I-banking interns say workload won't change despite 'protected weekends'
For the first time, interns at many investment banks will get at least one weekend off per month
February 10, 2014, 12:28 pm·
Last summer, Moritz Erhardy, 21, an intern at the investment banking division of Bank of America Merrill Lynch died in his apartment in London. He pulled three all-nighters in a row. The incident triggered discussion on Wall Street about reducing hours for junior bankers.
“I was interning when the news came out,” a Wharton and College senior who interned at Goldman Sachs last summer said. “Pulling all-nighters is not unusual for i-banking interns. We’ve all done that.”
In January, J.P. Morgan Chase implemented the “protected weekend policy” — one weekend a month when junior bankers do not need to work.
Other banks, such as Bank of America, where Erhardy worked, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup adopted similar policies. Citigroup sent out a memo on Jan. 29, saying that junior bankers should take the weekend off, though they were expected to “continue to check their email.” Many banks are also exploring setting up a committee to study “how to provide protection for junior bankers” and give them additional time off, Patricia Rose, director of Penn Career Services, said
However, Wharton seniors and former interns doubt these policies will translate into significant change.
“You go home for Saturday, but it is still the same amount of work. They will have to work for longer hours on Friday or Sunday to get it down, or work at home on their laptop,” said a Wharton senior who worked 80 hours per week at the New York office of an investment bank.
Since investment banking is client-based, the hours are long and unpredictable. “You get busy when your client demands something. Firms can’t actually guarantee the hours,” the former Goldman Sachs intern said.
A culture of working long hours to impress the company and secure a return offer also make changes difficult.
“Interns try to work a long time to show they are hard working, and some banks do torture interns a little bit to see if they can work for long hours,” agreed the previous Goldman Sachs intern.
“Interns usually stay there until the last analyst leaves,” the intern at a New York investment bank agreed. “No one tells you that you have to stay there, but the analyst decides who gets a full time offer. So you always have to be around because otherwise it will look bad for you.” He had heard stories of interns taking drugs to stay awake and alert at night.
However, he added that three all-nighters was extreme, even for a hardworking investment banking intern. “No man did three all-nighters consecutively,” he said.
This culture is so engrained that eighty-hour weeks do not seem to bother students who hope to be investment bankers. The Undergraduate Career Plans Survey Report shows that 29 percent of Class of 2013 alumni are employed full-time in the financial industry, more than any other single industry. According to Rose, the adjusted hours do not affect students’ interest in banking careers. “Students are not more interested, nor less interested ,” she said. “Some students are not even aware that some banks are planning to give [junior] bankers a weekend day off.”
Xitong Nie, a Wharton and Engineering sophomore, said Credit Suisse also mentioned its policy of reducing working hours for interns during its information session at Penn. “It will be nice to know that hours are shorter, but it is not a decisive factor for me,” she said, “Banking in general is very competitive. I was told that as an intern, you have to expect long hours. It’s part of the learning process.”
“They will take whatever it takes to get the banking jobs,” Rose added.