conditions Described At 10 Bulge-Bracket Banks.”)

There is a silver lining, however, no matter how small of a sliver it may be: Though life of first-analysts and young associates seems to be grueling, particularly at the bigger bulge bracket banks, it seems to be getting (somewhat) better.

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. It 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.

BANKERS REPORT 7 MORE MINUTES OF SLEEP IN 2022

We reported on Part One of WSO’s survey in this story, looking at the overall highlights from all respondents. In Part Two, we looked at how 10 bulge bracket banks fared against each other. In this article, we’re comparing how 2021 compares to 2022. While conditions improved in several categories and at several individual banks, not all is well in banker land.

Overall, the 485 bankers in the survey (38.6%of whom worked at bulge bracket banks, 56.5% at boutique or middle-market banks, and 5% did not specify) reported working an average of 78 hours per week in 2022 compared to 82 in 2021. They also reported getting an average 7 minutes more sleep per night than last year and going to be 1 hour and 17 minutes earlier. Their self-reported declines in mental health before and after taking their current positions also fell 27% compared to 2021 and their physical health declines fell 12%.

Still, the year-over-year differences at nine bulge bracket banks showed that some banks have more work to do than others.


As shown in the table above, more respondents at seven of nine bulge bracket banks say work conditions at their bank HAVE NOT improved since 2021 than those who said it has improved. This is even as many of the banks improved in other key categories.
At Deutsche Bank, 68% of respondents said work conditions have not improved this year over last, the highest of any of the other bulge banks. Morgan Stanley closely followed at 67% with both Bank of America and Citigroup at 50%. Just 16% of Deutsche Bank and 17% of Morgan Stanely respondents reported that conditions had improved.

Conversely, JP Morgan had the highest percentage of respondents saying conditions have improved in 2021 at 41% (though 48% disagreed). Some 38% of Jefferies & Company reported improvements and 38% reported no improvements.

More detail on individual banks is available in the full report. 

BANKS WHERE CONDITIONS ARE IMPROVING THE MOST

In all survey categories, Jefferies & Company was the only bulge bracket to improve in every category compared to 2021. However, it’s important to note that the improvements only measure the bank’s performance against itself, not against its peers. For example, Jefferies posted a 15% decrease in respondents who said their work hours negatively affected their personal relationships over last year while Morgan Stanley reported a 10% increase. But, when you consider that 100% of Jefferies employees reported negative impacts in 2021 (compared to 85% in 2022), there was only one direction they could go. Morgan Stanely, meanwhile, had 83% of its employees report negative effects on relationships (compared to 76% in 2021).

Bank of America respondents reported worse conditions in 2022 in only four categories on the survey, and those were mostly negligible: There was a 3% increase in respondents reporting unrealistic deadlines (86%), 4% increase in reports of blaming without justification (50%), and 1% increase in excessive monitoring or micromanagement. The likelihood that bankers would recommend against using Bank of America as a financial advisor also rose from 4.4 in 2021 to 5.2 in 2022 (on a 10-point scale.)

Mental health declines after investment bankers start their jobs continues to be a concern for survey respondents. However, the declines are less than in 2021 at six of the nine bulge bracket banks listed in the table below. The decrease in mental and physical health is calculated by asking survey respondents to rate their health before taking their job and their mental after and finding the difference.

 

BANKS WITH (MUCH) MORE WORK TO DO

The old adage the higher you climb, the further you fall? It certainly applies to Barclays’ – at least in how its employees’ report their mental health. Though Barclay respondents reported among the lowest declines in mental health after taking their jobs of all the other banks in both 2021 and 2022, the percent increase in the decline year-over-year was the highest of them all Respondents reported just a 0.6 decrease in their mental health in 2021 compared to 2-point decrease in 2022 (on a 10-point scale). That’s a 233% increase.
Of all banks, conditions appeared to deteriorate most at Morgan Stanley. At 13, it had more categories with worse conditions since 2021 than any other bank. In fact, 17% of its employee respondents reported working 100 or more hours per week (up from 6% in 2021), and 33% of its employees have felt like victims of workplace abuse (up from 24%).

As we’ve said before, it’s difficult to put these survey results into context without similar industry surveys with which to compare. It’s also fair to note that while the survey had 485 banker respondents in total, the individual bank results are based on relatively few responses. This includes 14 from Bank of America, 13 from Barclays, 19 from Deutsche Bank, 23 from Goldman Sachs, 13 from Jefferies & Company, 29 from JP Morgan, and 9 from RBC Capital Markets.

Read WSO’s full 2022 Investment Banking Work-Conditions Survey here.

DON'T MISS: ‘THIS IS ALL BULLSH*T’: INVESTMENT BANKERS SOUND OFF ON LOUSY HOURS, BAD PAY & RUINED RELATIONSHIPS AND ‘TOXIC ENVIRONMENT, TOXIC PEOPLE’: GRIM WORK CONDITIONS DESCRIBED AT 10 BULGE-BRACKET BANKS

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