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by Derek Loosvelt | September 04, 2012


Vault has been ranking the top investment banking firms in North America for nearly 15 years, and in Europe for the past six. When we began ranking banks, we only ranked firms in terms of prestige—reputation as perceived by professionals at other banks. More recently, we’ve included "quality of life categories" such as compensation, culture, work hours, treatment by superiors, training, overall job satisfaction, work/life balance, and business outlook, among others. In these categories, banks were rated by their own employees, as opposed to those at other banks.

In the past, our featured ranking was our prestige ranking. But two years ago, that changed. We asked banking professionals what matters most to them when choosing an employer, and they told us that firm culture, as opposed to prestige, is the most important determining factor. Other highly important factors, aside from culture and prestige, according to banking insiders, were location, work/life balance, compensation, and training.

As a result, Vault created a new ranking called the Vault Banking 50, showcasing the firms deemed by bankers to be the "Best to Work For" in North America. The ranking uses the following weighted formula to reflect issues job seekers care about most: 40 percent prestige; 20 percent firm culture; 10 percent overall satisfaction; 10 percent compensation; 10 percent work/life balance; and 10 percent business outlook.

And so, that said, below are the results of the new 2013 Vault Banking 50:

At No. 1 in our North American rankings for the second year in a row, with a score of 8.585, is J.P. Morgan Investment Bank. Led by former Wall Street golden boy Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan held on to the stop on the strength of its prestige, work/life balance, and business outlook. J.P. Morgan, which has suffered in the reputation department as of late due to the London Whale scandal, managed to hold off the No. 2 firm, The Blackstone Group (8.408). Blackstone, widely known as a private equity powerhouse, also has formidable restructuring and M&A practices. The firm took the No. 2 spot based on its strength in prestige, compensation, and outlook.

Dropping from No. 2 to No. 3 this year was Goldman Sachs (8.067). Goldman, which ranked No. 1 two years ago, settled for No. 3 this year, thanks to weak scores in work/life balance, firm culture, and compensation. Goldman still scored very well in the area of prestige. Rounding out the top five were Houlihan Lokey (7.767) and Morgan Stanley (7.684), respectively.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, J.P. Morgan’s prestige has been steadily climbing. It was widely considered the one bulge bracket bank on Wall Street that remained relatively unscathed due to the crisis. And, as a result, its CEO, Jamie Dimon, was thought of as the king of the Street. Of course, more recently, J.P. Morgan and Dimon took a significant hit to their reputations, as did the J.P. Morgan bottom line, thanks to a very bad position taken by a former trader of the firm now commonly know as the London Whale.

Even so, J.P. Morgan’s workplace remains a very congenial one, and its culture, treatment of employees, pay practices, and business outlook remain a notch above its bulge bracket peers. Here’s one J.P. Morgan insider who took the Vault survey speaking about his firm: “I love my job. But the key to that is I love the culture of the bank, my team, and the working environment. I get to work with smart people in a collaborative environment.”

J.P. Morgan also topped our European rankings, coming in at No. 1 in the Vault European Banking 25 with a score of 8.438. J.P. Morgan held off the No. 2 firm in Europe, Goldman Sachs (8.009), thanks to very strong showings in every category that figures in the ranking: work/life balance, culture, compensation, overall satisfaction, prestige, and outlook. According to a J.P. Morgan employee in Europe, the firm has “a culture of excellence, where the firm works hard at training you and making you an expert in your field.”

Goldman, the second place finisher in Europe, scored extremely well in prestige and culture, but scored lower in work/life balance, compensation, and satisfaction. At No. 3 in Europe was Morgan Stanley (7.721). Morgan Stanley scored well in prestige and firm culture, but lower in compensation, work/life balance, and outlook. The No. 4 and No. 5 firms in Europe were Blackstone (7.443) and Citigroup (7.260), respectively.

To see the rest of the North American rankings, go to the complete Vault Banking 50. For the European rankings, see the Vault European Banking 25.

And stay tuned: tomorrow we’ll reveal our annual Banking Prestige Rankings. So check back then to find out which investment banks rank as the most prestigious in North America and Europe.

Image Source: Business Insider