Goldman Sachs junior bankers report ‘inhumane’ working conditions

Management said it will enforce its ‘Saturday rule’ forbidding work on that day, and blamed high client volumes and the Covid-19 pandemic for added stress levels at the investment bank

The Goldman Sachs building in London in 2016.
The Goldman Sachs building in London in 2016.Carl Court (Getty)
Álvaro Sánchez

An 11-page presentation by first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs has exposed the dark side of the relentless work culture at the US investment bank, with some young employees fearing for their mental health and describing their 95-hour working weeks as “inhumane.”

Their fears were expressed in an internal survey whose findings were presented in February, and which has now made its way to Twitter. Thirteen anonymous first-year analysts exposed a corporate culture that squeezes staff to the limit: they worked an average of 95 hours a week, but often more, and slept an average of five hours each night.

Their testimonies expose how working for the bank has severely impacted their physical and mental health. “There was a point where I was not eating, showering or doing anything else other than working from morning until after midnight,” wrote one analyst. Another described their experience as “beyond the level of ‘hard working’, this is inhumane, abuse.” Some were so stressed by their work that they could no longer switch off. “I can’t sleep anymore because my anxiety levels are through the roof,” wrote a third respondent. All said their relationships with family and friends had suffered, and three-quarters admitted to considering professional help to cope with the stress.

I didn’t come to this job expecting a 9am-5pm, but I also didn’t expect consistent 9am-5ams either
Anonymous first-year analyst at Goldman Sachs

Candidates to Wall Street investment banking jobs are often warned that the work culture is far from the 9-to-5, but many of them believe the promise of extremely high salaries makes the sacrifice worth it in the long term. The reality in the case of Goldman Sachs has exceeded their worst expectations, and the junior bankers anonymized their complaints as a necessary precaution to protect themselves from reprisals. Few people have ever written openly about their experiences at the investment firm, with the exception of former executive Greg Smith, author of the book Why I left Goldman Sachs. The bank is a breeding ground for top officials in the United States, and it also trained Mario Draghi, a former European Central Bank president and the current prime minister of Italy.

The employees’ complaints were accompanied by several requests, among them that first-year analysts should not exceed an 80-hour work week, that rest from 9pm on Friday to Sunday morning should be respected, and that they should have more time to prepare for meetings.

The bank released a statement in which it said: “We recognise that our people are very busy, because business is strong and volumes are at historic levels. 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.” Goldman has promised to enforce the no-work-on-Saturday rule and to transfer employees to departments that are short-staffed.

The accusations also show that action has stalled in avoiding repeats of deaths linked to overwork in the banking industry. In 2013, Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old intern at Bank of America’s London offices, was found lifeless in the shower of his apartment after suffering an epileptic seizure. He had worked 72 hours straight.

Questions will now be raised as to what happened to promises of more humane working conditions. “I didn’t come to this job expecting a 9am-5pm, but I also didn’t expect consistent 9am-5ams either,” wrote one of the junior bankers in the Goldman survey.

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