Fearful of an exodus to the buy-side and unwilling to keep hiking pay, investment banks are instead turning to novel methods of attracting and retaining their most junior staff.
Many banks have already introduced compulsory Saturdays off and initiated ’empowerment programmes’ to prevent burnout among junior employees. However, increased activity across IBD divisions has made it difficult to reduce working hours in line with expectations. Innovative in-house relaxation techniques are therefore the new battleground for staff retention.
Morgan Stanley’s London office is among those focused on the well-being among its analysts and associates. Inspired by a ‘giving back’ trip to Vauxhall City Farm in South London, the US investment bank installed a ‘petting zoo’ in the basement of its Cabot Square offices in January featuring guinea pigs, pygmy goats and teacup pigs. “The guinea pigs are particularly conducive to mindfulness and a sense of overall well-being,” says Samantha Gerhearty, HR engagement director at Morgan Stanley EMEA. “The pygmy goats help inspire self-motivation and innovation,” she adds.
Encouraged by Citigroup’s sleeping pods in its London HQ, other banks have taken a more prosaic approach to exhaustion. Deutsche Bank is trialing ‘amniotic ponds’ in its NY office. Positioned on the ground floor of its Wall Street building, its analysts are encouraged to immerse themselves in tepid salt water baths intended to recreate the conditions of the womb. “They’ve been incredibly popular and we’ve struggled to limit them to the junior ranks,” says one Deutsche insider. “I’ve seen Jim Ratigan [Deutsche’s co-head of M&A for Americas] floating in one on several occasions.”
Bank of America Merrill Lynch, meanwhile, started out offering Indian head massages to analysts crunching numbers into the small hours, but concerns over alopecia led them to switch approach.
Instead, BAML now employs 20 Reiki Masters across its offices in London, New York and Singapore. They are charged with the “realignment of the chakras of analysts and associates in IBD on a weekly basis”. Steven Jones, head of holistic interaction at BAML, says: “We conducted research which suggested that the valued junior members of our banking family were suffering from weak energy in the field of their throat chakras, which are crucial for team communication.”
J.P. Morgan has installed a ‘hot tub cinema’ on the third floor the former Lehman Brothers HQ in Canary Wharf, which screens James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D to juniors waiting for managing directors to mark up their pitch books on Friday nights.
UBS has no formal relaxation strategy, but we understand that this year’s analyst class were given a company-wide ‘safe word’ during their onboarding sessions. When conditions at work become too stressful and demanding, they are encouraged to say their word in the presence of a managing director. The MD concerned will then be duty-bound to free them of the shackles of work. UBS declined to comment. However, insiders inform us that the word in question is “Andreas.”
Goldman Sachs has distanced itself from the “pitiful games” being rolled out at other investment banks and has instead asked its strats group to create a bucket of complex derivative products that reconfigure the working week across eight days. This allows their analysts 36 hours of “clear sea” when they are allowed to indulge in firm-approved hobbies and extra-curricular activities.