Why Goldman Sachs wants junior bankers to take weekends off

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Word that Goldman Sachs is encouraging its junior investment bankers to take weekends off initially prompted scoffing.

"I think it's a typo. They meant 'take a weekend off.' Like once a year," an analyst at a rival firm texted me this morning.

Matt Levine at Bloomberg is even more derisive:

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha "Goldman Pushes Junior Investment Bankers to Take Weekends Off." "Sorry boss, I'd love to put together that pitchbook, but the junior banker task force encouraged me to go see a show this weekend." Junior investment bankers are famously useless -- they don't know anything or see clients -- but they make up for it by working like dogs and being available at all hours to make their senior bankers' lives a bit easier. (That's also how they earn their salaries, and justify them to themselves. "Well if you consider my hours I'm practically making minimum wage" is an untrue thing you sometimes hear.) If they work nine to five what is their value proposition?

When I worked in law and finance, I heard a version of this all the time. If you complained about the hours or the quality of your life, you were told that your willingness to sacrifice everything for the job was "why you earn the big bucks."

This was never really true. The reason anyone earns "the big bucks" is because the market has priced their labor at a high level.

Which is why Goldman's move isn't really as nuts as it sounds to Levine and other veterans of Wall Street.

Junior investment bankers may be a bit useless but that doesn't mean they are worthless. At least some of them eventually become senior investment bankers, with the potential to earn a lot of money for their firm. That potentiality is valuable—which is one reason investment banks pay kids straight out of college six figures (once you count bonus and salary).