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Goldman Sachs staff complain of 'inhumane' 100-hour weeks

UKRAINE - 2021/02/17: In this photo illustration the Goldman Sachs logo of the U.S. investment bank is seen on a smartphone and a pc screen. (Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
The Goldman Sachs logo of the U.S. investment bank is seen on a smartphone and a PC screen. Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Goldman Sachs (GS) is facing questions over staff working conditions after a leaked internal report showed junior staff complaining of "inhumane" 100-hour work weeks which one respondent said was "arguably worse" than foster care.

A Goldman presentation titled "Working Conditions Survey" was posted on Twitter on Thursday, detailing dissatisfaction among junior staff over long hours and unrealistic demands.

The presentation, dated February 2021, detailed complaints from analysts of worsening mental and physical health, 100-hour work weeks, "workplace abuse" from management, and poorer relationships with friends and family.

One slide picked out specific feedback given by junior staff. It included:

  • “The sleep deprivation, the treatment by senior bankers, the mental and physical stress...I’ve been through foster care and this is arguably worse.”

  • “My body physically hurts all the time and mentally I’m in a really dark place.”

  • “Being unemployed is less frightening to me than what my body might succumb to if I keep up this lifestyle.”

  • “There was a point where I was not eating, showering or doing anything else other than working from morning until after midnight.”

  • “What is not ok to me is 110-120 hours over the course of a week! The math is simple, that leaves 4 hours a day for eating, sleeping, showering, bathroom and general transition time. This is beyond the level of ‘hard working’, this Is inhumane/abuse.”

The presentation was based on a survey of 13 first-year analysts, one of the most junior official roles in the bank. Analysts who took the survey were averaging 95 hour work weeks and just 5 hours sleep a night. Respondents had worked an average of 108-hours in the week the survey was done — equivalent to working 9am to midnight Monday to Sunday.

One of the slides from the internal Goldman presentation. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK
One of the slides from the internal Goldman presentation. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK

As well as gruelling hours, staff complained of mistreatment in the workplace. 77% of those surveyed said they felt they had been a victim of "workplace abuse" and 75% said they had considered counselling due to the stress of the job. All 13 said they had been given unrealistic deadlines, most reported being micromanaged, and 92% said they were frequently ignored in meetings.

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A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs acknowledged the survey and report. They said the conditions were linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and surging business at the firm. Net revenues at Goldman jumped 22% last year to $44.5bn, thanks to booming activity at its markets business and at the investment bank.

"We recognize that our people are very busy, because business is strong and volumes are at historic levels," a spokesperson said. "A year into COVID, people are understandably quite stretched, and that’s why we are listening to their concerns and taking multiple steps to address them.”

The bank has accelerated its hiring and moved to try and automated more tasks to alleviate the workload.

The leaked presentation suggested setting a maximum of 80-hour work weeks and giving junior staff at least a week to prepare material for meetings. The document said guidelines around working hours "need to be respected".

"Junior bankers should not be expected to do any work after 9pm Friday or all day Saturday without a pre-approved exception, as that is the only safe-guarded personal time that we get," the document said.

CNBC reported that the presentation was drawn up by junior bankers themselves to highlight their issues.

David Solomon, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP
David Solomon, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

Goldman chief executive David Solomon has acknowledged issues with working from home during the pandemic and has been pushing to get staff back in the office as soon as possible. Last month he said: "I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us."

He called remote working an "aberration" for Goldman Sachs.

Investment banking is well-known for its often intense working practices but the feedback recalls the worst excesses of the industry.

Banks have tried to reign in workloads for junior staff in the wake of the death of Bank of America intern Moritz Erhardt in 2013. An inquest found Erhardt died of a seizure at his home in London after working 72 hours in a row. The incident was loosely dramatised in the recent HBO/BBC series Industry.

The Goldman presentation was shared on Twitter by London-based Matt Muir. Muir told Yahoo Finance UK he had been passed the document by a friend who works in recruitment.

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