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How junior bankers working 100-hour weeks can be happy

I'm a managing director in an investment bank and after two decades in this industry, I read the list of complaints and proposed solutions from the 13 Goldman Sachs analysts with interest. Many of their points were valid. However, I feel that the solution most people have seized upon - to cap junior bankers' hours at 80 per week, is unworkable and wrong.

Working 100 hours a week is a lot. It is not something that anyone can do on a sustained basis. However, at certain points during your junior banking career - when there is a deal on, for example, these kinds of hours may be necessary. And at these times - when you are working long hours on a deal and not having your time wasted - you can benefit from a valuable learning experience. 

100 hour weeks occasionally are not the end of the world, and in my experience they are not what junior bankers really resent about their roles. The real issue is that juniors feel taken for granted, that their time is wasted, and that they're working long hours on increasingly menial and siloed tasks with no visibility of the full transaction. Analysts can easily feel that they are not a fully integrated part of the business, but simply an anonymous resource on call at all hours of the day and night. Extremely smart people are being given increasingly menial jobs and being asked to do them for insane hours, and it's become worse during the pandemic when everyone is alone at home. 

An arbitrary cap on working hours of 80 per week, plus the addition of dozens of extra staff, won't solve the fundamental problem. Yes, working hours for many juniors have been extreme so far in 2021, but that's because we're in an unusual boom in terms of transactions. These are not normal times. There are worse things than being staffed on multiple deals: try being staffed on no deals at all.

New hires will also encounter the problem that the fundamental job of junior bankers - building pricing models - is not something that can be split across multiple people. Ultimately, there is only one person who owns the financial model behind a transaction: it's a bespoke creation by its owner and splitting the responsibility across a team would be impractical and inefficient.   

Nor is it practical to outsource junior bankers' work to teams overseas. Yes, overseas analysts can help with the most menial tasks (and there are way too many menial tasks in banking), but the fundamental job of a junior banker is to do transaction work and transactions can't be outsourced. You can outsource bullsh*t pitches, but these aren't usually the things keep juniors awake all night. 

What this means, practically, is that rather than setting a strict limit on juniors' working hours, improving junior bankers' lives means ensuring that their roles are meaningful and that - on the occasions when they do have to work very long hours - this is absolutely recognized and the experience is as valuable as possible. Juniors can't be brutalized all the time; as an industry we need early warning systems if people are regularly working past midnight. But we also need to be aware if analysts are not getting the right sorts of deal experience. 

This means that senior staff need to be much more present in juniors' lives: juniors need mentorship, and they need senior people who really care about them. I make a point of speaking to my juniors every week. I know there are some in my team who have been working nights and weekends, and when possible I tell them to take time out and turn off their phones. 

The solution to junior bankers' dissatisfaction is therefore not capping hours, but making sure that they are having a rich experience in their roles. A live transaction dominates your life - this is what working in banking is all about. The resulting long hours are exhausting, but they can also be enriching when the work you're doing has clear value. It's the role of managing directors to ensure that this is the case.  

Aiden Carr is a pseudonym

 

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AUTHORAiden Carr Insider Comment
  • Ja
    Jason Teo
    27 April 2021

    I work in the back office and get paid a fraction of what the front office people get paid. The difference in pay grew bigger over the past years and will continue to ever grow bigger into the future.

    No one in the comments that are begging out the author here talks about how:
    - the junior bankers get paid extraordinary amts of $$
    - they can take a pay cut for less hours i.e. quit their job and find a less challenging work
    - they are investing in their career so they can earn more ridiculous bucks later on

    Guys - quit. There are plenty of people out there who'd be happy to take up your job.

  • Pa
    Pat F
    12 April 2021

    Its not mutually exclusive that you can be valued, get experience and work sensible hours. Investment Banks should not be exempt from rules that safeguard the health of their employees.

  • ca
    camilo
    12 April 2021

    This "managing director" shows exactly the mistakes that are making people unhappy in "high finance". The first one, it's not possible to use more than one person in the creation of models, how can a "managing director" of any sort argue such a lie, models are a team effort, all the imputs, the projections and so forth are made by teams, specially since you need to know very well the industry in which the target of the model is in. The second one is arrogance, I try to guide my team once a week, which simply means, I don't have to meet with the minions due to my seniority, hundreds of thousand of Dollars doesn't make you any less idiotic. Third, understaffing, you cannot do a good job with less workers, even if you pay them a lot, you must always remember how much of the commission is really filtering at those levels, if you factor that, you will find that those 100 hours are the same ratio as other menial jobs get, with the potential to meet an early end

  • JW
    J W
    12 April 2021

    Mmm, no mention of residents in top tier programs still working 100+ he weeks and lying about it. And they are making life or death decisions. And still don't make $1M+ after their junior career matures into a senior career in 3-5 years.

  • Lo
    Lol
    11 April 2021

    This idiot needed to use a pseudonym. That's all you need know.

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