BUSINESS

JPMorgan Tells Some Bankers To Stop Working Weekends -- Unless They Have To

"We're trying to change the culture," a bank spokeswoman said.
JPMorgan Chase told its investment bankers to more or less stop working on weekends.
JPMorgan Chase told its investment bankers to more or less stop working on weekends.

Investment bankers at JPMorgan Chase are feeling the pressure right now... to work less.

On Thursday, the bank told its approximately 2,000 investment bankers to stop working on the weekends -- kinda. If they're working on an active deal, bankers are still expected to work on Saturday and Sunday, if needed.

JPMorgan is calling the initiative "pencils down." It's just the latest effort by a big bank to shift the industry's notoriously grueling 100-hour-a-week ethos to something slightly less unreasonable. Over the summer, Goldman Sachs issued a similar kind of edict, telling interns to stop working between midnight and 7 a.m.

JPMorgan Chase declined to say whether CEO Jamie Dimon would be taking weekends off, too.
JPMorgan Chase declined to say whether CEO Jamie Dimon would be taking weekends off, too.

"We're trying to change the culture," a bank spokeswoman told The Huffington Post. "A lot of these people are uber-superstars. They feel that to get ahead they need to be here on weekends."

The idea is to give junior bankers "a better chance for success and promotion," she said. The new program also offers an accelerated track to promotions for top performers and more mentoring for junior bankers. 

Still, by limiting the new guidelines only to times when there isn't an urgent deal in the works, some questioned how effective of a culture change this could be.

Moves like JPMorgan's matter because the workaholic vibe in investment banking trickles down to other corners of the working world, Alexandra Michel, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies investment banking culture, explained to HuffPost earlier this year.

"Many people who become CEOs are ex-bankers," said Michel, herself a former Goldman Sachs banker. "People who leave Goldman assume top positions in government. They bring the culture with them." These leaders then re-create workaholic practices in their new workplaces.

The turn away from insane hours began with the financial crisis, and has intensified as the buttoned-down banking industry has lost its star status with elite business school graduates -- who are now more attracted by big paychecks from "cool" tech companies.

There's "fear that the brightest students no longer see investment banking as a sustainable career," Bloomberg noted last year in a piece about big banks losing popularity to tech companies that promise a culture that promotes wellness. 

To combat this, the article notes, Goldman had Deepak Chopra talk to employees about relaxation and vacation.

Also, pay hasn't been quite as good at the banks since they exploded the entire economy back in 2007.

Still, the real wake-up call for the workaholic culture came in 2013 after an intern at Bank of America died. Though the cause of death was ultimately shown to be an epileptic seizure, initially there was a lot of high-profile chatter about how the 21-year-old had been pulling all-nighters for the bank in the lead-up to his death.

Not long after that, Bank of America, JPMorgan and others started offering junior bankers a monthly "protected" weekend during which they wouldn't be expected to work. 

On Thursday, the JPMorgan spokeswoman said bankers would continue to get protected weekends under the new initiative.

These changes came simply because junior bankers were asking for them, JPMorgan said, noting it has no trouble finding qualified candidates. "We are only able to accept 2-3 percent of the thousands that apply each year."

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