A month before Sarvshreshth Gupta died, he tried to quit his job as an analyst on one of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s most prestigious investment-banking teams.
During a flurry of technology deals early this year, working until 5 a.m. had become the norm, and the 22-year-old Wharton grad known to friends as Sav burned out, according to a bank colleague and an essay posted by his father on the website Medium. Then, soon after quitting, he changed his mind.
“I desired that he should complete his one year at Goldman Sachs, learn something about corporate life and then decide,” Gupta’s father wrote. “Under pressure from me, he rejoined.”
Goldman Sachs let Gupta come back, gave him several days off to recharge and offered him access to counseling services, according to two people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters. It wasn’t long until he again faced “hard, continuous work, no breaks, no sleep and no respite,” his father wrote. On April 16, the banker called his dad from his San Francisco office at 2:40 a.m.
“He calls us and says, ‘It is too much. I have not slept for two days, have a client meeting tomorrow morning, have to complete a presentation, my VP is annoyed and I am working alone in my office,’” according to the essay. The young banker died that day.
While medical examiners have yet to release their report on what happened, the story of Gupta’s final weeks at the firm could reignite a debate about whether banks have done enough to ease grueling demands on their youngest workers. Six weeks after Gupta’s death, Thomas Hughes, a 29-year-old Moelis & Co. banker, was found dead outside his residence at 1 West St. in New York, where he lived on the 24th floor. His injuries were consistent with a fall, police said.
Wall Street firms including Goldman Sachs have sought in recent years to improve the experience for their new recruits, who carry out the Excel and Powerpoint grunt work that goes into presentations and ideas for clients. The shift, prompted by the 2013 death of a Bank of America Corp. intern, has been driven in part by a fear that the brightest college graduates don’t view investment banking as a sustainable career.
Goldman Sachs hired larger classes of analysts, the title held by entry-level bankers, and encouraged them to stay out of the office on Saturdays. The firm also stopped offering analysts two-year contracts, making them full-time employees from the start.
Still, 100-hour weeks aren’t unheard of, and a client request can easily wreck a junior employee’s weekend. Gupta’s late nights on the technology, media and telecom banking team would have helped serve some of the firm’s highest-profile clients.
“We are saddened by Sav’s death and feel deeply for his family,” Michael DuVally, a Goldman Sachs spokesman in New York, said in an e-mailed statement. “We hope that people will respect the family’s expressed desire for privacy during this difficult time.”
Attempts to reach Gupta’s family for comment through social media were unsuccessful. In an e-mail cited by the New York Times, which reported Gupta’s death late Monday, his father said the essay was intended for “the grieving family and a means of dealing with my deep anguish and catharsis.”
Gupta joined Goldman Sachs a year ago after receiving a dual bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He studied finance at the Wharton Business School and applied and computer science at the engineering school, according to Gina Bryan, a university spokeswoman. While at Penn, Gupta worked as a summer analyst at Deutsche Bank AG and Credit Suisse Group AG, his LinkedIn profile shows.
He came to the U.S. after attending Delhi Public School, an acclaimed private school in India’s capital. At Penn, he made the dean’s list and was a member of Eta Kappa Nu, an electrical and computer engineering honor society. He was a fan of soccer and the television shows “House” and “Family Guy,” according to his Facebook profile.
While back pain limited Gupta’s ability to play sports in college, he enjoyed marathon games of chess with his father, according to the essay. Even as work kept the banker from seeing his parents on weeknights during a September visit, he was “happy and excited” as he discussed his Goldman Sachs job over pizza with his father.
“After the meal, my son offered to pay the check,” his father wrote. “My chest swelled with pride. Emotions were uncontrollable. Eyes were moist with love, pride and happiness.”