Moelis & Co. has hit the big time. The boutique M&A advisory firm, founded in 2007 by ex-UBS and DLJ rainmaker Ken Moelis, is a boutique no longer: it’s seen off far bigger banks to work on the world’s largest ever IPO – of Saudi Aramaco. And it did so despite having only 650 employees in total.
Big banks don’t break out staffing levels in their investment banking divisions (IBD), but with Goldman Sachs’ London office alone having front office headcount of nearly 2,900 people spread across markets and IBD, banks’ teams are almost certainly larger. So, how does Moelis do it? Not long ago, it had a reputation for working its juniors hard.
A Wall Street Oasis’ survey of junior bankers in 2015 found that analysts and associates at Moelis & Co. were putting in around 89 hours a week – 16.5 hours more than juniors at Goldman Sachs. One former analyst who left last year says this wasn’t unrealistic: “The hours there are brutal. Most of the time I’d be happy to leave before midnight.”
However, things may be changing. A spokesman for Moelis says more than two two-thirds of the firm’s bankers are under 35, and that the firm is committed to the development of its bankers early in their careers.As Moelis matures and hires in more analysts and associates (last year’s classes were its biggest ever), insiders confirm that it’s been addressing its reputation for gruelling working conditions.
One junior says things were bad when he arrived but have improved in the past year as Moelis consulted its juniors on work life balance and then introduced protected weekends along with the rest of the industry. “They wanted to improve things for the juniors, but people still work harder than at other banks,” he claimed.
Not everyone who’s worked for Moelis complains about it though. The juniors we spoke to stressed that working conditions vary massively from team to team and manager to manager. “It’s in line with the rest of the industry. In five years there, I never did an all-nighter,” says one ex-associate. Another says the hours at Moelis are worth it in any case: “Moelis is a great learning experience, whichever team you work on.” With the firm winning huge deals like Saudi Aramaco, this is more relevant than ever.
Photo: erhui1979, Getty