This CEO’s advice to overworked junior bankers? ‘Choose another living’

Junior bankers complaining about long hours and bosses’ stressful demands should rethink their career choice, said Cantor Fitzgerald LP Chief Executive Officer Howard Lutnick.

“Young bankers who decide they’re working too hard—choose another living is my view,” Lutnick said Thursday in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “These are hard jobs.”

Working conditions for junior bankers have become a flashpoint at some firms. In one example, a group of 13 first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. prepared a presentation earlier this year that showed some were working hundred-hour weeks and experiencing declining physical and mental health. Goldman responded by easing up on weekend hours and vowing to beef up staff in the most-active businesses.

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But Lutnick, 59, compared investment banking to careers such as medicine, where those breaking into the profession know they’ll have to work extremely hard to get ahead.

“There is a path to becoming an investment banker that requires an enormous amount of work,” including late nights and weekends, Lutnick said. Clients want their deals finished under tight deadlines, he said. “You should know that going in.”

Lutnick’s unapologetic comments on the plight of junior bankers follow similarly less-guarded remarks by some of Wall Street’s other veteran chiefs. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon called working from home an “aberration,” while Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman has said workers prepared to visit New York City restaurants should also be able to go into the office. Some peers have taken a softer tone. Citigroup’s new CEO, Jane Fraser, is pushing for more flexibility and boundaries between home and work as the pandemic takes its toll on well-being.

Some Wall Street firms are addressing bankers’ complaints by offering greater ability to work from home, especially after the pandemic showed that arrangement worked better than many executives had expected. But Lutnick said Cantor wants its key workers back at their desks.

“That is our model,” Lutnick said. “Front-office people are going to be working from the office,” and that will be a competitive advantage for the firm, he said. Back-office staff, such as technical support, compliance and legal, can “be more flexible,” he said.

The bulk of Cantor’s front-office staff have been in the office since last summer, and the rest were given a June 1 deadline to come back, a spokeswoman said in May.

Last year, Cantor paid some new analysts to defer their start date until 2021 as it contended with operating through the pandemic. In April 2020, it shrank its workforce, breaking with firms across Wall Street that vowed not to cut employees during a pandemic.

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