It’s often said that crazy working hours in banks are an intergenerational norm and that the reason today’s young bankers are expected to work 80-hour weeks is that their predecessors did it, as did the predecessors before them. Extreme work is an institutional memory that a few edicts to work less on Saturdays are unlikely to resolve. But what if it was never as bad as this before?
This is the main thrust of a thread on forum website Wall Street Oasis started by a third year associate in an LBO fund. Sometimes seen as a lifestyle upgrade compared to investment banking, the associate suggests that moving to private equity resolves no lifestyle issues at all and could instead make your life worse. – You’re still working until 4am; you’re still creating models “10x more complex than could ever be necessary; “you’re still “competing with type A sycophantic humorless freaks;” and you’re still “wasting the best years of your life enriching people wealthier than you ever will be given the glory days of this industry are a decade plus behind us.”
Worse, the associate says the current bosses in private equity and in banking, don’t really understand what it’s like for junior bankers now because things have changed so dramatically since they were juniors themselves. “There were no cell phones, barely any email, and Excel hardly existed when they were your age,” says the associate. “Now they email you from their Hamptons home, ‘Would be interesting to see a scenario where…'”
This is a problem, because it seems that not only are the MDs completely out of touch with the workload of juniors, but they don’t offer any protection from the over-zealousness of mid-ranking staff. “The MDs have no sympathy for the analysts/associates because they never had it this bad,” reflects another associate. “The VPs have no sympathy because they want us to suffer like they did. Everyone thinks every task takes a quarter of the time it actually does, and all they can muster is a half-assed “Thanks for all the hard work, etc. etc.” IF THAT.”
This isn’t the first time senior bankers have been lambasted for their insensitivity. In the run-up to the release of the Goldman Sachs juniors’ complaints about their working hours earlier this year, GS managing directors reportedly refused to recognize that there was an issue, with one suggesting juniors simply eat ramen if they didn’t have time to shop for food.
The complaints are unlikely to go away. One solution might be for senior bankers to do a short life swap with juniors so that they can understand what it’s like to do the job in a hyper-connected world. Another is for juniors to walk away and do something less demanding. But this is unlikely too. “I’m too addicted to the lifestyle to get off without a plan,” confesses one associate. “I’m addicted to spending money, so here I am in a self-loathing Catch 22,” admits another.
Sarah Butcher – Read more on efinancialcareers.com