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Arrogant? Lazy? Junior bankers hit back

Are you a little too pleased with yourself?

Are you a little too pleased with yourself?

2014 was a year in which the tide turned. From consistently flowing in a direction favourable to senior bankers, it reversed and juniors got a lot more benefits. Want your analysts to work weekends? – You’ll now have to get senior sign-off for that. Want your analyst to stay up all night making last minute changes to a presentation? – You’ll be asked why you didn’t come up with those specifications in the first place. Want to shout at your analyst and put him/her down in the style of Bill Gross on a bad day? – If you work for Barclays, in particular, you’ll find that you suffer at bonus time as a result.

All of this is taking its toll on executive directors (EDs) and managing directors (MDs). Firstly, they no longer have the privilege of behaving like despots. And secondly, they see today’s juniors being treated far more timorously than they were during their formative years.

Some experienced bankers are speaking out. Earlier this week, the Financial Times ran a letter from a 37-year-old complaining about the arrogance and apathy of his 22 year-old analyst. The graduate trainees who joined in September are, “less committed than any I can remember,” he complained. Worse, when the 37-year-old criticized his junior, the Young Turk responded by questioning his leadership style in a 360 degree assessment. “Now I’ve been told by my boss that I should be doing more to “nurture talent,”” his senior complained.

We asked junior bankers for their opinions on the spat. Is the new generation less engaged than its predecessors? Not at all, said one associate who started at a European bank this year. “The junior people here are all very modest and willing to learn,” he said, speaking off the record. If anything, he said the problem is still that juniors have a tendency towards working too hard:. “We all want to stand out and to take on more workflow, that’s just the culture. I don’t see anyone here behaving arrogantly at all.”

“Juniors are almost always harder working than the seniors,” agreed Mark Hatz, a former Goldman and Perella Weinberg M&A banker who now coaches students through investment banking interviews. “They put in longer hours and in some senses they’re more knowledgeable.” Compared to juniors, senior bankers are less adept at financial modelling, said Hatz. They’re also over-reliant on Bloomberg terminals for news flow and can be out of touch with new technologies. They should try and learn from their 20-something reports.

Another former associate in M&A says that if juniors seem recalcitrant it’s because their interests aren’t aligned with those of the MDs “You get this senior guy at the top who sees a deal as a way to bring in fees and increase his bonus, but when you’re a junior a new deal can just seem like a whole load more work. – When you’re an analyst, there’s no real visibility on the link between the number of deals you work on and the amount you get paid. It’s much more to do with who you know and who your friends are.”

It’s also been suggested that juniors have a right to be a tiny bit arrogant because they’re so much better qualified than the people managing them. “22-year-olds have to be a hell of a lot smarter than the guys who have been in banking for the last 10+ years. It’s a far more competitive and stringent process nowadays,” said one comment-leaver on our article earlier this week. As we noted a few months ago, junior bankers today are indeed likely to be far better educated than seniors.

Is education necessarily a proxy for intelligence though? Hatz says senior bankers are just as smart, if not smarter than their reports – after all, they’ve managed to navigate the bank’s internal politics.

The problem isn’t a generational disparity in intelligence, says the associate. – If seniors don’t think their analysts are genuinely ‘on side’ they simply need to work harder to demonstrate that their interests are aligned. He compares being an analyst on a deal to being a rower in a boat looking for new worlds: “You’re rowing like crazy, but the officers who aren’t doing any of the rowing will be the only ones to benefit when you eventually find it.”

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