Fierce in-fighting. Bullying. Stress. Few pay rises.
That’s how most workers describe life on Wall Street these days, according to a survey of about 100 financial professionals by Options Group, a New York executive search firm.
Survey participants were asked about their satisfaction with their job, their firm, their pay and their prospects.
An alarming 50% of the them said they were unhappy in all four areas, Options Group said.
“In a lot of cases keeping your job is your bonus,” said one anonymous U.S.-based trader who works at a European bank.
The negative sentiment among financial professionals gives a glimpse into life on Wall Street and in finance more broadly after the 2008 financial meltdown.
Banks have been forced by shareholders and regulators to rein in risk and adhere to new compliance standards.
“It’s become a very challenging environment. Instead of concentrating on generating alpha, you have to concentrate on rules and regulation,” said Mike Karp, CEO of Options Group.
Intense politics: Financial firms should be alarmed by the survey, which covered mostly senior employees located in the U.S. and Canada. The negative results aren’t a one-time blip. Options Group conducts the survey twice a year and said it hasn’t noticed a meaningful change over the past three years.
“Politics-driven big banks are destroying their talent pools and driving out precisely the kinds of people they need,” said one U.K.-based investment banker who works for a U.S. firm.
“In an environment where pay and bonus pools are stagnant, brute politics and internal credit-stealing are ascendant,” the investment banker said.
Talent wars: Disillusioned by life in finance, some talented employees may opt to take their talents to sunny Silicon Valley. Fast-growing technology companies like Google(GOOGL, Tech30) offer large paychecks, fewer regulations in some regards and the perceived ability to change the world for the better.
Wall Street is fighting back the best way it knows how: with money. Last summer, several Wall Street firms raised the salaries of some junior-level employees by around 20% in an effort to compete for talent that is increasingly attracted to Silicon Valley.
Bonuses not back at pre-crisis levels: Bankers’ bonuses have rebounded since the financial crisis but remain shy of the record-level payouts.
The average Wall Street bonus last year was nearly $173,000 — roughly $20,000 below the average in 2006.
Of course, few people feel sorry for the bankers. The bonuses enjoyed by financial professionals these days are over three times the median U.S. household income.
Bullying? But is the pay worth it? Bank of America(BAC), JP Morgan(JPM) and Deutsche Bank(DB) have been among the firms forced to confront stress, anxiety and depression facing their staff after banker suicides and premature deaths made headlines.
The financial sector has seen a flood of investigations, lawsuits and new regulations, piling the pressure on workers as their employers demand a return to the massive profits of the past.
That pressure may have even manifested itself in the form of bullying, at least according to one trader at a New York hedge fund.
“There are some very bad people who think nothing of bullying and then taking advantage of employees,” the trader said in the Options Group survey. “Be very careful.”