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Morning Coffee: Associate tells manager 120-hour weeks are abuse. Deutsche Bank's difficulties

Burning the candle at both ends leads to burnout.

Have you ever had a boss that you couldn’t stand and wished you could tell a thing or two without fear of reprisal? Well, a former investment banking associate did just that in an anonymous first-person letter addressed to a former manager.

Published in the Guardian, the letter noted the “long hours and a complete work-life imbalance” at the investment bank, but admitted “I loved the good salary, the rush and the sense of achievement I got from structuring exotic deals. I was committed.”

After witnessing the breakdown of a fellow associate, the writer felt pride for holding up, not sympathy, having been hardened to pressure and inculcated with the fear of being perceived as “too soft.”

However,  working 20-hour days, 120-hour weeks and being on-call 24/7 eventually made the associate feel like “a piece of gum that has been chewed up and mangled” – “constantly jittery and on edge.”

When the banker mentioned this to the boss, they said: “Good! This means we’re training you well.” The physical and mental health of the team wasn’t an issue.

After four years of exhausting, well-paid work, the associate’s body was collapsing. That’s when the rebellion began.

“I began arriving to work later than usual and I even started taking time to eat a proper breakfast and lunch. I worked overtime, but I left before late evening and started turning off my phone at weekends. I caught up on sleep.”

The boss “would shout and scream that if I didn’t work harder, I would miss out on my bonus. You also dumped work on me at all hours and then disappeared for unexplained absences during the day.”

But even after getting promoted and moving to another team, something wasn’t right. So the banker quit to pursue something else: becoming an actor. “I want to thank you for treating me like a mangled piece of gum, because your hardened attitude helped me to realise life is too short to live for money,” he concluded as he left to follow his dreams.

Separately, Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan’s problems keep piling up as he tries to revive the lender’s growth and increase market share.

First, Autonomous Research said the lender may be “beyond repair” unless there’s a “miracle” boom at its once-mighty bond-trading business.

Then, Fitch Ratings cut Deutsche Bank’s long-term credit grade cut one level, saying the bank will take longer to revive growth under its current turnaround plan: “We no longer expect revenue to demonstrate any clear signs of franchise recovery this year, and we expect necessary further restructuring costs to continue to erode net income.” Then a major shareholder warned that CEO John Cryan has six months to turn the bank around or he'll have to go.

To make matters worse, Deutsche Bank has to pay $190m to settle U.S. litigation accusing it of rigging prices in the roughly $5.1 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market, Reuters reports.

Cryan said that the bank needs to focus more on generating revenue after its current restructuring drive to reduce costs.


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Photo credit: georgeclerk/GettyImages

AUTHORDan Butcher US Editor

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