Working on Wall Street once conferred a certain prestige, a path to riches and an oh-so-important swagger. The big-name investment banks had top candidates lining up at their recruiting tables and thousands of applicants for the few coveted spots.
But that image has been clouded in recent years by horror stories of weekends spent at the office, frequent all-nighters and seemingly unsympathetic bosses.
Wall Street now finds itself with the public relations challenge of having to woo and retain young talent. As part of the effort, many new hires found out this week that they could be paid roughly 20 percent more than their counterparts were offered last year.
The reason: The top banks, after decades of easily attracting the best and brightest from Ivy League campuses, are now worried about losing their favored status, especially as companies like Google and Facebook can offer similarly high pay combined with luxurious benefits. A rash of cuts, regulatory issues and other problems after the 2008 financial crisis has not helped.
At Goldman Sachs, many interns who got offers this month for jobs when they graduate discovered that their salaries would be $85,000 a year, significantly more than the $70,000 that the current first-year analysts make, according to a person briefed on the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly. The current class of analysts, as the entry-level bankers are called, who started in July, could get raises too, pending a review at the end of this year.
Larger salaries are not the only thing being dangled in front of the fresh-faced hires. In what amounts to a radical shift in policy, almost all the major banks have instructed analysts to take a few days off a month, on the weekends. In the past, analysts would treat Saturday and Sunday almost like weekdays, working perhaps eight-hour days instead of the 18- or even 20-hour shifts that are common during the week.
Many have put up with the grueling schedules and lack of a social life for the chance at advancement to Wall Street jobs paying seven figures. And many in the current intern class are acutely aware that the weak economic recovery has meant that many college graduates are unemployed, working part-time or taking jobs that do not require a degree.
Yet, for those who have the skills and intelligence to make it into Wall Street's internship programs, other choices are tempting. Among the working graduates of Harvard this year, 31 percent went to finance or consulting jobs, flat from 2013 and a significant drop from the 47 percent of students who did so in 2007, before the financial crisis, according to surveys by The Harvard Crimson newspaper.
The investment banks ''were focusing on their senior ranks'' after the crisis, said James N. Baron, a professor at the Yale School of Management. ''And so they're kind of in a catch-up game at the moment.''
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The promises of higher pay are circulating through Wall Street's junior ranks like a late summer breeze. Morgan Stanley announced internally in July that salaries for midlevel bankers, those with a few years of experience, would increase by as much as 25 percent. Barclays, too, plans to increase salaries for midlevel bankers in the United States, by about 20 percent, starting next year. JPMorgan Chase is now considering raising salaries for entry-level bankers by the same amount next year. Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Citigroup are considering similar moves.
Some analysts also said that their bonuses, which they received this month, were higher than they had expected based on past years. At Citigroup, for example, the top-performing analysts received bonuses of roughly $65,000 after completing their first year, far exceeding their expectations of around $50,000, according to Vettery, a start-up recruiting company that collects data about compensation.