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08/26/2013

When Bankers Rant: Six Reasons Why Big Banks Are Bad Places to Work


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As anyone who’s worked for a large international bank will know, saying something adverse about your employer in a public forum is cause for instant dismissal. Saying something adverse about your employer even after your employment has terminated can lead to the removal of any stock that has yet to vest and to which you are still entitled despite moving on. Doing anything to damage the reputation of current and past banking employers is a no-no. And yet, employees bitching about investment banks is becoming quite the thing.

A recent study of employees’ online vents, covering all industries, found that there are common catalysts for internet offloading. The most likely cause of bitching about work is being mistreated by a manager, followed by a manager being incompetent, followed by an imbalance in effort and reward, followed by useless colleagues. The researchers found that some companies tolerate low-level bitching: it’s seen as an institutional coping strategy.

Disgruntled bankers now have a number of outlets for their angst, including Glassdoor, Vault, and relative newcomers like InsideBuzz and RateMyPlacement (for interns). Glassdoor grew out of JobVent, a particularly excoriating website which it purchased a few years ago. Across all these sites, we found that bankers’ bitching tends to be provoked by one of the following six things.

1. Overwork

If you work in the front office of an investment bank, overwork is the ubiquitous halitotic beast that will pursue you throughout your career until you lose your job, at which point you may never work again.

On Glassdoor, anonymous Goldman Sachs employees complain of ‘too high’ stress levels and ‘difficult work/life balance.’ A 2012 intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch complains of working 105 hour weeks. On Vault, a Morgan Stanley employee complains of ‘tough hours’, an employee at Citigroup’s Institutional Client Group complains of ‘long unpredictable hours’, and an employee at Evercore says the ‘hours are really bad.’

2. Managerial disconnect

Junior and mid-ranking bankers frequently complain about the disconnect of senior banking executives who have made their money and seemingly don’t care about anyone else. “Management don’t understand how to motivate people or care about their happiness,” complains an alleged Goldman equity researcher on Glassdoor. “This drives high churn and a feeling of discontent amongst (sic) many employees.”

Elsewhere on Glassdoor, a private wealth manager at Goldman complains management is removed from reality. Another purported employee complains that senior staff get paid well while junior staff are paid below average.

3. Inadequate rewards

Even in banking, people feel that they’re underpaid – or at least, that they’re underpaid in relation to the hours they work. For example, we found employees at Goldman Sachs complaining of high hours combined with low pay, while at Morgan Stanley compensation is cited as an issue in the Vault report.

4. Too competitive and political

Employees complain that banks are unpleasant, hyper-competitive places to work. The Vault Report cites Goldman’s ‘Type A’ culture as a downside. InsideBuzz contains reports from employees complaining that Goldman bank is very competitive. A recent Glassdoor review of UBS at London complained that the bank can have an, “aggressive environment” and that senior employees are dissatisfied with Andrea Orcel, who was hired from outside the firm on a giant package. Most damning of all, an anonymous alleged J.P. Morgan employee on Glassdoor accuses the bank of a ‘passive aggressive management culture without direction.’

5. Inability to switch off

If you work for an investment bank, you can never switch off – even at the beach.

This is probably the case in many industries, but it’s something that bankers bitch about. The Vault reviews cite never being disconnected is cited as one of the downsides to working at Morgan Stanley, for example.

6. Too bureaucratic

If you work for a bank – particularly a large universal bank, it can feel like you’re working in a kafkaesque machine. On InsideBuzz, an alleged Credit Suisse banker complains that the Swiss bank is, ‘bureaucratic and slow to adapt.’ Worse, again, is on Glassdoor in reference to JPMorgan, where one reviewer titles his comment, “Hard work for little compensation at bureaucratic beast.”

–Sarah Butcher

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