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by Derek Loosvelt | September 08, 2010


For the past decade, Vault has released rankings of the top commercial and investment banking firms in North America, helping students and experienced professionals make more informed career decisions.

When Vault initially began ranking banking firms, we only ranked firms in terms of prestige—that is, in terms of a firm's reputation as perceived by professionals at other banks. Later, Vault increased its rankings offerings to include "quality of life categories," such as firm culture, compensation, hours, management treatment, diversity, training and business outlook, among others. In these categories, firms were rated by their own professionals, as opposed to those at other banks.

Goldman Sachs HQ

In the past, Vault's main banking ranking—the ranking featured most prominently on and in our annual Guide to the Top 50 Banking Employers—was our prestige ranking. This year, though, that has changed.

After asking banking professionals what matters most to them when choosing an employer, they told us, overwhelmingly, that firm culture, as opposed to prestige, is the most important determining factor. In fact, 38.6 percent of all banking professionals we surveyed told us that firm culture was most important, while only 15.7 percent cited prestige as most important. The other top factors, in order of importance, were: location (8.8 percent), lifestyle/work-balance (6.7 percent), compensation (6.6 percent) and training opportunities (also 6.6 percent).

As a result, Vault has taken this feedback and created a new Vault Banking 50, showcasing the firms that are the Best to Work For—a ranking compiled using the following weighted formula that reflects the issues job seekers care about most:

• 40 percent prestige

• 20 percent firm culture

• 10 percent overall satisfaction

• 10 percent compensation

• 10 percent hours

• 10 percent business outlook

This new Best to Work For ranking will replace the prestige ranking as the featured ranking on and in Vault's Guide to the Top 50 Banking Employers.

This doesn't mean, however, that we are doing away with the prestige ranking. We still believe prestige to be a very important measure of a firm's attractiveness to employees, thus the reason prestige makes up 40 percent of our new Best to Work For ranking. In addition, the prestige rankings will still appear prominently on our web site as well as in our annual banking Guide (and stay tuned: next week, we will unveil our banking prestige rankings).

And so, without further ado, below are the results of the new Vault 50:

Our inaugural No. 1 Best to Work For firm is none other than New York-headquartered investment bank Goldman Sachs. With a score of 8.397, Goldman edged out the No. 2 firm, The Blackstone Group (8.312), and the No. 3 firm, J.P. Morgan Investment Bank (8.272). Rounding out the top five were Credit Suisse (7.630) at No. 4 and Houlihan Lokey (7.597) at No. 5.

Despite all the negative press Goldman Sachs received during the past year (including a highly-publicized SEC lawsuit), it remains the most highly sought after banking firm, according to professionals in the industry.

According to banking professionals outside Goldman, the firm is still the "gold standard of banking" despite being "hit very hard by the recent media exposure." True, its golden reputation has been "a bit tarnished lately," but the bank is still "a profit making machine," "makes the most money," "brings in the best deals," "a great brand name" and viewed as the "Kings of the Street." Some bankers go as far as to say the Goldman is the "only brand the matters anymore," signifying, as others believe, that "damage control is working." However, there are a few professionals who say the Goldman "front office is more prestigious than its troops," the firm is "losing its luster quickly with all the bad press," and it's "well past its peak." Yet, most agree that Goldman is still "very reputable," filled with "very talented people," and "has the best deal flow." Underscoring the firm's reputation, one banker asks, "If you get an offer there, why would you turn it down?"

Inside the firm, Goldman bankers express similar sentiments, saying the best things about working for the Street Kings are its "very smart, talented and motivated" coworkers; “supportive and respectful management”; and "truly endless learning opportunities." But scoring a spot on Goldman's team is no easy task. "The firm looks for candidates that have the drive, passion, and comprehension to quickly step in and make a difference," say insiders. "Adaptability and being able to quickly digest a steep learning curve are necessities." If you do get in, you will be rewarded with a "very intellectually stimulating" and a "fulfilling, but quite tiring" experience (depending on which group you join, "10- to 15-hour days" could be the norm"). When you are at work, expect to be surrounded by not only "very competent" people but also "extremely helpful" colleagues as well. Insiders note that "though the firm's culture has been attacked recently, [Goldman] is still a great place to work." It is also a place that "pays well," too. Goldman "gives you the opportunity to make [it] money and, if you do, you are compensated for it." As for the firm's business outlook, "political risk is obviously on everyone's mind [at Goldman] and will influence the firm's outlook for the rest of the year," but "morale is high, and employees are aggressive in maintaining our public face." Indeed, "given the strength of its people, [Goldman] is "well positioned for the future."


Filed Under: Finance
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