RANKING: BEST BULGE BRACKET CULTURE

WSO recently released the results of the 2022 IB Work-Conditions Survey, which shows some interesting data on how analysts across the industry feel about their experience at their banks. Although having this data out there is great, almost everyone knows that bankers work crazy hours - most people are more interested in the broader question of how banks compare to other firms within their peer group. My hope it that this post may help people currently recruiting get an idea of how analyst experiences compare across the major bulge bracket banks.

Methodology

For the rankings shown below, scores for each bank were normalized to a scale of 0-1 for each question, with 0 being the lowest scoring bank and 1 being the highest. As an example, here is how scores from the first question ("Hours of sleep per night") were normalized:

Normalization Example
When looking at the rankings below, it's important to understand that the scores shown below are not measurements, they are a relative comparison of how well each firm ranks among its peer group. The normalized score reduces the data to a percentage representing bank's performance relative to its peers, allowing a direct comparison of questions where answers are scored on difference scales.

The analysis was limited to only "traditional" bulge bracket banks with sufficient survey data since they are widely considered to be part of the same peer group. Scores were aggregated by category (as presented in the WSO deck), and an overall ranking was calculated based on an unweighted average score across all 4 categories. 

Results

Hours & SleepHealth & Worker RetentionWorkplace CultureSatisfaction & Recommending the FirmOverall Ranking

Conclusion

The rankings shown above are obviously not perfect representations of the culture at each bank. However the data does indicate that analysts at certain banks are far happier with their experience at their firm than others. The most obvious takeaway here is that Barclays analysts are clearly the most satisfied with their experience at the firm, while analysts at firms like Citi and Goldman are left wishing for more. These takeaways are roughly in line with my personal impression of the reputations of each bank, but the enormous gap in between analyst satisfaction at Barclays and all the other banks is still surprising.

For anyone interested in digging deeper into the survey, PM me for the excel file used to build the rankings (I cannot post links yet). I'm also happy to answer any questions about the data or the rankings in the comment section below.

 

Isn't that bad anymore. Sweatshop culture was driven by MDs and the juniors being insanely understaffed for level of deal flow. Handler gets a lot of crap on WSO, but once he caught wind of how bad things were he definitely took an initiative to address junior concerns and increase dialogue with juniors, and culture overall has improved significantly since then although there are still a fair share of sweaty MDs. Firm is still understaffed but junior hiring has also expanded to somewhat alleviate that.

 

Currently at one of the BBs on this list, but previously worked at SunTrust and can confirm culture was significantly worse at the latter. Comparatively it’s a sweatshop and unfortunately you aren’t rewarded with strong deal flow. Lots of late nights / weekends on pitches and internal credit memos. 

 

Curious to know what the Truist review is based on. I'm in the TMT group and supposedly to be one of the worse and I still feel alright for the most part. If I'm happy with Truist then should I lateral to Barclays, since that would be the promised land?

 

CS, UBS, and MS didnt have enough respondents in the WSO survey for them to include the data. Its really too bad since collecting more data on this would be such a good way to hold banks accountable and push culture change in IB (like the GS13 survey did). Hopefully next year they will get more responses...

 

Credit Suisse sucks so bad it would be off the charts (source: personal experience)

 

Surprises me that people would do anything to work at MS and GS considering everything we know about their balance. Why don’t more people shoot for barclays? Do they really care that much about brand name vs their health and sanity? I know everywhere in this industry it’ll be tough, but seems like Barclays is way ahead of the curve.

 

Not sure why my reply keeps getting tagged on the wrong comment - this is a reply to DaBeast0111's comment.

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I think part of it is that people just don't know/realise how big the difference in cultures is. Theres really only so much you can learn about a bank's culture from networking and interviews, and analysts will usually try to sell their own firm to prospects.

Hopefully laying the data out like this makes it clear to people how important culture is for work satisfaction. Having slightly better exit opps is nice, but exit opps alone wont be enough for most people to justify such a steep trade off on happiness.

 

Analysts tend to go toward the best "exit options" and they are younger, so they place less emphasis on culture typically (though there are obviously exceptions). 

Associates, particularly MBAs, may have had culture experiences that have driven them away from their previous firm or industry, and tend to place more emphasis on culture and stability in the workplace. 

Pay is another topic that is very individual, but to generalize I would say Analysts are looking for "the best" (driven by comparative social media) and Associates are looking for "good enough" - at least in line with most of their peers, but for most the post-MBA banking salary/bonus is a material jump from their previous work experience, so they tend not to get too focused on this for a while.

 

Not sure about in the US but in Singapore my seniors have told me Barclays basically hires 2-4 analysts per year. I guess the consequence of better culture is higher retention which means less hiring? 

 

Maybe because of the lower salary? I know the difference is pretty marginal, but I suppose that quite a few people trying to break into IB put compensation over other factors. 

 

I work at Barc as an AN1 so take what I say with a grain of salt. Don't remember if I filled this out but gotta agree I feel like things have been really good compared to everyone else's experiences I hear about. I've gotten a good deal of Friday's evenings off and many weekends with only a bit of Sunday work (protected Saturdays). Have had some bad weeks on live deals, but those are worth it (good experience that I'm ultimately in banking for) and people try to make cushion around the weekends when they can. WFH flexible and I get to take 2, 5 day protected vacations as an An1 and some more here and there. Able to get some exercise consistently and on WFH days go for walks / do errands outside. We have India teams, a graphics team to handle a good amount of bs work. All these things add up big but some things are different between groups and the fact that things can switch up really fast (classic banking blowups) still means it may not be worth the difference in pay or perks overall to people. Also the people who come here are smart but not Hardos and focused on having a good experience generally. My bonus probs won't be as great as ppl at other firms and that may be enough to make a stink about especially as we've had record revenues. Post banking recruiting you can do whatever you want if you prepare well. All to say it's 100% not a regret and I'm happy I took the offer here over a boutique. If I had waited to recruit and gotten an offer to a 'better' BB maybe I would have taken that, so I'm happy things didn't work out like that because, believe it or not, I'm pretty happy here and cautious about grass is greener syndrome with everything that I hear and read. This all sounds nice but I'm sure some people are happy with their decisions at all these firms while their friends in the cube next to them hates it. But we have some good things ingrained here that make a big difference.

 

I am recruiting really really hard for Barclays, and it’s really great to read this. Do you seem to enjoy yourself more outside of work compared to others you may know at EBs or BBs? Also is your workload sustainable long term as well?

 

Would say yes to both but re: #1 I never tried having too many finance friends in personal life so only hear about stuff tangentially or from personal friends (and comparatively for #1 it is a solid 100% yes to those I know personally even at other protected Saturday firms and especially places with good deal flow)For #2 sure yes but some thoughts: people that make a good culture can leave and new senior people / laterals may not come with a good culture mindset or want to prove something and create a lot of work in return for juniors. Have seen people successfully push back really well though (experienced AN and ASO who know their worth). Also it may suck to stay at a place when everyone you build a connection with AN or ASO wise leaves (people who stay are probs gonna be the more type A ones you didn't get along with as well with as most people don't choose to continue doing banking). All that being said I think it's somewhat sustainable for the medium term up until VP maybe director, eat what you kill can be rough in general as a senior and something else entirely.

But through the ranks you can make a decent argument for it being sustainable if you are willing to stand up for yourself and try to make boundaries. And you really are paid a lot, I mean especially in NYC where you don't really upgrade your lifestyle after a certain point anyway since most experiences (concerts etc) aren’t that expensive and weekends are where most free time is. Even if you spent like 1-2k a weekend to enjoy life you'd have a lot leftover as a VP. I personally wanna stay in finance just long enough to experience that kinda stuff before moving to something less stressful. The question is just more about figuring out what kinda lifestyle you want and working backwards at each stage and reevaluate as you go

 

I made those comments up there and let me tell you HR is a nightmare here same with having tech issues up the ass all the time and both can be pretty miserable. Also, I felt what I wrote was actually pretty neutral and very fair (lots of people with my experience or better) considering your banking exp is very individualized (what deals ur on and who you're working with) and people on active sell sides can be miserable at the same time as people enjoying life. But believe it or not that was me trying to be somewhat neutral. I have nothing to sell and clearly what I say doesn't change our deal flow or anything like that- just for people who aren't hardos (clearly not you) but still want a good experience, it's a great place. That's it. Some people who nerd out about their prestige or pay or whatever just won't get it but that's fine. Also probably why you won't see people wanting to recruit to large cap PE funds.