In the words of hedge fund legend Leon Cooperman, “Never do anything in life if what you did appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times [and] you would be embarrassed.”
A second-year bank analyst learned just this lesson the hard way this week.
Justin Kwan, an analyst in Barclays’ global power and utilities group, sent an email to his group’s incoming interns with the subject line “Welcome to the Jungle.”
The email was subsequently forwarded to the Wall Street Journaland quickly picked up in the financial media.
The email, which was mean to be funny (it actually sort of is), detailed “10 Power Commandments.”
Here’s a sample:
“Commandment” 3: “We expect you to be the last ones to leave every night….no matter what. That’s what good summer analysts do. (Also getting in earlier than me would be a power move – You should enjoy your casual 9:15AM PT arrival time this Friday, but I wouldn’t get used to it).”
“Commandment” 7: “I recommend bringing a pillow to the office (yoga mat works as well). It makes sleeping under your desk [a lot] more comfortable, in the very likely scenario that you have to do that.”
Barclays said in a statement that the email was in “no way authorised” by the firm. We can only imagine what that conversation could have been like with management or HR for the young analyst. Yipes!
This email, though, could not have come at a worse time for Wall Street. Yes, we get that the email was meant to be a joke. But there’s an element of truth in jokes, especially the part about working long hours.
Kwan’s email was sent the same day a story came out in The New York Times and other outlets about a heartbreaking essay written by the father of a deceased Goldman Sachs analyst. The essay, which has since been removed from Medium, was about how his son was dealing with stress and working long hours before his untimely death this spring.
Here’s an excerpt:
April, 16, 2015, 3.10 pm, India time. That is,+ 12.30 hours, California time. He calls us and says, ‘it is too much. I have not slept for two days, have a client meeting tomorrow morning, have to complete a presentation, my VP is annoyed and I am working alone in my office.’
Sarvshreshth Gupta, who worked as a tech/media/telecom analyst in Goldman‘s San Francisco office, was found dead in a parking lot by his apartment building shortly after that conversation with his father. It’s believed that he may have fallen from the building, Dealbook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin reported citing police sources. An official cause of death has not been released yet.
Wall Street is famous for its insanely long hours as well as its lucrative paychecks/bonuses. Working on Wall Street is hard. It always has been.
In the last two years, though, stress and long hours for junior-level bank employees has come under scrutiny. This conversation really began back in August 2013 when Bank of America intern Mortiz Erhardt died after reportedly working consecutive all-nighters at the bank’s London office.
Additionally, there have been a number of suicides and unexpected deaths among financial-services employees. In May, Thomas Hughes, a 29-year-old banker from Moelis & Co., died after leaping from his luxury apartment building in downtown Manhattan. His father told the Daily Mail that his didn’t have much free-time from work and that “…at a time when he was under stress he probably resorted to illegal drugs, causing this incredibly poor judgement…”
Banks have been trying to do more to improve the lifestyles of their employees, especially the younger ones. A handful of firms have implemented policies where junior bankers are supposed to unplug on weekends, even from email.
Goldman makes it so Saturdays are off for their junior bankers. JPMorgan offers one “protected weekend” for the younger employees to sleep in and rest up. Lower-level employees at Bank of America Merrill Lynch are required to take four weekend days off each month.
There’s definitely been a genuine push from the upper echelons of Wall Street to make the work-life better for the younger employees. The fact is it really comes down to the managers and other team members such as the VPs and associates to implement these policies on their respective desks.
So going back to the email, there’s a broader lesson (maybe lessons) to be learned for Wall Street. You want to bring on and retain the best possible talent. Internships are a fantastic way to get to know if someone is a great fit. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for the intern to see if they want to work for you. You don’t want a rockstar intern on your desk heading to a competitor because they didn’t like the culture. So maybe think before dropping a boatload of work on their desk at 7 p.m. on a Friday just because your superiors did that to you.
This isn’t the first time an embarrassing email has been sent to the press. Believe us, we’ve seen plenty of them over the years from an aspiring analyst calling recruiters at one bank “boners” and having it get back to them to the summer intern telling colleagues that they could use fake IDs. It certainly won’t be the last email either. So keep that in mind before pressing send.