Morgan Stanley’s message to young staffers captures every big workplace trend in one memo

Improving conditions.
Improving conditions.
Image: Reuters/Russell Boyce
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Better perks and gentler environments are becoming staples of the modern white-collar workplace—even in the cut-throat world of investment banking. According to a memo sent this week to staff at Morgan Stanley, junior bankers at the firm will soon get paid more and be promoted faster, with mandatory vacation and fewer hours.

Sound familiar? Bank of America recently revamped time-off policies for investment bankers, offering four- to six-week sabbaticals every five years, depending on length of service. PwC has rolled out flexible work policies, while encouraging better time management over long hours for its employees. And Google, Facebook, and Coke all have worked with The Energy Project, a productivity consultancy, to promote better work-life balance for their employees.

According to its memo, Morgan Stanley is raising base pay for associates in investment banking and capital markets by 20% to 25%. It is also speeding up its promotion timeline for high-performing analysts—the entry-level position below associate—from three years to two. The memo also reiterated the bank’s current vacation and hours policies: two mandatory one-week vacations every year and limited staffing on Fridays and weekends.

Wall Street has long had a reputation for debilitating hours, consecutive all-nighters, and frequent weekend work. But even the most competitive firms are now grappling with a new generation’s insistence on rapid promotions and better work-life balance. “The ability to recruit, develop, and retain top talent by offering attractive career opportunities is a key priority,” the memo noted.

The bank isn’t just interested in staying competitive within its industry. The new policies are meant to convey to young people that banking is an attractive industry in general, a person familiar with the firm’s strategy confirms. That might be even more important as Wall Street faces growing competition from recruiters in Silicon Valley, where lucrative, perk-filled jobs are plentiful.