In theory, investment banks have cut working hours for their most junior staff. Since 2013 most leading banks – Morgan Stanley excepted – have introduced a raft of measures ensuring their juniors don’t overdo it. Goldman Sachs has also introduced ‘accelerated analyst programs’ to help its juniors get off the bottom rung sooner.
If you ask junior bankers about their working lives in 2016, however, they don’t sound entirely different to the experiences of previous generations.
“There are no limits on working hours here,” says an M&A analyst at one of the European banks which theoretically introduced limits to working hours in the past few years. “We usually work every weekday from around 9.30am until around midnight or 12.30am. It’s a minimum 75-hour week.”
Plus ça change. When Wall Street Oasis asked bankers how many hours they were putting in per week in 2014, their responses varied from 67.6 at Morgan Stanley to 88.9 at Moelis & Co. Two years on, things sound pretty similar.
“I worked 70 hours last week,” says an analyst at RBS, which as a state owned institution might be expected to go easier on people. “There are no restrictions on our hours at all. It’s normal to work from 9am to midnight.”
What about weekend and nights, both particular targets of banks’ efforts to protect juniors’ health? The analyst at RBS said he hasn’t worked any nights recently. The analyst at the other European bank said working nights and weekends happens, but not as a matter of course. “It’s like every week there’s a day you don’t sleep. It’s most likely that you work through the night once every three weeks,” he says. “And when you do work late, allowances are made elsewhere. I was in the office until 2am a lot last week, but then I didn’t work at the weekend.”
When necessary, however, working all weekend is still de rigueur. “I was on a transaction from September to November, and I didn’t have any weekends off,” says the analyst. “Some weekends I was working 15 hours a day.”
Nor is it possible to generalize about working hours by bank. Analysts point out that working hours in fact differ from team to team and deal to deal. As a rule of thumb, Financial Institutions Group (FIG) M&A teams which deal with financial clients will work you harder than the rest. And when one of the parties to a deal is a financial sponsor (private equity fund), you can expect them to be less respectful of rest-periods like evenings and weekends than a family run confectionery firm.
“No matter who your client is, as you get into the final weeks and you’re trying to close a deal, you almost certainly going to be doing crazy hours,” says the analyst. “On average, we’re working an 85-90 hour week.”
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