In 2013, a Bank of America intern died after an epileptic seizure that was possibly triggered by fatigue from working too many hours. In 2015, a junior banker at Moelis and Company committed suicide; his family blamed work stress. Last year, in July, another junior banker died, this time at mid-market Chicago bank Lincoln International. These are just a few of the cases that garnered headlines and led to calls — and promises — to reduce hours and ease the grind for young employees at investment banks. Among the campaigners was Wall Street Oasis, a job search site that broke the news of the death of Bank of America intern Moritz Erhardt.
Wall Street Oasis is perhaps best known for collecting data from its member roll of more than 700,000. Now, after years of helping to bring attention to the problem of overwork, some new numbers show that the campaign has had an impact. In terms of average hours worked, employees at 28 banks report working 80 hours per week or more. (The most: 90 hours, at BTG Pactual, a Brazilian wealth and asset management company.) Last year the number of firms where workers put in that much time was 39.
“I’m guessing hours are down because work-life balance has grown so much in importance for people, but of course it fluctuates by firm — so you still have the 80-plus hours worked at a lot of places,” says Patrick Curtis, founder and CEO of Wall Street Oasis.
EVERCORE OUSTS GOLDMAN ATOP ‘HAPPINESS’ RANKING
The most important metric measured by WSO is Overall Employee Satisfaction, also known as the “happiness quotient.” In 2018, the happiest employees were at Goldman Sachs, but this year Goldman has slipped three places to fourth on the overall list. Evercore, a global banking advisory based in New York City, has taken over the top spot for happiness, followed by Moelis, Robert W. Baird & Co., Goldman, and Lazard, a Bermuda-based financial services firm.
If you’re thinking that Goldman is slipping in many other ways, think again. It remains the top firm for Career Advancement and Professional Growth opportunities, and is second for both Feedback and Best Teamwork and third for Best Communication. Goldman is also second in both Proudest Employees and Recommended, the latter being a measure of a company as a place employees would recommend others come to work.
However, in many of these metrics, Evercore has the edge on Goldman — and just about every other bank, of which there are 188 that received at least one vote on most of the major questions. Evercore is tops in not only the happiness quotient but Best Communication, Best Leadership, Competence, and Recommended, rating 99.5% in each.
EXPLAINING BAYESIAN METHODOLOGY
Wall Street Oasis’ graphs and tables use data from the year to date and the prior two years. That means the rankings are constantly changing based on additional data collected every day.
Whenever we publish data from WSO, we explain their somewhat unusual methodology. WSO compiles data (from tens of thousands of total submissions, a number that grows daily) and ranks banks by percentile using Bayesian probability. That means, with a few exceptions (such as actual compensation figures and percentage of interns who are hired to full-time positions), each chart shows the same series of percentages in descending order. For example, Moelis and Company ranked second in Hardest Interview at 98.6%, while William Blair ranked second in Best Interview Experience at an identical 98.6%. How is this possible? As Curtis explains, percentiles simply show where a company ranks out of a certain number of companies — in this case, 145. “When we ask an employee a certain question, banks get different scores based on these responses — but that doesn’t change the total number of banks involved in the dataset.”
In the example above, where Moelis and William Blair both landed at No. 2 on separate metrics but got equal scores, “the reason the percentiles are exactly the same is because for that specific metric, they were both ranked No. 2″ out of 145 total firms. In this case the percentile formula is (145 – 2)/145. Another way to look at it: Each metric scores a company from one to five stars. If a company gets one 5-star review on that metric, Curtis says, “we don’t want to rank that ahead of a company with 10 reviews and an average ranking of 4.9 stars.”
Why do it this way? “The Bayesian stuff,” he says, “is just a way to deal with companies where there are only a few observations. So, what Bayesian stats allows you to do is pull the companies with less reviews closer to the average of the entire group, so that as more votes come in they are pulled more toward their actual average and away from group average. (This gives you) higher confidence that the score is a true reflection versus just one or two votes (and) prevents companies with only a few great or bad reviews from ranking above or below companies with many great or bad reviews.”
FEWER HOURS MAY MEAN LESS PAY FOR SOME
Besides its first-place rankings, Evercore is also second in Most Fair and third in Proudest Employees, all while the firm’s employees report working more than 80 hours per week. But there’s one other key way in which Evercore gets top marks, and it may be the most important of all: pay. The firm, which was second in Best Pay to Wells Fargo last year, tops Moelis & Company (98.9%), Perella Weinberg Partners (98.4%), William Blair (97.9%), and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (97.3%) in 2019. Surprise, surprise: Good pay goes a long way toward employee satisfaction.
Yet for some, pay is falling. As hours on Wall Street have dropped, pay has followed suit. First-year analysts at bulge bracket banks have seen a slowing of their long-term pay growth, Curtis says, and second-years have seen an actual reversal.
“We had had about four years of salary growth for the first-year analysts at bulge bracket banks, and last year was more of a flat year,” Curtis says. “The numbers aren’t massive but associate pay is down for the second year in a row at those banks as well. Back in 2014, 2015 they were pushing $250K, $260K, but in 2018 they dropped to $240K and this year they are down to $235K.”
Keeping track of pay and employee satisfaction fluctuations at WSO’s website is about to get easier: The company is launching a mobile app this month.
(See pages 2, 3, and 4 for charts on overall satisfaction, compensation, and more.)