Banking interns have had a notoriously torrid time when having to try and prove their worth in the high-pressure environment. The industry was put under serious scrutiny following the death of a 21-year-old Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern called Moritz Erhardt in 2013.
It was found that he died of an epileptic fit which may have been trigged by fatigue after working “exceptional” hours at the top investment bank. Erhardt was nearing the end of a seven-week internship in London when he collapsed at home, after working until 6am three days in a row.
Goldman Sachs has responded to increased concern over interns’ hours by introducing new rules for this summer’s incoming batch. A spokesman said they had been introduced “to improve the overall work experience of our interns” and extended to all of its summer interns across the world.
Budding investment bankers have been told to go home before midnight and not to return before 7am, in an effort to try and make sure interns work hard but not excessively so. This could, however, still see interns working up to seventeen hours each day if the guidelines were followed explicitly.
It may be an effort by the bank to tweak a deeply entrenched culture of high demands and high performance, but it also reinforces how tough the hours are for interns.
The discussion of interns’ treatment was put back in the spotlight again recently when a leaked email from a Barclays analyst providing “advice” to summer interns attempted to make light of the industry’s infamous long hours.
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Justin Kwan wrote that during his summer in the group “an intern asked our staffer for a weekend off for a family reunion – he was told he could go. He was also asked to hand in his Blackberry and pack up his desk”.
The attempt at humorous “rules” included the assumption that interns would be the last to leave at night, with the helpful tip to bring a pillow or yoga mat as it “makes sleeping under your desk a lot more comfortable”.
Goldman Sach’s CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, had previously spoken to his interns shortly after Erhardt’s death and said they shouldn’t seek to impress at the risk of their health.
“You have to be interesting, you have to have interests away from the narrow thing of what you do,” he advised. “You have to be somebody who somebody else wants to talk to.”
This newest announcement comes alongside a series of changes the company has made to try and improve the work experience for junior bankers – with mentoring programmes and pay increases among the adjustments. It has also been hiring more of them in an attempt to lessen the workload – though on the flip-side it could heighten competitiveness among interns.
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