Morning Coffee: Big 4 accountants complain of 80-hour weeks on terrible pay. Ex-Credit Suisse guys need name for new crypto venture
If you leave university and work in M&A or capital markets for a major investment bank, you'll work long hours. But you will also earn a lot more money than your peers: in the US, total compensation (salary plus bonus) at major banks ranged from $135k to $205k for first year analysts last summer; in the UK, some banks are now paying analysts salaries of £70k, plus bonuses. This helps negate the pain of 80 hour weeks.
But what if you're working long hours for a fraction of banking pay? This is the gripe of juniors in Big Four (KPMG, EY, Deloitte and PWC) accountancy firms, where the hours can be long and the pay can be lean.
The Financial Times reports that people working for Big Four firms in Spain have been confronting this realization. In 2021, a group of 23-25 year-old second year auditors at EY in Barcelona reportedly complained about the fatigue of 84 hour weeks on salaries of €24k ($26k) a year, saying the hours were unsustainable. The grind reportedly coincided with shortages of people, high staff turnover and the arrival of the Big Four's "busy season" when client accounts have to be signed off to be presented to investors. One junior at the time complained about the disconnect between his expectations and the reality: "When you sign, you think you're the Wolf of Wall Street," he said. "But when they come to university, they don't inform you that you'll have 14-hour work days and sometimes there won't be enough time to eat."
Spain is setting out to tackle the issues. Yolanda Díaz, the labor minister and a member of the communist party, says the "excesses and abuses of overtime hours" are being investigated. The Big Four themselves had already sought to make amends, but in their complaint the juniors said their solutions were inadequate: on one hand, they were being taught "tricks to disconnect;" on the other, they were being asked to complete work without time to disengage.
A senior Spanish banker told the FT banking jobs are probably the better bet. He said Big Four juniors "work very hard" for a "fraction" of banking pay.
Separately, Kyle Davies and Su Zhu, the ex-Credit Suisse ex-bitcoin billionaires behind collapsed crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital are making a comeback. The two are reportedly attempting to raise $25m to create a new exchange that will enable FTX depositors the ability to transfer their FTX claims and receive immediate credit in a token called USDG. The working name for the new exchange is GTX, and one pitchdeck reportedly opens with the line "because G comes after F." However, Zhu reportedly said GTX isn't the final name for the company: this will be finalized next week.
BlackRock is cutting 2.5% of its total workforce of 20,000 people. But it had increased its headcount by 23% from the end of 2019 to the third quarter of last year. (Financial Times)
Sam Bankman Fried likes bughouse chess. "You have four people and two boards. If I take your piece on this board, I hand it to my partner, and my partner can plunk the piece down in lieu of making a move. You can be in this desperate situation, all of a sudden your partner hands you a queen. So there’s no balance sheet in bughouse chess. Things come out of nowhere to save you. You play desperately and take a lot of risk. If people play bughouse, that’s their core mentality.” (Financial Times)
Robert Pickering, the ex-head of Cazenove was astonished at US firms' emphasis on juniors. In the old days everyone mucked in together. (Bloomberg)
Nomura cut 18 investment banking jobs, most of them focused on China. (Reuters)
One of Revolut's senior bosses admitted that the firm has failed to address the “human” side of every day work. (Guardian)
Some Goldman people don't know their severance pay yet. "It's scary because we don't know when we're getting our severance package. We don't know how much we're getting. We don't know how long the severance package is. We don't know anything as of right now," said a single mom from Salt Lake City, Utah, who was among those laid off by Goldman on Wednesday. (Business Insider)
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