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Bank intern death raises questions about work culture

Friday, August 23, 2013 - 02:12

Aug 23 - There are calls for city firms to take more responsibility for interns who push themselves to the limit to secure jobs at the world's top banks, after a German student who'd been an intern at Bank of America died earlier this week. Ciara Sutton reports.

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It's known as the "magic roundabout" - interns at top banks taking a taxi home after dawn and leaving it to wait while they have a shower before returning to work. But now city firms are being urged to take more responsibility for ambitious graduates, desperate to secure jobs, following the death of an intern working at the London offices of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Attracted to top banking careers in London, New York and Singapore interns often face 20-hour days in some of the most adrenaline-soaked offices in the world. Chris Roebuck is visiting professor at Cass Business School. (SOUNDBITE) CHRIS ROEBUCK, VISITING PROFESSOR AT CASS BUSINESS SCHOOL, SAYING: "Everybody around them has a job, and therefore everybody around them has to a degree succeeded. Now that's where the pressure starts building, because if the interns want to get a job then it poses the question, how can I as an intern show that I am better than the other interns, because there are so few jobs and so many interns, the numbers game is quite difficult. And in most internships, the only way they can do that - unless it is very well structured - from their perspective is to work harder, and stay in the office longer than anybody else." 21 year old Moritz Erhardt was found dead at his London accommodation towards the end of a seven-week internship. He allegedly worked for 72 hours without sleep in the bank's investment banking division - the cause of his death is pending post-mortem tests. The bank says it's waiting for the facts about the graduate's death before deciding whether to review its trainee programme. Either way, experts say banks need to ensure their staff are not working to exhaustion. (SOUNDBITE) CHRIS ROEBUCK, VISITING PROFESSOR AT CASS BUSINESS SCHOOL, SAYING: "There are a percentage of these people who are so driven and so competitive they have the ability to push themselves past their own physical limits. Because they are not aware of those limits because they are so young. And it's your responsibility as the team leader, or as a colleague in the same team, to keep an eye on these young people to make sure they are OK." But with starting salaries of around 50,000 pounds, the incentive to stand out is too great for many interns, who doubt the culture will change.

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Bank intern death raises questions about work culture

Friday, August 23, 2013 - 02:12