Thoughts on the Current State of Investment Banking Culture
Are regulations needed to protect junior level bankers and improve productivity?
Employee productivity is at the forefront of all business leaders’ minds, but what happens when working more doesn’t equate to being more productive? What happens when long hours, intended to close deals, improve business, or serve more customers, actually lead to employee fatigue? More importantly, what happens when this employee fatigue becomes borderline dangerous and/or abusive?
Regulating personnel hours is nothing new in many economic arenas. For instance, back in February, Uber rolled out a new cap on drivers’ hours, stating that after 12 consecutive hours of work a six hour break was required.
Similarly, about four years ago, the airline industry implemented a pilot fatigue rule.
Perhaps it is time to do something similar for the investment banking community
Now, here me out...
I am certainly not saying everyone needs to go to a 40 hour work week; however, enacting some common sense rules for junior level investment bankers and interns could not only be easily accomplished, but also could improve company morale, employee mental health, and productivity.
Think of the idea as a junior level banker protection pack.
Perhaps the protection pack would call for something as simple, and humane, as a 15 hour cap - after 15 consecutive hours in the office, the banker has to leave for a determined length of time; or perhaps banks could look to cap weekend hours by not allowing the junior level banker to work both all day Saturday and all day Sunday.
There has been a trend toward "protected Saturdays" but it is not industry wide. Maybe it is even as easy as allowing these bankers to work a bit from home after an exceptionally taxing week.
There is currently no regulation in this area of investment banking and, consequently, the data and stories behind what working 110 hours a week on a regular basis leads to is scary
For instance, it is believed that working such a high number of hours back to back weeks can unearth underlying mental health issues, such as depression. The CDC states that working long hours is “associated with health and safety risks.” In addition, workers become less efficient the more tired they become.
A few years ago a study from Stanford University found that once people work over a certain number of hours (about 55-60), productivity levels drop.
Finally, we often see interns who are chronically overworked at specific banks fail to accept full time offers at these banks. This failure translates to an inefficient workplace: time spent educating the lost interns becomes wasted effort and new effort needs to focus on hiring and training new interns- this becomes a cycle of lost/added work unless action is taken to move interns into full-time roles.
I believe most banks treat their bankers and interns very well; therefore, complying with rules that simply make sense will be very easy. What a set of industry standards would do is simply remove the abusers. This issue can be readily solved with some practical thinking.
In addition, technology can help by allowing bankers to complete work outside of the office.
Similarly, implementing proper investment banking data rooms and processes can also aid productivity and limit some extraneous hours spent in the office.