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The best and worst banks to work for in London, NY and Asia?

Which are the best banks to work for in the world's major financial cities? It's a question that might be answered using the strength of a bank's business in each location, or the amount it pays its people there. Glassdoor has, however, contrived a different approach: it asks verified employees to rate their experience of working for the bank on a scale of one to five.

The results aren't infallible (Glassdoor can attract employees with grievances to air), but they provide comparable metrics for life at each big bank in each big city. Unfortunately they date back to the 'beginning of time' - if Barclays received a lot of one star reviews in New York City after it absorbed Lehman Brothers in 2008, they will still go into the mix today. Similarly, if J.P. Morgan was a great bank to work for in 2012, that will still feed into today's metric.

Nonetheless, the figures are influenced by contemporary ratings and there's some consistency between cities: J.P. Morgan often comes out on top (New York clearly excepted); Barclays often comes out bottom (Singapore clearly excepted). Cit is almost always safely in the middle. On the whole, Singaporeans are the least discerning and give the highest ratings. New Yorkers are the most and give the lowest.

Is J.P. Morgan the best bank to work for in London?

In London, J.P. Morgan comes top among the big banks on Glassdoor's listings. Barclays and then Deutsche Bank come bottom - although Barclays may be absolved by the fact that its figures are for the bank as a whole rather than just the investment bank and may therefore be influenced by disgruntled call centre staff in Derby.

What makes J.P. Morgan so great? Seemingly representative comments left by a former VP in technology last month suggest it's fair but demanding, and less hierarchical than other banks. An FX and rates professional says staff are "friendly" and there's plenty of opportunity for movement across the firm. It's accredited with being "dynamic," "supportive" and offering interesting work.

By comparison, at the bottom end of the scale, Barclays employees complain of "massive bureaucracy," and outdated technology. Despite heavy investment in new staff this year, one former employee of Barclays' investment bank complained this month that it's "very much a second tier bank" now. A senior London director complained in June that Barclays is far too political and hierarchical and that "a few rotten apples in senior leadership ruining the culture for the whole firm."

Deutsche Bank's London reviews are also informative. The German bank's most recent employee satisfaction survey suggested things are looking up and that over half its employees are now happy to work there. However, there are some signs of recent grumbling on Glassdoor. A compliance analyst says "morale is low" due to the "difficult times." A VP in control says it's bureaucratic and "decision making is painfully slow," and a technology VP complains of too much cost cutting. Predictably, there's also some griping about last year's bonus round.  

Is Goldman Sachs the best bank to work for in New York City?

While Goldman Sachs doesn't come out top in London (far from it), it's victorious in NYC. There, Goldman's staff rate it for "top notch talent across all levels," a "collaborative environment",  "super smart people" and, "management dedication to career development." It's also lauded for "exit opportunities" and "challenging work," but there are some significant gripes about working hours. "Work work work... there is really no quality of life. Your time spent in the office is far more than the time spent at home. More than severe than imagined," complained one VP in May.

While Goldman is top in NYC, Barclays and Deutsche (again) come bottom of the pile. At Barclays, there are complaints of "office politics," "petty fiefdoms" and low pay. There are complains of too many CEOs in too short a space of time (three in five years). And there are claims that Barclays needs to be invest more heavily in technology (in fact, this is already happening). At Deutsche Bank, the complaints in NYC are of last year's miserable compensation round, "dysfunctional and broken processes," dated technology, poor morale, too much cost cutting and few opportunities for progress.

Is J.P. Morgan the best bank to work for in Singapore?

J.P. Morgan is back on top in Asia. The U.S. bank's employees in Singapore gush heavily about its generous allocation of annual leave (21 days!). There's also a lot of enthusiasm for the vibe, which is alternately described as "excellent," "collaborative," and "comfortable." It's seemingly easy to get promoted and you won't be worked to death.

By comparison, the Swiss banks - UBS and Credit Suisse - both of which have a significant private banking presence in Singapore, vie for the least popular slot among the island's generally appreciative employees. At Credit Suisse, an operations analyst complains that all the decisions are made in Europe, that pay rarely increases and that you can "lose your job anytime due to cost cutting." At UBS, a programme manager observes the existence of a "big Swiss fetish for control," which sounds interesting if nothing else.

Is Goldman Sachs the best bank to work for in Hong Kong?

In Hong Kong, the global reality reasserts itself and Barclays is back on the bottom. Following cuts to the bank's Asian equities business in 2016, there are complaints of instability, tactical shrinkage and "terrible management of employees" throughout the restructuring process.

Goldman Sachs, on the other hand, is popular with Hong Kong staff (in fact, GS's Hong Kong office ranks as the most popular place to work for any bank in any major financial city). One technologist there says the work is "satisfying" and well paid. A Hong Kong associate suggests Goldman's leaders make "wise strategic decisions." The people at GS HK are deemed to be smart, the culture is deemed to be open and the hierarchy is deemed to be flat. Even so, there are the perpetual gripes about working hours (someone complains of 3am calls, someone else complains of working 24/7 and spending no time with the family and having no time to "enjoy life" in Hong Kong.") Allegedly, Goldman's HK office is understaffed and it's very hard to take holiday when you want. - Even if you work for the happiest banking office in the whole world, there are going to be a few issues.



Photo credit: Formula One World Championship by alessio mazzocco is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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