June 16, 2024

KT Business

The Business Servicess On for You

Stress, Pressure And 100-Hour Workweeks

4 min read

The investment banking profession, encompassing activities such as facilitating mergers and acquisitions, orchestrating initial public offerings for companies and trading stocks and bonds, has long been regarded as a pathway to amassing substantial wealth and societal prestige, making it an alluring career choice for generations of aspiring professionals.

However, extreme working hours and poor work-life balance for junior bankers at major investment banks have come into focus, following the recent deaths of two Bank of America employees.

Leo Lukenas, a 35-year-old former Green Beret and associate at BofA who worked on transactions for financial-services companies, died of an “acute coronary artery thrombus” on May 2, according to the New York Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Although the coroner’s report did not directly link Lukenas’ working schedule to his cause of death, an executive recruiter told Reuters in an interview that the banker said he was working over 100 hours a week.

Douglas Walters, a managing partner at GrayFox Recruitment, was in touch with Lukenas, as he was allegedly seeking a new job with less-demanding work hours, Reuters reported.

Walters told the news publication that Lukenas asked if working 110 hours a week was normal by Wall Street’s standards.

A spokesperson for the bank said in an emailed statement to Business Insider, “We are very saddened by the loss of our teammate. We continue to focus on doing whatever we can to support the family and our team, especially those who worked closely with him.”

Bank of America reportedly has a system in place to monitor burnout, which is internally known as the “banker’s diary.” Employees who work more than 100 hours a week are said to receive a wellness check-in with human resources.

This month, 25-year-old Adnan Deumic, a credit portfolio and algorithmic trader at BofA in London, also died of a suspected heart attack while playing soccer at a company outing, according to Bloomberg, becoming the second young fatality for the big bank in recent weeks.

“The death of our teammate is a tragedy, and we are shocked by the sudden loss of a popular, young colleague,” a representative for Bank of America said. “We are committed to providing our full support to Adnan’s family, his friends and to our many employees grieving his loss.”

What It’s Like For A Young Banker

The long, grueling work schedule takes its toll on young bankers. In 2021, a group of 13 first-year analysts made a slide-deck presentation detailing their work experience at Goldman Sachs. A Working Conditions Survey, which polled the self-selected analysts, circulated on social media and revealed they had been working over 95-hour workweeks.

The bankers complained of only getting five hours of sleep, starting at about 3 a.m. The young analysts said they suffered from “workplace abuse,” which allegedly adversely affected their mental and physical health.

As a result, Goldman Sachs CEO said the investment bank would enforce its “Saturday rule,” which would not require employees to work from 9 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Sunday, except in certain circumstances

“This is something that our leadership team and I take very seriously,” Solomon said in a voice message sent to staff.

The Intense Culture

The investment banking industry has long been criticized for its grueling work culture, with junior bankers often feeling pressured to work over 100 hours per week to impress managers and advance their careers.

They are frequently assigned mundane, time-consuming tasks that keep them at the office late into the night, while senior dealmakers leave earlier.

The intense competition, constant deadlines, aggressive atmosphere, high-stress environment and lack of work-life balance have been linked to mental health issues and burnout among financial services employees, with many considering leaving their jobs due to the impact on their well-being.

Young investment bankers are increasingly being hospitalized with heart conditions, Business Insider reported. Dr. Arjun Ghosh, a London cardiologist, said he has seen a 10% rise in cardiac arrest among bankers under the age of 30 in the last decade.

To cope with the immense stress and sleep deprivation, some employees may turn to substance abuse, further exacerbating their health issues. The detrimental impact on well-being makes it challenging for banks to retain talent, as employees seek better work-life balance and healthier environments elsewhere.

While some banks have increased compensation, implemented policies to track working hours and restrict weekend work for junior staff, critics argue these measures are easily circumvented and that a deeper cultural shift is needed.

Following the deaths of the two BofA employees, Jennifer Piepszak, co-CEO of the commercial and investment bank at JPMorgan, told investors, “There is nothing, nothing that is more important than the health and well-being of our employees, and we’re aware of those stories and they are tragic and incredibly sad.”

JPMorgan’s executive management met with the head of human resources to address this issue, according to CEO Jamie Dimon, as the bank focuses on work-life balance initiatives for its own staff, Reuters reported.

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