In the fall, one month into his new job on Wall Street, a junior analyst stepped onto a scale and realized he had lost 30 pounds.
The 6-foot analyst who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized by his bank to speak publicly said he started out the month weighing 195 pounds. But after he stood in front of his laptop writing deals for 17 hours a day, along with working every weekend, he didn’t have time to buy food and constantly skipped meals. The stress, he said, literally ate away at him.
“Am I slowly killing myself trying to do this job?” he said. “And honestly, for what?”
One year into the pandemic, junior bankers working for Wall Street firms — an elite and largely homogenous group plucked from the nation’s top universities and paid an average starting salary of $132,000 — say they have been so abused that many are rethinking the price of working in these coveted jobs.
While many Wall Street veterans have dismissed these complaints as privileged whining, one of the most comprehensive surveys of junior and senior investment bankers, 475 of them, quantified the price of these jobs during the pandemic.
The online forum Wall Street Oasis, a networking group for students and junior staffers in the banking industry which conducted the survey, found junior bankers work on average at least 80 hours a week. After a year of working these hours, often in isolation, the survey found 40% of the first-year bankers, 32% of second-year bankers and 46% of third-year bankers sought or considered mental health counseling. Analysts in their early 20s interviewed for this article also reported that they suffered extreme weight changes and developed health conditions like high blood pressure.
“No one is going to cry a river for them making a ton of money. But there are severe consequences for mental and physical health,” said Patrick Curtis, CEO and founder of Wall Street Oasis, which counted at least 50 discussion threads about deteriorating lifestyles and mental health.“With Covid, the worst parts of the industry have been accentuated.”
This newly released survey data was punctuated by this past week’s record release of bank earnings that showed Wall Street experienced record deal volume.
The latest discussion of abusive work conditions began when an internal presentation about the impact of working hours on mental health, prepared by 13 current and former junior bankers at Goldman Sachs, went viral. Some junior bankers took to social media, using platforms like Litquidity to swap war stories. Their grievances attracted enough attention to prompt some changes. Bank of America announced it would increase salaries for junior bankers, Credit Suisse announced $20,000 bonuses and Citigroup created “Zoom-free Fridays.”
“A year into Covid, people are understandably quite stretched, and that’s why we are listening to their concerns and taking multiple steps to address them,” Nicole Sharp, a Goldman Sachs spokesperson, said.
On Thursday, Wall Street Oasis revealed the 10 specific banks these surveyed associates worked for. Some of the worst offenders included Bank of America, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan and UBS. Of the 24 Bank of America analysts who participated, 54 percent said they have sought or are considering seeking counseling. Workers there reported some of the biggest declines in their physical and mental health.
The 21 analysts from JPMorgan reported some of the biggest declines in their mental health. Thirteen analysts at Credit Suisse and 14 analysts from UBS also experienced some of the biggest declines in their mental and physical health over the past year. One first-year UBS analyst wrote “Some VPs call you just to yell and hang up.”
Erica Chase, a UBS spokesperson, confirmed that the bank is trying to help junior bankers by offering them protected Saturdays and “global banking mental health champions” junior analysts can speak to.
Bank of America declined to comment and JPMorgan and Credit Suisse did not respond to requests for comment. But according to a memo circulated within Bank of America, the bank is trying to address analyst concerns with programs like “junior banker candid conversations” where bankers can connect with senior executives to share feedback.
While banking has always been a field demanding long hours, in the past year, there have been no physical or emotional breaks, according to one former senior analyst at a boutique bank in New York City. The senior analyst, whoquit six months into the pandemic, said he worked 85-hour weeks and some weeks were “way worse.” He said so-called protected weekends were not enforced and “you had to quit” for time off.
A second junior analyst said he quit after he was forced to work on a deal on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. The former varsity athlete said he had gained 20 pounds, been diagnosed with high blood pressure and was experiencing symptoms of depression. The relentless demands from his bosses prevented him from getting any breaks.
“There are days I don’t get to step outside, I don’t get to speak to loved ones,” he said. “Your only break is a few hours of sleep. Mentally, it’s very depressing.”
What seems to be changing through this latest deal boom is that junior bankers are seeking professional help, said Alexandra Michel, researcher and adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.
“Mental health is more in the foreground,” she said, especially given that junior bankers no longer experience the social benefits of these jobs. “Things that would typically counteract the depression are gone.”
Christian Peña and Olivia Solon contributed.