Have work hours at investment banks gotten worse?

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Everyone who accepts a job at an investment bank knows they are in for extremely long workdays for the foreseeable future. Yet it’s not supposed to be as bad as it once was. Banks began rolling out new policies starting in 2013, like protected weekends at J.P. Morgan and the “Saturday rule” at Goldman Sachs, which bars analysts and associates from the office from 9pm on Friday until 9am on Sunday, pending rare exceptions. Most every other bank soon followed with mandates of their own.

Five years later, questions remain whether working hours for juniors have truly been scaled back, at least at some banks. A new report from Wall Street Oasis suggests that the top offenders haven’t done much to clean up their act. The survey looked at the 30 firms with the longest working hours, as self-reported by bankers. The average work-week for investment bankers at those firms was 82.3 hours in 2018, down a touch from 83.1 hours in 2013 before work-life balance issues became front-page news. However, the 2018 average for those 30 banks eclipses that of last year, 81.3 hours, suggesting that the worst-of-the-worst are actually adding to the workload of junior bankers.

Current investment bankers tell us to take the survey with a grain of salt. “I find it very difficult to believe that anyone is averaging 80-plus hours a week these days,” said one VP at a large New York bank. “I’m sure there are crazy weeks here and there where they’ll near [80 hours], but no one averages that over the course of a year anymore.”

A former Deutsche Bank associate agreed, but said she wasn’t surprised with the results. “Bankers love to bitch about their hours. Everyone always over-exaggerates. Take the [self-reported numbers] and knock off 15-20%,” she said.

Working hours are still longest at boutiques and small firms. Experts contend that boutiques tend to provide junior investment bankers with a more interesting workday than big banks – with more time dedicated to execution than putting together pitchbooks. But it seems that workday also happens to be longer. However, the hours don’t seem to have much ill effect. The same survey placed Evercore, Moelis and Lazard in the top 5 in terms of overall employee satisfaction.

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