J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs have much in common. Both are indisputably tier one investment banks. Both attract interest from impressively credentialled students. Both have made efforts to improve the working lives of their analysts and associates. For the moment at least though, the J.P. Morgan juniors we talk to seem more content than the juniors at Goldman Sachs.
"I have the feeling of always being taken care of by the firm," one J.P. Morgan junior told us this week. "J.P.M is really focusing on improving our work life balance. We have new policies to track our workload and give us weekends off and they're taken very, very seriously by the senior people here." "I've always felt appreciated here," another J.P. junior echoed. "The executives are very thoughtful and human and my managers are very supportive and vocal about me."
By comparison, people at Goldman Sachs seem somewhat less enthused. “The glory days of investment banking are over," one Goldman junior told us recently. "Pretty much everyone here wants to exit to the buy-side, startups or business school plus a cushy corporate job in business development. You’re not going to make serious money in investment banking any more.” Another Goldman analyst told us lifestyle is still an issue at the firm: "We get Saturdays off, which is good, but that's not the point. The real issue is the lack of visibility on when I'll be working. I can't book a weekend in Berlin or arrange to go out with friends for a meal on Tuesday evening, because I never know whether I'll be working or not." He says senior Goldman bankers don't seem willing to tackle this fundamental issue: "If you can have Saturdays off, why not Sundays too? Why is banking different to other industries? The people at the top don't seem to want to change the way the firm is managed."
Goldman Sachs didn't contribute to this article, but senior staff there would likely take exception with allegations of insouciance. The firm has consistently been at the forefront of efforts to make juniors' lives more bearable: Goldman was the first bank to introduce mandatory time off at weekends in November 2013, leading other banks to do the same; it put restrictions on interns' working hours in summer 2015 (no more than 17 a day). It's also speeding the promotion process for analysts, simplifying pitchbooks and investing heavily in the automation of repetitive processes that can keep analysts working into the night.
Nonetheless, J.P. Morgan may be stealing a march on its rival. As we noted earlier, it's been holding employee 'love-ins' as part of its 'appreciation week'. There have been talks on dealing with stress. There's been a bake-off and the bank's been handing out free nachos and mini-burgers. Daniel Pinto, chief executive of the investment bank, sent an email saying "Thank you all for all you do." And Jamie Dimon, chief executive of the entire bank sent an email saying he felt, "enormously blessed" to work with people at J.P. Morgan.
Cynics might point out that Goldman's been running resilience weeks and helping its employees along the road to happiness for years. It also runs a series of interesting 'GS Talks' to nourish intellectual diversity. Even so, J.P. Morgan's appreciation week seems to have left its employees feeling volubly enthused in a way that we're not hearing from juniors at Goldman Sachs. "In the European offices we've invited people that work in the background ( in the mail room, back office etc.) to have breakfast and lunch with the MDs," says one JPM junior. "The managers have been buying their analysts and associates lunch. My boss paid for around 300 people to have drinks. A surprisingly large portion of these cost are being born by the heads of each office and people really appreciate that."
"It's been really cool!" says another. "Jamie even hosted a global town-hall. This week made us feel like we're part of something bigger, transformational and exciting. I hope other banks will follow!"
Goldman Sachs might want to take note.