Intern's death puts spotlight on bank hours
THE death of an intern working at the London office of Bank of America Merrill Lynch has prompted calls for city firms to take more responsibility for the ambitious graduates who push themselves to the limit to secure jobs at the world's top banks.
Attracted to the glass towers of finance in London, New York and Singapore by the prospect of securing a full-time job and a hefty wage, future "masters of the universe" often face 20-hour days in some of the world's most adrenalin-soaked offices.
Weekends at work and meals in the office are par for the course, with anecdotal reports of the "magic roundabout", where interns take a taxi home after dawn and leave it waiting while they have a quick shower, before returning to work.
But serious concerns about interns working long hours and even through the night were raised on Wednesday, after the death of Mr Moritz Erhardt, 21, who was found dead last week at his London accommodation towards the end of a seven-week internship.
The German intern allegedly worked for 72 hours without sleep in Bank of America's investment-banking division. The cause of his death was unknown, pending post-mortem tests.
Some politicians and an intern campaign group condemned the workload on interns, dubbed "slavery in the city" by British newspaper The Independent, calling on banks to take measures to ensure their staff are not worked to the point of exhaustion.
"Exploitation of youth is unacceptable," tweeted European Employment commissioner Laszlo Andor.
But interns doubted it would be possible to change the culture, saying they were never explicitly told to work such long hours, but did so themselves in their desperation for a job.
A former intern at a major United States bank, who secured a job after the internship, said: "People push themselves because they want an offer with the bank and the chance of a great career and great money."
With interns unlikely to rebel against working all-nighters, Professor Andre Spicer from London's Cass Business School said the banks themselves need to impose limits.
He said in a statement: "If large firms hope to be sustainable and attractive to employees, they need to tackle the culture of extreme hours."