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"VPs have better lives in banking, but only if they are miserable human beings"

Omar Sadraoui knows first hand what it's like to be a junior investment banker. A graduate of the prestigious Masters in Management Programme at HEC Paris, he spent three years at Deutsche Bank in London, first as an analyst and then as an associate before quitting last August. Sadraoui says he's not the only one: most juniors leave banking; it's the minority who stay. 

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"People leave banking because of the lack of consideration for you and your time," Sadraoui tells us. "The people more senior than you take everything for granted. Just a 'thank you' might make people stay longer, but the trouble is that management is culturally from a different generation." 

Sadraoui doesn't say how many hours he worked each week at Deutsche Bank in London, but he does offer an example of an analyst colleague who wanted some time off around his graduation. Despite booking the time off and flagging it well in advance, Sadraoui says the analyst was asked to work all the same. It's typical of an industry where juniors can be treated as disposable. 

"The reality is that with the hours you put in as a junior banker, you don't earn that much," says Sadraoui. "You could get the same by doing a normal office job and then driving an Uber until 4am." 

Living in London is more expensive than ever and Sadraoui says a lot of people are deciding that it's simply not worth going into banking anymore. "People don't get paid enough in banking for the huge amount of hours and the sacrifices they make in their lives. I'm 30 and at my age, you start to ask yourself some hard questions about what you want in life."

Having stayed through the analyst years and spent one year as an associate, Sadraoui was conceivably on the cusp of an easier life.  But he says he didn't want to become the person that banking makes you into. "Your life is better as a VP [vice president] because you can exploit other people," he says. "Even as an associate, you can do less work yourself and use fear to get the analysts below you to do the work, but in the process you become a miserable human being. To survive in the industry, you must end up caring for only yourself."

While analysts grind out 100 hour weeks, Sadraoui says there are layers of vice presidents and directors who spend their lives in Outlook. "They are the delivery guys," he says. "They just forward emails and whatever is on their plate to people below them. If they do at 6pm none of those juniors is able to complain. At that level, a lot of people in banking just want the pay, so they try to maximize it with minimum effort."

Sadraoui says it's the MDs who are to blame for juniors' poor lifestyles. "The people at the top of banks are trying to change the culture, but it's the managing directors who are the problem. They're not organized. If they were, it wouldn't be necessary to ask people to work through the night."

MDs also have no incentive to reduce junior working hours: "In medicine, the surgeons are paid, but the surgeons do the work. In banking, the juniors do the work and the senior people get all the money." 

In theory, artificial intelligence will mean senior bankers can do more of the work on their own in the future. The New York Times reportedly recently that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley aspire to cut the size of their analyst classes by 66% as AI takes hold. In reality, Sadraoui says juniors will still be needed because banks won't trust AI to do their work: "Everything has to be double, triple, cross-checked. Even with AI, they will need humans to do this."

So, what's he doing outside of finance? Sadraoui is back in Paris, where he's running Invest & You, a company to help other young people get jobs in finance and private equity. 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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