The summer interns are here: "I expect to work from 9am to 2am"
If Generation Z are supposed to want flexibility and work-life balance, someone forgot to communicate this to the young people who are turning up to work in banks this summer: they expect to work hard and are already fully psyched-up to do so.
"I'm ready to work long hours," says a summer analyst who's joining Morgan Stanley's investment banking division (IBD). "It will probably be up until midnight, but maybe until 1am or 2am." Another intern, who's joining Rothschild is even more ambitious: "I expect to work from 9am to 2am," he says. "It's not constant work throughout and you do get a bit of downtime, but I've been told the work doesn't really get started until the later hours anyway."
All of the incoming 2018 interns we spoke to discussed their expectations for the summer on anonymous basis. Banks require them to sign contracts agreeing not to speak to the media.- Intern working hours are a touchy subject ever since Bank of America IBD intern Moritz Erhardt died of natural causes after working for an alleged 72 hours straight in 2013.
Since then, some - but not all - banks have imposed restrictions on the number of hours interns can work. Goldman Sachs, for example, issued an edict in 2015 stating that interns have to stay out of the office between midnight and 7am on weekdays; this still stands. Bank of America interns are not supposed to work between midnight and 9am, or to work weekends.
At other banks, long hours for interns are less heavily proscribed. At J.P. Morgan, for example, interns are expected to work the same hours as other employees (who get one full weekend off each month), although interns' hours are also carefully monitored and reported to HR weekly. At Morgan Stanley, there are no restrictions at all, but interns' working practices are again carefully watched.
Hours are longest in investment banking divisions. Interns in other banking divisions are less ready for a summer of sleep-deprivation. One intern coming into Goldman Sachs' operations division said she expects to work from 9am to 7pm on weekdays only. Another intern arriving on Morgan Stanley's trading floor, said he expects 6.30am to 6pm to be the norm.
None of the interns we spoke to were compelled to put in 10 to 17 hour days by the banks they're working for. They were all choosing to. "It's the culture of the team," said the Rothschild intern. "It's just implicit." An intern at Morgan Stanley said he'd been invited to sign a form agreeing to work more than 48 hours a week (this is the norm under the European working time directive) and had done so. - In an industry where over 100 people are chasing each job, refusing to sign is a death knell for your future banking career.
Interns are well paid for their commitment. This year, the going rate for 10-12 weeks at a big bank over the summer in London is £50k ($66k) pro-rated (ie around £970 a week), plus a £1k signing bonus. Last year, some interns told us they received £48k pro-rated for their internships, so intern pay appears to be rising.
Even so, new interns are advised to be mindful of their health. Last year, an IBD intern who regularly worked until 4am complained of gaining weight and losing friends. In 2016, a doctor was summoned to Goldman Sachs in Frankfurt when a young banker (not an intern) collapsed at 2.30am. He'd come into the office and stayed late despite feeling unwell because he was working on a live deal.
This summer's interns may not necessarily get to work on live deals, but they will have the thrill of competing for a job offer. In doing so, they need to pace themselves - and to remember that it's not just about being first in and last out. Receiving an offer at the end of a summer internship is also about networking and establishing which teams are and aren't hiring: you can work all the 17 hour days you like, but it will make no difference if the team you're in doesn't need to recruit any juniors for 2019.
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