In addition, Goldman Sachs scored particularly high in prestige and diversity. Ranking #1 for prestige in both North America and Europe, Goldman’s competitors describe the firm as the “cream of the crop” and “best in class,” along with lauding the firm for “excellent M&A deals and great exit opportunities.” Goldman also ranked #1 when it comes to populations such as the LGBT community and the disabled. As one Goldman banker gushed in the survey, “It’s rewarding to work at a firm that’s shown such a deep commitment to recruiting and retaining a diverse employee population, and that truly believes that its future success depends on its ability to attract a diverse workforce.”
So what’s the difference between the two firms? According to Derek Loosvelt, senior finance editor at Vault.com, it comes down to size and quality of life. “Overall, if you look at the quality of life score, Blackstone is slightly better than Goldman Sachs when it comes to culture, relationships with managers, work-life balance, and life in general. And that’s not surprising. Blackstone is a smaller firm and tight-knit. And that gives them an advantage.”
MORGAN STANLEY RETURNS TO PROMINENCE
Another big winner in this year’s Vault rankings: Morgan Stanley. Ranked #1 overall in 2012, Morgan Stanley had plummeted to #6 in last year’s rankings. This year, it rebounded to #3 on the strength of its changing focus. “Morgan Stanley had a great year,” says Loosvelt. “All of the firm’s reorganizing and focus on wealth management is paying off.” A survey respondent seconded Loosvelt’s analysis. “Morgan Stanley has made a large bet on its wealth management business, which I believe was wise. I have been fortunate to have a conversation with our CEO James Gorman and several other leaders of Morgan Stanley management, and I am very confident that we have the right plan in place.”
Morgan Stanley also jumped to #2 in prestige. After fumbling the Facebook IPO in 2012, Morgan Stanley lost some of its shine in the investment community. Since then, it has roared back thanks to some strong advisory and underwriting deals including WhatsApp, Kayak, and Rubicon Projects. “[They] now seem to be Silicon Valley’s go-to bank when it comes to equity offerings,” says Loosvelt.
When it comes to the 2016 rankings, Loosvelt offers a warning to Goldman Sachs: “[Morgan Stanley] is now back to competing with Goldman Sachs for the title of best full-service investment bank in the world.”
Rounding out the top five were J.P. Morgan Investment Bank (down one spot) and Centerview Partners (up two places). “Centerview has been on a tear as of late,” says Loosvelt, “winning several high profile and lucrative advisory assignments. Meanwhile, it offers bankers one of the best working environments on the Street, paying top-notch salaries and bonuses, and treating its junior bankers very well when it comes to work-life balance.” Even more, Centerview Partners maintained its #1 ranking in compensation, while finishing #2 in quality of life and #4 in diversity. However, the firm only ranked #13 in prestige, a lagging indicator certain to rise as it racks up the accolades.
On the other hand, J.P. Morgan, which ranked #1 in 2012 and 2013, is still experiencing the fallout from Bruno Iksil’s estimated $2 billion dollar loss, which exposed lax risk controls at the firm. However, one survey respondent was bullish on his employer’s future. “Morale is good, and I have high confidence in our leaders at all levels of the firm. The firm plans to be in its core businesses for the long term and does not overreact to short-term disruptions by exiting core businesses or cutting key personnel.” Like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan heavily recruits Wharton, Columbia, and NYU MBAs – and this upswing could be a tantalizing proposition to grads.
BOUTIQUE FIRM TOPS QUALITY OF LIFE & DIVERSITY RANKINGS
When it comes to quality of life, Houlihan Lokey ranked #1 with a 9.04 score. And one respondent attributes this lofty score to the firm’s egalitarian culture. “Everyone is treated as a valued member of the team and is able to take part on any aspect of the deal. Face time is not important, and everyone works hard to get their work done so people don’t have to be in the office when it is not necessary.” Right behind Houlihan Lockey was Centerview Partners (8.61), the Peter J. Solomon Company (8.50), Goldman Sachs (8.27), and Greenhill & Co. (8.13). Other notables include Credit Suisse (8.11), Evercore Partners (7.80), Morgan Stanley (7.62), and The Blackstone Group (7.62).