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A Kinder, Gentler Goldman Sachs For MBAs?

GoldmanGoldman Sachs’s investment banking group wants to make its hard-charging Master of the Universe culture more amenable to MBA recruits. In an attempt to strike better work/life balance interns and employees, the firm is requiring all analysts and associates to be out of the office from 9 p.m. on Friday until 9 a.m. on Sunday.

The change, effective this weekend, was announced at a recent town hall meeting by David Solomon, co-head of Goldman’s investment banking division and a possible successor as chief executive officer to Lloyd Blankfein.

How serious is Goldman about the shift toward balance? The firm is telling supervisors that exceptions “will not be the norm and should be used sparingly.” Every exception to weekend work, moreover, has to be accompanied by a “business critical reason” and be tracked and reported to Goldman’s executive committee every quarter.

JUNIOR BANKERS STILL EXPECTED TO CHECK THEIR BLACKBERRIES ON THE WEEKEND

“Work should not shift from office to home,” according to a Goldman memo published by Wall Street Oasis. “Junior bankers are not expected to log in from home and work. Junior bankers are still expected to check their blackberries on a regular basis over the weekend. The expectation is that work will not be assigned on Saturday to be completed Saturday.”

Executing on this kinder and gentler model of investment banking may prove difficult. After all, dealmaking doesn’t stop on weekends. In fact, getting a deal done is often a non-stop push through one deadline after another. Going soft on analysts and associates is not exactly a way to meet the expectations of clients who want 24/7 attention paid to their business.

Yet, Goldman said it also will expect all analysts and associates to take three weeks of vacation a year. “This should include at least one, but preferable two, protected one-week vacations,” the memo said. “All analysts, including new first year analysts, are expected to take time off (preferably one week) before the end of the year in an effort to focus on work-life balance.”

A MOVE TO BETTER COMPETE WITH OTHER RECRUITERS WHO TOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Increasingly, Goldman is competing with other mainstream MBA recruiters who are now making work-life balance a recruiting advantage in their ability to get the best business school applicants. That is even true in consulting where significant travel and long hours is typically the norm. A recent survey of MBAs by Universum found that Goldman had lost ground in popularity as a desired place to work, falling from a rank of seven to tenth this year (see Most Desirable MBA Employers of 2013). Google, McKinsey, Apple and Amazon top that list.

Goldman’s new rules presumably apply to its summer associates—typically MBA students who joint the investment banking division’s ten-week program designed to give them an overview of what an investment banking career. Goldman generally places its MBA interns into one of the following industry or product groups: Financial Institutions, Healthcare, Technology, Media & Telecom, Industrials, Consumer Retail, Natural Resources, Real Estate, Latin America, Public Sector & Infrastructure, Leveraged Finance, Equity and Debt Capital Markets.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.