Goldman Sachs junior bankers rebel over 18-hour shifts and low pay – The Guardian

Goldman Sachs

Younger staff in London follow revolt in US offices over remote-working conditions

The reputation of Goldman Sachs as the most desirable employer for aspiring investment bankers is at stake. Legendary for its pulling power with the best graduates, the bank is now facing a rebellion in its lower ranks.

Junior staff who used to tolerate long working hours thanks to office camaraderie have been forced to manage burnout at home, alone, throughout the pandemic. Some have started demanding change, while others are plotting their exit. What began as a little local trouble at a US office in February has now spread to the UK.

“It used to be either you get paid a lot, and your life is hell, or your life is better and you’re not paid that well,” one London-based banker, hired by Goldman last year, said. “At the moment we have neither.”


The banker, who spoke to the Guardian on the basis of anonymity, said staff were worried about speaking out on issues including 18-hour shifts that left juniors earning less than the living wage, or the number of colleagues on sick leave due to burnout. The employee – who is one of 100 recruits hired to work at Goldman each year – did not want their gender disclosed due to fear of repercussion.

“I knew what I was signing up for at Goldman. But then things changed really quickly with remote working during Covid,” they said.

With the Fleet Street head office closed, some colleagues moved home, while the banker, in their early 20s, was left to work out of a three-bed flat shared with two other roommates in London.

Goldman chief executive David Solomon has acknowledged the vast pandemic workload. While an investment banking boom helped push profits up 135% to $4.5bn (£3.8bn) in the fourth quarter of 2020, it has taken a toll on staff.


“There are three to six people on sick leave for burnout per team in London at all times. It’s actually pretty rough,” the London banker said. Some juniors are regularly working until 4-5am, and occasionally through to morning. “I’ve spoken to some analysts that have lost nearly 1 or 2 stone in one year just because they don’t have time to cook.”

Solomon was forced to address similar complaints laid out in a leaked presentation by 13 aggrieved first-year Goldman bankers this week, who complained that long hours, and abuse from co-workers had created “inhumane” working conditions.

The complaints, which date from February, indicate that Goldman is still grappling with the high-pressure culture that was exposed when 22-year-old Goldman analyst Sarvshreshth Gupta took his own life in 2015. Gupta was found dead after complaining of toiling 100 hours a week and throughout the night.

Inquiries suggest Goldman is not just overworking a small group of US hires, but that the problem is widespread and affecting junior bankers overseas.


In a company-wide message on Monday, Solomon pledged the bank would ramp up efforts to hire more junior bankers, transfer staff to stretched teams and strengthen enforcement of a no-work-on-Saturday rule. “We are not asking for crazy stuff, just for the existing rules to be enforced,” the London banker said.

Banks such as Goldman Sachs are able to demand long hours by adding a clause to contracts that opt staff out of 48-hour working week rules.

“Some days you don’t shower,” the London banker said. “Same with eating … You just don’t have time to say ‘Oh hey I need to go shopping for groceries and then cook’,” they said.

“We are supposed to work “whatever the business requires” but these requirements have kept increasing and we have no control on our hours. Senior employees can choose to pass on a deal if they don’t have the bandwidth, but we are just obeying orders,” the banker said.

To its credit, Goldman Sachs has tried to offer some remote perks, such as yoga or mental health webinars. “But you don’t even have time to sleep. So how would you have time to login for one hour on Zoom?” the banker said.


First-year bankers are weighing up the costs. Starting on a base salary of roughly £50,000, analysts who regularly work 18-hour shifts, six days a week, will earn roughly £8.90 an hour before tax – less than the £10.85 living wage for London – unless they last until bonus season.

“If you don’t get your bonus, you’ll get paid less by the hour than a McDonald’s employee. And everyone knows about that, but it also increases the pressure, in the sense that people are scared of voicing concerns, myself included,” they said.

The banker said a number of analysts had quit halfway through their second-year – refusing to wait for their bonus. “They said, ‘It’s not worth it. I’d rather have time off and then start to work where I’ll be paid more, than suffer like hell.’”

Meanwhile, Goldman has left bankers footing the bill for their own home-working equipment – including computers, screens, phone, chairs and desks – during the pandemic.

Staff have also been stripped of meal perks that allowed them to expense up to £20 a day when working overtime – and £60 on Sundays – since they left the office. “Juniors tried pushing for evening meals to be covered as used to be in the office but the firm didn’t reply. This has a huge impact as it amounts to 20% of net salary,” they said.


The banker claimed Goldman was aware it could pay workers less, and replace them quickly, thanks to the power of its own brand and prestige. That’s the really perverse thing about it. Goldman keeps saying the real force of Goldman is its people. And if that was the case, they’d treat the people better,” they said.

The bank did not deny that staff had been overworked, but said in a statement: “We are actively engaging with our managers to ensure that everyone in their teams, including junior staff members, has the support they need given the high-levels of client activity and ongoing challenges of working from home.”

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