Brutal hours, bullying & bureaucracy: the life of a trader in a bank
If you’re looking for a financial services job that pays well and allows you to have some sort of life outside of work, then sales and trading is theoretically what you’re looking for. Our latest salary and bonus survey suggested that salespeople and tradespeople earn an average total compensation of $407,000 and work only 55 hours a week. That looks quite attractive compared to the investment banking division where people work 73 hours a week for an average of $273,000.
However, this does not mean that traders at the major investment banks are completely satisfied. A new study* by Daphne Sobolev of the UCL School of Management in London suggests that traders have as many complaints as junior bankers. And many of their complaints are similar.
Sobolev analyzed Glassdoor reviews posted by people claiming to be traders from 10 different investment banks (JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Citi, Credit Suisse, Barclays, Deutche Bank, Jefferies and UBS) between June 2012 and December 2021. Some are a bit dated (she quotes a Deutsche Bank trader who praises the culture on the stock floor), but many include the kind of timeless grumbling that traders have been indulging in for decades.
“The hours can be brutal even if you love what you do,” a derivatives trader at Goldman Sachs complained last year. “I worked more than 12 hours a day all the time,” said a Credit Suisse trader, also in 2021. A stock trader said 10 to 13 hours a day was the norm.
Sobolev also spied on complaints about the dealing room’s management techniques. Experienced traders have long had a reputation for being garish, and some of those who suffer from it have taken to Glassdoor to complain about being the recipients. In 2020, for example, a Morgan Stanley trader suggested the bank was a “absolute dictatorship, where the ruler works with the aim of destroying the confidence and self-esteem of the individual, creating an environment in which the trader loses confidence in his abilities, causing him to fear losing money. Last year, a Credit Suisse trader was spotted complaining about receiving very “little help from colleagues to learn in an industry where self-learning is very hard.” He added that, “The atmosphere on the floor is very cannibalistic, with people stomping on their own team members for personal gain.”
There were also complaints about “politics and egos” at Bank of America (albeit in 2014). A 48-year-old trader at Goldman Sachs complained last year that the company’s politics became more intense as he rose through the ranks. Writing in 2019, a Citi trader said there were,“too many managers and general managers who just give orders and do nothing.” Life was made worse by old technology (there were complaints about it at Goldman, Citi and JPMorgan in 2020 and 2021) and fear of being fired when things went wrong.
However, life in trading is not all bad. Sobolev also spotted plenty of perks, including salary, fun times, fun co-workers, and trading floor excitement. “VSmake a ton of money,” a Goldman Sachs trader said in 2020. “People – all extremely smart, which is motivating and interesting,” a Morgan Stanley trader said in 2016. A Barclays trader said the bank was a “a fun place to work on a daily basis,” while another Morgan Stanley trader said being on the floor was one of the “most exciting roles “with” seeing market movements in action and discussing the global economy, etc. “
*The price of happiness: Qualitative analysis of the effects of organizational factors on the work experience of merchants