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I slept beneath the desk at my banking internship for nothing

Updated: Aug 20

There was a time, soon after the death of Bank of America intern Moritz Erhardt in 2013, when investment banks made a concerted effort to stop their interns from overworking. Ten years on, most of those efforts appear to have fallen by the wayside.

We asked Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Barclays, Citi, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, and UBS to let us know what protections they have in place to stop interns overworking. Most either didn't respond or declined to comment. Only Barclays said there were hard limits, but it didn't elaborate on what they were. But the interns themselves say the grind is as bad as ever.

One student who interned at an elite boutique in New York last year, tells us the hours were "pretty bad:" he was working "120 hour weeks" and barely sleeping. "It was worse towards the end when we had the intern project. It was a public holiday and a lot of people were off," he says. "We were going until 3am or 4am in the office and were back at 7am or 8am. A few nights, I slept in the office. It was pretty warm, so I didn't need a cover; I just used my blazer for a pillow."

This summer's investment banking interns are only a few weeks in. Although deals are fewer, there are still complaints about the grind and relentless pitching. "Genuinely curious if working 18 hours a day is normal, complained one intern on Wall Street Oasis last week. "How do people do this?"

In some cases, they don't. When Moritz Erhardt died after an epileptic fit in the shower, he'd allegedly worked 72 hours straight without any sleep as an analyst in the investment banking division of BofA. In the soul-searching that followed, banks like Goldman Sachs mandated that interns only worked between 7am and 12 midnight. Goldman declined to confirm whether this still applies today.

Some 2023 interns tell us their hours are tolerable. "It depends on the team and it depends on the project," says an intern at UBS. "You can have early evenings but also late nights in the same week and you don't usually know how it will be until the day itself." Sometimes it's not worth going home early even if the opportunity arises: "If you leave right after dinner, you run the risk of getting work on the way back or at home, where you don't have the best set-up, which you have in the office."

When interns do overwork, it's often of their own doing. The intern who slept under the desk says the non-interns on his team didn't know he was doing it. "A few of us stayed overnight. If HR found out, they would have been really onto it."

Despite his dedication, he didn't get an offer. "They said that other interns on my team had more experience" he says. The internship hasn't put him off: he plans to apply for a graduate role, do his two years in banking, and move on.

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