Intern death questions banking culture
Reports suggest the Univ. of Michigan intern worked overnight three consecutive days
August 21, 2013, 12:22 pm · Updated August 21, 2013, 3:06 pm·
A 21-year-old University of Michigan student intern at Bank of America’s London office died suddenly on Aug. 15 at his student residential facility, raising concerns about work hours in the investment banking industry.
While the intern’s official cause of death has yet to be determined, reports have suggested that he worked for three consecutive days.
The possibility of overwork is not necessarily surprising to those who know the industry. Pat Rose, director of Career Services, said that the many Penn students who take internships or full time positions in finance thrive on the fast pace of working on deals with strict deadlines. She added that “young people who go to work in investment banking and similar fields need to be aware” of the long hours they will likely work, saying 16 or 18 hour days are not uncommon.
“If you are in a group where there is some sort of deal being done — an initial public offering or a merger, for example — those things are very time sensitive,” and require people to work late to get the deal done, said Rose.
Wharton senior Andrew Yi, who concentrates in finance and management and interned at Bank of America this summer, said he “wasn’t too shocked” upon hearing of the intern’s death.
“In the finance industry, everyone is pushing really hard to impress upper management,” Yi said. “People are generally hardworking, not just in investment banking but in finance in general.”
Yi said that he intentionally applied for a job in Bank of America’s sales and trading department instead of in investment banking because of the hours. “I knew hours in investment banking are pretty grueling,” he said, “and I even ended up working longer hours than I had expected.” He sometimes woke up as early as 4:30 a.m. and left the office as late as 9 p.m.
Many other Penn student interns contacted for interviews declined to comment on the topic because of rigid restrictions their companies impose on interaction with the media.
“The intern’s death is really sad,” said Yi. “It really opened up my eyes to how unregulated the working conditions are in finance.”