So, according to a reporter called Jenny Anderson, junior bankers have no right to complain about their working conditions. Jenny says we chose this life and we get all sorts of perks for our pains: we need to shut up and suck it up.
Well, Jenny, even though you haven’t worked in the industry, you make some good points. But I don’t think you understand. Junior bankers don’t do it for the money, and no amount of money would compensate for this lifestyle anyway. The price we pay for doing this job is a lot steeper than ‘outsiders’ comprehend.
Firstly, there’s the intellectual toll. Most young people working in banking have excellent degrees. We’re all top students from the world’s best universities, but we spend our time doing some of the most boring jobs in the bank. Every single person is higher ranked than an analyst, with the result that we get the jobs no one else wants to do. This takes its toll, especially on motivation. You start out and you’re busting to, ‘do some deals, maybe move into private equity or make it to managing director.’ And then it starts to sink in….the first few years in investment banking are about relentless grunt work. 90% of what I do is copying and pasting. What’s the point in that when I could have done a PhD and be on my way to becoming an academic?
Secondly, there’s the social life. I’m not English. I moved to London for this job and so did plenty of those around me. Every weekday night, I’m in the office past midnight. And I’m in the office for several hours at the weekend. There’s no time to meet people. The only people I know outside banking are the girls I’ve hooked up with and still get along with – they’ve become my friends.
Thirdly, there’s self-esteem. You get treated like a piece of rubbish on a daily basis. People just don’t care about you or your time. With a one sentence email from my boss, my weekend is ruined. That doesn’t make me feel great about myself.
Ok, there are the positives too. Some quick online research tells me that a graduate engineer in the UK earns £30k ($46k) – my salary is 50% higher than that. If we’re lucky, we get ‘exposure’ to clients. And we get paid in ‘exit opportunities’ – we can move into private equity, for example.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that if we’re paid more than other graduates that’s just because we work more. I work an 80-hour week – twice as long as in other industries. Plenty of people I know get no client exposure at all. And only a tiny proportion of people in investment banks make the private equity move.
Jenny also says we’re lucky because we get dinner at work and a free cab back home. Whoot. Have you ever tried eating takeaways for months in a row? And travelling home in a cab can make the journey back even longer – it’s quicker by tube.
It’s not all bad though. I do honestly think that banks are trying to change. It’s not like the 1990s – people don’t stay in banking careers for life. Our seniors know that we can switch jobs at any time and they need to keep us onside. This is slowly changing the culture, but not soon enough for me.
Betrand Legrand is the pseudonym of an analyst working for a European investment bank in London. If you’re a junior banker who wants to get in touch about an issue, email us at email@example.com.