Getting a job in investment banking has historically been a big goal of university students for generations. It was viewed as the ticket to building incredible wealth and achieving a high level of social status. The profession, dealing with mergers and acquisitions, taking companies public with IPOs or trading stocks and bonds, appears to be an attractive and exciting career from the outside perspective.
As Silicon Valley and tech companies boomed, it stole some of the thunder from Wall Street, as young people wanted to ditch the confining suits and ties, in favor of jeans and hoodies. Hot startups and jobs with big-name companies, like Twitter, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, offer intellectually challenging jobs and the chance to receive stock and options that could earn a windfall for workers who were in the right place at the right time.
With the ascension of cryptocurrencies, cool new FinTech companies, like Robinhood and other newly emerging types of sectors like the cannabis industry, have also attracted potential would-be bankers.
The image of Wall Street firms and investment bankers have further lost some of its luster. A new report of “inhumane” 100-hour workweeks has further tarnished the banker brand. High-end investment bank Goldman Sachs was accused by junior employees of having to endure terrible work conditions.
The New York Times reported, “A group of 13 disgruntled first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs has made waves by assembling a professional-looking presentation in the company’s style about their experiences at the investment bank. The resulting “Working Conditions Survey” (polling the 13 analysts who created the slide deck) that circulated on social media this week said that they worked an average of around 100 hours per week, with most saying that they considered themselves victims of workplace abuse.”
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The presentation, based upon the survey of analysts, showed a slide deck reflecting over 95-hour workweeks. The bankers complained of only having about five hours of sleep, starting at about 3 a.m. The young analysts said they suffered from “workplace abuse,” which adversely affected their mental and physical health. It also took a toll on their personal relationships.
There were also claims of “excessive monitoring or micromanagement” and a high level of dissatisfaction in their jobs.
One of the slides offered the following glimpse into the life of a young Goldman banker:
- “The sleep deprivation, the treatment by senior bankers, the mental and physical stress…I’ve been through foster care and this is arguably worse.”
- “My body physically hurts all the time and mentally I’m in a really dark place.”
- “Being unemployed is less frightening to me than what my body might succumb to if I keep up this lifestyle.”
- “There was a point where I was not eating, showering or doing anything else other than working from morning until after midnight.”
- “What is not ok to me is 110-120 hours over the course of a week! The math is simple, that leaves 4 hours a day for eating, sleeping, showering, bathroom and general transition time. This is beyond the level of ‘hard working,’ this is inhumane/abuse.”
Roughly five years ago, a Goldman Sachs analyst was found dead hours after complaining to his father of ‘100-hour workweeks. The heartbreaking piece in the Independent told the story of the young banker. “Officials in San Francisco are investigating the death of a young analyst at Goldman Sachs who complained to his father of working ‘100 hour weeks’, hours before his body was found in the car park next to his apartment.
The authorities have said they believe Sarvshreshth Gupta, 22, killed himself after working through the night and struggling to match the demands he felt under.
The graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, who was born in New Delhi, told his father, Sunil, “This job is not for me. Too much work and too little time.”
A Goldman Sachs spokesperson said about the matter, “We recognize that our people are very busy, because business is strong and volumes are at historic levels.” The company’s representative added, “A year into Covid, people are understandably quite stretched, and that’s why we are listening to their concerns and taking multiple steps to address them.”
It’s easy to castigate Goldman as the villain. In reality our, workism is part of American culture. We worship those who fabulously succeed, like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. Hustle-porn purveyors tell us that you have to wake up super early in the morning and “kill it” all day long into the night, and weekends too.
There is another thing to consider. It’s nearly impossible to become highly successful and rich by working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You’ll notice that people who excel in their fields tend to put in long grueling hours. It runs the gamut, including athletes, attorneys at a law firm, entrepreneurs or investment bankers. The more someone works at their profession, usually the better they get at it, which leads to success. This is the price people have to pay. It’s not a pleasant thing to talk about, but putting in time and effort is necessary. To be fair, everyone has their limits. Some people would rather work less hours and not earn as much as the person who is “crushing it” all of the time—and that’s fine.
No one should feel pushed or pressured to the breaking point. People have to figure out their own level of commitment and what they feel comfortable doing to advance their careers. Perhaps, a few of the analysts who feel mistreated now, may end up becoming wealthy, successful, happy and well-adjusted bankers—and this was a grueling initiation. Others may say it’s not worth it to harm their mental and physical health and lose out on family, friends and relationships.
This is partly a cautionary tale for people to think about what they want in life and what they would endure to achieve their goals.