100+ hour work week: the math of investment banking hours

Investment banking hours - 100+ work week

All you need to know about investment banking hours

The first time I’ve heard about 100+ workweek in investment banking I was not too scared. “It’s probably an exaggeration. Investment banking hours can’t be that bad.” Apparently they can. After one week of work from 9am to 4am I had a total of 30 hours sleep in a week. And it didn’t get much better from there onwards.

So writing down from experience – the math of investment banking hours. (Warning: the following text contains shocking content and is not recommended for faint-hearted).

100+ hours per week

Typical intern or analyst will work anywhere from 80 to 120 hours per week. You will need to be at work around 9am. After some time it will carry on to 9.30am, and then probably to 10am. You rarely will finish before 2am. If you are done by midnight, consider it a lucky day. You still have a chance to watch a movie before going to bed.

There are occasional flucks when hours get better. When you can leave around 9am if there is no work. Usually though such quiet period are followed by intense all-nighters once your staffer notices you have too much free time. Friday is another day when you have a chance to get out of the office early. Unfortunately it often means you will come to the office on weekend. Weekends are tricky. You will need to come in to finish some work. Chances are, if you are seen at your desk – you will be staffed on something new. Hence the worst nightmare of any junior banker – the red light on your blackberry, meaning you probably just got staffed.

Investment banking hours - working late

4+ all-nighters per month

Terrifying days when you need to finish your assignments before morning. This means no sleep at all. At 5am in the morning you will be still at your desk. If you are lucky – there will be a few similarly miserable people spread out around the office. At 7am you will understand you need a shower and change of cloths. If you have a spare hour you will get a cab home, shower for 5 minutes, change for 5 minutes, nap for 5 minutes and go back to the office. If not – you’ll probably have a shower in the office and nap in the bathroom.

Investment banking hours - sleeping in the office

10- holidays per year

You are entitled to at least 21. Often you will be asked to cancel or postpone because of the upcoming project. Sometimes you will be called in that exact moment when you are drinking margaritas somewhere on the beach in Ibiza. I personally spent a wonderful Christmas in my office with a party-set of sushi from the nearest takeaway.

Investment banking hours - office worker tired

Damage control

Now, can you do anything about it? Generally, your investment banking hours will be completely unpredictable. Everything will depend on the situation, deal flow of the team and God’s will. God in this case being your staffer, who decides how many assignments you can take on. However, the situation is not desperate. And there are some things in your power to influence the length of your work day.

1) Choose the country you work in

Depending on the location of your office working hours may vary. US is absolutely the worst, with teams working 10-20% more than in Europe. London and Frankfurt can be bad too. Milan and Amsterdam are likely to give you a bit more spare time. If you aim to reduce your investment banking hours – look at the offices in Australia or regional teams (Spain is a good one) in Europe.

2) Research bank’s culture

For larger banks, working late is embodied in the culture. Top banks usually boast more deals, which understandably means more work. Smaller banks such as RBC or boutiques like Lazard offer better investment banking hours on average. This rule is not universal – situation varies greatly by country, division, team and so on.

3) Pick the right division

Corporate advisory is known for bad hours – so if you want to have a slightly better lifestyle you can think of going into markets division. Being in a debt or equity team means you will start earlier – around 7am, but also finish shortly after the markets close, so usually before 7pm. Keep in mind working in markets also means a more intense day – so while your total hours will be less, you won’t have much time to take breaks or walk around.

4) Get in the right team

Some teams have better lifestyles. With recent financial troubles in Eurozone for example Financial Institutions teams were quite busy. There are no universal rules – everything depends on individual bank. Sometimes even despite the low deal flow teams work a lot – just because of the working style of the team head. Talk to the people inside before deciding which team to choose.

Does it get any better with time?

It does. The further you progress in your career path, the less hours you have to log in. Once you reach associate level you have analysts that can pull hours in for you. VPs and directors work a lot, but they never show up on weekends and usually are home for dinner. Also, with recent events (a lot of bad press due to the deaths of people because of overwork) investment banks have been trying to employ a softer attitude. Goldman Sachs has instructed its interns not to work more than 17 hours a day and encouraged them to leave the office after 12am. Citigroup and Credit Suisse now follow similar policies, and Deutsche Bank even awarded junior bankers two protected weekends per month.

So far this change has mostly been on the paper. Most junior bankers still feel they have to follow the “FILO” (first in, last out) rule.  But at least the trend is out there. All of the facts and numbers – in the infographics below.

Investment banking hours infographics

 

Feel free leave your comments or share the story with your friends. After all, can you believe investment banking hours are that bad? If you want more stories on investment banking lifestyle – check the hilariously offensive Goldman Sachs Elevator tweets about life on Wall Street

 

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1 comment on “100+ hour work week: the math of investment banking hours

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Hey, really cool article. I was just wondering – are there any banks in investment banking that are known for better hours? I really want to get in IB but the hours scare me a bit…

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