Why Wall Street’s Newest Workers are Earning More — and Working Less

For years it’s been generally accepted that working on Wall Street is a bit of a “devil’s bargain.” Sure, the pay is sometimes phenomenal, yet the work hours are arduous enough to grind down even the most energetic young striver.

A new study by a group of financiers is challenging that long-held notion, however. That study, conducted by a group called Training the Street, supports the notion that today’s Wall Street business school grads are earning more while working less.

According to the data collected by the group, 43-percent of new MBAs received an opening job offer of $125,000 or more from the banks, private equity firms and hedge funds employing them. That’s a 17-percent increase from last year’s numbers.

Additionally, 79-percent of these new workers received a job offer of at least $100,000. That’s also an increase from last year, when only 74-percent of new MBAs reported receiving a six-figure offer. This year’s MBA class also reports being more satisfied with their job offers, with only eight-percent saying they’re unhappy, as compared to last year’s 12-percent.

Salaries have been rising for years as Wall Street firms aim to keep their best and brightest away from rival companies — and out of the grasping clutches of Silicon Valley. Technology firms have emerged as serious competition for even the largest Wall Street banks over the last few years, as both sectors feed an ever-growing hunger for the best young talent on the market.

The lure of money is only half the battle, however. Wall Street is very aware of the public’s perception of its treatment of junior bankers, and how that narrative may negatively impact its ability to hire and keep top-tier personnel. Goldman Sachs and other top companies have taken fairly extraordinary steps to change those perceptions, even going so far as to ban junior personnel from the office on Saturdays and mandating vacation.

With elite financial institutions moving to break (or at least rein in) the culture of the 100-hour week, it seems likely that the industry as a whole will adopt the same tactics — good news for those seeking to enter the field.

A promising time for job seekers

The prospect of more money and shorter hours isn’t the only positive development for those looking for a career in high finance. The last few years have seen a considerable uptick in mergers and acquisitions. This, in turn, drives demand for more young workers.

So who is doing the hiring? Training the Street’s survey provides some interesting information about new MBA destinations. Bulge bracket banks are the most popular career starter for new MBAs (26-percent), followed by consulting firms (19-percent) and private equity and hedge funds (16-percent).

The survey also indicated that private equity and hedge funds and boutique advisory firms have been particularly active in hiring this year, though bulge bracket banks are still the number one career starting spot for new MBAs by a wide margin.

When asked about the most relevant abilities needed to land a job on Wall Street, the respondents ranked interpersonal skills first (54-percent) and industry experience second (24-percent). That’s an extremely valuable insight for those still seeking to land their first offer.

The takeaway

If you’re looking for a job on Wall Street, the bottom line is fairly simple: A strong banking sector and increased deal activity equals more lucrative job offers for new workers. Fortunately, that’s exactly the environment we’ve got right now.

If the feedback from this year’s crop of MBAs is accurate, this year’s hiring season should be quite promising.


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