by Sarah Butcher 26th April 2018.
If you work in the financial services industry and you want to be well-rested, you might want to avoid the sell-side (investment banks). You might want to especially avoid investment banking divisions (IBD) where M&A and equity and debt capital markets deals happen. You might also want to avoid working in Singapore. And you could always sidestep Goldman Sachs.
The truth about banking jobs and sleep.
Over 2,200 of you responded. Most of you (around 60%) said you were tired or exhausted. Some of you, however, were more exhausted than others.
This, then, is what you told us.
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Investment banking divisions (IBD) have a reputation for long hours. If you come across someone putting-in an 80-100 week, he or she will almost certainly be in IBD. IBD respondents from New York City to Europe to Australia complained of 80-100 weeks, working in “sweatshops,” making the wrong career choices and having their lives “ruined.” One 20-something London analyst said she sleeps four hours on weeknights and catches up at weekends.
An NYC investment banker said it’s not so much the hours but the intensity and unpredictability that’s killer: “Week in, week out, year in, year out….the next surprise all-nighter is always one email or press release away from coming to get you.”
22% of respondents in investment banking divisions said they had less than five hours’ sleep each night. This might be why 20% of them also confessed to being strung out and exhausted (another 47% were “tired.”) By comparison, only 5% of technology professionals said they get less than five hours’ sleep each night and only 11% are on the verge of collapse.
The ongoing exhaustion in IBD comes despite banks’ efforts to curtail working hours for junior staff. Banks’ initiatives mostly involve mandatory time off at weekends, but IBD juniors said they haven’t done much good. There are complaints that “protected weekends” aren’t enforced, that the “Saturdays off” rule simply means longer hours on Thursdays and Fridays, and that while Saturday is a rest day, Sunday is back to work.
This doesn’t mean, however, that technology professionals in financial services have it easy. 55% of our tech respondents said they were still tired or exhausted (although none admitted to being strung-out and barely functioning).
One Bank of America Merrill Lynch technology professional said the late night calls from other time zones are the real killer in IT.
The surprise (or maybe not to those who work in it) result for divisional fatigue came from combined risk, compliance and finance teams – the so-called “control functions”.
Here, 18% of our respondents said they were getting less than five hours sleep’ and the same proportion (unsurprisingly) said they were exhausted or totally strung out. Some blamed stress.
Others blamed lower pay: because control professionals are paid less than front office bankers and traders, they live further out where housing is cheaper. This means longer commute times. Longer commute times mean less time in bed.
By comparison, sales and trading jobs look like a good option for people who want to earn good money and be well-rested.
However, they too have their downsides. Sales and trading professionals go to bed early (50% are in bed before 10pm). But they also get up early (50% are up before 6am). Although one respondent said sales and trading hours are more “humane”, another Goldman Sachs trader said it’s difficult to switch off and that, “Working 7am to 8-9 pm in sales and trading, and keeping track of the night’s news keeps you under, “work and sleepless mode,” for at least 14-15 hours a day, with no lunch and breakfast breaks during the day.”
One London trader in his late 20s said juniors on structured product and exotics desks have it worse: they have to be in early and stay late to check risk. “You’re also expected to read all the research you are interested in, all the while being sharp. It’s a very tough position,” he said.