When you’re 29 years old, laden with student debt, and facing the prospect of a huge mortgage, $500k (£350k) a year might sound like the sort of money you’d happily work 18 hour days for. And yet, you might want to think again. Working long days and long nights can be very bad for your health.
Just how bad is illustrated by new revelations about the final hours of Thomas J. Hughes, the 29-year-old associate at Moelis & Co. who died after jumping from his Manhattan apartment building in June 2015. We already knew that prior to his death, Hughes had missed spending Easter with his family, broken up with his girlfriend (partly due to his long hours), and spent a holiday in Bermuda working in his hotel room. Now, the New York Times has new information on the hours before Hughes died.
Hughes had been traveling – after returning from his ‘holiday’ at the weekend, he flew to Cleveland for client meetings early the following week. Meetings over, he flew back into New York on Wednesday evening and went straight to the office to work. At 5.43pm on Wednesday, Hughes received an ‘executed nondisclosure agreement from a potential buyer’ for a deal he was working on. He stayed on in the office, and at 12.43am, he emailed a copy of the selling memorandum to the buyer’s representatives. At around 2am, Hughes went back to his flat and continued working. At 4.16am he received an email from a colleague regarding the deal – the colleague wanted to know whether Hughes had arranged meetings with the buyers. At 9am Hughes emailed that colleague back to say he hadn’t arranged any meetings yet, but would do soon. At 9.22am, he emailed the buyers to set up meetings. At 9.45am, another colleague emailed to keep Hughes “in the loop.” “Thanks,” he emailed back. And around 10am, Hughes fell to his death.
Moelis & Co. didn’t make Hughes work those long hours – he chose to. Hughes also chose to take cocaine on the night before he died – an earlier habit which is father suggested had been reinvigorated by the need to “re-energize” after 18 hour days. In the year before his death, Hughes earned a $100k salary and a $400k bonus. His parents said he found his work “rewarding and stimulating”, and insisted that working hard is, “what you do when you’re 29.” Maybe, but as Hughes’ final hours show, in banking you can allow work to take over your life. It’s not worth working so hard at 29 that you don’t live to see 30.
Separately, data for the first quarter suggests equity capital markets bankers are in for a difficult year. Equity Capital Markets fees fell 48% year-on-year in the first quarter according to data from Thomson Reuters. This compares to declines of ‘just’ 26% in DCM and just 18% in M&A. It wasn’t long ago that ECM bankers were thriving as companies rushed to make the most of buoyant equity markets. Suddenly, that seems a long way in the past.
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