Best Investment Banks To Work For In 2017

Peter Solomon, founder of the Peter J. Solomon Company

Peter Solomon, founder of the Peter J. Solomon Company


The Peter J. Solomon Company is another example of an evolving Wall Street, ranking in the top 10 in 16 of 19 employment factors (including top finishes in the firm culture, work-life balance, and hours categories). While a small firm, it achieves a delicate balancing act, providing staff with time to tend to their lives while offering top compensation (ranking second in this category). “PJSC’s culture is unparalleled within the banking industry,” explains one survey respondent from the firm. “Being a smaller firm, senior folks and junior bankers develop close bonds early on. Hours are moderate. The firm encourages collaboration and camaraderie over competition.”

When it comes to consistency, it is hard to beat Evercore, which held the #4 spot for the second consecutive year (and 5th in prestige to boot). Like Peter J. Solomon, it placed in 16 of 19 work and life categories (topping its rivals in formal training and hiring process — a testament to the firm’s vaunted onboarding process). It has certainly emerged as a talent magnet, with one banker stamping Evercore as the “fastest growing investment bank on Wall Street.” No doubt, the firm’s commitment to developing in-house talent is a driving force behind both the firm’s growth and high employee satisfaction. “Opportunity to work your way up in the firm is usually available if so desired,” shares one Evercore banker who participated in Vault’s survey. “The firm has great mentorship and buddy systems, and there is a lot of emphasis on junior banker development via seminars.”


Bank of America and Moelis & Company were also big winners in 2017, climbing from 11th to 6th and 16th to 9th in the overall rankings respectively. Chicago-based Loop Capital Markets, unranked in 2016, made the splashiest debut at 19th — all while nabbing the top spots in overall diversity and minority representation. Citi’s Institutional Clients Group and Quatalyst Partners made the biggest moves in the relatively stable prestige rankings, going from 20th to 16th and 23rd to 17th respectively. One surprise also emerged from the overall ranking: there is a staggering dropoff in firm quality after the top 19 firms. Below Citi (6.386) and Loop Capital Partners (5.499), you’ll find the next highest scores belonging to Lazard (2.774) and Barclays (2.423), nearly a three point difference. To put that in perspective, that’s basically the same gap between #1 Goldman Sachs and #19 Loop Capital Markets.


The 2017 Vault Banking 50 wasn’t as kind to boutique extraordinaire Houlihan Lokey. In 2016, it ranked 6th overall, topping all comers in an unprecedented 17 employment factors. Fast forward a year and the firm fell to 12th, with its highest finishes coming in the ability to challenge and promotion policies (4th). Why did the world come crashing down on Houlihan Lokey? Technically, they had a good year says Loosvelt. Like the fall of Blackstone-JTP Partners, the firm suffered the aftershocks of a monumental shift.

Houlihan Lokey

“This year, Houlihan Lokey still ranked among the top six in eight quality of life categories, and their raw scores were still very high — over 9 on a 10-point scale in some cases,” Loosvelt tells P&Q. “So, while they didn’t fare as well as they did in years past, they still ranked rather highly. Other firms, meanwhile, had very good years in the rankings, and so that partly explains Houlihan Lokey’s slip. There’s also the fact that this is the first year Houlihan Lokey has participated in our survey as a public firm — they went public in August 2015, after our 2015 survey closed. And, as we’ve seen happen before, a change in ownership structure often means a change in workplace policies and job satisfaction.”

For Loosvelt, the 2017 Vault Banking 50 ranking was a ‘two steps forward and one step back’ proposition, with the quality of life improving as the industry outlook wanes. “Most of the top firms’ scores rose in most of our workplace categories this year, perhaps pointing to the fact that protected weekends, faster promotions, and other workplace policies are working and paying off,” he says. “On the other hand, most firms’ scores in business outlook went down, as numerous banking insiders told us that the market has been soft for deals, and regulation is still taking a toll on revenue.”

Loosvelt believes the trend towards more employee-friendly workplaces in banking is irreversible. This is for good reason: banking isn’t the only game in town for ambitious professionals looking to cash in on their talents. “I’d bet other firms will indeed follow Goldman’s (and other banking firms’) lead and increasingly improve workplace policies,” Loosvelt concludes. “It’s important to note that no longer are top banks just competing among themselves for talent but they’re also now competing with top firms in other industries, particularly in technology, an industry which has historically offered top-notch benefits and perks and very progressive workplace policies.”



Go to next two pages to see how banks rank in terms of 19 employment factors and four diversity categories. 

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