Working hours: Has Bank of America turned into Goldman Sachs?

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Last week's inquest into the death of Bank of America intern Moritz Erhardt revealed a few things about the way Bank of America attempts to manage its ambitious young juniors.

For example, the bank uses 'development officers' and mentors to help keep its juniors on the rails. Erhardt's mentor Dennis Wierer, a former student from WHU, told the inquest that the bank offers an in-house medical service to make life easier for its employees. Bob Elfring, co-head of corporate and investment banking at BAML told the inquest that the bank is "used to working with people who are ambitious and want to over-perform."

The implication was clear: Bank of America knows how to rein in the bullish spirits of young analysts. The coroner ruled that Erhardt died of epilepsy rather than exhaustion, but he was rumoured to have worked five all-nighters in 14 days and to have drank "a lot of Red Bull" before his death.

Historically, Goldman Sachs has been the bank with a reputation for long hours. But while Goldman has taken steps to reduce junior bankers' working hours by banning Saturday working and changing how work is assigned, Bank of America is dragging its feet. Elfring admitted that BAML has no system for monitoring working hours and that it's launched a global review into the issue but hasn't reached any conclusions yet.

In this context, the prevalence of ex-Goldman bankers at Bank of America Merrill Lynch looks curious. Christian Meissner, head of investment banking operations at BAML, spent 10 years during the formative part of his career at Goldman Sachs. Diego de Giorgi, Bank of America's EMEA head of investment banking, joined from Goldman in June 2012. In May 2013, Bank of America hired Luigi Rizzo, another ex-Goldman banker, as head of M&A for EMEA.

M&A at BAML is littered with ex-Goldmanites.

Has BAML imported Goldman's hard-driving culture with all these hires? The bank declined to comment specifically, but said its set up a working group to create "better working patterns and improved work/life balance for future interns, graduate recruits and our broader junior banker community.”

One senior headhunter and ex-M&A banker said the predominance of ex-Goldman bankers at BAML is no big deal. "There are just as many Morgan Stanley bankers there too. Any one of these US banks will work you as hard as the other," she said, speaking anonymously.


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