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Here’s what investment banks have done to cut working hours

Working hours investment banks

Only another 15 hours to go

Millennials are not like their predecessors. Yes, they want the high pay associated with junior investment banking jobs. No, they don’t want the crazy, exhausting, lifestyle of 80 hour+ working weeks.

Banks are busy doing something about this. As we outline below, U.S. banks have been trying to limit juniors’ working hours since 2013. Now the Swiss banks – Credit Suisse and UBS – have introduced their own restrictions.

Whether the attempts to curtail the working week will come to much is open to question though. – As we reported a few months ago, it’s still standard to work from 9am to midnight at most London banks. And even where weekend working restrictions exist, they’re always held in abeyance when analysts are working on live deals.

UBS introduced ‘Take Two’ in June 2016

UBS’s new deal for its junior bankers sounds like the worst of the lot. Reuters reports that the Swiss bank just introduced something called, “Take Two.” If UBS juniors can find someone else on the team to cover for them, they can take two hours of personal time out per week. In return, they’ll be expected to cover for colleagues who also want to avail themselves of two hours off.

“You can’t force people to work longer or shorter hours: people don’t like being forced,” said Andrea Orcel, CEO of UBS’s investment bank.

Orcel himself is a notorious workaholic who reportedly instructed UBS’s investment bankers to be on duty 24/7 when he arrived in 2012.  Last May, however, Orcel said he was curbing his own working hours in order to spend more time with his young daughter.

Reuters says the ‘Take Two’ initiative was suggested by UBS’s own employees and that 145 different teams have already signed up to it. With banks cutting M&A analysts as deals dry up, will teams have the slack to allow people to disappear for two hours of marathon training or extra sleep though?

Credit Suisse introduced a ‘Saturday Rule’ in January 2014 . Updated it in June 2016 under an initiative called,  ‘Protecting Friday Night’

Reuters reports that Credit Suisse just made its juniors’ lives better with an initiative known as, ‘protecting Friday night.’ The Swiss bank’s junior bankers now get to leave at 7pm on a Friday and to stay away until, ‘at least Saturday lunchtime unless a big deal is in the works.’ For Credit Suisse purposes, lunchtime is defined as midday.

“We have given a great deal of thought into how we can provide some time off for our bankers,” said Marissa Drew, co-head of EMEA Investment Banking and Capital Markets at Credit Suisse.

CS seems presenting the updated ‘Saturday rule’ as a new-new thing. This is strange, given that Bloomberg said Credit Suisse introduced something similar back in 2014. Back then, CS bankers were leaving at 6pm on Friday and returning no sooner than 10am on Saturday.

Basically, Credit Suisse juniors now get an extra hour a week off.

Goldman Sachs introduced a ‘Saturday Rule’ in November 2013 

Goldman Sachs was the first bank to proactively tackle the working hours issue. In 2013, it introduced the so-called ‘Saturday Rule’, which states that ‘All analysts and associates are required to be out of the office from 9pm on Friday until 9am on Sunday,’ and that exceptions should not be the norm and that, ‘The expectation is that work will not be assigned on Saturday to be completed Saturday’.

Alexandra Michel, the US academic engaged in a 13 year study of investment banking working practices, told us Goldman Sachs has long had a positive approach to working conditions for juniors. “When I worked at Goldman, it was very hard for senior bankers to become partners if they were ‘people eaters’,” she said.

J.P. Morgan introduced ‘Protected weekends’ in December 2013 

Instead of giving its juniors Saturdays off, J.P Morgan opted to assign them once-monthly ‘protected weekends’ from December 2013. Under this policy, JPM juniors are barred from working for one full weekend per month. The bank also increased its intake of analysts to help spread the workload more thinly.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) introduced four weekend days off per month in January 2014 

Like JPM, BAML has gone for flexibility. Instead of commanding its juniors to take Saturdays off, it stipulated that they must take at least four weekend days off every calendar month. Bank of America juniors who want to work more than four weekend days a month need to get sign-off from the bank’s senior managers.

Barclays introduced a policy of protecting weekends ‘as far as possible’ in mid-2014 

Barclays introduced a comprehensive raft of measures to discourage senior bankers from overworking juniors in mid-2014.  These say that weekends must be protected as far as possible and give junior bankers the power to report on senior bankers who mismanage their workloads.

Morgan Stanley. – No limits in place on working hours 

Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman has consistently said that the bank has no plans to introduce hard restrictions on working hours – either now or in the future. However, young bankers need to work “reasonable’ hours” so that they can have a “balanced lifestyle,” said Gorman at Davos in 2014. Bankers who work too long.  “become very uninteresting advisers to companies because they bring a very narrow perspective,” he added.


Photo credit: Phone Check by Chris Brown is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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