Banker solutions to banker problems

JPMorgan has a color-coded spreadsheet for bankers who work too much

May 9, 2014
May 9, 2014

After the widely publicized death last August of a Bank of America intern in London who had worked for 72 hours straight, banks have been trying to cut the notoriously long hours that junior bankers and analysts work, as more and more grads choose other fields. Several banks have become more insistent about taking weekend days off, for example.

JPMorgan is taking an archetypically banker-ish approach to the problem, making a color-coded spreadsheet that keeps track of the hours people are working.

According to a Bloomberg report on the experience of young bankers, those who spend more than 75 hours at the office in a week are coded red; those who spend less are marked blue or yellow.

Jeff Urwin, who co-runs corporate and investment banking at the company, looks at the spreadsheet weekly. If people keep coming up red, he may call them or their manager to find out if they’re working on something that justifies the hours. If it doesn’t, a manager might get a warning.

Urwin acknowledges that there’s an increasing “war for talent” for bank recruits. The numbers back him up. The number of elite MBAs headed to finance has plummeted in the past few years, with more and more choosing the technology industry. The Bloomberg article tracks a number of bankers who grew disillusioned and ended up leaving.

There’s a risk the incentives might be a bit skewed with this particular plan. The employees know about the spreadsheet, and probably feel a good amount of pressure to be in that red column and demonstrate that they’re hard workers.

But on the management side, it might highlight managers who tend to lean on junior employees to get their work done so they don’t have to do as much themselves. Obviously there are deals and deadlines that require 90-hour weeks, but if they’re commonplace, it’s an sign that something’s wrong. “There are only two things you control in investment banking management: how you use financial capital and how you use human capital,” Urwin told Bloomberg.

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