finance

A quarter of 2014 Penn graduates took jobs in the finance industry. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A quarter of 2014 Penn graduates took jobs in finance despite renewed concerns about mental health due to employee deaths in the industry.

After the June suicide of Sarvshreshth Gupta, a 2014 Penn graduate and Goldman Sachs analyst, a media firestorm raised questions about the issue of stress in the finance industry, especially among young workers.

Gupta’s death was not the first. After the 2013 death of a 21-year-old Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern, believed to have been caused by an epileptic seizure after three days without sleep, many banks began to take preliminary measures to protect the mental health of interns and employees.

There’s no doubt that students at Penn are aware of banking’s intense reputation, but many believe that deciding to enter finance as a young adult can be easier than actually experiencing the pressures of life as a banker.

“I think people do take [the stress] into consideration but I don’t know that people have a full grasp of what that entails until they actually experience it,” Wharton sophomore Dawit Gebresellassie said. He added that some of his peers at Wharton decided to switch to non-finance concentrations after their summer internships at banks.

Rewards like prestige, high salaries and future opportunities, as well as pressure from family and peers, can steer even students who don’t like finance into a financial career. Gebresellassie said that one of his friends, who graduated and currently works in banking, came to Penn wanting to concentrate in legal studies, but her parents said they would only pay for her degree if she studied finance.

Though banking’s cutthroat reputation remains prevalent, many banks have taken steps to reduce the overworking of analysts and interns in light of the recent deaths.

The New York Times reported that Gupta often worked 100-hour weeks. In the weeks after his death, Goldman Sachs announced new rules requiring interns to be out of the office between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. and all day Saturday. A year earlier, the bank had instituted a “Saturdays-off” policy for analysts and associates. In 2014, Bank of America notified entry-level workers that they should take four days off per month, and JPMorgan Chase announced it would give analysts one protected weekend per month.

College and Wharton sophomore Billy Kacyem said he likes finance, but wouldn’t want to be an investment banker because having a good work-life balance is too important to him. He worked in investment services at a bank this past summer and enjoyed his job because he got experience in finance without the high stress attached to some other finance jobs.

“Your health is the most important thing in your life,” Kacyem said.

Still, he conceded that the competitive mentality of Penn students leads many, especially those in Wharton, to pursue financial careers.

College senior Daniel Kurland, who plans to work in investment banking next year and has completed a banking internship, said that understanding the nature of the industry and managing his workload can help him during his job.

“Personally I’m very excited about entering the industry,” he said. “I know it’s really hard, but at the same time I know from the summer that I definitely know what steps I can take to make sure I can be in the right state of mind to put my best foot forward.”

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