Wall Street Journal’s Shayndi Raicebroke
the newsthat Goldman Sachs, after seriously scrutinizing the demand it places on entry-level employees, has begun “discouraging investment banking
analysts from working weekends.”
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” a Goldman executive told Bloomberg. And after the death of an overworked Bank of America intern, firms have been cajoled into explaining the treatment of their highly-paid subordinates.
But that well-known sprint — the 100+ hour workweeks, the all-nighters, the glop of 5-hour energy in your morning yogurt — is so canonized in banker culture that it’s hard to imagine things changing.
Compare investment banking with another top profession with famously long entry-level hours — medicine.
Hours for residents are notoriously brutal. So brutal that in 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education capped them at 80 a week, mandating days off and preventing residents from having to work more than 24 continuous hours.
Of course, residents are still overworked, and one of the reasons is similar to banking: Culture. We attendings all had to do it, so you residents do too, the thinking goes.
It’s not all that dissimilar from banking. You have the old-timers who have been through the grind and the youngins eager to put in the time to impress.
In medicine, a lot of that is couched in language about “patient continuity,” the idea that it’s somehow better for you to have one tired doctor than two well-rested ones. While hours are down overall for doctors in the United States, you wouldn’t exactly say the paradigm is shifting for physicians-in-training.
If it’s not going to get easier for medical residents, it’s certainly not going to happen for junior bankers.
Think of the societal consequence of an exhausted doctor versus an exhausted banker. The doctor has the capacity to actually kill someone with her sleeplessness (and for this reason, hours have been curtailed).
But the government won’t step in to “rectify” young banker treatment, as 23-year-olds who make $US140,000 a year don’t tend to invoke a ton of sympathy. We’re left with with Goldman’s word and the culture issue. “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Goldman wants to change the perception that they champion the correlation between hours and output.
To which I say, come on.
Assuming the junior bankers at Goldman are all around the same level of intelligence, and all else equal, an employee who for more hours will be more productive by investment banking standards. Burnout aside, the young banker who works more will generally produce “better” work. This stuff gets noticed. Goldman knows this. The junior bankers — desperate to differentiate themselves from peers saddled with the same grunt work — know this too.
If Goldman wished to slash hours, pay junior bankers less, but hire more of them they would have done it already. Convene all the task forces you want, but this culture will likely endure.
For decades, working hard has been part of the basic bargain of being a young worker on Wall Street. Inside a bank, “staffers” routinely assign complicated projects to young analysts at all hours, and a second shift often begins for young analysts around 7 p.m., when senior bankers leave for the day. Part of this scheduling springs from necessity — a bank’s clients will often demand overnight changes to a pitch book or an Excel model, and that work falls to the lowest workers on the food chain. But it’s also about career advancement. Work ethic is currency on Wall Street, and young workers are rewarded for being available, at all hours, to do any task assigned to them.
Pay on Wall Street may be declining, but it’s still a hot job for elite grads. The culture of long hours isn’t going anywhere.