The Best Investment Banks To Work For In 2018


What happened with JP Morgan? Simple: The firm declined to participate in the 2018 survey, meaning its 18th place finish was derived strictly on reputation alone. In fact, all firms ranked from 18th to 50th in Vault’s survey did so through prestige alone. This also explains why heavy hitters like Barclays, CIti, Deutsche Bank, and UBS were relegated to the kiddy table. In such cases, the ranking simply reflects the market’s impression of the firms, not the caliber of their culture, training, compensation, quality of life, or diversity. Even more, it calls into question the rankings of the Top 17, whose positions in the workplace categories would undeniably have been disrupted with these firms’ inclusion.

Bank of America and Morgan Stanley did participate, however, and lost ground as a result. Morgan Stanley, for example, fell from 2nd to 4th. Overall, the firm posted lower scores in 21 of the 23 workforce categories, with its biggest drops over the previous year coming in work-life balance (-.477), formal training (-.426), and relationships with managers (-.390). In contrast, the firm’s employees remain upbeat about its prospects, with that score improving by .563 of a point. That’s a real tribute considering the Vault survey is a cross-section of Morgan Stanley’s 56,000 employees. Like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley maintained its Top 5 ranking thanks to its sterling reputation on the street.

The commendations didn’t just roll in from competitors. One corporate finance veteran at Morgan Stanley described the firm as “possibly the most talented collection of finance professionals on Wall Street.” This example sets the bar for everyone in the firm. “To succeed and join the senior ranks of this firm, you need to continuously work to better yourself on all dimensions from your first day,” he adds.

Lazard Chairman and CEO Ken Jacobs

However, this same respondent also issued a word of warning, which is reinforced by Morgan Stanley’s tepid performance in Vault’s diversity indices. “Lack of diversity at senior levels is becoming a handicap,” he observes, “especially in terms of generating new ideas that will enable to remain at the forefront of the industry.”


Bank of America also slumped from 6th to 9th, a move that coincided with a three spot slip in prestige. BOA would gladly swap spots with Lazard, which rose from 20th to 7th after returning participating in the Vault Banking 50 survey this year. Lazard’s assets included prestige and international opportunities (both 4th), with its biggest weaknesses coming in diversity (unranked in all four categories).

“They’ve made a lot of changes internally, Loosvelt tells Poets&Quants in a phone interview. “They’re  still getting marquee deals and people are working a lot of hours there, but people are still happy with the work-life balance they are getting relative to years past. Lazard has come a long way. I look for them to continue to rise.”

Loop Capital Markets, a minority-owned Chicago based boutique, swept the diversity rankings. It earned the highest marks from employees for the firm’s diversity with women minorities and the LGBT community. In fact, as one survey respondent noted, women hold four of the five highest leadership posts and report directly to the CEO.

The firm hardly relied on diversity alone to distinguish itself, scoring well in compensation, CSR, and hours worked as well. Among survey respondents, Loop Capital was commended for its “community-oriented” and and “inviting” culture. Even more, the firm was viewed as a place where bankers can gain an array of experience without burning themselves out in the process. “You never know what can get thrown on your plate as we don’t have that many resources,” writes one entry level staffer in the Equity Capital Markets division. “That aspect also makes for a great team dynamic. The culture is great here and work/life balance is taken seriously.”


Overall, Loosvelt was impressed by the performance of Evercore, Centerview, and Moelis in this year’s survey. The most telling stat: all three firms ranked in the top three when it comes to business outlook, a sign that they’re itching to compete — and believe they possess the know-how and resources to continue snapping up market share.

However, Loosvelt is quick to dump cold water on the notion that a changing of the guard is imminent. “This year’s rankings show that although no one’s catching Goldman anytime soon when it comes to prestige,” he writes. “Boutiques like Evercore, Centerview, and Moelis are making big names for themselves on Wall Street, closing the gap between big firms and boutiques when it comes to being a top banking employer. The boutiques are making huge strides when it comes to creating healthier work environments for employees, and are seen as having a much better business outlook than Goldman and other top banking firms.”

Go to next two pages to see how firms rank in terms of employment factors (compensation, work-life balance, etc.) and diversity.



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