Barclays Reworks Policies to Help Its Junior Investment Bankers

Barclays Plc reworked some of its policies designed to protect the mental health of junior investment bankers as Wall Street continues to face a flood of deals that keeps its youngest staffers working late nights and weekends.

The firm said analysts and associates shouldn’t be working from 9 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Sunday except when unavoidable because they’re staffing live deals, according to a memo to employees Thursday. Barclays also said its youngest employees are expected to take two five-day vacations a year, during which they should completely disconnect from work.

“This is really meant to express in a very material way that culture of care for mental health,” John Miller, Barclays’s global head of banking coverage, said in an interview. “The working-from-home dynamic, the isolation, we are keenly aware of those challenges and we want to be keenly responsive to those challenges and empathetic and ensuring that we are investing appropriately in the mental health of our team.”

Amid a boom in deals, Barclays and its rivals have been trying to address increasing burnout among young bankers, who are often given the task of preparing lengthy presentations and other materials for client meetings. The moves come after a recent internal presentation by junior analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on their workload set Wall Street abuzz when the document found its way onto the internet.

Barclays has long had rules meant to protect its junior bankers in certain regions of the world. Thursday’s memo enhanced those policies, which now apply to most analysts and associates globally. The memo was signed by Miller along with Paul Compton, global head of banking; J.F. Astier, global head of capital markets and mergers and acquisitions; Vanessa Koo, head of banking in the Asia-Pacific region; and Reid Marsh, head of banking for Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

Analysts and associates shouldn’t be assigned work after noon on Fridays that has a deadline requiring them to work through the weekend, according to the memo, with exceptions to the rule needing sign-off from a group head. Bankers were told to schedule client meetings from Tuesday through Friday whenever possible, and if a client requests a Monday meeting, materials should be finalized by the Friday beforehand.

The firm also told senior bankers to provide clear and specific outlines for materials they might need when pitching deals and for other client meetings, avoiding a “kitchen sink” approach. Managers should make it clear if the work is tied to a live or non-live deal, Barclays said in the memo.

The changes will give bankers “the ability to predict a better, more reliable work flow -- so, for example, not putting yourself in the position at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday thinking you’ll have time with loved ones on Saturday, and you get the call to work on something that may not truly be due on Monday,” Miller said.

Barclays said bankers should attempt to schedule calls and meetings during normal working hours, noting that having employees work from home has “exacerbated the blurring of work and non-work hours.”

The bank appointed “regional champions” to ensure the new guidelines are followed: Lindsay McMenamin and Courtney Rosica in the Americas, Kenny Furudera in the Asia-Pacific region and Donna Cory for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The firm said it’s in the midst of planning its approach for future ways of working, noting that flexibility is among the highest priorities for analysts and associates as they return to the office. The lender is aiming to give employees at least six weeks’ notice for any new working patterns and at least three weeks’ notice of the date they’ll be expected to return to the office.

“The ability to work from home some portion of your time -- and the associated autonomy or control of your life to be able to say, I want to work from home a day or so a week -- that’s going to be part of our life going forward,” Miller said.

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