Investment banks that have traditionally relied on a stream of senior lawyers, consultants and accountants to replenish their ranks are seeing those talent pipelines dry up.
For that, you can blame the push back to the office. Banks that ask negotiators to return to the office full-time, even if firms have broader formal hybrid schemes, are losing out.
Other sectors with a similarly hard-charging reputation now offer a better work-life balance, executives say. Law firms, private equity firms and the Big Four accountants, the sectors with which banks compete most fiercely, are winning the best candidates.
The hierarchical, face-to-face culture has resulted in young long-sufferers spending more than 100 hours working on PowerPoint presentations and spreadsheets to help their bosses present paid offers. The payoff of those grueling hours is a golden resume, but some aren’t willing to do that.
According to Rebecca Maslen-Stannage, chairman of Herbert Smith Freehills, junior mergers and acquisitions lawyers at top firms tend to be “strongly” targeted by banks’ recruitment teams after three years. But now, he told Financial News, they are increasingly opting to stay the course of the law, and flexible working is a key reason.
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“They can still be in super interesting deals and be at the center of these types of operations, but they don’t have the in-person concept that some of the investment banks have and being able to be flexible about where they work.” she said
Banks have worked hard to curb a lot of movement between analysts and associates over the past year. Starting pay has risen from around £50,000 to £70,000 at most firms as a surge in deal activity sparked a burnout crisis that saw 70% of young people leave some banks .
“So outdated, it has to change”
JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Nomura have also launched one-time hiring opportunities for analysts to bolster their teams and lighten workloads. Recruiters told FN that banks are increasingly turning to accountancy and law firms for talent and rivals.
Jonathan Boyers, a partner at KPMG UK who heads its corporate finance practice, said banks keeping young people in the office until 2am to 3am was “so outdated that it has to change “.
“People don’t want to work like that anymore,” he said. “We’ve had a number of people leave for investment banks over the last 12 months and come back. They said it was ridiculous the way they were expected to work.”
At Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citi and Barclays, among others, a five-day week in the office with some flexibility is the norm for bankers, negotiators told FN. Most JPMorgan traders are four days a week, with more senior staff each day.
“Some law firms and the Big Four are much more flexible than investment banks,” said Emanuele Cianci, director of legal recruiter Fox Rodney specializing in the financial services sector.
Herbert Smith Freehills asks its lawyers to be in the office an average of 60% of the time, although it said the separation is not strictly enforced. Even the US private equity-focused law firm Kirkland & Ellis, which has a reputation as a place where junior lawyers can expect to burn the midnight oil — He has adopted flexible work.
The firm told its attorneys that starting March 29, they are expected to be in the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. US law firms Shearman & Sterling and Fried Frank have told lawyers they can work remotely during August.
The big four accountancy firms (KPMG, EY, Deloitte and PwC) have also embraced hybrid working after the pandemic. PwC has told its staff that they can make time at lunchtime on Fridays in June, July and August.
Meanwhile, private equity firms, which typically hire top banking analysts after two years in the industry, have increased hiring of juniors over the past year. Gail McManus, chief executive of Private Equity Recruitment, said junior bankers are increasingly screening potential employers based on whether they offer flexible working.
“There’s so much demand that it’s gone from a buyer’s market to private equity firms selling their company to prospective employees,” he said.
“Young people often make the decision whether they want to work for a company after the first interview. There are many private equity firms that require their employees to be in the office five days a week, but more are realizing that flexibility is a selling point.”
Does time in the office affect bonuses?
Bank executives have long touted the need to bring young people back to the office, citing a culture of learning and the need to personally train bankers in their twenties. Top negotiators contacted by FN said young people hired during the pandemic were not as competent as those who spent their first two years working alongside experienced bankers.
Meanwhile, three banking analysts contacted by FN said they have been told to be in the office at least four days a week. “But if a senior banker is around on a particular day, juniors are expected to do so,” said one.
As FN has reported, there is increasing pressure on business makers to come into the office full-time when they are not traveling for business. As banks prepare for a new round of job cuts, it’s important to be seen, they said. The juniors, however, suggest that the behavior of senior bankers means they spend more time in the office than necessary.
“Covid has taught us that we don’t have to hang out in the office until 2am to get things done – it would be nice if they trusted us to complete work at home,” said an analyst at a bank of protrusion supports. .
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However, Claudio Antonini, a former investment banker turned career coach who works with financial professionals, said many young people were uncomfortable with the blurring of the lines between work and home during the pandemic. He said one customer took shower breaks to check email, while FN interviewed analysts during the lockdowns who brought laptops with them during bathroom breaks to stay online.
“They’re anxious because they fear that if their manager doesn’t see them online for a few minutes, they think they’re not working,” Antonini said.
“Spending less time in the office makes them less visible to their superiors, hurting their next bonus or promotion because there’s a lot of time in the bank,” he added.
Boyers said some young people in KPMG’s corporate finance division were realizing that working conditions were more important than the lure of bigger pay packets.
“We’ve had people leave to go to investment banks for much higher potential bonuses, then come back because the working conditions were atrocious,” he said.
To contact the authors of this story with comments or news, please email Paul Clarke and James Booth