Goldman Sachs complaints show long hours and Covid does not mix

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Goldman Sachs complaints show long hours and Covid does not mix


The PowerPoint presentation in which 13 young Goldman Sachs analysts complained of being overworked and disrespectful sharply divided opinion.

“Snowflakes,” mocked one bank executive, remembering that he too worked 95 hours a week when the flow of transactions was high. And if 92% of them felt “ignored” during meetings: “They are 22 years old and have been working for less than a year. What can they add? “CNBC’s Jim Cramer was equally sneaky:” If they can’t live four hours [sleep] they should be miserable, ” he tweeted.

But others called the long hours ” hazing formAnd argued that the culture on Wall Street must change to diversify the workforce and compete for the best talent.

Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon attempted to divide the difference in a recorded message to staff over the weekend. “We want a workplace where people can freely share their concerns,” he said, promising stricter enforcement of the existing ban on requiring young bankers to work on Saturdays. But he asked the staff to continue to “go the extra mile for our client, even when we feel like we are reaching our limit.”

The divisions underline three things. Despite reform efforts after a Bank of America intern died from an epileptic seizure in 2013, the investment bank remains somewhat of a well-paid sweat shop. Millennials and Gen Z workers are more willing to challenge their bosses than their predecessors. And the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the conflict that followed.

Financial and professional services firms are out of step in areas related to equity capital markets: initial public offerings, mergers and acquisitions and private equity. Complaints of burnout and overwork are on the rise, though few match the Goldman 11-page slide set for more details. On the Wallstreetoasis website, one person wrote: “At UBS it’s the same here. Wanting to die ”. Junior employees of private equity firm Apollo thought they were “paid to grind.” And a partner at US law firm Latham & Watkins told the Financial Times that the work “permeated every moment of waking (and sometimes sleeping).”

The outpouring comes as most workplaces are already grappling with clashes between senior executives and Gen Z and Gen Z workers who refuse to sit quietly in their allotted places. “There is less tolerance for abuse and more of a feeling that when you are being abused you should speak out,” says a senior Goldmanite who expresses underhand sympathy.

Covid has only boiled this toxic stew. With most white-collar workers still working from home, the lines between work and home are even blurred. Remote working also takes away the social benefits of long hours: camaraderie, contact with senior bankers, even bragging rights. Instead of sharing late-night takeaways with co-workers, many analysts are living at home and pushing aside the worries of protective parents.

Remote work has been a disaster for banks and other businesses that rely on a learning model. Many of the younger workers, including the complaining Goldman analysts, have never met their bosses in person. Juniors feel less connected to the institution and seniors find it difficult to judge when subordinates are in trouble.

This is one of the reasons many senior bankers, including Solomon, are pushing for people to return to the office. And there’s a mad rush at Goldman, UBS and elsewhere to hire more junior bankers to help share the load.

As they scramble, the big banks should take a look at how Jefferies has responded to the pandemic. The midsize investment bank reported record net income last year and business continues to climb. But the group, which lost their CFO to complications from Covid in March 2020, have been quicker than most to focus on wellness issues and overwork.

The bank has recruited a small group of additional analysts who began in January to help reduce the workload; its 2021 analyst class will also be around 40% larger. Last week, the company emailed all 1,124 analysts and associates giving them the choice of a Peloton, Mirror or Apple Watch fitness pack as “a sign of our deep appreciation.”

Admittedly, it’s easier for Jefferies to make quick changes: its entire workforce is about half the size of Goldman’s analyst cadre. But Jefferies HR Director Cary Friedman is clear he wants the benefits to last. While its $ 3 million fitness initiative proves the company cares, “our ultimate goal is to make sure through our various efforts. . . they have time to use it, ”he says.

It would be money well spent.

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Follow Brooke Masters with myFT and on Twitter



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