Stop moaning about hours, City chief tells junior bankers on £70,000: Young mothers work just as hard, rages Xavier Rolet – who rose from sink estate
One of the City’s best-known grandees has slammed ‘entitled’ junior bankers for moaning about long working hours while they rake in starting salaries of more than £70,000.
Xavier Rolet, the former boss of the London Stock Exchange, who built his career in banking, said graduates had no right to complain about working 80 hours a week because ‘that’s the business’ and ‘no one is coercing them’.
Earlier this year, a group of junior bankers at Goldman Sachs in the US said that the work conditions were ‘inhumane’, citing sleep deprivation, 100-hour weeks, and workplace ‘abuse’.
‘Entitled’: Young bankers should accept 80-hour weeks because ‘that’s the business’ and ‘no one is coercing them’
But Rolet, who worked at US investment banking giant Goldman Sachs in the 1980s, said long hours have always been part of the job. Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, he added: ‘The investment banks with this kind of problem should try hiring poor hungry kids who managed to put themselves through college instead of entitled [graduates] – and you won’t have that problem.
‘I can’t speak for all the junior positions in investment banking but I can tell you that jobs in global trading or mergers and acquisitions (M&A), for example, do require these long hours. Global markets stop for no one, M&A is booming and is also a 24/7 job. Lots of pressure, inflexible deadlines – that’s the name of the game.
‘It’s a free world – if you don’t love what you’re doing or think the hours don’t suit your lifestyle, by any means do something else.’
Rolet said that 130-hour working weeks were often normal for ‘millions of poor working mothers who also raise large families’.
He added: ‘Junior bankers are paid very well compared to other industries or sectors: ask a young entrepreneur drawing no salary how they would like to make $100,000 (£70,000) plus straight out of college.
‘Or a single working mother-of-three working herself to death to put her kids through school.’
Rolet’s comments are likely to prove controversial in the City.
Some younger bankers have warned about the impact of long hours on their mental health during the pandemic. Workloads for investment bankers have risen recently owing to a boom in deal-making as companies look to raise money or buy rivals on the cheap.
Even experienced bankers have suffered from stress. Antonio Horta-Osorio, the former boss of Lloyds Banking Group, had a breakdown in 2011 and was checked into the Priory clinic.
In a bid to appease young bankers, Wall Street giants have been increasing salaries for those who have just graduated to $100,000 or more (see box). Banks have even been dishing out expensive perks including Peloton bikes, watches and Apple products. But Rolet said restricting working hours could risk making the UK financial services market less competitive.
Controversial: Bank boss Xavier Rolet
He said: ‘Chinese primary school students start at 7.30am and often finish past 10pm. Do we think we can compete if this mentality infects the sharp end of our financial services industry?’
Rolet is one of the best-known bankers in the City. The Frenchman said he grew up in ‘a Parisian sink estate’ and makes ‘no apologies for working hard to make it’.
He cut his teeth in banking at Goldman Sachs nearly four decades ago. He said: ‘I remember working around the clock on the trading desk at Goldman Sachs New York in the 1980s. Far more than 80 hours. They served us lunch and dinner from the best Wall Street restaurants right to the trading desk: heaven!’
Rolet ended up holding senior positions at Lehman Brothers from 2000 until the financial crisis in 2008, when the banking giant collapsed.
A year later, he became chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, overseeing its expansion from a company focused on trading UK shares to a broader trading venue that handled complicated financial contracts. He also oversaw a string of deals, including the acquisition of FTSE, which produces stock market indices. The stock exchange’s market value mushroomed from £800million to nearly £14billion during his nine years at the top.
Rolet was forced to leave the group in 2017 – a year earlier than planned – following a tense boardroom battle.
Named one of the best 100 chief executives in the world in 2017 by Harvard Business World, Rolet is now chairman of Shore Capital Markets, a British investment bank, and holds other non-executive positions.
NEW RECRUITS HANDED BUMPER PAY RISE
Major investment banks have boosted pay for juniors above $100,000 (£72,000) to keep young bankers in the job.
Morgan Stanley last week became the latest firm to increase pay for bankers in their first year to $100,000 in the US. The bank’s juniors in London have seen their pay jump from £50,000 to £60,000 a year, according to industry website Financial News. Rivals including Citigroup, JPMorgan, Bank of America, UBS and Barclays have awarded similar increases.
Goldman Sachs is the outlier in not increasing starting pay though the investment banking giant could soon follow suit. Chief executive David Solomon recently said the bank had ‘always paid very competitively’.
He said the bank’s next pay review for juniors is this month and that Goldman Sachs will ‘continue to pay competitively and pay for performance’.