Today, Vault releases its annual Banking 50, a ranking of the best investment banking firms to work for in North America.
This year, the rankings are based on a survey of approximately 3,000 investment banking professionals. The survey asked these professionals of all levels to assess their peer firms on a scale of 1 to 10 based on prestige. Professionals were also asked to rate their own firm in numerous quality of life categories, including firm culture, compensation, overall satisfaction, training, work/life balance, hours, and diversity, among others. To calculate the Banking 50, Vault used a weighted formula that combines a firm’s prestige and several quality of life ratings, creating an overall “best to work for” ranking. Vault also compiled rankings in Prestige, Quality of Life, and Diversity, as well as a new ranking this year: Best Banking Firms for Technology Professionals.
Noteworthy this year, along with which firms moved up and and which firms moved down the rankings, was the significant rise in scores in two very important categories: work/life balance and hours. This year, on average, bankers rated their work/life balance 3.5 percent higher than last year and their satisfaction with respect to the number of hours they work 4 percent higher. And so, it would seem that the quality of life on Wall Street is improving.
However, also noteworthy was the drop in diversity scores this year. Minority diversity scores were down 3 percent, and scores in female diversity, LGBT diversity, military veteran diversity, and diversity with respect to disabled individuals were also down. This ended a several-year trend of rising diversity scores in Vault’s annual survey. From 2010 to 2014, LGBT diversity scores had risen by 12 percent, while both female diversity and racial/ethnic diversity scoress had risen by 8 percent.
In any event, what follows are this year’s big winners: the top 10 firms of the 2016 Vault Banking 50.
Banking professionals at Credit Suisse say the firm is filled with “great people,” has a “great culture,” and is “a leading franchise in technology and leveraged finance.” They also say there’s a “tremendous focus placed on career development for junior bankers,” and “a lot of room for upward mobility and increased responsibility.” Although the firm is “going through a transitional phase with the arrival of new CEO Tidjane Thiam,” the “recent change in leadership should have a reinvigorating impact on the investment banking business.” Meanwhile, bankers outside Credit Suisse say it’s “doing the best of the European banks.” Prestige Ranking: #7. Key QoL/Diversity Ranking: #4 in International Opportunities.
Bankers at Perella Weinberg Partners say the firm has a “very collaborative” and “cohesive” culture and a “great training platform.” Insiders cite the “mentoring from senior employees,” “interaction with partners and clients,” and “one of the highest first-year salaries on the Street” as some of the best aspects about working for the firm. They also call Perella Weinberg a place where “promotions from analyst to associate are very attainable” and that “cares about its junior bankers’ quality of life.” In fact, there’s a “new weekend rule where if you work a Saturday and Sunday one week, you’re guaranteed a weekend day off the following weekend”; insiders say the policy “isn’t perfect but helps a lot.” In addition, a couple of “recent high profile hires” are “providing a boost to the firm’s revenue generating potential, prestige, and employee morale.” As for peer bankers, they call Perella Weinberg an “elite boutique” and a “great M&A-focused bank.” Prestige Ranking: #14. Key QoL/Diversity Ranking: #4 in Formal Training.
Although J.P. Morgan fell four spots in the Vault 50 due to lower scores in several quality of life categories, it held steady in the prestige rankings. This year, peer bankers had a lot of praise for J.P. Morgan, calling it the “cream of the crop,” “the best,” and “highly respected.” They also say it has “strong brand recognition” and “an aggressive culture,” and “continues to be everywhere,” including “on top of the league tables.” J.P. Morgan insiders, meanwhile, say that “career mobility is not just a buzzword or ideal here, but a pillar of our business and the most distinct aspect of our corporate culture.” In addition, “people are respectful of family commitments and flexible schedules.” Insiders also say that J.P. Morgan is “one of the most well-respected banks in the world,” and that thanks to its “outstanding” CEO, Jamie Dimon, they have “full confidence that the firm will successfully navigate the new regulatory environment.” Prestige Ranking: #3. Key QoL/Diversity Ranking: #6 in Formal Training.
Bankers at Greenhill appreciate the “collegial work environment,” “high level of responsibility,” and “deal experience”—they get to work on a lot of “interesting and important deals.” In addition, there’s “lots of mentorship,” and you’re given “access to senior bankers and clients even at a junior level.” Greenhill “really emphasizes team events and makes sure its junior staff has the best experience possible.” This includes “allowing its employees to move between offices both within the U.S. and internationally,” and means “no face time; all that matters is that the work gets done.” Meanwhile, bankers outside the firm call Greenhill a “great boutique” that “pays well” and, as a result, runs an “extremely competitive interview process.” Prestige Ranking: #9. Key QoL/Diversity Ranking: #3 in Culture.
Now a public firm, Houlihan Lokey dominated the Quality of Life and Diversity Rankings this year, placing first in every category but two and rising one rank in the Banking 50. Insiders say that, at Houlihan Lokey, “everyone is extremely friendly,” and “it’s very easy to take time off for vacations and other matters.” They also appreciate the company’s “focus on internal promotion,” which gives junior bankers “the opportunity to build a career in the company rather than simply participate in a two-year program.” In addition, Houlihan Lokey offers a “good compensation plan” and a “good expense policy—the company’s not stingy.” As for its recent IPO, the firm’s bankers say, “It’s a very exciting time to be working at Houlihan”; the firm has “made several prudent acquisitions,” “positioning itself well to create new revenue streams.” Prestige Ranking: #11. Key QoL/Diversity Ranking: #1 in Culture.
Bankers at peer firms can’t praise Centerview enough. They say that in addition to offering the “best compensation on the Street,” Centerview has been “making a name for itself, landing big M&A transactions.” They call the firm “outstanding,” “a great firm with great senior leadership,” “very well respected,” and the “place to be.” Meanwhile, Centerview insiders say that “the quality of M&A deal flow has been amazing,” and that the firm offers a “better quality of life than other places at the analyst level.” To that end, the firm “recently added a system to help flag when junior bankers are dissatisfied or working too many hours.” In addition, Centerview offers “more responsibility and client interaction as a junior banker compared to bulge brackets.” All of which is why insiders believe the firm has “solidified its position as the premier independent investment bank.” Prestige Ranking: #11. Key QoL/Diversity Ranking: #2 in Compensation.
This year, Evercore earned its highest ranking yet in the Vault Banking 50 (it ranked No. 6 last year and No. 5 the year before that). Insiders say it “has grown from a very small firm to a sizeable one” and offers a “team-oriented, collaborative environment.” Evercore, which peer bankers consider to be an “elite boutique” that works on “high profile assignments,” also “focuses on retaining its talent”—“significant time and effort is spent on career development starting at a very junior level.” In fact, “a large percentage of top-level bankers have risen through internal promotions.” The quality of life at Evercore is also quite high. Insiders rave about the “flexible weekend day off policy where analysts and associates can choose one day each weekend not to work.” In addition, “Vacations are protected.” Prestige Ranking: #6. Key QoL/Diversity Ranking: #2 in Formal Training.
“Thanks in large part to the senior leadership of James Gorman,” Morgan Stanley continues to perform very well. It’s “one of best run banks on the Street and has a lot more stability than most.” Firm insiders also say that “the integration of the wealth management division is only just starting to pay dividends,” and that “most divisions are leaders in their fields and still growing revenue.” In addition, Morgan Stanley insiders say their firm is filled with “smart, genuine people,” and has “a culture of collaboration and teamwork”—“employees like working here.” They especially like that the firm is “truly global, with substantial opportunities to move geographically, including internationally.” And its “relatively flat structure” means “young people can progress into jobs with meaningful responsibility early in their career.” The firm is also very prestigious. It’s known by peer bankers as a “consistent leader in the league tables” and an “elite firm” with “a broad client list.” Prestige Ranking: #2. Key QoL/Diversity Ranking: #8 in Hours.
Holding onto its No. 2 ranking in the Vault Banking 50 this year, Goldman Sachs is “in a class by itself” when it comes to prestige. Bankers at peer firms also told us that Goldman “has unmatched name recognition” and “the smartest guys on the Street.” In addition, “its legacy prestige holds today,” and the firm has “maintained a clear focus,” which is why “the franchise is still the best.” Underscoring this reputation, one peer firm banker called Goldman “the promised land.” As for Goldman insiders, they rave about the “culture of teamwork that drives us to find better ways of doing things,” as well as working with “very smart, ambitious, talented people,” including the “best of the best in leadership roles.” They also appreciate the “many opportunities to expand and grow within the firm,” the “work flexibility,” “generous vacation time,” and “other resources to enhance the quality of life of employees.” Prestige Ranking: #1. Key QoL/Diversity Ranking: #3 in Overall Diversity.
For the third year in a row, Blackstone topped the Vault Banking 50. According to Blackstone insiders, the firm “offers junior bankers perhaps the best experience on Wall Street,” “continues to be No. 1 in the restructuring field,” has “great leadership,” and lands the “best deals.” Meanwhile, junior bankers get “more responsibility than at other firms,” “learn more with leaner deal teams,” and “have the best exit opportunities.” Blackstone also “provides opportunities to move to buy-side opportunities at the firm in private equity, real estate, and hedge funds.” And the firm “recognizes talent and supports individuals looking to make a career here.” As for the firm’s business outlook, it was recently announced that Blackstone will spin off its M&A, restructuring, and placement groups, which will become a publicly traded investment bank sometime in late 2015. As for the spinoff, insiders say that “the view appears to be unanimous that it will be a great opportunity to develop and grow the business.” Prestige Ranking: #4. Key QoL/Diversity Ranking: #3 in Work/Life Balance.