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The good and the bad of working for the most popular investment banks in the U.S.

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You're smiling now, but it can be difficult for an investment banker to strike a reasonable work/life balance.

In any ranking of investment banks, you’d expect Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch to feature. Less obvious choices, however, are the boutique players, which have been encroaching on the M&A revenue ranking in recent years. Centerview Partners, Evercore, Greenhill & Co., Perella Weinberg Partners, Moelis & Co. and PJT Partners have all featured in the top ten of Vault.com’s annual ranking of investment banks.

But what’s it really like to work at these elite investment banks? Here is a selection of commentary – both positive and negative – from survey respondents made up of current and former employees of each of the top four investment banks on the Vault.com’s 2017 ranking.

Evercore

On the plus side, Evercore employees say that the boutique bank has “high-quality people” and scores points for its “culture and prestige,” “technical development and large amount of junior responsibility,” “career development, senior executive involvement, culture and pay,” as well as “exit opportunities” and “client interaction and mentorship programs.” One person said that it offers “all of the benefits of working at the most prestigious bulge bracket without any of the bureaucracy and all of the benefits of being at a boutique/independent advisory firm.”

On the other hand, employees predictably complained that “the hours can be grueling,” “long and unpredictable,” plus “lean staff” means “there’s no one to cover for you if you just need a night off,” while another said that the benefits are less than highly competitive. One person cited “high turnover,”

Centerview Partners

On a positive note, one employee said Centerview Partners is “an exceptional firm, focused on our clients, passionate about our work product and committed to the economic and social well-being of our employees.” Another extolled “the people, the clients and the atmosphere – it is electric!” Other virtues apparently include its “fantastic culture, incredible [M&A] deals and absurd compensation,” “culture of respect and reasonable hard work, rewarded by comp” as well as the “talent of people and reputation.”

Some survey respondents struck a minor chord, complaining about “long, difficult hours,” insufficient resources leading to a “stressful” work environment of “overextended analysts” and the observation that “smaller teams can sometimes mean you’re stuck with someone you don’t care for.” Plus: “Our strategic approach is time- and effort-intensive.”

Morgan Stanley

On the one hand, Morgan Stanley offers a “great name on resume, good relationships with your analyst or associate class and good exit ops if you look for them,” while other praised the “quality of client relationships and collegial work environment,” “the culture, the people, the work, the location, the prestige, the compensation, the career development,” and “respect for the individual, focus on ideas/creativity, flexible work/life balance and desire to do the best possible work.”

Unsurprisingly, employees groused about the dress code, “long hours, face time is a must, and it can be tough to figure out the office politics,” “deferred bonus schedule,” “compensation,” “lack of mentorship,” “overly conservative” approach to business relationship management and “complexity,” as well as the assertions that “top-down processes not always clearly explained” and there are “not enough women in senior management roles.”

Goldman Sachs

One survey respondent said that “Goldman Sachs is arguably the best brand and has a very close-knit environment,” while another said “GS is an outstanding place to work at, since you have lots of responsibilities at the very first day at work.” The firm earned praise for its “positive work environment that was really great,” “compensation and work culture” and the opportunity to “work with extremely smart and interesting people. People are also ethical, clients truly do come first and are well served.”

On the flip-side, “hours are long and development/advancement processes are not transparent,” “lots of stress and politics,” “pressure,” “plethora of processes that sometimes stifles innovation,” “incorrect external opinions of culture and values” and “turnover of personnel for better opportunities has placed an undercurrent of uncertainty.” In addition, “the opportunities for advancement into more senior roles feel more limited than they used to.”

Photo credit: Aldo Murillo/GettyImages

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