Best Investment Banks To Work For In 2020

Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York City


“At Evercore, we have tremendous deal flow and therefore our people get so many live deal reps that their learning experience is unparalleled. I grew up at a top bulge bracket bank, and my deal sheet and deal experience there pales in comparison to the number of live deals and the experience that our young people get at Evercore. Evercore is really based on the apprenticeship model, and many partners here do a tremendous job of training and grooming MDs and VPs to become partners.”

It is also a firm, adds another reviewer, where staffers can enjoy a decent quality of life. “People are really respectful of important life events that occur—family events, weddings, etc.—and always open to working around the important things. Hours go up and down, but this is banking, and overall I think hours are pretty good, especially in comparison to other firms.

Rounding out the Top 3 is Goldman Sachs – forever immortalized in Rolling Stone as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.” Actually, a more popular moniker is “Government Sachs” after an impressive alumnus roll that includes current Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (and past secretaries Larry Summers, Robert Rubin, and Hank Paulson). And that doesn’t count government, business, and media royalty like Steve Bannon, Rahm Emanuel, David Tepper, and Jim Cramer. Over 150 years old, Goldman Sachs is viewed as the epitome of tradition – a firm that rejects a higher percentage of applicants than elite institutions like Harvard University and the Navy SEALS.

Goldman Sachs office. Courtesy photo

An equal mix of team-driven grace and mouth-foaming competitiveness, Goldman Sachs is a hallowed institution built on unwritten rules and towering expectations. One rule: don’t be too full of yourself. The culture thrives on feedback – and quickly lays low those who resist coaching or flout achievements and connections. Another rule? You’re being evaluated in every interaction – from small talk to presentations – for fit and advancement potential. Whatever you do, don’t pack on the pounds…even if you’re chained to your charts and living on takeout. Being flabby reflects a lack of self-control – a cardinal sin in the Goldman Sachs aesthete. Here, image is everything – even with a record-spinning CEO and an increasingly-lax dress code. More than image, performance is the differentiator – with the higher rungs siphoning out the impressive and above average in favor of the prodigious and remarkable.


Not surprisingly, Goldman Sachs has headed up the Vault 50 Banking Prestige ranking every year for 13 years. That didn’t change in 2020, with the firm posting an 8.917 score…its highest score since 2016. Problem is, Goldman Sachs seemingly lost ground or scored low everywhere else. It ranked between13th and 15th in six categories. In Diversity, the firm ranked in the Top 5 in all four categories but reached as high as 5th in only one other category (CSR Initiatives). What’s worse, Goldman Sachs didn’t even rank in the Top 15 in 10 categories. Sure enough, these were often the measures that mattered: Business Outlook, Compensation, Culture, Firm Leadership, Hours, Informal Training, Promotion Policies, Relationships With Managers, Overall Satisfaction, and Work-Life Balance.

In other words, Goldman Sachs respondents often viewed themselves as overworked and underpaid, stuck in place, alienated from leadership, and cynical about the future.

Despite the low scores, many survey respondents were upbeat about Goldman Sachs…and their prospects within it. “Amazing teamwork culture and a lot of opportunities for junior people to excel—learning curve is steep,” writes one anonymous employee. “You work with extremely talented people, and everyone will always take the time to teach you things regardless of how senior they are.”

Goldman Sachs ranked 3rd over in this year’s Vault Banking 50

That said, staffing is cited by several respondents as one impediment to performance. “There is no shaming in taking vacation days,” writes one staffer. “The firm, however, runs very lean, so there’s very little downtime at work and always a sense of urgency to finish and move on to the next pressing task.” 


To another staffer, the messaging is clear, but it simply doesn’t align with the demands. “They prompt us to take time off and limit our hours, but the workload and level of client service we provide don’t allow for this. The firm has tried multiple times to solve this using technology or restructuring departments, but it’s really a manpower issue.”

Such issues, however, may also be the temporary residue of a shift in priorities and expectations with the advent of a new CEO, David Solomon, barely a year ago.  “We’re going through lots of change, which is difficult,” adds another respondent. “New leadership is changing the structure of the firm; time will tell how this plays out, but at this point I feel confident on our ability to deliver. The change seems purposeful, strategic, well-planned, and provides an exciting and bright future.”

Knowing that, what can prospective Goldman Sachs bankers do to set themselves apart once they enter the firm? One respondent cautions that “you can never be too polished,” adding that newbies should be “thoughtful about every interaction you have with the firm.” Another warns that graduates should “expect to learn at a rapid pace,” further noting that “there is no room for mistakes.” A third survey taker, a private wealth manager in the San Francisco office, reminds new hires that Goldman Sachs loves hustlers.

“You have to be willing to come in and get the job done every day. Everyone around you is working to maximum capacity and expects you to do the same.”


Speaking of hustlers, this year’s ranking features its share of risers. Exhibit A: Guggenheim Securities, which squeezed its way into the #5 spot behind Morgan Stanley. Ranked as the top firm for Benefits, Guggenheim managed to place among the top three firms in nine categories, including all-important areas like Business Outlook, Compensation, Culture, and Overall Satisfaction. Quite an accomplishment considering that Guggenheim wasn’t even part of the Vaulting Banking 50 just six years ago.

Of course, the firm has grabbed everyone’s attention over the past decade, advising on deals worth $1.2 dollars for firms ranging from IBM to Pfizer. That may be one reason why the firm rose from 17th to 14th in Prestige this year. Still, it was the rank-and-file survey respondents who pushed Guggenheim into elite company in 2020. One reason: the firm’s top-to-bottom support of new hires, with an intensive first-year training program that includes regular interactions with senior bankers along with regular travel to client meetings.

“The senior bankers encourage client interaction at the most junior level,” writes one anonymous survey respondent. “The senior bankers also ask for analysts’ opinions throughout the deal process to make them feel like they’re part of the team. This also allows junior bankers to learn how to think more from the perspective of senior bankers and develop unique skillsets and the ability to interact with clients. The senior bankers encourage junior bankers to take on as much responsibility as possible and work closely as a team to help the analysts develop internally.”

According to another respondent, Guggenheim boasts two of the most elusive dynamics in banking: buy-in and cohesion. “Alan Schwartz is a very charismatic leader and commands a lot of respect from the senior MDs across the firm. People believe in his vision for a bigger and better investment bank with a strong client-oriented focus. Overall, I think we have the best senior team on the Street. They’re thoughtful and focused on doing what’s best for our clients. They’re also very focused on developing junior bankers to take over the firm.”

To access 5 pages of ranking and satisfaction data on the Vault Banking 50 ranking, go to the bottom of page 3.

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