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Wall Street

Goldman Sachs Tells Its New Employees to Work Less

Could it be that Wall Street is relaxing its long tradition of hazing through overworking?

According to Bloomberg News, Goldman Sachs (GS) is encouraging its junior bankers to take weekends off during the grueling early years that typically launch Wall Street careers. The company is doing this, in part, to make itself more attractive to the most talented graduates spilling out of top colleges—a group of people likely to have several job offers to choose among. According to Bloomberg News:

Wall Street firms are working to guard the best recruits from poaching by rivals such as private-equity funds. Goldman Sachs decided last year to stop offering two-year contracts to investment-banking analysts, instead making them full-time employees from the start. It plans to give analysts more-predictable working hours and provide more opportunities to get feedback from managers.

“’The goal is for our analysts to want to be here for a career,’” David Solomon, Goldman’s co-head of investment banking, told Bloomberg News in an e-mailed statement. “’We want them to be challenged, but also to operate at a pace where they’re going to stay here and learn important skills that are going to stick. This is a marathon, not a sprint.’”

Brutal workdays stretching well into most nights and through weekends have traditionally been an integral part of the Wall Street machine. The recent death of a 21-year-old finance student at Bank of America (BAC) in London drew widespread attention and criticism over the hours and pressure interns and new analysts suffer. Moritz Erhardt was a Bank of America intern rotating through different departments; he had worked for three nights straight before he died on Aug. 15. The cause of death remains undetermined. Moritz’s father has said he suspects the young man suffered a seizure brought on by lack of sleep. The bank said it would reconsider its working conditions.

Still, it’s unclear how many eager future billionaires will be dissuaded by such horror stories. This year, Goldman Sachs planned to hire 350 analysts out of 17,000 applicants, Goldman Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn said at a conference in May. That’s an acceptance rate of 2 percent; it’s easier to get into Harvard, by a lot. Whether these overachievers will be able—or even willing—to pull themselves away for a weekend at the beach remains to be seen.

Kolhatkar is a features editor and national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @Sheelahk.

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