Job Search

The Top Investment Banks With the Best Culture

investment banks culture

It may seem counterintuitive to rank investment banks by culture.

After all, investment banking is an industry that is notorious for long hours and cutthroat competition. One former Goldman associate turned faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study of the industry and found bankers working up to 120 hours a week. Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that the industry has such a high burnout rate. But does it have to be that way?

To find out, Ivy Exec did some digging into our top ranked investment banks to see who had the best corporate culture. After all, if you’re going to spend 120 hours a week at the office, you might as well enjoy being there.

Way off Wall Street in sunny Denver, Headwaters MB is a boutique powerhouse. With only 93 employees giving the firm perfect marks for culture, it’s easy to wonder what this firm is doing right. For one, 100-percent of employees say they’d recommend the firm to a friend. And 99-percent say it’s a great place to work and that they’re proud to have Headwaters on their resumes. As for those long hours, 75-percent of employees say they work between 50 and 60 hours each week—a far cry from the 120-hour weeks cited in the University of Pennsylvania study. But if you think those shorter workweeks mean they’ll be less challenging—think again.

“Headwaters will push you and provide you with a wealth of opportunities,” a current managing director tells Ivy Exec. “Some days will be challenging where you may barely leave your desk. Some will be hysterical. But the important takeaway is that no day will be the same. If you’re looking for a boring, corporate, desk job – Headwaters is not for you.”

Headquartered in Cairo, Egypt, Pharos also earns rave reviews from its 125 employees. Much like Headwaters, 100-percent of employees would recommend working at the firm to a friend. Some 92-percent say they are proud to have Pharos Holding on their resumes and report that it is a great place to work. While the hours might be a bit longer than at Headwaters—60-percent of employees work upwards of 60 hours a week—many say they feel a deep bond with their colleagues and enjoy their working environment.

“[The] culture was like a big family or group of friends,” a current managing director says.

“Great place to work,” a current analyst reports. “Friendly and flat culture.”

Perhaps even more importantly, several employees at Pharos report that the growth potential there is excellent.

“The sky is the limit when it comes to growth opportunities at Pharos Holding,” a current managing director raves.

“It has a great culture and ample potential to grow,” a current analyst says. “It’s a really good place to be right now.”

Headquartered in San Francisco, GCA Savvian had a universally positive score from its employees: 100-percent say they would recommend working there to a friend. But keep in mind that the hours may be longer than at Headwaters or Pharos: more than half of employees say they put in upwards of 70 hours a week at the firm and no one reported working less than an average of 50 hours a week. But while the hours may be long, the work feels collaborative and inclusive with plenty of opportunities to grow.

“The firm has a great culture which fosters teamwork and collaboration,” a group managing director says. “There is an opportunity for employees to receive internal promotions without going back to school and several managing directors started as analysts.”

A current vice president echoes the company’s commitment to grooming its own leaders from within: “It’s meritocracy based and there’s a lot of room for growth and opportunity.”

Another current vice president notes that in spite of the long hours, company social events are common, giving the team the chance to bond outside of the office: “People here are genuinely caring and nice. We have fun as a group in the office and out of the office, including a lot of firm-sponsored social events. All levels are actively involved in recruiting which helps keep the culture consistent.”

Bottom Line: When it comes to culture, you might want to think small and think outside of Wall Street—or even New York City altogether.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.