How can we do better?

Hi all. I'm an MD at a bulge bracket bank in NYC. My group staffer recently shared this link: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/1st-year-a… 

Banking has always been tough on juniors but seems like working from home has made it a lot worse when it probably should not have.

I am very close with the group staffer and we are involved in our firm's recruiting and wellness efforts. We decided to create this forum in hopes of getting candid advice from junior bankers and former junior bankers. We understand working from home has been tough on juniors so please share any complaints and advice on how we can improve the situation.

No promises that this will transform the experience for everyone but I guarantee that we will at least relay the information to people at my bank and work to find solutions... hopefully some of this can get sent to bankers at other places too...  

I'm new to this site and barely understand the dynamics/demographics of it but hope this goes somewhere. I will monitor this periodically with a couple of my guys and we will chime in when we see fit but this is mostly a space for productive discussion among juniors. Thanks

 

- The 121s are more relevant than ever, focus on line managers taking care of their staff.
- Ask what your people need, ask how they feel being stuck at home with no opportunity to go out during the work time.
- There will be huge gaps during the work day for younger employees who can no longer rely on immediate help from seniors or their boss. They can't just jump up and go to a colleague and ask. This gap has to be closed somehow. Figure out how.
- Are there social events (digital) that are for the wider team for a more fun environment? Not just official stuff? We introduced that and it helped a lot. (like Friday afternoon calls)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1-800-273-8255
 

I think I should clarify - our young employees have *never* met anyone IRL. like ever. They feel very uncomfortable at times dealing with complete strangers over the phone (we don't even have video conferencing for all meetings).

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1-800-273-8255
 

I could not agree more. Just another hour long call I have to make time for. My group did one holiday event that was fun, but other than that all the other attempts seemed to fall short.

The difference with the holiday event was it was a zoom show led by an actor, not just a chit-chat. Those things get so awkward, especially for new analysts (even more so laterals, who may know nobody). Actually, in the beginning we were yelled at for not speaking up more on these fundatory calls. Thankfully they seem to have realized this by now.

 
Most Helpful

Juniors in my group (especially first years who are starting their first role in a professional environment virtually) feel immense pressure to be online at all hours and to be ready to turn comments at the drop of a hat. I think it would be extremely helpful to have “protected” hours on weekdays. It would be nice to know that from 7pm-8pm, I can eat dinner with my family, call a friend, read a book, go on a walk, or pursue a hobby. In the office, we used to walk out and grab lunch / tea together and would eat dinner as a group when possible. Now many meals are spent alone in front of a computer because someone is pinging us or wants comments immediately turned. 

 

I couldn't agree more with this, and for banks that aren't offing seamless to WFH juniors this problem is magnified. There were a few weeks where I never got a chance to go the grocery store (multiple Sats in a row and the all hours pressure). I had to uber eats every meal which over two weeks is incredibly expensive. 

 

Another suggestion I might add is to take the time on each pitch / book to call the junior team and make them feel like they’re actually a valued member of the team rather than a resource that is only around to output pages. Beyond learning technicals, we are also here to learn soft skills from successful MDs and want to know how you think through the materials, why we are showing what we are, strategy, etc. If we are lucky, we will get a “thanks for the effort” email at the end of the pitch. I think it would mean a lot if MDs just spent 15 minutes with the junior team to answer questions and provide insights. 

 

I know it may not seem like much, but 15 minutes from most MDs is a big ask. I'm lucky if I get 15 minutes/month with mine and I consider that to be a "really accessible" schedule. I just don't see this one happening.

 

Robin Olds, Commander of a major fighter wing that played a crucial role in Vietnam, took the time out to speak with everyone from the enlisted mess staff and aircraft maintaniners to senior fighter pilots returning from sorties.

His job of planning the tactics of the air war is definitely more stressful, time consuming, and 10 times more important than any little pitch an MD has. Yet he, along with many other military leaders, took the time out to see from top to bottom what was working and what wasn't. Because of that people at his wing literally missed being at war and many volunteered to go back multiple times. Despite long missions and seeing their friends get shot out of the sky, the senior leadership showed them their worth and they felt valued. Thus, they were motivated to get back to fighting the next day. That mental state boost from everyone top to bottom made his wing much more lethal. 

TLDR; Taking the time out to understand your junior employees and see what's working and what's not besides the surface level work will not only make their work better but make it much more efficient. It's not a waste of time, its a part of the fucking job as a leader. If you're in a senior position, show up to the game and lead.

 

 

Someone elsewhere commented that UBS is already doing this and it is ignored.

What if instead, you simply implemented a norm that between 6pm-12am, it is ok if your response time is 1 hour. Then you wouldn't stress if you were at the gym/running/eating dinner.

Obviously you would need to get sr banker buy in or enforce this somehow, but might be more flexible than just "do things during this 1 hour"

 

I'm at ubs and have never even heard of this policy or anyone taking it

Plus its condescending.   You have 1 hr each day for free time.  Wow.  Imagine telling a software engineer that at Google.    So glad I'm free from 7pm to 8pm, but I'm being driven to the ground until 4am every night.  Thanks hr for this wonderful freedom.

 

First-year here! I started 100% WFH and  I gotta say Analyst 2 got it 100% right. PROTECTED HOURS are key. Just give me 1 hour where I can go to the gym and eat dinner without the pressure. Love when my firm started this.. We only have it 3 days a week(M/W/F)

 

Juniors in my group (especially first years who are starting their first role in a professional environment virtually) feel immense pressure to be online at all hours and to be ready to turn comments at the drop of a hat. I think it would be extremely helpful to have "protected" hours on weekdays. It would be nice to know that from 7pm-8pm, I can eat dinner with my family, call a friend, read a book, go on a walk, or pursue a hobby. In the office, we used to walk out and grab lunch / tea together and would eat dinner as a group when possible. Now many meals are spent alone in front of a computer because someone is pinging us or wants comments immediately turned. 

I actually love this idea. What if we just implemented a strict 1 hour "dinner time" from 7-8pm. Just today, I had no food in my apartment so I step out to go to the grocery store and my VP is calling me multiple times as I'm driving to Whole Foods and I'm like fuck fuck fuck. I feel guilty not picking up, but also know it's going to be a question about the model and I don't want to have the conversation without the model in front of me for backup so I quickly stop and buy some almonds and candy at a gas station and go drive back home ASAP. This kind of shit just wears on you.

Whereas in the office, dinner was my favorite part of the day, I'd go walk around the bullpen and round up analysts and we'd spend too long deciding where to go and finally walk around Bryant Park to Dig Inn or Sweet Green or wherever and bitch about whatever we were working on and people usually left us alone for at least 30min because they could just look up from their offices and see we were gone and know.. "oh they are grabbing food."

My entire time in banking I must have ordered Seamless 5 times, because I just loved the fresh air. 

 

Good idea. Thank you. A very strict policy might be impossible to implement and get people to follow. It might have to be more related to the culture and expectations of seniors... getting people to understand that its OK/expected for analysts to reply with ex. "sorry having dinner now, will start on it in an hour". This is very helpful

 

Associates need to mentor more, I usually get “make a page on x” and I have no idea what that would look like then they don’t reply when I ask. I don’t have any stats but I’m sure staffers have staffings sheets going back a few years, check those and see how much worse it got. I heard that there is typically down time during the day for analysts, I have yet to see that.

Edit: also, never ever go directly to analysts for work. My md has problems staffing since everyone is at capacity so he asks me directly for work. I’m on 10 projects (7 active)

 

Agree with this, especially for those who are in the same boat as me and didn't intern with the group. Another thing is communication - 6 months in and still having substantial difficulties understanding what's going on with deal proceses. A few times where 1st years are left off email chains then get yelled at for not "taking ownership as the analyst on the deal" - for example 1st yr analyst is left off email chain discussing comments. Few hours pass. Associate / VP then cc's junior asking for timing update, but its our first time seeing comments. Just a bad look. 

 

I'm glad to see this post as its important that the toxicity of the work environment for 1st / 2nd years is addressed. 

I think the biggest issue you're going to face is many of us are burnt out from months of false fire drills. Even if the work environment improves, I will still look to exit as soon as possible as I know the true color of the people above me. It needs to be a complete 180 turnaround in work environment otherwise I don't see a future longer than 3-4 more months of this. I don't want to be receiving comments at 2am on a Sunday for a cold pitch that really has no deadline. I also don't appreciate a $20 Christmas gift after several back to back 100hr weeks when I know the people I'm working for are quite wealthy.

Best of luck.

 

Yes, there's definitely a lot of frustration built up. I think another place where this stems from (not necessarily senior bankers fault) is the rush to go back to the office in the fall. I think JPM, BAML, and Citi to name a few all told their first years to come back at some point and now we're all back at home wondering why we're paying $2000 a month for an apartment we don't even use.

 

This is a great point. Was told to be ready to come to the office in early July, now have been paying $2K a month for 6 months while no one is actually going in at all. Wish they would be like some of the clients and just be firm on a date (ie. WFH until at least April 2022, reevaluate then) rather than keep the office open on an ambiguous policy where no one goes in because no one is going in.

Could've saved upwards of $10K by now not to mention the lost opportunity to live somewhere with better weather/beaches/cheaper for ~6 months

 

Stop accepting every rfi, pitch, and mandate.  Realize the juniors are completely burned out physically and emotionally and at some point you need to weigh the well being of the employees vs the bottom line profits the group takes in.  I know this will be ignored, but has to be said.

Tired of the bank leadership saying empty things like "we have persevered through this challenge....let's continue to stay close to clients and deliver exceptional solutions to them"   yeah...at the expense of every employee...

 

The last pitch I was on the entire junior team (senior associates and analysts) huddled on a call to go over comments and it turned into a "I hope we lose this pitch, let's stop caring about this" session.   Your employees now want the bank to lose.

 

Can speak for myself and a few other first years I work with. It’s the never ending work. And what I mean by that is, we log on at 8am, log off at 2am. Sleep a few hours and go right back to it. Walk from the desk to the bed and back. It’s only work, wake up at 5am to pee real quick and have to scroll through your phone because you are afraid you got an email right when you fell asleep with comments or something. We all signed up to work long hours, we get that but there has to be a “off switch” at some point to not have to stress about it. We sit in a room alone for 16 or more hours a day, slaving away and it puts into perspective how quickly you actually dont enjoy it. Maybe at the office it would be different, I have yet to experience it. Sitting next to other first years, working and joking around at times. Being able to walk home for 15 min and get that break. Have your boss give you a smile once in a while, that can change things for someone who is feeling miserable at a job. I have only been working for 3 months now and I have been doing intensive research on where to go next. Recruiters have already reached out with roles for 2022. Sad thing is, I actually like the bank I work for and my associate is awesome.

 

I could not agree with this more. And if it tells any seniors reading this anything, I am not the only one. I’ve been having pretty regular panic attacks for the past few months, and this was supposed to be my dream job. That’s a new thing, by the way...

But if you haven’t experienced what it is like to start this job for the first time in a virtual environment, in a group where you don’t know anybody, alone with an empty fridge, then you can’t really imagine what it’s like. Hearing about how we had a record year coupled with a cheap gift and holiday work really laid the cherry on top me.

And how the hell are we supposed to admit these things virtually to people we don’t know? Especially if most of us are the types of people who have always performed well? Who worked so hard for this job? Who don’t like to complain?

It’s a hard problem to solve. But if it doesn’t move in a positive direction, I think analysts may begin drop at even faster rates. I hope this comes off as constructive, as that is 100% how it is meant. I really do not want to quit this job. But if my sanity continues to be less important than a totally worthless Friday staffing, I will be forced to.

 

Speaking for myself here, but in a TAS group that recently has similar hours to IB with 80% of the pay, the reason people don't get burnt out in our group is primarily due to protected hours concept.

Giving people an hour or so a day to workout is crazy helpful in managing the stress. Also, unless clients are demanding a ton of us on a Friday/Saturday, we have wind down hours where if you have completed all your responsibilities for a deal, you can call it early and make changes late Sunday night if needed. The point is to incentivize people to work more efficiently, but it only works if seniors enforce the culture.

 

This has been a common theme or at least a root issue to a lot of the concerns. Has this been amplified with remote working? Its much harder now for us/staffers to see how much juniors are working now. inherently everyone wants to work with the "best" analysts  but more equal distribution of work Is key. thank you 

 

Probably not a popular opinion, but in my opinion work from home is the best thing to ever happen to banking. I never want to go back. I still work until 2AM every night, but during the midday lulls, I get to do laundry or clean my apartment--previously, I'd have to start that at 2AM after getting home from the office.

You're stress and need to always be signed on is not unique to work from home--you've just never worked in an office before. If you were in the office, you'd go through the normal stress of feeling like you can't leave until everyone more senior than you has. 

There's no reason you should be waiting for comments in front of the computer if you get notifications on your phone when you get an email. Unless you walk at a snail's pace or the distance from your WFH setup and your kitchen/living room/wherever in your house/apartment is that big, you should be able to eat dinner with your family / watch tv/read a book when you have some downtime, feel your phone vibrating with the email, check said email, and if necessary walk back to your WFH setup and respond to that email pretty quickly. 

Part of this is just learning what deadlines are real and what deadlines aren't real. 

 

+1 SB

This viewpoint matches mine the most and I think it's not a mistake that both of us have a few years under us and most of the concern is around 1st year juniors quitting. I just plain LOVE wfh and I feel like I get a ton done. I've had the hours-long commutes in to the office, dealing with weather and traffic, etc, etc. I'm plotting to NEVER sit in an office again - and my BB has some really, really nice offices - happy to be on zoom for the rest of my career. Send me all the work you want as long as I never have to leave my house!

Just like you, I take advantage of the slow time to do laundry, walk my dog, heat up a meal. It's really not difficult and completely manageable, you just have to have the right mindset for it. Sure, there's days like today where I had meetings for 5 hours straight, but it beats the heck out of having to commute in every day. 

So it will be interesting in a few years when these first years get to experience a "normal" work routine. I have a feeling the wfh time will sound like paradise at that point.